After an eventful regular season that flew by quite quickly, the NFL playoffs are set to commence this Saturday, January 9th. The 2020/21 season was filled with plenty of injuries, COVID-19 scares, and memorable moments. However, now that the men (and the Washington Football Team) are separated from the boys, it’s time to win or go home. Two of the three NFC Wildcard matchups are rematches from the regular season, so these teams will know what to expect from each other.
LA Rams (6) vs. Seattle Seahawks (3)
These west-coast division rivals split the season series, with the latter matchup resulting in a division-clinching win for the Seahawks. In that game, Jared Goff, the NFL’s most overpaid player, suffered a thumb injury that will potentially keep him out of this pivotal contest. If Goff can’t make the 12-day turnaround from surgery, former private equity analyst John Wolford will start for the second straight week for the Rams.
Regardless of Goff’s status, if the Rams are to win, they will need the defense to carry them. Brandon Staley’s unit allowed just 36 combined points against a potent Seahawks offense, in addition to picking off Russell Wilson 3 times. They will need to hold Wilson and the Hawks to less than 20 points to have a chance at winning. Ultimately, I see the likes of Wilson, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and the RB committee as too much for the Rams to handle. The Seahawks defense will step up to win a gritty divisional affair, including two sacks from Jamal “Blitz Boy” Adams.
Prediction: Seahawks 20, Rams 13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) vs. Washington Football Team (4)
The Washington Football Team wrapped up the ever so prestigious NFC East title with an impressive 7-9 record, thanks to a controversial showing by the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. Their reward is a home date with the GOAT and his new team, with the Bucs playing in their first playoff game in over a decade. Tom Brady got the better of his breakup with Bill Belichick thanks to a plethora of new weapons and the resurgence of Antonio Brown. The Bucs enter the playoffs on a hot streak and pose a threat to win the conference.
If the Football Team is to win this game, they will need nothing short of an Alex Smith-led miracle. With stars WR Terry McLaurin and RB Antonio Gibson, as well as Smith banged up, it’s pretty clear as to why the WFT are 7.5 point underdogs. Smith will have to lead the offense to at least 20 points to have a shot, but that looks unlikely against a formidable Bucs front. Washington’s defense can create some magic, but they will have trouble holding Brady and his arsenal to under 25 on the scoreboard.
Prediction: Buccaneers 32, Football Team 17
Chicago Bears (7) vs. New Orleans Saints (2)
After collapsing in the second half on Sunday against the Packers, the Chicago Bears snuck into the playoffs with an 8-8 record thanks to a Rams win over the Cardinals. They now face the New Orleans Saints, who were knocked out last year at home on wildcard weekend by a different NFC North team. The Bears and Saints faced off Week 7 in Chicago, with the visitors coming out on top in OT, 26-23. Michael Thomas (ankle) should return to action for the Saints, but there is no guarantee that he or RB Alvin Kamara (COVID-19) will play. The Bears are also quite banged up, with injuries to rookies CB Jaylon Johnson (shoulder) and WR Darnell Mooney (ankle), Pro Bowl snub LB Roquan Smith (elbow), and a few other players.
The Saints are currently 10 point favorites, the greatest spread of any game this weekend, and rightfully so. They will have no trouble against a weakened Bears defensive front and should be able to put the game out of reach by scoring 23+. Both teams have similar offensive styles that supplement their QB’s inability to consistently create chunk plays, but the Saints have a better roster and coaches around Drew Brees. Mitchell Trubisky will need to be on point with no turnovers for Da Bears to keep it close, but that’s no easy task against a ferocious Saints defense.
Prediction: Saints 26, Bears 16