By: Jennifer McGraw
It has been a football season like no other, to say the least. Spectators have yet to see the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic could create as we near post-season. We will see immense amounts of talent taking the fields in less than 24 hours. As we continue to struggle with some sort of normalcy, NFL playoff predictions are in full swing.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant changes had to take place to accommodate the health and safety of the staff and players. Pre-season games were cancelled, which hurt a lot of teams. Lots of games were rescheduled to accommodate the respective team that had positive COVID cases. The post-season is no stranger to these situations. It will be interesting to see how the teams go about the playoffs amongst this tricky virus. Super Wild Card Weekend allows an extra team in each conference to have a chance of attending the Super Bowl. Another change that will take place is the first seed team in each conference will have a bye-week. These two teams are the Green Bay Packers and defending Super Bowl Champions, Kansas City Chiefs. The other six teams in each conference will fight for Super Bowl hope starting tomorrow at 1pm EST.
Below, you will find the NFL playoff predictions as to who I think will come out victorious and who will fall short of the title of “Super Bowl Champion”.
Saturday, January 9th
AFC 7th Seed Indianapolis Colts at the 2nd Seed Buffalo Bills, 1:05 p.m. ET (CBS, CBS All Access)
My take: Indianapolis Colts beat the Buffalo Bills in a close game.
It’s no doubt that both of these teams are very good and deserve a playoff spot. We also cannot rule out that the Buffalo Bills are Super Bowl favorites. That’s why I’m hoping for an upset by the Colts tomorrow. I definitely think it will be a close game. The Colts are no stranger to defeating teams .500 and over. They have beat 4 of the 8 teams over .500 in their schedule, one of them being the first seed Green Bay Packers.
In no way do I think the Colts will have it easy tomorrow, but I think they could win this game. It will be exciting to see how each special teams contribute to the game. Both teams have kick returns that resulted in scores and kickers who are both in the top 5 for scoring in the NFL. Both offensive teams are going to put up a lot of points. I think it could easily come down to who had more time of possession and how they utilized it. Besides the talent the Buffalo Bills possess, the Colts are going to have to face colder weather as they play in the Bills stadium tomorrow.
Final Score: Colts 31, Bills 28
NFC 6th Seed Los Angeles Rams at the 3rd Seed Seattle Seahawks, 4:40 p.m. ET (FOX, FOX Deportes)
My take: I want to see a Seahawks upset, but it’ll be up to the Rams defense.
The Seattle Seahawks have had an impeccable season. Their promising offense has allowed them to score an average of 30 points per game. However, it seems as the offense fell short in games that should have been blow-outs. The offensive line is going to have to do their job in protecting Seahawks QB, Russell Wilson, from getting sacked. He is good at making plays, but he needs to stay protected. People seem to forget that as of last month, the Rams had the third-best defense in the NFL. During the regular season, each team has beat each other. I truly do not know who I could see winning this game. It might also be a close game, but if the Rams can make plays on offense as much as they can on defense, they could win this game. The Jalen Ramsey and DK Metcalf match-up will be fun to watch.
Final Score: Rams 28, Seahawks 21
NFC 5th Seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the 4th Seed Washington Football Team, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC, Universo)
My take: Logically the Buccaneers, but can Riverboat Ron lead his team to victory?
The NFC East was nothing short of a dumpster fire of a division, and yet, one of the under .500 teams made it to the playoffs. Let alone, the team without a name made it to the playoffs. However, though I might sound crazy, I think this team shows promise in the post-season. I don’t think they are necessarily Super Bowl contenders, but I do think they know who they are up against.
Ron Rivera, a head coach in the NFL for about 10 years, could coach this team to victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The WFT defense is also highly rated and need to create turnovers against the Buccaneers. This is going to be a battle of the defenses and how able the opposing offense is able to score against them. I honestly think it will be an awesome game to watch. As someone who has a favorite team in the NFC East division (go Eagles!), I hope to see WFT take care of business when Tom and Co. come to town!
Final Score: Buccaneers: 28, Football Team: 17
Sunday, January 10
AFC 5th Seed Baltimore Ravens at the 4th Seed Tennessee Titans, 1:05 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN+, ESPN Deportes, Freeform)
My take: It’s likely that Baltimore could pull through.
I honestly believe this is the game to watch during Super Wild Card weekend. When these two rivals met in Week 11, the Titans not only beat the Ravens in overtime, but also danced on their field and made their win loud and proud in front of the Baltimore team. It’s quite evident that the teams do not like each other. If the Ravens win this game, that would be the perfect payback.
The keys to a Ravens win are simple: take advantage of the Titans’ weaknesses in pass-rush and utilize QB Lamar Jackson’s talents in the red zone. Jackson had 23 touchdowns in the red zone this season. We need to see more of that in order for him to win the game on Sunday. If you’re the Titans, you want to sharpen up your defense and you want to do it now. You want to adapt to and figure out how Jackson plays so you can create big plays to throw the Ravens’ momentum off. Regardless, I think it’s likely that the Ravens will win this game, and win when it matters most.
Final Score: Ravens 31, Titans 24
NFC 7th Seed Chicago Bears at the 2nd Seed New Orleans Saints, 4:40 p.m. ET (CBS, CBS All Access, Nick, Amazon Prime Video)
My take: Saints will show up and show out.
There is not much to say about the New Orleans Saints. They consistently have a great offense and defense that dominate every season. On top of that, the Chicago Bears have not beat the Saints in over 12 years, so this game should be easier to win for the Saints. Lots of key players for the Bears are questionable for Sunday, leaving their QB, Mitch Trubisky, to have to create plays with secondaries that will work against the Saints defense.
That’s not to say that the Bears are down and out, however, it will be quite the challenge – and reward – if they can pull a win on Sunday. How? Establish the run game – even against the fourth-ranked run defense Saints – and utilize the red zone to the advantage. The coaches on both teams will need to be extra wise about their play calling and how they want to get the momentum going for each team. Logically, I think the Saints will win this game.
Final Score: Saints 34, Bears 17
AFC 6th Seed Cleveland Browns at 3rd Seed Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC, Telemundo, Peacock)
My take: Steelers more than likely to win.
December’s set of games were not in favor of the Steelers, as they lost 3 of those 5 games with two of those teams being under .500. The energy that the Steelers need to bring for the playoffs is crucially high. They badly need to gain momentum if they want to make a clean sweep to the Super Bowl. The Steelers’ offense is unmatched as their QB, Ben Roethlisberger, on average gets the ball out in 2.3 seconds. The Browns will have to be quick and match the level that the Steelers will bring, and we know it can be done.
Last week, they faced off and the Browns were victorious as they beat the Steelers 24-22 in the season-closer. Are we going to see that happen again? It’s hard to tell. I think it’s more likely that the Steelers will put up a lot of points, considering the Browns defense is good but very inconsistent and its offense is ranked 14th. I believe the Steelers will end up winning this game.
Final Score: Steelers 31, Browns 24
Check back next week when I make NFL playoff predictions about the following post-season games leading up to the Super Bowl! To find more information on where to watch the Super Wild Card Weekend triple headers, click here!