Wild Card Weekend Final Digest
For the first time in NFL history, Wild Card Weekend will feature six games on its slate. The introduction to the playoffs has been a chaotic mess in past years, which have featured late-game heroics by the likes of Deshaun Watson and Derrick Henry. But it's also been the stomping grounds for goofy miscues like Josh Allen's lateral attempt that sent the majority of Bills Mafia into a violent drinking binge. I mean, who could possibly forget one of the most jaw-dropping plays in Wild Card history?
The Wild Card is just that—a weekend full of Wild Cards. The Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens all have qualified Super Bowl aspirations. Those expectations have been in place since August, and this weekend is the inception of their opportunity to prove themselves. On the other side of the ball, there are the just-happy-to-be-here teams like Cleveland, Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles. Their seasons could've gone in any number of directions, but nevertheless—they've earned themselves spots in the first-ever 14-team NFL Playoffs.
Anything could happen this weekend, so we've gathered together our NFL writers to discuss how they're feeling about each of the respective Wild Card games.
Saturday, January 9
#7 Colts @ #2 Bills
12:05 PM CT
Spread: Bills -6.5
Ralph James: Are there two more different quarterbacks in this playoffs? I’ll keep it a rack with you here—I find the Indianapolis Colts to be the most boring team remaining by a wide margin. Rivers bores me because of his lack of mobility and predictability. I’m far more excited to see him in the Monday Night Football booth than I am to watch him on Sundays. On the plus side, Buffalo has demonstrated all season just how electric they can be. Josh Allen has evolved into a whirling dervish of chaotic brilliance. When you watch this game, please do me a favor and crank the volume up a notch. I swear on my dog’s life that you can legitimately hear the ball zip through the air. It’s like a friggin’ laser-beam, to quote the great Dr. Evil. And that’s exactly who the Bills are to me— Dr. Evil. Attempting to spoil the magic of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Austin Powers. That’s a bad metaphor, I know. But I really wanted to say friggin’ laser beam when talking about Allen. As a resident, hopeless Chicago Bears fan, I hope that Bills Mafia will accept me as their bandwagon boy. I will dive deep in the trenches for you, Buffalo. I’ve been holding onto this Cole Beasley stock for a long, long time and I’m not ready to let go. So, for heaven’s sakes, send Indy packing and congratulate Philip Rivers on a wonderfully above-average career.
Players to Watch: Young elite linebackers (Tremaine Edmunds and Darius Leonard)
Gambling Pick: Buffalo -6.5
Rest of the Team's Picks
Fadden: Jonathan Taylor O73.5
Harris: IND +6.5
Sheehan: BUF -9.5 (+138)
#6 Rams @ #3 Seahawks
3:40 PM CT
Spread: Seahawks -3
Ryan Dobbs: Don’t we all just love a playoff game that we know should be super tight-knit and action-packed? Well, that's exactly what this NFC West wildcard showdown will be. In fact, it's been two whole seasons since these opponents had a game that was more than a two-score difference. Perhaps since these franchises always play such fiery games, it's only right to expect a dominant showing from one of these squads. I simply don’t see it that way, and here’s the case.
The Seahawks' offense has been on the decline since the second half of the season started. Fortunately for them, their defense that started the season on a historically bad stretch and has found its groove and is actually a unit to, dare I say, be reckoned with right now. The Rams are a bit of a more complicated team at the moment.
Well, for starters, it hasn’t been determined if Jared Goff is playing according to the team (thumb injury). Going without your starting quarterback for a game of this magnitude is obviously game-changing on levels that I don’t have to explain. For the sake of practicality, we will assume that Goff is playing; because if he doesn’t, I don’t think the Rams will have much of a chance to pull this out, which goes without saying.
I heavily assume the Rams are thinking this, as well—even though they'd never say it. However, even when Goff does play, it's either fire or ice. The problem is that more often than not, that fire is more like boiling water, at best. Look, it’s not that I'm trying to drag the man. The simple truth is that he's been inconsistent as all hell. Hell, he’s consistent at being inconsistent. I'll give him that. If the Rams win this game, then it will very likely come down to a fantastic defensive showing which they are tremendously capable of. The question really is: Will their offense show up and show out regardless of Goff's status?
Players to Watch: The Premiere Outside-the-Numbers Matchup (Jalen Ramsey/D.K. Metcalf)
Gambling Pick: SEA -3
Rest of the Team's Picks
Fadden: SEA -3
Harris: LAR ML +150
Sheehan: Tyler Lockett O5.5 Receptions
Compiano: SEA -3
#5 Buccaneers @ #4 Washington Football Team
7:15 PM CT
Spread: Buccaneers -8
Connor Sheehan: This Saturday night game is unique to this playoff board. It features the greatest player of all time and the below-.500 NFC EAST champions. What a matchup. This game should be a blowout.
The Buccaneers earned their right to be in the postseason winning 11 games, and the same thing can’t be said about the Football Team. Tampa has one of the best offenses in the league and their defense rivals Washington’s. So, it comes down to Alex Smith, Scary Terry and that poor offensive line who's going to be asked to keep up with Tom Brady and Bruce Arians. It just simply cannot be done. This is a DON'T overthink game. I like Tampa -8.5 and even -13.5 at +170 odds via DraftKings.
Players to Watch: Antonio Brown, Tristan Wirfs
Gambling Pick: TB -8
Rest of the Team:
Fadden: WFT +8
Harris: TB -8
Dobbs: WFT ML +310
Compiano: TB -8
Sunday, January 10th
#5 Ravens @ #4 Titans
12:05 PM CT
Spread: Ravens -3.5
Ralph James: If you’ll reach back in your memory bank to Week 11 when the Titans beat the Ravens 30-24 in overtime behind Derrick Henry’s 133 rushing yards, you’ll recall a beef transpiring before kickoff. In other words, these two teams don’t like each other much. The formula for a genuine rivalry in the modern NFL looks like this:
The Titans put the nail in the coffin on Lamar Jackson’s MVP season in 2019.