The regular season is done and dusted, twelve teams with Super Bowl aspirations will start doing battle in a few hours from now. The divisional round is the next step to the journey to the top and quite a bit is riding on this weekend’s matchups.
Houston Texans v Buffalo Bills
When the season started my one hot-take was that the Bills would win nine games, they went one better and secured a deserved playoff spot. The Bills are one of the better football teams we have seen this season. They boast a dominant defense that seems to always keep them in games, then couple that with a decent play-caller, solid run game and a quarterback who has shown that he can make plays when needed to with his arm and legs, it’s hard not to like their chances.
For all that the Bills have they face the Texans on the road, and that is a daunting task for many a team. Texans have some of the league’s top offensive playmakers, in their quarterback and receiving corps. Add to that a run game that on its day can come good and set up play-action for their quarterback while it keeps the offense on tr field, that could be their one trump card. I foresee the Texans run game being used effectively to get a fast start in the game early on and keep Josh Allen off the field.
My pick: Texans win by 9 points
New England Patriots v Tennessee Titans
The Titans are living the dream, change quarterback midseason and next man is really the man and gives the team a lift. The Titans have been a well-oiled machine on offense, the quarterback play has been excellent, the run game behind Derrick Henry has been league-high standard and a scorching hot A.J. Brown who has been causing many defensive coordinators problems all season long. The Titans are the type of team the Patriots wouldn’t love to face, despite their history in the playoffs.
I have never seen the Patriots play as poorly as they have done this season. Even the staunchest of fans can’t find a kind word for the appalling body of work the team has put together over at least thirteen weeks of the regular season, especially on offense. Tom Brady doesn’t have much help on offense and without a fit Julian Edelman, a decent tight-end and a run game that can get cold. The defense has been inconsistent at best and it has allowed most teams to have a field day running the ball against them. They are bottom ten against the run, this should be the first in their history under Belichick. If the defense fails to stop Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill will hurt the Patriots via play-action and he can easily keep his average of 30 points per game.
My pick: Titans win by 3 points
New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings
These two teams last met in the Divisional Playoff round in 2018, Minneapolis Miracle, enough said. That game was an offensive slugfest between two determined offenses that were stacked with talent, as they go head to head again very little has changed on offense. And both defenses will be eager to have their say and need to be stellar and help their club get to the next round. This one will be the best of the bunch, if you ask me.
The Vikings will be in the spotlight once again and that is a scary place for the Kirk Cousins led offense especially as it’s hard to predict which version of the quarterback will show up. With Dalvin Cook healthy, the Vikings should go back to their famed play-action focus, and it will result in some big-time plays plus points. That said the Vikings have found a way to choke in every big game they played in this year, and they will do well to leave that form in Minneapolis when they head to the Dome. Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook are both timely boosts for the offense in a crucial matchup in which they will be counted on to get a surprise win on the road.
Drew Brees is playing some of the best football out there right now and looks like playing fewer games this season could have benefited the veteran quarterback. The Saints will look to get the best wide receiver in the game from the outset as they will obviously want to get at the sometimes vulnerable Vikings defense. Brees will look to have a monumental game against the Vikings who rank third last in blitz rate, the more time Brees has to survey the field the more damage he will cause.
My pick: Saints win by 10
Philadelphia Eagles v Seattle Seahawks
The Eagles defense has begun carrying the team just in time to help the team to make the playoffs as the health of their offense was in a meltdown. The Eagles have to get their run game going with Miles Sanders to take off the pressure the quarterback who has to work with a depleted receiving corp and set up some play-action to allow the makeshift wide receivers to get some separation. The Eagles defense has been commendable at home only allowing visiting teams just seventeen points this season, and they must stand up and be counted on again to stop Russell Wilson. Carson Wentz will be required to play some very confident and assured football on Sunday, he needs to keep the ball and give away any turnovers. The Seahawks don’t need to be gifted with possession as they can easily convert it to points.
The Seahawks are wounded in the run game and will rely on Marshawn Lynch to set them up and allow them to be as competitive as possible. Russell Wilson has been flat in the last month of the regular season, he will need to bring his A-game on the road versus a determined Eagles team backed by their raucous crowd.
The lack of a run game has been well documented as all three of their running back options went down with an injury at the end of the season. On Beast Mode’s come back a lack of trust in the run game was evident in the dying minutes of the loss to the 49ers. This can not be the case in a crucial playoff matchup a week later. The Seahawks defense will be counted on to do what they do best which is to force turnovers, the expectations will be high for them to go after Carson Wentz who can be loose with the football.
My pick: Seahawks win by 6 points
Last Playoff Win for Each 2020 Wildcard Team
Saints – 2019
Patriots – 2019
Eagles – 2019
Vikings – 2018
Titans – 2018
Seahawks – 2017
Texans – 2017
Bills – 1995