Wild Card Preview

After 17 regular season weeks we enter the NFL playoffs with Wild Card Weekend kicking off tonight. The Ravens, Chiefs, 49ers and Packers will each have the weekend off to sit back with the rest of us and watch to see which teams they’ll be facing in the divisional round next week. Before that, we wanted to take a look at each of the games kicking off tonight.

Bills @ Texans

Both teams rested a majority of their starters last week as whatever happened their fate was sealed so each team is coming to this more or less at full strength. For the Texans, star defensive end JJ Watt makes a welcome return to the team after a long injury. I doubt we’ll see him at his usual destructive best, however it is something for the Bills to be aware of. The Bills themselves have a very strong defence and will need to get to quarterback Deshaun Watson early and regularly if they are to secure a long awaited playoff win. With Will Fuller not expected to be back the game will certainly be that much tougher for the Texans but I expect them to prevail in what could be the closest game this weekend.

Titans @ Patriots

The first time in ten years that the Patriots are playing on wild card weekend and whilst they’re at home, many will fancy the visiting Titans to prevail. The Titans second half of the season has been a revelation under the stewardship of quarterback Ryan Tannehill who has done more than enough to secure a second contract from the Titans. The running attack under league rushing leader Derrick Henry (who is also out of contract at the end of the year) is what the Patriots defence should be focussed on. Whilst the Dolphins showed where the holes could be in their defence, don’t expect the Patriots to be as timid, they love to play with a chip on their shoulder and playoff guru Bill Belichick has all the experience and know how to win these matches. Despite Tom Brady’s decline through the season I expect the Pats to have enough in the tank for one more playoff win (but my fingers will be crossed for an upset – sorry Griff!)

Vikings @ Saints

Sunday night sees the NFC roll into action with a repeat of the game that bought us the ‘Minneapolis Miracle’ in 2018 (if nothing else, watch the video for the commetary from Paul Allen!). However, this time the game will be held in New Orleans and with Alvin Kamara finally finding some form and Drew Brees being imperious since coming back fro injury earlier in the season it’s difficult to see the Vikings winning this. The Vikings defence will present a stern test for Brees and co, however on the other side you just can’t trust Kirk Cousins in prime time. This would be a hell of a time to buck the trend but I’m not brave enough to predict anything other than a Saints win to set up a match against Green Bay next week.

Seahawks @ Eagles

The Eagles injury report is almost as long as War and Peace and there’ll be more than a few Eagles prayers offered up to the football gods that tight end Zach Ertz and right tackle Lane Johnson being fit for start. Even with them back, the Eagles offence has been shorn of so many starters that it’s a miracle in itself that they’re playing this weekend and a testamount to having a great coach and team culture. Philadelphia is a tough place to go and play but the Seahawks are no strangers to success on hostile grounds having posted a 7-1 away record through 2019. With Russell Wilson at the healm and producing minor miracles each week I fully expect the Seahawks to prevail.

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