NFL Wild Card Weekend Preview
Colts @ Bills
This is an awesome game to kick off wild card weekend! The Bills are the hottest team in the NFL and the Colts are the most underrated team in the NFL. If the Colts can find a way to upset Buffalo, no team will want to face them.
Offensively, the Bills are nasty. Josh Allen stepped up for Buffalo this season. In the past five games, he has a 15-2 touchdown to interception ratio. Stefon Diggs was a top two receiver in football this year and Cole Beasley snuck his way to be a second team all pro this season. The Bills can't get pretty. That is how they blew their lead to Houston last year in the playoffs. The Bills need to stick to what they do offensively. Brian Daboll needs to spread out the field and let Josh Allen eat. When Buffalo is in 10 personnel, nobody can stop them. The Colts will be eaten alive on the outsides if they try to go man on man with Diggs and Beasely. The Bills might have the best offense in the NFL and should be able to put up points against the Colts.
On offense, the Colts need to run the football. The Bills had the 17th ranked run defense in the league this year and it's the biggest flaw for the Bills as a whole. Jonathan Taylor has been lighting defenses up lately. Taylor has seven rushing touchdowns in the last four games and was third in rushing yards this season. The reason why rookie running backs, like Taylor, struggle early in the year is because they have a hard time reading their holes and are impatient. As the season progresses, they learn how to set up their blocks and the game slows down for them. Taylor is now one of the best running backs in all of football and should have opportunities against a mediocre Bills run defense. While Frank Reich is an awesome coach, this season the Colts have been terrible when it comes to playing with a lead. Reich needs to get more creative offensively to really secure the Colts lead. It won't be easy for the Colts to upset Buffalo this weekend, but if they can run the ball and keep Josh Allen on the sideline, they have a chance.
Defensively, both teams are strong. The Colts had one of the best defenses all season with two first team all pros. Darius Leonard is a freak. He can fly around the field and should be able to limit what Josh Allen does with his legs. Deforest Buckner will make it hard for Allen to be a typical "drop back passer". He is going to clog up the middle and force the Bills to be one dimensional. Buckner has five sacks in the past three games and will be a tough matchup for the Bills offensive line. The biggest mismatch in this game is the Colts run offense vs the Bills run defense. The Colts' bread and butter offensively is Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. There is no doubt that Leslie Frazier and the Bills defense honed in on those two players all week in practice.
The Bills defense needs to get pressure on Philip Rivers and force him to take one on one chances. Buffalo is great at turning the ball over and no receiver on the Colts will be able to play around with Tre'Davious White.
If Philip Rivers were to win this game, this would be his biggest win in his career. The only thing holding the Colts back is their quarterback. Rivers is playing on his ninth life right now as this may be the last time we see him in pads. I expect to see Rivers in the booth next season, but it is important to appreciate all that he has done in his career.
The Colts will be Stefon Diggs' next victim. Diggs has been killing DB's on double moves all season and he should have another big game in the wild card round. This is going to be a close game, but the Colts just don't have enough offensively to keep up with Buffalo.
Player of the Game: Stefon Diggs WR Bills
Final Score: Colts 27 Bills 31
Rams @ Seahawks
There is nothing like an NFC West playoff battle, but if the Rams can't get consistent quarterback play, it will be hard for them to win this game. The biggest issue with the Seahawks is they play either down to their opponents. It's very rare to see the Seahawks play in a blow out. Every week there game comes down to the last minute, and Russell Wilson makes an insane play to win the game.
The most exciting matchup in this game is Jalen Ramsey against DK Metcalf. Two of the best at their position facing each other every snap of the game. Bleacher Reports', Adam Lefkoe made a very good idea earlier in the week. He said that Fox should have a box in the left corner of the screen where it's just showing Ramsey against Metcalf. It is fair to say that Ramsey won both matchups in the regular season, but this time could be different. Metcalf left a lasting image for Seahawks fans in his rookie year against the Eagles. Can he do it again, but this time against the Rams?
The Rams have the best defense in the NFL, so the Seahawks need to play with tempo and get explosive plays. Russell Wilson needs to throw his infamous "sky balls" and connect with Tyler Lockett downfield. Defensively, the Seahawks need to get to the quarterback. Jamal Adams should have at least two sacks on Saturday. Goff struggles when he has pressure in his face and Wolford is still very inexperienced. If Wolford is playing, Ken Norton Jr. must dial up blitz after blitz and load the box. The Seahawks defense has the advantage in this game.
The Rams need to prevent Russell Wilson from capitalizing on his deep throws and they need to play penalty-free football. The Seahawks offense is one of the most inconsistent offenses in the league. If the Rams defense can force a turnover and set their offense up in the red zone, LA can potentially upset Seattle. The Rams offense needs to be creative and John Wolford needs to use his legs. The key to this game for both offenses are explosive plays. This game can be decided by just a few moments.
I'm curious to see if the Rams can build drives and possess the football against the Seahawks. For the Seahawks, I'm watching for consistency, both on the offense and the defense. It has been a while that both sides of the football clicked for Seattle. Russell Wilson is a beast in the playoffs so it will be interesting to see if he can step up this week.
I see this game going in Seattle's favor. If Jared Goff isn't 100% he shouldn't play. A fully healthy John Wolford is better than a banged up Goff. There is so much we don't know about the Rams offense, I don't see them putting up many points unless their defense puts them in a position to score. This is going to be a low scoring game, but it is hard to bet against Russell Wilson in a game where there aren't many constants.
Player of the Game: Jamal Adams SS Seahawks
Final Score: Rams 17 Seahawks 23
Buccaneers @ WFT
This may be the most anti-climactic game all weekend, but their is a game plan that Washington can follow to upset the Buccaneers. Washington has a very similar team to the Bears which upset Brady and the Bucs earlier this year.
Defensively, Washington can get pressure on Brady with a four man rush. WFT Strong Safety, Kameron Curl has quietly been one of the best defensive rookies in the NFL this year. Washington's secondary is made up of guys who aren't house hold names but have quietly been one of the best secondaries in the NFL all season. Offensively, Washington needs to get Antonio Gibson going. He's been quiet since he suffered turf toe, but this is the time to let him loose. Taylor Heinicke needs to be smart with the football. He needs to get the ball out quick and lean on the run game. This is easier said than done, but Washington does have a scenario where they can upset Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
It is very likely that the Buccaneers blow the Washington Football Team out. The first thing Tampa needs to do is get pressure on Taylor Heinicke (or Alex Smith). This is going to force him to either get in his head or make bad decisions. Tampa's fastest route to victory is through their defense. Devin White and Shaq Barrett need to force turnovers and Brady just needs to keep on playing his game.
Brady is a different animal in the playoffs. His vision becomes more narrow and he focuses in on his target. He is coming for blood and assuming the Bucs stay healthy, could make a little run in the playoffs. The Bucs should win this game and rest Mike Evans. Offensively, they just need to keep doing what they've been doing and they will do fine in this game.
Devin White has to be pissed off he wasn't a first team all pro this year and is going to play this game with a chip on his shoulder. I see Tampa winning big tonight.
Player of the Game: Devin White LB Buccaneers
Final Score: Buccaneers 34 WFT 13