Wild Card Sunday/Monday (post-Seahawks Saturday, of course)
Bills vs Dolphins
The first game of the Sunday tripleheader unfortunately looks like a complete mismatch. The Dolphins, once a legitimate threat to win the AFC, now appear to be on the cusp of a major blowout against the most dangerous team in the NFL.
Tua Tongavoiloa has not been cleared to play after his third concussion this season, and with Teddy Bridgwater still out, the Dolphins’ season comes down to rookie seventh-rounder Skylar Thompson. While Thompson is mobile and has some talented weapons at his disposal, facing Buffalo in Buffalo is a different kind of beast.
I expect the Bills, coming off an incredibly emotional win over the Patriots to secure the #2 seed in the AFC, to be all in on a super bowl run. Behind a solid defense, the explosive Josh Allen-led offense, and a suddenly terrifying Nyheim Hines on special teams, this team is good and has the emotional momentum to make a super bowl run.
Prediction: BUF over MIA 34-10
Vikings vs Giants
A few weeks ago the Vikings and Giants played an epic back-and-forth battle that saw Minnesota walk off the Giants on a 61-yard field goal to win 27-24. It was an interesting game where the Giants continued to hang with a team more talented than them while the Vikings survived with another close win.
This game is going to come down to two things for me. For the Giants, can they contain Justin Jefferson? Arguably the best wide receiver in the league, Jefferson hauled in 12 catches, 133 yards, and a TD in their previous meeting. If they can hold him in check and not let him roast their secondary, this should be a low-scoring affair that I believe favors the Giants.
The second major key is can Minnesota’s defense force Daniel Jones to have to beat them through the air. The Giants are a fantastic running team thanks to Saquan Barkley and the underrated running ability of Jones. If the Vikings can shut that down and force Jones to win the game by playing a clean game through the air, I like Minnesota.
Prediction: MIN over NYG 27-20
Bengals vs Ravens
About two months ago, I would not have been shocked to see this game as a potential AFC championship battle, but injuries have absolutely derailed Baltimore.
With Lamar Jackson now officially out for this matchup, the Ravens have to hope that Tyler Huntley, who is nursing shoulder tendonitis, will be healthy enough to play. If Huntley can’t go, the Ravens will once again turn to rookie Anthony Brown, who looked overmatched in last Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati. If Huntley plays, I expect this game to be more competitive than others, but the talent and health of the Bengals are too much in a home win.
Prediction: CIN over BAL 34-17
Cowboys vs Buccaneers
On Monday night, we get an absolute doozy of a wildcard matchup between the 12-5 Dallas Cowboys and the 8-9 NFC South division champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A franchise in Dallas that is desperate to make a playoff run for the first time since 1995, while the Bucs are trying to make an underdog run with Tom Brady in what is likely the last run they’ll have together.
It’s a fascinating matchup as the Bucs have championship experience and playoff Tom Brady is terrifying. Dallas is clearly the more talented roster right now, but are facing a similar situation that the 2010 New Orleans Saints faced when they had to go face the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks who had won the NFC West that year. Give me Tom Brady for another wildcard victory and keep his perfect record against Dallas intact.
Prediction: TB over DAL 17-13