NFL Super Wild Card Weekend Preview

Ameer Beharie, Staff Writer

What a time to be an NFL fan. We have an exciting slate of Super Wild Card Weekend games this year in the NFL with some fresh faces and unproven teams to boot. With the Packers locking up the number 1 seed and the only bye for the NFC and the Titans doing the same in the AFC, the wildcard matchups are set as following: the No. 5 seed Las Vegas Raiders at the No. 4 seed Cincinnati Bengals, the No. 6 seed New England Patriots at the No 3 Buffalo BIlls, and No. 7 Pittsburgh Steelers at the No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC.  For the NFC No. 2 seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the No. 7 seed Eagles, the No. 6 seed 49ers at the No. 3 seed Dallas Cowboys, and finally a Monday night thriller between the No. 5 seed Arizona Cardinals and the No. 4  Los Angeles Rams

The slate of games begins on Saturday at 4:30 and is headlined by Joe Burrow’s red hot Bengals vs Derek Carr’s resilient Raiders who just won one of the most exciting games of the year against the Chargers last Sunday night in the final regular season game of the season. This game is bound to have a great offensive showing with Bengals young core that’s really come into its own this season through the great play of rookie Ja’marr Chase, second year receiver Tee Higgins, star running back Joe Mixon, and former number 1 overall pick Burrow, who had his rookie season cut short by an  ACL tear a year ago. However, the Raiders are no pushover as they are led by a  defense that  shouldn’t be slept on with pro bowler Maxx Crosby being nothing short of dominant this year. On the offensive side, Carr has willed  this team to wins all season despite all the setbacks and controversy the team has faced all year.

My Pick: Bengals 26, Raiders 19

We conclude Saturday night with a faceoff between divisional rivals the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. These teams split the divisional series this year with the Bills winning most recently, so you know Belichick is going for revenge. In the first matchup between these two, Patriots rookie sensation Mac Jones only had to throw a mere 3 passes as the Pats ran all over the Bills in the freezing cold. We could see a similar game plan to that with Saturday night’s game looking like a freezing 8 degrees with mild winds. Depending on which version of Josh Allen we get Saturday night this could be a close game or a blowout in favor of the Patriots because of his inconsistent play this year there’s no way to tell which one you’ll see.

My Pick: Patriots 24, Bills 17

To kick off Sunday afternoon we get to see the underdog Eagles v. Tom Brady’s Buccaneers. The Eagles come into this matchup winning 4 of their last 5 and being the best rushing team in the entire NFL. Led by quarterback Jalen Hurts, this Eagles team has been a refreshing surprise to the season. Cornerback Darius Slay has also been superb at leading a strong defense and making an absolute resurgence from his down year last year. On the other hand the Buccaneers have been absolutely ravaged by injuries but are still favorites in this game. Losses of Chris Godwin, Lavonte David, and potentially Mike Evans, Jamel Dean, and Sean Murphy-Bunting will cost them. The Eagles will probably do what has worked for them all season and run the ball on Tampa, which means keeping the ball out of Brady’s hands for as long as possible. Of course, even with a depleted offense, Brady is still as dangerous as it gets.

My Pick: Eagles 31, Bucs 20

The game following Bucs/Eagles should definitely be a thriller as the powerhouse Cowboys take on Deebo Samuel and the San Francisco 49ers.The 49ers have one of the best chances to take down the Cowboys who have been on a tear this year and have absolutely crushed expectations. Between the brilliant mind of coach Kyle Shana nan and swiss army knife Deebo Samuel, the Niners could be the team to take Dallas out. But the 49ers aren’t the only team with weapons; the Cowboys have arguably the best offensive line in football along with two superstars on defense in rookie Micah Parsons and cornerback Trevon Diggs. 

My Pick: Cowboys 27, 49ers 21

The final game Sunday happens in prime-time between Pittsburgh and Kansas City. It doesn’t look inspiring for Pittsburgh with BIG Ben somewhat on his last legs. You have to wonder if they really stand a chance against such a powerhouse like KC. Even though the Chiefs have had their ups and downs this season and things were looking very bleak early on, we’ve returned to the Chiefs of old in recent weeks. With that being said, they shouldn’t have too much of a problem in winning this game if they play the way they have in recent weeks. 

My Pick: Chiefs 35, Steelers 18

Last but not least is the Monday night thriller and easily the best game of the Super Wild Card Weekend: Rams vs. Cardinals. This one is sure to show pure entertainment with two extremely high powered offenses. The Cardinals and Rams split the season series and had some very high scoring games in each. Unfortunately, Kyler Murray will be without his superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins this week as he recovers from minor knee surgery. Fortunately for the Rams, they have their own superstar receiver in Cooper Kupp. Kupp led the entire NFL in all major receiving categories (Catches, Yards, and Touchdowns) and nearly beat out Calvin Johnson’s record for receiving yards in a season (1,964) as he finished with 1,947. But just because these offenses are talented doesn’t mean you can ignore defense, especially when the Rams have super talented defensive players like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, each of whom is the best at their position in the entire league.

My Pick: Rams 34, Cardinals 31