The 2020 NFL Playoffs have finally arrived after COVID-19 caused multiple postponements and players/coaches being inactive for portions of the season. The biggest stories with the playoffs are as followed: Green Bay and Kansas City, harboring two MVP candidates, having the top seed in the playoffs, Buffalo on a super season with Josh Allen, Cleveland breaking the longest active playoff drought, and Alex Smith putting Washington into the playoffs with a 7-9 record. Here are my predictions for what can happen on Super Wild Card Weekend.
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) @ Buffalo Bills (13-3) @ 1:05pm (Sat.): The first playoff game of the season is Josh Allen vs. Phillip Rivers in Upstate New York. The Colts broke Miami fans’ hearts after their win over Jacksonville eliminated the Dolphins from the playoffs. While returning to the playoffs hosting at least the next two games, the Bills are still looking for their first playoff win since 1995. It’s a question of which team overall will look better, as both have their weapons on both sides of the field, with the Bills having Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs as one of the dangerous QB-WR duos in the playoffs. The Colts can see a win in Orchard Park, but with Allen staying hot heading into this weekend and fans in the stadium for the first time this season, this combination will favor Buffalo the most and move them into the divisional round.
PREDICTION: Buffalo wins 34-24
Los Angeles Rams (10-6) @ Seattle Seahawks (12-4) @ 4:40pm (Sat.): Even without Jared Goff, the Rams’ defense took advantage of the Cardinals’ QB situation they faced too by getting a pick-6 late in the first half thanks to Troy Hill and John Wolford playing well enough to bring the Rams back into the playoffs. Goff can see a return this upcoming weekend, but there’s no absolute certainty yet, even though him back would be big when facing Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks after they closed the season with a come-from-behind win in Arizona against the 49ers. Should Goff and Kupp return, expect a very competitive rivalry playoff game that could go down to the wire and even with no fans at Lumen, Wilson can find success even though he may not get another MVP vote this season.
PREDICTION: Seahawks win 27-20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) @ Washington Football Team (7-9) @ 8:15pm (Sat.): With Washington eliminating the Giants from the playoffs, Tom Brady may feel relieved that he does not have to face a team he has a history of losing too in the playoffs. Many people will question the Eagles tanking the game, specifically Doug Pederson, but Alex Smith does not care as he returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2017 when he was with the Chiefs. However, even when the Eagles appeared to tank, Smith barely won, even with McLaurain and Gibson back. Even if fully-healthy Washington team is active Saturday night, the weapons that Brady has can still overpower Chase Young, unless he gets by the O-Line.
PREDICTION: Buccaneers win 34-17
Baltimore Ravens (11-5) @ Tennessee Titans (11-5) @ 1:05pm (Sun.): The Ravens have had enough of Tennessee breaking their hearts, especially in the playoffs. After the Ravens lost their last two home matchups against the Titans, they look to spoil Tennessee’s fun in their own stadium this time. Henry’s running game is nearly impossible to contain, as proof of him becoming the 8th player in the NFL history with at least 2000 rushing yards after a 250-yard performance against Houston to clinch the AFC South for the first time since 2008. The question will be whose running game will lead their team to victory: Lamar Jackson and his running backs? Or Derrick Henry and his MVP-caliber strategy? In the end, Baltimore’s 5-game winning streak and their quest for vengeance may finally give Jackson his first-ever playoff win.
PREDICTION: Ravens win 34-31
Chicago Bears (8-8) @ New Orleans Saints (12-4) @ 4:40pm (Sun.): By virtue of the Cardinals’ loss, Chicago is back in the playoffs, set up for a rematch with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Brees, without his running backs and Michael Thomas, found easy victory over the Carolina Panthers to stay strong heading into the postseason. And even better: Michael Thomas and the running backs can come back because of the time and date of the game. In their last meeting early this season, it came down to a game-winning field goal in OT by Will Lutz. Things can be different this time, but after Chicago’s hot look until their loss to Green Bay and the Saints returning to full strength, the Saints may go beyond the wild card this time after losing in it to Minnesota last season.
PREDICTION: Saints win 35-24
Cleveland Browns (11-5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) @ 8:15pm (Sun.): The final game of the Super Wild Card Weekend is an AFC North rivalry game where the division winner Steelers face a Browns team back in the postseason for the first time since 2002, ending the NFL’s longest-active playoff drought. However, Kevin Stefanski will not be able to coach the Browns this weekend to COVID-19, diminishing their chances even worse than it already was. A lot of experts already projected Pittsburgh to win, but the Browns appear to be at full strength heading into Sunday night’s final wild card game. Even without Stefanski, the Browns can still put a fight and look better than the last time they were at Heinz Field, but Big Ben always has the answer.
PREDICTION: Steelers win 34-27
NFL Divisional Round Matchup Predictions:
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #1 Green Bay Packers
#3 Seattle Seahawks @ #2 New Orleans Saints
#5 Baltimore Ravens @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs
#3 Pittsburgh Steelers @ #2 Buffalo Bills