Commentary: Who will advance past Wild Card Weekend


Photo credit/

How will the Vikings perform during Wild Card Weekend?

It’s time for playoff football. Who will walk out of Wild Card Weekend victorious?

NFC: #7 Seattle Seahawks (9-8) @ #2 San Francisco 49ers (13-3)- Saturday 4:30 on Fox

The first matchup of Wild Card Weekend starts with a NFC West showdown between the Seahawks and 49ers. The Niners have won both matchups this season (27-7 in Week 2, 21-13 Week 15). San Francisco is led by Brock Purdy, the last pick in this year’s draft. Purdy began the year as QB3 on the 49ers depth chart, but injuries to Trey Lance and Jimmy Garapollo have given him a chance to take over and he has done so. San Fran is 5-0 with Purdy at the helm, and are winners of 10 straight. Seattle, who was a surprising story thanks to a resurgence year from quarterback Geno Smith, snuck in, with some help from the Lions in Week 18. Seattle has struggled down the stretch, losing five of their last eight games. However, they have some momentum coming into this game, winning their last two games. Seattle will put up a fight, before the 49ers take the win at home to advance to the Divisional Round, winning 28-17.

AFC: #5 Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) @ #4 Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)- 8:15 on NBC

The first AFC Wild Card game takes place in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars are hosting the Chargers. Led by Justin Herbert, who had a “down year” by his standards, the Chargers battled injuries throughout the year, losing wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, just to name a few. Los Angeles still has some question marks on whether a few of their key players will be active come Saturday evening, but this high powered offense will be ready to strike. As for Jacksonville, not many expected them to be representing the AFC South in the postseason this year. After a trainwreck of a season last year with Urban Meyer, many expected Jacksonville to be better, but not by this much. The Jaguars are hot, winning their last five games, including sweeping the Titans, who were in contention for the division title. Additions such as wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram, a new head coach in Doug Pederson, who led the Eagles to a Super Bowl in 2018, and the development of second-year QB Trevor Lawrence, have the Jaguars poised to rule the AFC South for years to come. Even with those prospects, the Jaguars are outmatched by the Chargers, so I have Los Angeles coming out on top, 24-17.

AFC: #7 Miami Dolphins (9-8) @ #2 Buffalo Bills (13-3)- 1:00 on CBS

Sunday’s slate of games kicks off with a battle of AFC East teams, the Dolphins and the Bills, who split the season series. Miami made a pair of key moves this off-season, bringing in superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill and putting offensive guru Mike McDaniel in charge. McDaniel and the Dolphins had a rollercoaster of a 2022 season, winning three in a row, before losing three straight, followed by a five-game win streak, before a five-game skid, before barely mustering a win against the Jets to sneak into the playoffs. None of the three Miami quarterbacks have been healthy this year. Tua Tagovailoa has been ruled out on Sunday, so it will be up to either journeyman Teddy Bridgewater or rookie Skylar Thompson to lead this prolific offense. As for Buffalo, many expected them to be in this position, if not receiving the first round bye. The Bills are led by the stellar offensive corps of Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, and Devin Singletary. Buffalo goes in with the ultimate motivation, playing for safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered a horrific injury in Week 17 after going into cardiac arrest. With that in mind, Buffalo will blow out the Dolphins, winning 38-21.

NFC: #6 New York Giants (9-7-1) @ #3 Minnesota Vikings (13-4)- 4:30 on Fox

A rematch of the Christmas Eve game, which yielded the Vikings their 12th win of the season 27-24, is the second of the games on Sunday. The Giants have had one of the biggest turnarounds in the NFL this year. First year head coach Brian Daboll has brought a new life to the Giants organization. Quarterback Daniel Jones limited the turnovers, which had been his Achilles’ heel in prior seasons. A healthy Saquon Barkley did wonders for the Giants’ offense, catapulting New York to their first playoffs since 2016. As for the Vikings, it seems that the NFC North runs through Minnesota. First-year head coach Kevin O’Connell turned a good offense into one of the NFL’s scariest. With QB Kirk Cousins putting together another stellar year, Justin Jefferson proving to be one of the NFL’s most premier receivers and running back Dalvin Cook tallying another solid year and staying healthy, the Vikings offense could very easily win them a Super Bowl. Very similar to the Christmas Eve matchup, I believe the Vikings will narrowly edge the Giants, 31-27.

AFC: #6 Baltimore Ravens (10-7) @ #3 Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)- 8:15 on NBC

The AFC North champion Bengals host fellow North rivals the Ravens. The teams split the season series. The Ravens have been without quarterback Lamar Jackson for over a month, yet managed to make a postseason run. Even with speculation of his return on Sunday, how effective will Jackson be, as he continues to be held out of practices. The Ravens defense has been one of the NFL’s best, limiting teams to an average of only 18.5 points per game, third in the NFL. In both matchups versus the Bengals, that defense has forced Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow to have two of his worst performances this year. Cincinnati has one of the most well-rounded offenses in the NFL, led by potentially the NFL’s best wide receiver corps, headlined by Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins. The Bengals are winners of their last eight (their Week 17 matchup versus the Bills was canceled). This is reminiscent of the Bengals of last year, who got hot at the right time, leading to a Super Bowl berth. Despite statistics of the Ravens’ defensive dominance saying otherwise, the Bengals will win round 3 of this clash by a final score of 27-23.

NFC: #5 Dallas Cowboys (12-5) @ #4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)- 8:15 on ESPN/ABC

A Week 1 rematch pits the NFC South champion Bucs against the Wild Card team with the best record. In the original contest, Dallas QB Dak Prescott injured his throwing hand, causing him to miss time. Tampa Bay won that game, and it seemed that Dallas was in trouble, while the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers would be on a similar trajectory from prior years. Quite the opposite happened, as the Cowboys had a top-five offense and defense, while Tampa Bay just barely made the playoffs with a losing record. While Prescott was injured, Cooper Rush managed to keep Dallas in games, while their stellar defense shut down opposing offenses. When Prescott returned, the offense caught fire, having five 40+ point games the rest of the way. The Cowboys did end their regular season on a sour note, losing their final game to the division rival Washington Commanders. As for the Buccaneers, following Brady’s retirement, then unretirement, this season seemed as if they would have an encore of their NFC Championship run from last year, if not better. While Brady battled off-field issues, he managed to put together another quality year at the ripe age of 45. Tampa Bay’s run defense took a step back from prior years, yet still remained solid. Similarly for the entire offense, while they weren’t great, the skill was still present. While the 2022 Buccaneers might not be the most feared Tom Brady-led playoffs teams, you can never count him out. Despite the odds, the Buccaneers will outlast the Cowboys, winning 23-20.

Contact the writer: [email protected]