It’s finally that time in the NFL Season. After 18 long weeks, the NFL Playoffs are here. We, as fans, have a great postseason ahead of us. But before that starts, I wanted to give a breakdown of what to expect in the playoffs. First, look at the Wild Card Matchups, beginning with the AFC conference.

AFC Conference

As the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs rest this week, all the other teams will compete in what looks like some great games. The first game in the AFC on Saturday night is the 5th-seeded Chargers at the 4th-seeded Jaguars. These two teams are similar because they played their best football at the end of the season. The Chargers have been one of the most injured teams in the NFL since the start, but they have been getting their guys back and getting hot at the right time. The Jaguars have had one of the biggest in-season turnarounds the NFL has ever seen, going from a record of 3-7 to 9-8, winning six of their last seven games. With a late-season collapse from division rival Tennessee Titans, they are heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. One primary reason for this change is the improved play of QB Trevor Lawrence who is living up to the hype in his 2nd season after his shaky rookie season and the emerging young defense. On the other side, Chargers QB Justin Herbert is having another spectacular season in his impressive young career, throwing for 4,739 yards and 25 Touchdowns. This is going to be a great game that, I believe, could go either way.

The next game up in the AFC at 1 PM Sunday is the 7th-seeded Dolphins at the 2nd-seeded Bills. The outcome of this game is going to rely on the status of QB Tua Tagovailoa. Tua has just recently suffered his 3rd concussion of the season in the week 16 loss vs. the Packers, which is very concerning. With Tua at the helm, the Dolphins had one of the best offenses in the NFL, with the speedy WR duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle being in the top 10 for receiving yards this season. This is the most crucial circumstance in this matchup because if Tua is not playing, this game won’t be close. 

The final AFC game this weekend will be a divisional matchup on Sunday Night Football between the 6-seeded Ravens and the 3-Seeded Bengals. The status of Lamar Jackson is one of the main factors to watch for that will determine the outcome of this game. Lamar has been out since the Ravens’ week 13 win vs. the Broncos with a minor PCL injury. These two teams just played each other in week 18, and it was closer than many people thought it would be, with the Ravens lacking their two best quarterbacks, tight end and running back. The Bengals are the hottest team in the NFL right now, winning their last eight games, one of them being against the 1-seeded Chiefs. This will be a great game regardless of Lamar Jackson’s status due to the resurgence of the Ravens’ defense since the acquisition of star MLB Roquan smith and the reliable run game the Ravens have put together, rushing for the 2nd most yards per game in the league.


NFC Conference

Now, on the other side of the league in the NFC conference, we also have some great matchups, while the 1-seeded Eagles get their well-deserved bye.

The first NFC matchup of the week is the first matchup, with the 7-seeded Seahawks going against the 2-seeded 49ers at 4:30 PM Saturday. The Niners have been dominant on both sides of the ball, especially defense. They have the best defense across the board in every statistic, led by DPOY favorite DE Nick Bosa, who put up a fantastic campaign of 18.5 sacks and 64 QB pressures. The one question mark on the Niners’ playoff run is the capability of rookie QB Brock Purdy to lead this team over the top. The Niners had their best QBs, Trey Lance and Jimmy Garappolo, go down for the year with injuries resulting in this year’s last overall draft pick stepping in and leading a team with high playoff hopes and expectations. The Seahawks started the season off great with a record of 6-3 but slowed down later in the season, barely sneaking in with help from the Detroit Lions. This should be an easy win for the Niners, and it would be very shocking if they were to fall to the Seahawks in the first round.

Next is the 6-seeded Giants at the 3-seeded Vikings at 4:30 on Sunday. This game is probably the most unpredictable one of the weekend due to the uncertainties both teams have presented towards the end of the season. The Giants and Vikings both started the season exceptionally well, with the Vikings starting 8-1 and the Giants starting 6-1. The Vikings continued to finish 13-4 but with some very concerning losses, including the 40-3 loss to the Cowboys and the 41-17 loss to the packers. This has people questioning their ability to make a deep run this year. The Giants finished out 9-7, going on a losing streak from week 11 to week 14. These two teams faced off in a close game in week 16, with the Vikings winning off of a 61-yard game-winning Field Goal. 

The last game of the week will be on Monday night, with the 5-seeded Cowboys vs. the 4-seeded Buccaneers. The Buccaneers made it to the playoffs solely because they were in a weak division where all teams finished below .500. Because they have Tom Brady on their team, you can never count them out. On paper, this game should easily be won by the Cowboys, who have been one of the most balanced teams in the NFL with a high-scoring offense and elite defense, but Tom Brady in the playoffs is the last person in the NFL that you should ever count out. This game is hugely unpredictable, and don’t be surprised if the Buccaneers come out on top by the end. 

Good luck with your picks!  Enjoy the games!!!