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The NFL WildCard: The Road to the Super Bowl Begins

It’s the most stressful time of the year! Let’s dive into the Wild Card matchups and go over what this week’s NFL odds look like!

Superdome by Phil Roeder is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The NFL WildCard: The Road to the Super Bowl Begins


Estimated Reading Time: 8 Minutes

After a slog of an NFL season, we finally have our top twelve teams competing for the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. While we have some of the same familiar faces we normally see this time of year, some newcomers have made their presence known, catapulting themselves into unknown territory: the NFL playoffs.

Of our twelve teams, only eight will play wildcard weekend. The 14-2 Baltimore Ravens cemented their number one spot in the AFC with a win over the Browns in Week 16, while the Kansas City Chiefs snuck into their first-round bye with a win over the Chargers, and a Patriots loss to the Dolphins.

In the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers got revenge for their week 9 loss ot Seattle by snuffing out their divisional rivals 26-21 in the final game of the 2019 regular season. Rounding out the first-round byes are the Green Bay Packers finishing the season 13-3.

However, all of those squads will have to wait another week to meet their opponents, so let’s dive into the Wild Card matchups and go over what this week’s NFL odds look like.


AFC WILD CARD SATURDAY

#5 Buffalo Bills vs. #4 Houston Texans

4:15 PM, ESPN/ABC, NRG Stadium, Houston Texas

  • Money Line: Buffalo +130, Texans -150
  • Spread: Buffalo +3/Houston -3
  • Over/Under: 42.5

Sean McDermott‘s Bills are back in the playoffs for the first time since his first season in Buffalo back in 2017. There are a few reasons for that. The first is Josh Allen.

In Allen’s first full season as the Bills starter under center, the Wyoming first-rounder has put the Bills offense back on the map. Utilizing the speed of John Brown and the quickness of Cole Beasley, this Bills aerial attack looks like something we’ve seen from previous historic Bills teams. On the ground Allen has two exceptional backs in Devin Singletary and Frank Gore, who work perfectly as change of pace backs.

On the opposite side of the ball, the Bills defense has been stellar all season finishing the season ranked #3 in yards per game, holding opponents just below 300 total yards a game. The play of Tre’Davious White and Levi Wallace in the secondary have given receivers fits, and White has been able to snag 6 interceptions, tying him for most in the league with the likes of former Bill Stephon Gillmore.

The Bills defense is going to be the crucial factor on Saturday. If Buffalo’s secondary can shut down DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, the Texans will be forced to rely on Darren Fells and Joe Akins through the air, and put the game on Carlos Hyde‘s back.

Carlos Hyde is going up against the 10th best rushing defense in the league, and he’ll need to find some holes in order to keep Houston in the game. With Josh Allen coming off the best season of his young career, this game could come down to experience vs. nerves.

Still, at the end of the day, I can’t pick against this Bills team that almost beat Tom Brady and the Patriots twice. This time around, I might just #Billieve in Buffalo.

Take the Under, and take Buffalo. It’ll be worth your while.

#6 Tennessee Titans vs. #3 New England Patriots

8:15 PM, CBS, Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts

  • Money Line: Titans +180, Patriots -220
  • Spread: Titans +4, Patriots -4
  • Over/Under: 43.5

The second game of AFC Wild Card Saturday is a matchup between two teams that simply shouldn’t be playing in this game.

The Tennessee Titans began the season 2-4 with Marcus Mariota as their quarterback. Following a Week 6 loss to Denver, Head Coach Mike Vrabel benched Mariota in favor of former-Miami Dolphin signal-caller Ryan Tannehill. With Mariota under center, the Titans averaged 188 yards a game through the air. With Tannehill, they’d added almost 60 yards more a game, averaging 245.7 passing yards in their final 10 games.

The Titans most importantly turned the corner as a 2-4 team staring down another losing season, to finishing 2019 with a 9-7 record. The Titans were trending downward, and now they’re heading to Foxboro.

The New England Patriots also shouldn’t be playing in this game. All Tom Brady and Bill Belichick had to do was defeat the hapless Miami Dolphins to lock themselves into the number 2 seed, skipping the first round of the playoffs for the 10th consecutive time.

And now the New England Patriots are doing something they haven’t done since Matt Cassel was their quarterback.

This Patriots team has been carried by one of the NFL’s best defenses, and not by their usually stellar offense. Stephon Gilmore, Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty are once again stars of a stifling Patriots defense that somehow seems better than the one that sent the Rams home empty-handed last February.

It’s the offense that looks like a shell of it’s former self. With Rob Gronkowski walking off into the sunset after last season, Tom Brady seems lost out there on the field every week. Seeing his QB rating drop by almost 10 points, Brady hasn’t been doing himself any favors this season when it comes to the “how much longer does he have left?” conversation.

The Patriots were also aided this season by starting the year off by playing their first eight games against absolute garbage squads. When facing off against solid NFL squads, the Patriots faltered, finishing the year with a 4-4 record, good enough for a 3 seed.

If you are someone who likes to live dangerously and have a good time, take the Titans. If you believe that history repeats itself, take New England. However with the Pats stingy defense and Brady’s offensive woes, the under is going to be your friend.


NFC WILD CARD SUNDAY

#6 Minnesota Vikings vs. #3 New Orleans Saints

1:15 PM, FOX, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

  • Money Line: Vikings +300, Saints -400
  • Spread: Vikings +8/ Saints -8
  • Over/Under: 48

This is a matchup that already has a history behind it. Two years ago, Stefon Diggs caught a Case Keenum pass and took it to the house in what has aptly been named “The Minnesota Miracle.” Is this a true rematch? No, but both of these teams are sporting different looks with the same goals in mind

The Minnesota Vikings have crawled their way to a six seed, and that should be celebrated. Kirk Cousins put together a stellar season for the Gold and Purple, and perhaps the best one of his entire career. And he did it without his full receiving corps. Sure, Stefon Diggs continued to be Stefon Diggs, but with Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph struggling to match last years production, Cousins and the Vikings relied on another source of offense: Dalvin Cook.

Dalvin Cook has been an absolute home run for the Vikings this season, putting up numbers that mirrored his production at Florida State. However, if Minnesota doesn’t have Cook running on Sunday, the Vikings will have to rely once again on Mike Boone. The undrafted back out of Cincinnati had two completely different starts while Cook was out with an injury.

In his first game, a staunch Green Bay Packers defense held him to just 28 yards on the ground. However, against another tough defense, the Chicago Bears, Boone went off, rushing for 148 total yards. There were also the hiccups of a bobble that became and INT, a safety and a fumble… So let’s all hope Dalvin Cook is ready to go on Sunday.

The team lining up across from them is also hoping to get their running backs going, but it’s their aerial assault that should worry the Vikings coaching staff.

The New Orleans Saints completed 71.9% of their passes this year, and that’s thanks in part to their QB, Drew Brees and his NFC-leading 116.3 Passer Rating. Brees has been, once again, astounding this season and he’s spreading the ball around. Michael Thomas, who posted an NFL-best 1,725 receiving yards this season, is the only player to post a yards-per-game above the century mark. Jared Cook is a solid option for Brees both down low and in the secondary, and if all else fails, Alvin Kamara is always open for an outlet pass.

The New Orleans offense might as well be the MonStars of the NFL at this point.

Looking at the odds, I’m very easily taking the over on this one. While 48 points seems high, it’s not. And I’d expect the Saints to make a point to rest of the NFC that miracles don’t normally happen twice.

#5 Seattle Seahawks vs. #4 Philadelphia Eagles

4:15 PM, NBC, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA

  • Money Line: Seahawks -140, Eagles +120
  • Spread: Seahawks -1.5/Eagles +1.5
  • Over/Under: 46

THE BATTLE OF THE BIRDS! LET’S GO!

While everyone was excited for Marshawn Lynch‘s return it was Travis Homer who showed up big for the Seahawks in their season finale against the San Francisco 49ers. While the game didn’t go their way thanks to some questionable officiating, Seattle was already set up with a nice matchup against a struggling Philadelphia team.

The Eagles are a far cry from the team that brought a Super Bowl ring to Broad Street, but they’ve fought their way into the playoffs. After dropping games to basement dwellers like the Dolphins, Lions, and Falcons. Aside from those games, the Eagles have been a big disappointment. If Philadelphia didn’t win out their final four games, they wouldn’t be here. And now they’re facing a tough Seahawks team, that has fared better against stiffer competition.

The Seahawks came thiiiiiis close to jumping up to the number one seed last Sunday, and there’s no reason that they shouldn’t roll through Philly. Russell Wilson has been nothing short of magical this season, and with Philadelphia’s penchant for dropping games against big teams, it’s possible he’ll have a date with Green Bay next week.

I would 1000% take the Seahawks across the board here, but stay south of 46 points. While it’s an enticing over/under, it’s one I do not have faith in, given the instability of Wild Card weekend.


Enjoy the games, everybody!

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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