By Christopher Hetu
C/O to cbssports.com
Another NFL regular season has come and gone but a new playoff race is now underway. And with that being said, a lot of new and familiar faces have joined in the dance this postseason. Only 1 of these 14 teams will be crowned the Super Bowl Champion but my real question (same as last year) is who do you think it will be?
Will the Buffalo Bills finally overtake their archival in the Kansas City Chiefs? Will the Jaguars surprise everyone and make a very interesting postseason run? Or will Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles be able to prove all doubters wrong and prove why they've been the #1 team in the NFL for the entirety of the regular season? Only time will tell, let's dive into each matchup and discuss each teams performance in the regular season and find out who will come out on top!
Bye Week: (1) Kansas City Chiefs (14-3) Home field Advantage throughout the playoffs
(7) Miami Dolphins (9-8) vs. (2) Buffalo Bills (13-3)
Location: Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY
Kickoff: Sunday 1/15 1:00 PM EST CBS
Spread: -13 Bills
C/O to actionnetwork.com
This has been a crazy ride for the Buffalo Bills this season, they've managed to secure their third straight AFC East title as well as another season of having their offense and defense ranked top 10 in the league. Josh Allen passing for third straight 4,000 plus yard season, throwing for 4,283 YDs, 35 TDs, and 14 INTs as well as over 700 rushing yards and 7 rushing TDs.
As well as Stefon Diggs leading the charge in receptions, yards and touchdowns on their offense (108 RECs, 1,429 YDs, 11 TDs) with plenty of more options to move the ball to. Their defense has only allowed 17.9 points per game, that is second in the NFL for pensive points allowed. This Bills squad is on a mission and they look to bring it to their divisional opponent this week.
The Dolphins were a team this season most teams predicted to make a strong push for the postseason this year. Major offseason moves were made to boost this teams offensive attack and it's really paid off. Trading with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason to acquire wideout Tyreek Hill who finished the year off second in both receptions and receiving yards (119 REC, 1,710 YDs, 7 TDs). With additions of Jeff Wilson Jr., Raheem Mostart and even Bradley Chubb to make this team a much bigger threat. This team has had an impressive season and finished off the year with a postseason berth despite a rocky finish to the regular season. They are in the dance for a reason.
Like last year, this is the second time the Bills have had to play a divisional opponent in the postseason but this year it's the Dolphins taking on the challenge that is Buffalo. Both teams played thrilling games in the regular season, Miami defeated Buffalo in Miami 21-19 and even coming to Buffalo these teams faced off nicely against one another. Buffalo took the second game 32-29 as Tua Tagovialoa kept his team in these matchups at all times. But this postseason things are looking dicey for Miami traveling to Buffalo, they will be without the services of both Tua Tagovialoa (Concussion) and Teddy Bridgewater (knee/right finger) and will rely on rookie 7th round draft picks Skylar Thompson.
The Bills two weeks ago now were horrified at the events at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati when safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field from a cardiac arrest he suffered from a hit in the first quarter. Since Hamlin's recovering the team has truly come together as a whole and using this as a hurdle to climb coming into the postseason. Despite this event, this team is going up against a very injury riddled Dolphins team that essentially limped into the playoffs off an 11-6 victory of the New York Jet's last weekend and starting a rookie qb who just got his first NFL start last weekend.
This Dolphins team is talented, but timing hasn't quite been on their side this year and for the Bills it has. Something looks a lot different for this Bills team this year, they are ON A MISSION. And it all starts this week, I expect the game to be close in the start of things but come second half adjustments the Bills will ultimately take the victory in this one.
FINAL SCORE: Bills 38 Dolphins 23
(6) Baltimore Ravens (10-7) vs. (3) Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
Location: Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Kickoff: Sunday 1/15 8:30 PM EST NBC
Spread: -9.5 Bengals
C/O to nbcsports.com
Fresh off a Super Bowl appearance last season, the Bengals are looking to replicate a similar postseason magic that they were able to show off last year. It didn't come easily though, this team struggled early on in the year and at one point sat at a record of 2-3. The offensive line wasn't clicking even with the additions they made and Joe Burrow turned the ball over too often. But suddenly, something just clicked and this team finished over the year strong with an 8 game win streak leading them to their second straight AFC North title.
Joe Burrow (4,475 YDS, 35 TDs, 12 INTs) has capitalized on the talent he has in front of him and is proving why he is one of the greatest talents at the quarterback position. Ja'Marr Chase eclipsed over 1,000 yards once again despite only playing 12 games this season as well as fellow teammate Tee Higgins also reaching 1,000 yards. A potent offense, an o-line that's finally found it's stride and a rock solid defense Zac Taylor and the Bengals look ready to hunt for another Super Bowl appearance.
The Ravens once again came into the season with a heavily favored chance to make a run for the Super Bowl. Back to full health, Bengals struggling in the early goings of the year, Lamar Jackson was playing for a new contract with great results. Things were looking up for the Ravens. But that injury bug that resulted this team missing the playoffs last year came back to bite them once again.
Lamar Jackson went down in Week 13 against the Denver Broncos, despite the 10-9 victory this offense hasn't scored 20 points ever since. This teams saving grace has been the defense, Calais Campbell and this defense haven't allowed over 20 points in a game since Week 12 in their loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. But that changed last weekend in a 27-16 loss to the Bengals who they play once again this week.
This is the third time these two teams meet this season, the 19-17 win for Baltimore came at a time when Cincinnati was still figuring itself out and Lamar Jackson was sill healthy. Fast forward to Week 18 in a Ravens 27-16 loss on the Bengals home turf, with a Bengals unit in full stride. The Ravens now without two of the starting wideouts for the rest of the season and only truly being able to rely on Mark Andrews as a number 1 option. Lamar Jackson does not seem ready to come back with Tyler Huntley now back practicing in full, the odds are stacked against the Ravens in this one. The Bengals appear to be better than they were last year and this is going to be a tough pill for Baltimore fans to swallow as the Bengals will prove once again why they are on top of the AFC North for a reason.
FINAL SCORE: Bengals: 29 Ravens 20
(5) Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) vs. (4) Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)
Locations: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, FL
Kickoff: Saturday 1/14 8:15 PM EST NBC
Spread: -1.5 Chargers
C/O to nbcsports.com
WHAT. A. SEASON. This is not the outcome any of us expected for the Jaguars but it certainly brings a smile to our faces. Things weren't always this way though, a great offseason that resulted the signing of players such as Evan Engram, Christian Kirk and Brandon Scherff but then the regular season hit. By the end of Week 8, the team sat at 2-6 in the standings and had just made a trade for Calvin Ridley (suspended) and all signs were pointing to another rebuild year for the Jags.
However, Doug Pederson and this team rallied and managed to turn the season around, resulting in major comeback wins against the Ravens and the Cowboys. The Jaguars managed to finish 9-8 after winning 7 of their last 9 games. In his sophomore year, Trevor Lawerence (4,113 YDs, 25 TDs, 8 INTs) finished 9th in passing and 8th in passing TDs. Players such as Travis Ettiene, Christian Kirk, Evan Engram and Zay Jones all finished with career years statically. And the defense has emerged as a shocking dominant unit. This team that at hind site was thought to be in a rebuild silenced all the doubters and secured the AFC South for the first time since 2017!
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers once again came into the season with a lot of pressure of their shoulders to make a postseason appearance. On the doorstep last year only to let it slip away to the Las Vegas Raiders, and Brandon Staley being questioned as the head coach they finally managed to sneak in. Even with injuries between Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Justin Herbert suffering a rib injury in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs the Chargers finally managed to sneak into the postseason. Justin Herbert (4,739 YDs, 25 TDs, 10 INTs) finished 2nd in the league in passing yards, and Austin Ekeler finishing with the most receptions by a running back with 107; one more than Christian McCaffery. The Chargers got hot when it mattered most and they deserve a seat at the table this postseason.
The all-time hair matchup is without a doubt going to be a tightly contested and thrilling matchup here this postseason. It's been a great season for both sides and it should be a close game throughout. Expect it to potentially being either low or high scoring but at the end of the day I see Los Angeles moving onto the next round in the postseason. The Jaguars have struggled to finish in games late in the season and have shown vulnerability offensively and defensively. Chargers also have been similar but this team is situated with much more mature talent and come in with some vengeance for Week 3 earlier this year when the Jags won 38-10. Herbert was still hurt but at the end of the day he'll prove he's got the better hairstyle and the better team this season.
FINAL SCORE: Chargers 33 Jaguars 28
Bye Week: (1) Philadelphia Eagles (14-3) Home field Advantage throughout the playoffs
(7) Seattle Seahawks (9-8) vs. (2) San Fransisco 49ers (13-4)
Location: Levi Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
Kickoff: Saturday 1/14 4:30 PM EST FOX
Spread: -10 49ers
C/O to actionnetwork.com
What an interesting year for the Seattle Seahawks, in preseason this team was projected to finish dead last in the NFC West by most NFL analysts. How they've proven those doubters wrong. With the trade this offseason that sent Russell Wilson to Denver in exchange for Drew Lock and others, Geno Smith against all odds rose up to be the Seahawks starter and what a rise it was.
Smith (4,282 YDs, 30 TDs, 11 INTs) had himself a career year, the top candidate for comeback player of the year and surpassed Russell Wilson for the most yards passed by a Seahawks QB in franchise history. Both D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett each had over 1,000 yards receiving and the emergence of rookie running back Kenneth Walker III rushed for over 1,000 yards.
Finishing off the year strong with a win over the Rams and some help from the Detroit Lions in Green Bay has allowed the Seahawks to sneak into the postseason in impressive fashion.
San Fransisco 49ers
It's been an interesting year for the 49ers, but a dominant one to say the least. Their defense ranked number 1 in the league and despite going through 3 different starters at QB this team finished off the year strong with a 13-4 record. Brock Purdy, the very last pick in this years NFL draft stepped in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, and led the Niners to much success.
A trade midseason for Christian McCaffery has really excelled this teams offensive performance. With the amount of weapons on this offense has at its disposal it's relieved a lot of pressure off of players such as Deebo Samuel and George Kittle who've been injured a lot in the past. Kyle Shanahan has put together one of the best rosters in football and this team looks set to make a strong push this postseason.
Another divisional matchup this NFL postseason, 3rd time these two teams will play each other this season. The Niners won both the matchups at home (27-7) and on the road (21-13). I'm sure the Seahawks will bring a lot to the table this game with a solid pass and run attack, but this Niners defense has been the best second half defense in all of football this season. And they'll be sure to draw up schemes that will draw Geno Smith to make mistakes. Trust the experienced playoff team and that team is San Fransisco!
FINAL SCORE 49ers 26 Seahawks 17
(6) New York Giants (9-7-1) vs. (3) Minnesota Vikings (13-4)
Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Kickoff: Sunday 1/15 4:30 PM EST FOX
Spread: -3 Vikings
C/O to nflanalysis.net
New York Giants
Talk about unexpected as well... never did anyone imagine the New York Giants would be in the postseason. But hey out with Ben McAdoo and in with Brian Daboll and you've got yourself a competent squad. Daniel Jones looks like he's matured into the field general the Giants hoped he would be when they drafted him. The receiving core has been exceptional and the defense as well but of course there's one player that most be noted.
Saquon Barkley (1,312 YDs, 10 TDs) has had over 1,600 yards from scrimmage this season and looks like his old self again from his early years with the franchise. Despite struggles late in the season, the Giants did enough to be locked in the sixth seed and reminiscent of when the franchise ended the greatest regular season record in NFL history.
Talk about a year for the Vikings, finally getting the monkey off their back and taking the NFC North Division Title. It didn't come easy as this team had many impressive come from behind victories, one of them as many well know by now is the greatest regular season comeback in NFL Regular Season History. Down 33-0 to the Colts at half, the Vikings came back and won 39-36 in OT.
Kirk Cousins (4,547 YDs, 29 TDs, 14 INTs) has looked like the QB the Vikings wanted to be, Calvin Cook (1,173 YDs, 10 TOT TDs) has been a solid premiere running back, and Justin Jefferson (128 REC, 1,809 YDs, 8 TDs) is without a doubt the leagues best wide receiver. From an impressive one handed catch against the Bills (in a comeback win), to the fastest to reach 100 yards in multiple games Justin Jefferson has proven he may have potential to be one of the greatest wide outs to ever play the game. The Vikings are a dominant squad and they deserve a chance to make a run at immortality.
Overall, this might be one of the best games on the schedule this weekend. These two teams played each other back in Week 16 and the Vikings pulled off another amazing comeback in the 4th quarter scoring 17 points and defeating the Giants in MetLife Stadium 27-24 off a 61 yard field goal from Greg Jospeh. But despite that, this game might not have the result most people expect. Multiple come from behind victories in a season is impressive but it's not sustainable when a majority of your wins have come from that. You get one chance in the postseason and that's it, the underdog is taking this one folks!
FINAL SCORE: Giants 26 Vikings 24
(5) Dallas Cowboys (12-5) vs. (4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Kickoff: Monday 1/16 8:15 PM EST ESPN/ABC/ESPN+
Spread: -2.5 Cowboys
C/O to nfl.com
The Dallas Cowboys have had themselves another solid year, despite Dak Prescott getting injured early on in the season, Cooper Rush gave serviceable play for his absence. Regardless no one can take away this Cowboys playmaking ability. Prescott (2,860 YDs, 23 TDs, 15 INTs) has played rock solid this year, Tony Pollard rushed for 1,000 yards for the first time in his career and Ezekiel Elliot has done his job as the ground and pond man.
Even the receiving core has been nothing short of exceptional, with CeeDee Lamb (107 REC, 1,359 YDs, 9 TDs) has proven without Amari Cooper, that he is a true #1. The Cowboys have organized themselves a formidable squad this season and they are ready to tango this postseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This has been a season we haven't expected from a squad such as this, it should have been a cake walk for the NFC South Title. This simply wasn't the case... this team STRUGGLED. And in the ways we didn't think were possible. Losing in matchups that they were favored in, examples are losing to the Packers, Panthers, Steelers and Browns are some examples.
This is more or less the same squad we've seen for the last few years but they just haven't been mixing well together. Even at 45 years old, Tom Brady (4,694 YDs, 25 TDs, 9 INTs) still finished the season 3rd in the league in passing and tied for 8th in the league for touchdown passes. Pulling off some improbable comebacks, one that we witnessed two weeks ago when Brady connected with Mike Evans (77 RECs, 1,124 YDs, 6 TDs) 3 times in the end zone to take the game 30-24 and the NFC South Division Title.
These two teams faced off to kickoff the 2022 NFL Season, as the Bucs took down the Cowboys in Dallas 19-3. However both teams have looked a lot different over time throughout the season. The Buccaneers went through a lot of struggles but managed to do enough to take the division crown in a very weak NFC South. For the Cowboys they faced one of the toughest divisions in football this season and look to be probably the best Cowboys team we've seen in the last few years.
But hey who am I to go up against the GOAT when he's playing one of the most promising yet disappointing franchises in the last decade. But Monday Night things are going to be different, the game will be close but the Cowboys will come in with a strong gameplay good enough to finally take down Brady and the Bucs who have been through too much inconsistency all year long.
FINAL SCORE: Cowboys 23 Buccaneers 21
Well there you have it, there are the picks for this WILD Wildcard Weekend here in the NFL. Who do you think is going to win in these matchups? A lot great games on the slot, my personal favorite might have to be the Chargers Jaguars game and even the Giants Vikings.
A lot will happen this weekend and maybe not in the ways we expect, be sure to keep an eye out next week for Divisional Round Predictions right here on Fans Only Sports Network. Be sure to tune into Unapologetic with Chet and Duffy, where you can hear me and Duffy's arguments and picks for the postseason! Now let's chill out and watch these games.