Buffalo Bills (10-6) at Houston Texans (10-6)
Both the Bills and Texans are essentially coming off bye weeks after resting their starters in week 17. This game has the potential to go either way as both teams are looking to make a statement win, neither of them being viewed as a true contender in the AFC. For Buffalo, this game is going to have to be won by its coaching staff which has done a tremendous job this season elevating its personnel, putting this team on the verge of a major breakthrough. If Buffalo can come out in this game and get off to a roaring start, they can certainly give the Texans a run for their money. As for Houston, they haven’t shown that they’re the kind of team that can consistently play sound football, beating New England one week and getting destroyed by Denver the next. The Bills are a team that has found themselves in a number of close games this season, specifically in the last few weeks as they have competed closely against both Baltimore and New England on the road, with both games coming down to the wire. In both instances they fell short, and didn’t have what it takes to win a big time game. Although it may be tempting to pick the Bills, at the end of the day if it comes down to Josh Allen or Deshaun Watson, there is no question in mind that Watson has what it takes. With that said, Houston has the advantage in this game and should be able to take care of business at home against the Buffalo Bills.
Winner: Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans (9-7) at New England Patriots (12-4)
It feels like we’ve seen this movie a million times. Every single year we enter the postseason thinking: could this be the year??? Despite that, we have seen the Patriots in 3 straight Super Bowls and 4 of the last 5. Believe it or not the Miami Dolphins of all teams could be the reason the Patriots don’t make the Super Bowl this year, as their win in Foxborough this past Sunday snatched New England’s 1st round bye, putting them in a wild card game for the first time since the 2009 playoffs. Regardless of what happens in the upcoming weeks, the Pats have a red hot Titans team coming to town this weekend and they are going to have to take things one game at a time. There isn’t much to be said for the Titans as they are quite literally going to have to play a perfect game in order to best Brady and Belichick, but they have nothing to lose and if Tannehill can make some magic happen, who knows? Nevertheless, the Patriots have won their last 9 home postseason games dating back to the 2013 playoffs, and it’s just hard to see the Titans going into Foxborough and pulling off what seems to be the impossible.
Winner: New England Patriots
Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at New Orleans Saints (13-3)
This could definitely be a much closer game than the 8 point spread indicates, but the Minnesota Vikings are without a doubt set up to fail in this game. This game has the makings to be Kirk Cousins’ worst nightmare. On the road, in the playoffs, against Drew Brees in the Superdome. To make matters worse, the offensive line is falling apart with an abysmal showing in their last meaningful game at home against Green Bay. With all these obstacles in the way, if Cousins can win this game it will instantly become the most impressive moment thus far in his football career. If the Vikings are going to even get remotely close to winning this game they are going to have to follow the blueprint they used against Dallas back in week 10. They have to find a way to get the ball to Dalvin Cook, and get the ball out of Kirk Cousins’ hands. Naturally if the running game gets going the play action will work, and the Vikings offense might be able to get into their comfort zone. Even late in the game in Dallas, it seemed like Dak was stealing the show, but Minnesota was able to stay composed and come out on top. Defensively there’s not a lot they can do about Michael Thomas, as no team in the league has had an answer, but Mike Zimmer and this defense will be able to do just enough to keep Minnesota’s offense in the game if they can put some points on the board early. If this game turns into a shoot out it could definitely go either way, which makes it very appealing to take Minnesota (+8) to cover. But looking at this matchup realistically, if by any chance the Vikings win, it definitely won’t be because they were the better team. It will be because New Orleans didn’t live up to the expectations. With revenge looming large in their minds, Drew Brees and the Saints have no choice but to win this game.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
These teams have trended in opposite directions in the last 4 weeks of the season. Philadelphia turned their 5-7 record around with a perfect ending to the season, entering the playoffs on a 4 game winning streak. On the other hand, Seattle has lost 3 of their last 4 after holding the #2 seed at 10-2. It’s completely bizarre but Russell Wilson’s once upon a time MVP campaign came to a sudden halt, and there seems to be no overarching reason as to why. Wilson certainly hasn’t played up to his standards recently, but much of their struggles could be attributed to injuries and what not. Bottom line though, the Seahawks are still the favorite in this game as they were literally inches from beating the #1 seed just a week ago. This game is honestly a coin flip, but there’s something about Philadelphia and whatever magic they have going on right now, making them hard to pick against. Everything’s coming together for them at the right time, and they are truly becoming a run heavy team and that has done wonders for Carson Wentz and the passing game. In a way the injuries have been a blessing in disguise for this team as they have completely flipped the switch, and the word that comes to mind, and is often associated with the Eagles is “resilience”. They have an unlimited supply of confidence and every single week they look sharper and are playing better together as a team. This could end up being the closest game of the 4 wild card matchups, but ultimately at the Linc, Philly isn’t going to let Seattle walk in and win with ease. Given that, it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world if they made some noise in the postseason, starting off with Seattle in the wildcard round.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles