Matt’s NFL Wild Card Preview

Just like Nathaniel Hackett, the NFL season has already come and gone, and the playoff field is set. The field is mixed with the usual suspects as well as some sleepers no one saw coming. How will it play out? If I knew that I would be in Vegas right now betting my mortgage and making plans with my newfound fortune. Unfortunately, I do not have the Gray’s Sports Almanac from Back to the Future so my preview and predictions will have to do. Here is how I see Wild Card Weekend going:

Seahawks @ 49ers– The Niners went 2-0 against Pete Carroll’s Seattle squad in the regular season. Can they make it 3-0? Brock Purdy has been a pleasant surprise as the 3rd string QB turned starter and has plenty of weapons at his disposal not to mention the NFL’s fiercest defense to fall back on. The Seahawks somehow improved over last year with Geno Smith at QB, and Kenneth Walker appears to be a budding star. The way I see it, Seattle is playing with house money. They weren’t supposed to be here and have the No. 5 overall pick, courtesy of the dumpster fire that is the Broncos. The Seahawks should play loose in this game and keep it close, but the 49ers won 10 games in a row for a reason and won’t drop this game at home. Purdy wins his first career playoff start and ties Dak Prescott (at least temporarily) in postseason wins. 49ers: 30 Seahawks: 22

Chargers @ Jaguars- The Chargers were my preseason Super Bowl pick. I must have gotten into the Oktoberfest early this year, but they are still a formidable group when healthy. Justin Herbert is still one of the young up and coming quarterbacks this league has to offer. Austin Ekeler is a fantasy dreamboat and can do it all out of the backfield. Mike Williams and Keenan Allen are a dynamic wide receiver duo when on the field together. Yet they don’t have what the Jaguars have on the sideline. A Super Bowl winning coach in Douglas MF Pederson. Trevor Lawrence has rebounded quietly into one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league and is surrounded with a good support system. The Jaguars have an inconsistent defense, but the building blocks are there. Philadelphia South wins this one in the final seconds. Jaguars: 23 Chargers: 20

We don’t think Will is in there, but if he could, he would be. Heck, he might be suiting up for the Dolphins at this point.

Dolphins @ Bills- The Dolphins got off to a hot start early in the season and showed that their big play offense can compete with the Bills, Chiefs or any poor secondary that stands in their way. Then Tua’s inability to stay on the field derailed this team nearly out of the playoffs. They won’t have him again Sunday. If I’m Miami though this is an opportunity to open up the playbook for Skylar Thompson.  Power Reads, Wildcats, The Annexation of Puerto Rico, etc. Keep the Bills on their heels. It won’t be easy to play this Buffalo team straight up. They are playing inspired football with the recovery of Damar Hamlin. Josh Allen has been here before and is becoming a regular in the clutch. Stefon Diggs is the best receiver in the league not named Justin Jefferson. This Bills team has the team of destiny look to them. I think Miam’s familiarity keeps it close through 3 quarters, but Buffalo puts them away in the end. Bills: 34 Dolphins: 20

Giants @ Vikings- Who saw this coming? Even the most optimistic New Yorker didn’t. The Giants are playoff bound again after years of misery. Brian Daboll deserves the accolades he’s receiving for turning Daniel Jones into a serviceable quarterback and bringing Saquon Barkley back from irrelevancy (I can say this as a fantasy owner in previous years). They travel to Minnesota to take on one of the most interesting teams this NFL season in the Vikings. Kirk Cousins put together a solid season and Justin Jefferson took home the receiving title.  This team also managed to take the lives off all their fans with their wacky close games. These teams met less than a month ago in a game in which Minnesota managed to kick a long field goal to escape with a victory. The thing is I don’t trust either of these teams, but my gut tells me the Giants find a way in this rubber match. Their reward? A beating from the Eagles in the Divisional round. Giants: 24 Vikings: 21

Ravens @ Bengals- The Ravens have been treading water with Lamar Jackson out and with Tyler Huntley holding his own as the starter. The offense hasn’t been explosive though and they’ll need either Jackson back or Huntley to take a leap of progress across the Potomac to hang with the Bengals. Meanwhile, Joe Burrow and Co. were able to shake their Super Bowl loss hangover and challenge for the No. 1 seed. The receiving corps is one of the best in the league with Ja’marr Chase and Tee Higgins along with Tyler Boyd. Factor in Joe Mixon and you got yourself a potent offense. I respect John Harbaugh, and this Ravens team, but they just don’t have the same firepower. I’m afraid this one gets ugly without Lamar. Bengals: 40 Ravens: 17

Cowboys @ Buccaneers- The Cowboys are that scene in Zoolander when Derek looks into the puddle with his reflection and asks, “Who am I?” and the puddle promptly responds, “I don’t know.” What team will show up for this game? They lose to the Jaguars, win in a shootout against the Eagles and then play horrifically against Sam Howell and the Commanders. Dak can’t stop giving the ball away but is also capable of scoring points in bunches with the assistance of Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb. The defense has come back to earth this season, but they are still an effective unit. The Buccaneers look like a shell of their former selves. They peaked after beating Dallas their first game and finished with a losing record in one of the worst divisions in football. The one advantage the Bucs can hang their hat on is Tom Brady. In his career he has never lost to the Cowboys. Can the GOAT work his magic against Dallas? You’d think I’d learn my lesson with betting against Brady, but I just don’t see how they win this game. They have not looked like a complete team all year. Why would that suddenly change? Dallas gets a rare playoff win. Cowboys: 20 Buccaneers: 14

Stay tuned for next week’s divisional preview! 

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