By NFL Correspondent D.Higgins
It’s NFL playoff time, which means it’s also prediction time. In predictions that are sure to be pathetically wrong by the time Super Bowl LVI kicks off in Los Angeles on February 13, 2022, let’s give it a whirl.
AFC WILD-CARD WEEKEND
#5 Raiders @ #4 Bengals
Saturday 1:30pm on NBC
Even though the Raiders pulled out a huge win in the game of the year last Sunday to knock out the Chargers (sorry, Isaiah), I think that QB Joe Burrow, receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins (great name!), and the rest of the Cincinnati offense is too overwhelming for Las Vegas. It was a good run, Raider Nation, but the Cinderella story is over.
Bengals 32 – Raiders 23
#6 Patriots @ #3 Bills
Saturday, 5:15 on CBS
This will be a tough battle between division rivals and two great defensive football teams. Buffalo led the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game at 272.8 while giving up just 17 points per game; but New England was right behind them, allowing just 310.8 yds and 17.8 pts/g. The teams split their season series, each winning on the road. They finished just a game apart in the AFC East as Buffalo won their final 4 games in a row, while the Pats lost 3 of their last 4.
Even though the Bills have the hot streak and the home field advantage, I think Bill Belichick outsmarts Buffalo and the Pats take this one.
Patriots 24 – Bills 20
#7 Steelers @ #2 Chiefs
Sunday, 5:15 on NBC
In the easiest AFC game to predict, QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will put on a clinic against the Steelers. Big Ben Roethlisberger can end his career with pride, but KC will just be way too much for Pittsburgh.
Chiefs 35 – Steelers 17
(Bye Week: #1 Tennessee Titans)
NFC WILD-CARD WEEKEND
#7 Eagles @ #2 Buccaneers
Sunday, 10am on FOX
I guess they still have to play the game, but this one is a no-brainer: Tom Brady and the rest of Tampa Bay will make easy work of Philadelphia. The Bucs finished 13-4 and cruised into the playoffs with impressive wins all season. Even though Philly (9-8) won 4 of their last 5 games, they played the Jets, Washington twice, and a terrible Giants team before getting blown out by the Cowboys last week. Look for more of the same on Sunday morning.
Bucs 41 – Eagles 21
#6 49ers @ #3 Cowboys
Sunday, 1:30pm on CBS
To me, this is the most exciting match-up of the weekend, bringing back memories of the legendary games between these teams in the ’90s, when stars like Steve Young & Jerry Rice battled it out against Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, & Michael Irvin.
This time it’s Dak Prescott vs Jimmy Garoppolo, and Ezekiel Elliott vs Deebo Samuel. The teams are very even, as San Francisco finished at 10-7 in a very tough NFC West, while Dallas finished 12-5 in an easy NFC East. Both teams won 4 of their last 5 games. The Cowboys averaged 31.2 points per game (allowing 21.1 pts/g) while the Niners scored an average of 25.1 pts/g (allowing 21.5).
This game is a tough call… but for full disclosure: as a massive Dodgers fan, I simply cannot root for any team from San Francisco, so I gotta pull for the ‘Boys here in a close one.
Cowboys 27 – Niners 25
#5 Cardinals @ #4 Rams
Monday, 5:15 on ESPN/ABC
In the first ever Monday Night Football playoff game, the Rams will host their division rivals from Arizona. L.A. spent most of the season trying to catch up to Arizona, who got off to a hot 7-0 start. But catch up they did — the Rams went 5-2 after their bye week to finish with a 12-5 record, while the Cardinals dropped 4 of their last 6 to finish one game behind L.A. at 11-6 in the tough NFC West.
In this match-up, I think the momentum continues and the Rams ride Matthew Stafford’s arm to victory at SoFi Stadium.
Rams 30 – Cardinals 23
(Bye Week: #1 Green Bay Packers)
Next week, I’ll recap these Wild-Card Round predictions and move on to the Divisional Round games Feel free to drop your predictions in the comments section below.
Until then, go Broncos! (Oh, wait…)