What Each Team Needs to do to Win on Wildcard Weekend

Indianapolis Colts (7) @ Buffalo Bills (2) Saturday, 1:05 pm EST

Indianapolis Colts: Contain Josh Allen’s Arm

The only way the Colts will win this game is if the Bills can’t drive down the field and score in a minute and a half. The Colts need to be playing with 2-3 high safeties at all times the same way they played the Chiefs’ offense. The Bills don’t have confidence in their running game, and for good reason, and the Colts should use that to their advantage. Trust that your front seven will be competent against the run in any formation and just play the pass. If the Colts do that, they might just have a chance to come up with a huge upset win over the highly-favored Bills.

Buffalo Bills: Shut down Jonathan Taylor

The Bills may have the second-best offense in the AFC, but don’t get it twisted, this game is going to come down to the defenses. Jonathan Taylor erupted in the second half of the season rushing for 651 yards and 7 TDs in the last 6 games. Taylor reminds me of a faster Steven Jackson because he runs hard and always falls forward. If the Bills can shut down Taylor, Rivers won’t be able to pick up the slack against a very competent zone scheme filled with playmakers.

There is no margin for error for the Colts this week, and Rivers is prone to mental mistakes against zone coverage. The Colts have a smart and capable coaching staff, they know their only path to victory is by slowing the game down on both ends: Contain Josh Allen and run the football. If the Bills stuff Jonathan Taylor consistently, the Colts don’t stand a chance.

Score Prediction: Colts – 21 Bills – 27 

Los Angeles Rams (6) @ Seattle Seahawks (3) Saturday, 4:40 pm EST

Los Angeles Rams: Be Aggressive Passing the Football

The Seahawks have an awful secondary and an elite front 7. The Rams offense is built on zone runs and play-action passes. What I’m saying is, the Seahawks are basically built to beat the Rams, so the Rams need to abandon their usual game plan and come out of the gate firing the ball in between zones in the middle of the field, taking advantage of the Seahawks awful coverage linebackers and secondary.

Against an average team, the Rams can drive down the field score without throwing the ball more than five yards downfield. This Seahawks team isn’t normal. They have a below-average pass rush and a bad secondary. It doesn’t matter if it’s John Wolford or Jared Goff, the Rams will lose if they aren’t aggressive in the passing game.

Seattle Seahawks: Protect Russell Wilson 

The two times these teams have met Seattle has been sacked a combined 11 times. If the Seahawks want to win this game, Russell Wilson needs time to throw the ball. Wilson is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league. He understands defenses and how to play the quarterback position better than anyone. However, none of that matters if he doesn’t have time to get to his second progression, and he will need to with Jalen Ramsey on D.K. Metcalf.

The Rams defense has no glaring weaknesses and they match up well with Seattle. The Rams will throw everything they have at Russell Wilson, and when everything includes Aaron Donald, that’s terrifying. Seattle needs to be ready to pick up blitzes and find ways to get the ball out of Wilson’s hands quickly if need be. If Seattle doesn’t protect their QB they will lose, even if it’s to John Wolford, because the Rams defense is stacked.

Score Prediction: Rams – 23 Seahawks – 20

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) @ Washington Football Team (4) Saturday, 8:15 pm EST

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Limit the Turnovers

The Buccaneers have turned the ball over in every loss this season and Tom Brady has thrown multiple interceptions in 4 of those 5 losses. In fact, every time Tom Brady has thrown more than one interception, the Bucs have lost. Any quarterback’s poor play would negatively affect his team’s chances to win, but it’s even more significant with Tom Brady and the Bucs. Brady is the GOAT and the leader of this young Bucs team, when he struggles it brings the whole team down instead of motivating them to pick up after him. Tom Brady has to play well and he can’t give the Washington offense opportunities to get easy points.

Washington Football Team: 1. Throw the ball well 2. Get Takeaways

Washington needs to get takeaways for multiple reasons. First off, it devastates the whole Bucs team. Secondly, it hopefully gives their offense good field position and an opportunity to score. It’s no secret that this offense isn’t good. The defense needs to do the heavy lifting for this team, and getting pressure that leads to turnovers is the way to do that.

Offensively, the Football Team won’t get anywhere running the ball. This is Alex Smith’s opportunity to complete the greatest comeback story of all time. He comes back from an injury that nearly left him with one leg, nearly killed him, and beats the greatest player to ever live in the first round of the playoffs with an electric young team around him. That’s a story that everyone in the Washington locker room wants to be a part of. Don’t pencil in the Bucs as a sure win just yet. This game could be closer than people think.

Score Prediction: Bucs – 24 WFT – 17

Baltimore Ravens (5) @ Tennessee Titans (4) Sunday, 1:05 pm EST

Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson: Don’t Choke

The Ravens have matchup advantages on both sides of the ball. It’s clear now that Derrick Henry can’t be stopped, so let’s just take that out of the equation by assuming he’ll have a great game. The Ravens have a top-2 cornerback duo in the league, their front seven is top-10, and Don Martindale’s defensive scheming is really solid. The Titans’ offense is a lot to handle, but their defense is a disaster.

They ranked 24th in the league allowing 27.4 points per game and 28th in the league giving up 398.2 yards per game. There is no reason that a Ravens offense averaging 37.2 points per game over the past 5 weeks shouldn’t absolutely disgrace this abysmal Titans defense. Whereas it isn’t so difficult to see how the Titans might struggle against a strong, veteran Ravens defense. Lamar Jackson needs to clutch up and get this win because it’s his game to lose.

Tennessee Titans: Score… A Lot

The Ravens have looked like their normal 2019 self these last five weeks. They may be the lower seed, but they are still the favorites. The Titans aren’t going to stop the Ravens offense unless Lamar Jackson falters in another big moment. So, the best shot the Titans have at winning this game is in a shootout.

Derrick Henry has been on a tear this season and he’s played his best football recently. Use the Ravens blitz-heavy man scheme to your advantage: dial-up some play-action crossers for the speedsters on the outside and get Derrick Henry into space. If they do those two things, they have a shot to keep up with the Ravens in what should be a high-scoring affair.

Score Prediction: Ravens – 44 Titans – 35

Chicago Bears (7) @ New Orleans Saints (2) Sunday, 4:40 pm EST

Chicago Bears: Feed Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney

The Saints’ defense is top-3 in the league without a doubt. The only hope for this Bears offense is to feed their wideouts. Allen Robinson is a matchup nightmare for any man corner, even Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore does much better against bigger, less quick receivers such as Mike Evans and Julio Jones. Robinson has a big frame, but he runs routes like a 5’11” speedster. The Bears need to live on little crossers and slants to their number one offensive weapon if they want to move the ball well.

On the other side, they have Darnell Mooney, who is an actual 5’11” speedster. Janoris Jenkins will be on him throughout the game, and to be frank, Mooney can route him up with ease. Mooney was having a career game in week 17 before he was helped off with an injury. He has finally hit his stride and got the timing down with Trubisky. If Mooney can play on Wildcard Weekend, he would be the X-factor of this game. His incredible speed and route-running ability eat up the ankles of man corners, especially 32-year-old ones like Jenkins. Matt Nagy needs to have faith in Trubisky and his wideouts in order to win this game.

New Orleans Saints: Don’t Underestimate Trubisky

Don’t be fooled by the nature of Mitchell Trubisky’s name among NFL fans, the dude has been balling as of late. Since he took over as the starter in week 11, the Bears are 4-2 and averaging just over 30 points per game and their only two losses were to the Packers. If the Saints go into this game with a stacked box on every play focused solely on stopping David Montgomery, they could get thrashed.

Over the past six games, Trubisky has thrown for over 240 yards five times, Allen Robinson is an undisputed top-10 receiver, and the Bears defense is elite. The Saints have a history of choking in very winnable playoff games and this one falls under that umbrella. They need to take this Bears team very seriously.

Score Prediction: Bears – 17 Saints – 30

Cleveland Browns (6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (3) Sunday, 8:15 pm EST

Cleveland Browns: Be Aggressive in the Secondary

The Browns secondary has been straight-up bad this season. They don’t have bad players, but the scheming and personnel just haven’t meshed as they should. If there was ever a time for them to figure it out, that time would be now. The Steelers offense has adopted a quick pass approach this season to compensate for Big Ben’s increasing fragility and their atrocious offensive line. That style of play makes for a very slow game script and a lot of possession time for the Steelers.

The Browns can’t just sit back in off zone coverage and let them march slowly down the field hoping they get stops on third or fourth and short. Terrence Mitchell and Denzel Ward need to get up on receivers, be physical, and bully the Steelers wideouts. Every minute the Steelers waste on offense is precious time that the Browns offense needs to try and put points on the board because the Steelers defense is beyond tough. The Browns have to risk getting beat over the top every once and a while if it means contesting those underneath passes that the Steelers offense does so often.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Stuff the Run

If the Browns don’t run the ball well they won’t win this game. Offensively, the Steelers have advantages on the outside that they know how to exploit. However, this may be the only team in the playoffs, other than the Titans, that could penetrate the Steelers’ lethal front seven. The Browns have elite run blocking to go along with their league-best running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. So, the Steelers have to pour all their energy into containing the run.

If the Browns can’t get going on the ground, the play-action game won’t be there either and their offense will fall apart. This shouldn’t be an exceedingly difficult task for the Steelers seeing as they have the best run defense in the league, but they can’t get complacent and let Chubb get free for a big gain. I don’t see this being a very high scoring affair and one big play could bust the game open.

Score Prediction: Browns – 16 Steelers – 20

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