Now that the season has wrapped up, fourteen teams get to compete for the Lombardi in Vegas. Twelve will be in action starting Saturday evening. The initial round of the playoffs has yielded games with interesting storylines as well as history to be rewritten. Six teams will move on to the Divisional and this is who I think does that.
The opening Wild Card sees Cleveland returning to Houston to face C.J. Stroud and the Texans. In week 16, highlighted by a career day for Amari Cooper, the Browns took down the C.J. Stroud-less Texans handily. How the Browns can win revolves around Joe Flacco, Flacco took over weeks 13 and on where he posted a 4-1 record. I think C.J. Stroud can more than keep up with Flacco. I doubt Cooper can exploit the defense the way he did just three weeks ago with multiple Houston starters returning to the line-up. I believe C.J. Stroud can take advantage of that and upset the Browns.
The second game is between the Dolphins and the Chiefs, the biggest storyline being Tyreek Hill stepping foot in Arrowhead. Both teams have struggled since their week nine matchup, the Chiefs and the Dolphins have looked weaker. What makes me believe the Chiefs will win regardless of their late-season struggles is Tua Tagovailoa’s struggle to play on the road in December and January. He’s 3-6 in his career on the road in those months, with all three wins against non-playoff teams. On top of that, the Chief's secondary has been nothing short of elite these past few weeks.
The third matchup pits the Bills in Orchard Park against the Steelers. I believe this game will be one-sided, it seems as if the only way to stop the Bills is by shutting down the run game and forcing Josh Allen to make tough decisions—in the middle of the Steelers defense. The Bills should be able to let James Cook work the middle of the field and allow Josh Allen to manage the game and mitigate any costly turnovers.
Our first NFC matchup sees the Cowboys host the Packers. The Packers have dominated the Cowboys in recent memory, most recently a win in Lambeau just last year. Unfortunately for the Packers, I don’t foresee this trend continuing. The Cowboys have looked as efficient as ever, and have numerous ways to win. Although Pollard hasn’t looked himself, he should be able to exploit the Packer's horrific run defense.
The Sunday night game is between the Matthew Stafford-led Rams and his former Detroit Lions. The Lions have endured one of the most impressive rebuilds in recent history. That said, I still think they’re one step away from making a deep run. The Lion's secondary is nothing short of horrible; they match up poorly against the Rams. I think the Rams are able to upset what feels like America’s team.
To finish off the weekend the faltering Eagles will visit the Baker Mayfield-led Buccaneers. If the Buccaneers want to upset, they need to take advantage of the Eagle's horrible secondary. No one can realistically guard the Buccaneer's receiver duo. For this reason, I think the Buccaneers have the biggest upset of the weekend.