Wild Card Weekend Game Predictions
Buffalo Bills @ Houston Texans
Pass Offense: Texans
Run Offense: Bills
If I had to bet on an upset this week, I'm going with the Bills. They have been far more consistent this season and have a "special feeling" behind them. The one thing that messes up my model for this game is taking into account that this is the playoffs. I know Deshaun Watson has the ability to step up in big games, but we haven't seen Josh Allen do it just yet. While the Texans have beaten both the Patriots and Texans, they have also gotten embarrassed by the Broncos, Panthers, and Colts. While these two teams didn't play during the season, they played similar opponents. The Texans beat the Patriots in a game which the score was closer than the actual game went. The Texans really dominated that game, but the Pats put up a few garbage time touchdowns. The Bills on the other hand lost both games to the Patriots by one score, but you can take the division familiarity into account there. The game that was most telling for me were their match ups against the Ravens. The Texans got completely routed, while the Bills played a close game. Neither team won, but the Bills looked far better. I think the Bills are some what similar on offense to the Ravens and their run game will dominate Houston. The Bills have one of the best secondaries in the NFL and I can bet you their goal is to make sure Deshaun Watson doesn't throw the ball over top. Both teams didn't let their starters get too much action in week 17 and I fully expect both teams to be completely healthy. I don't think the return of JJ Watt will make too big of an impact besides energy, and I think Tre'Davious White wins his matchup versus Deandre Hopkins.
How the Texans Win: The Bills giving up the deep ball. Deshaun Watson has a top 5 arm in the NFL and is dangerous outside the pocket. If the Bills don't respect his arm, then I expect the Texans to utilize play action and air the ball out to Kenny Stills. I can also see the Texans win if Justin Reid and the Texans secondary can pick off Josh Allen. His turnovers come in bulk, when he turns it over, so if they can get him making ill advised decisions I like the Texans chances.
How the Bills Win: Controlling the clock. The Texans have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL and have given up over 170 rushing yards over the past three games. If the Bills can keep the ball out of Deshaun Watson's hands, they are going to win the ball game.
Game MVP: Josh Allen 225 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown, 0 interceptions.
Final Score: Bills 27 Texans 21
Titans @ Patriots
Pass Offense: Titans
Run Offense: Titans
Will this game be the changing of the guard? Let's get into it. Offensively, there is no hotter team than the Tennessee Titans. They have the best running back in football, and a quarterback who's in his bag. Ryan Tannehill has been flaming hot since he became the starter and he's in the perfect system for him. The Patriots also struggle against mobile quarterbacks and we know that Ryan Tannehill isn't afraid to use his legs. The Titans also have the hottest receiver in the league with AJ Brown. AJ Brown was my number one receiver coming out of the draft (you can check that article out in my NFL Draft section), and could be the offensive rookie of the year. The biggest difference maker in this game is King Henry. Derrick Henry is undoubtedly the best running back in the NFL this past month and a half. Henry just set career highs in the three big running back categories versus the Texans. The one thing about Bill Belichick is he's going to do everything to take away your number one threat. The perfect game plan to stop this team is load the box and put Stephon Gilmore on AJ Brown. It's not that easy though. The Titans have good secondary players like Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, and Tajae Sharpe. The biggest matchup to watch in this game is Brown versus Gilmore and I think that can go either way. On the other side of the ball, I like the Patriots offense over the Titans defense. Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead will have success running the ball out of 21 personnel. I think Elandon Roberts will be the key piece to winning for the Patriots winning this football game. I also think James White will be Tom Brady's number one receiver in this game. A matchup of two receivers who don't play directly against each other is AJ Brown and N'Keal Harry. These were my top two receivers coming out of the draft and I would think they have some type of inner competition going on between each other. I can see both of these players being x-factors in this game. I think AJ Brown will get a handful of yards, but N'Keal Harry gets a touchdown in this game.
How the Titans Win: Get Derrick Henry rolling early and often. Henry plays with a ton of momentum, and if he can rip off a few 6 or 7 yard runs, the passing game out of heavier personnel groupings will work.
How the Patriots Win: The Patriots will win if James White gets busy in the passing game. This team is very susceptible to running backs through the air and that's what the Patriots do best.
Game MVP: Elandon Roberts
Final Score: Titans 27 Patriots 28
Vikings @ Saints
Pass Offense: Saints
Run Offense: Vikings
I believe this will be the biggest one sided game of wildcard weekend. The Saints are favored in nearly every category, but I do see some opportunity for the Vikings if they want to take it. Teams who've faced the Saints with elite running backs, the 49ers, Titans, and Panthers, have all put up at least 28 points, outside of week 17's Panthers debacle. If the Vikings are able to pass out of heavier personnel sets and set up the play action, I trust Kirk Cousins. I just feel like a lot of time Kevin Stefanski forces the ball into Dalvin Cook's hands and that sets the Vikings up for failure. One other thing I like about the Vikings is that they have Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison fully healthy, which they haven't had the past three games. The Saints secondary isn't great against deep play action passing, so there's opportunity for Stefon Diggs there, but I just see this game getting out of hand quickly. I can see the Saints jumping to a 14-3 lead early and then the Vikings ditching their heavy personnel and forcing the ball down field. Sean Payton is also one of the best coaches when it comes to revenge, and you know they still have a bad taste in their mouth from the Minnesota Miracle. I believe Michael Thomas will dominate Xavier Rhodes one on one and I think he has a career game. Eric Kendricks is also a little banged up and that's not a good sign if you have to guard Alvin Kamara one on one. I just feel like the Saints are going to take advantage of a bad defense and let Drew Brees have a field day.
How the Vikings Win: The Vikings can win if they jump out to an early lead and capitalize on red zone drives. If Minnesota has to take field goals, they are at a real disadvantage.
How the Saints Win: Get Michael Thomas the ball. Thomas is the best receiver in the league and when he has the ball, this offense is hard to stop.
Game MVP: Michael Thomas 11 catches, 175 yards, 1 touchdown
Final Score: Vikings 17 Saints 31
Seahawks @ Eagles
Pass Offense: Seahawks
Run Offense: Eagles
This game is tough for me, these two teams are the least that I'd want to bet against... but especially the Seahawks. The Seahawks were literally inches away from a home playoff game, but they are favored in this game. So if the Seahawks are favored in this game, that means the Eagles are officially underdogs... and we know what the Eagles do when they're underdogs. The Eagles are also favored in early down success rate which is a big indicator for which team ends up winning. All this being said, the Seahawks have one of the best offenses in the NFL and a proven head coach. I really like Travis Homer and I think he's single handedly the biggest mismatch when it comes to the passing game. Another big Seahawks advantage is DK Metcalf against a brutal Eagles secondary. I know Sidney Jones stepped up huge against Dallas, but this Seahawks passing game is way better than the Cowboys. I felt like last week Seattle ditched analytics a lot and force fed beast mode a lot. I'd like to see Marshawn Lynch be utilized more in early down scenarios. Health is also a big question mark in this game. Miles Sanders is going to play, but we don't know if Lane Johnson or Zach Ertz will be healthy. The Seahawks are full go and have Quandre Diggs returning which is a huge boost for Seattle. I think this game can really go either way, but if the Eagles don't have either Ertz or Johnson that can be a huge swing for Seattle. I think this game will fluctuate in terms of momentum, I can see the Eagles getting up early, but then Russ will start to do his thing. This game will be going back and forth. If we're looking on the bright side for Eagles, Carson Wentz steps up when his top pieces are hurt and Miles Sanders is still besides him. Wentz has played arguably his best stretch of football and if he is able to scramble a little bit I think he has an opportunity to make some plays. When it's all said and done, I think this will be a close game until Russell Wilson gets the ball on the final drive.
How the Seahawks Win: The Seahawks will win the game if Pete Carroll's game plan is to throw the ball often and early. I think the Seahawks have a huge advantage through the air and DK Metcalf can have a big game.
How the Eagles Win: FEED DALLAS GOEDERT. With Mychael Kendricks out for the year and Bobby Wagner struggling in coverage, Goedert can be a big difference maker. I also would like to see the Eagles run the ball on the edges with Miles Sanders.
Game MVP: DK Metcalf 9 catches, 131 yards, 1 touchdown
Final Score: Seahawks 24 Vikings 17