Cleveland Browns defeat Houston Texans
This is a matchup between two of the best stories of the NFL this season. On one hand you have the Texans, who won the AFC South with a rookie head coach and quarterback. On the other hand you have the Browns who won 11 games who lost Nick Chubb and Deshaun Watson, and started multiple quarterbacks including Joe Flacco for five of the last six games along the way to finishing as the fifth seed in the AFC.
The reason I am going with the Browns in this matchup is because the Texans are coming off of an incredible win against the Indianapolis Colts which ended up being for the division crown thanks to the Jacksonville Jaguars loss to the Tennessee Titans, and I feel like there will be a little bit of a let down for this young Texans team. Just being in the playoffs is a massive achievement for them and they would have nothing to be ashamed of if they were to lose this game, despite being at home. The Browns were able to rest a lot of key players in Week 18, and I expect them to be the fresher team. Flacco has been playing well despite some turnovers. At the moment they are able to overcome them because they have arguably the best defense in the league to lean on. I expect that defense to stifle the Texans’ offense.
Kansas City Chiefs defeat Miami Dolphins
When the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football for the AFC North title and number two seed in the AFC up for grabs, and they said what the weather forecast was for this game on the broadcast, there was no way I was picking the Dolphins. Apart from the whole the Dolphins don’t play well in cold weather narrative, which is totally real by the way, what they’ve shown this season is that they just don’t beat good teams. They are 1-5 against teams with winning records this season. They have also unfortunately had injuries to too many key players such as Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips who are gone for the year, and guys like Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert are banged up. The Chiefs, despite having a down-year offensively, still have Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. Unlike in previous years, the Chiefs have an excellent defense that they can lean on. So the questions for them are whether or not some of their receivers can make plays they haven’t been making this season, and if Travis Kelce can go up a few gears in the playoffs. I expect them to be more physical than the Dolphins and eventually wear them out.
Buffalo Bills defeat Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite a season full of turbulence, the Bills go into the playoffs as division champions and the number two seed in the AFC. They were at one point 6-6 and they managed to win their last five games. They haven’t been perfect in those games, but at the end of the day I don’t think they’ll really care. On their day they can beat anyone. They can also lose to anyone. So would it really be that shocking if they were to lose to the Steelers? The answer is no. However, I think the chances of that happening are slim. The Steelers have talented players on offense, but they have been hindered by average to below-average quarterback play for several years, and this year is no different. Their record without T.J. Watt over the last few seasons has been horrid, and he is set to miss this game. So everything here is telling me to go towards Buffalo.
Dallas Cowboys defeat Green Bay Packers
This is one of the most intriguing matchups of Wild Card Weekend. Is it in part because I am a Cowboys fan? Absolutely. I also believe that there are several other things that make this matchup interesting. The first thing is if the Cowboys can handle the pressure of being massive favorites in a playoff game. One thing is for certain. All the pressure is on Dallas. No matter what happens in this game, the Packers have had a successful season. Despite not having much pressure on them, it will be interesting to see how Jordan Love and many of his young teammates handle a playoff game. You also have the added antidote of this being Mike McCarthy coaching against his former team. As for the matchup itself, I fully expect the Cowboys to handle the Packers relatively easily. The Packers’ defense has been mostly terrible this season, and they are facing off against a Cowboys’ offense that lights people up at home. Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb are having career years, and I believe they will have another monster day against the Packers.
Los Angeles Rams defeat Detroit Lions
Poor Lions’ fans. They have waited over 30 years to have a home playoff game, and when they finally get it, it’s against the “prodigal son” Matthew Stafford. I mean this game is full of narratives. The biggest one being Stafford’s return to Detroit. It will be his first team playing at the Lions since he was traded to the Rams in 2021. You also have the Sean McVay and Jared Goff storyline as well. Despite getting to a Super Bowl, McVay felt that Goff wasn’t good enough to get them over the hump. His decision was vindicated when the Rams won the Super Bowl in Stafford’s first season. Goff has done well since he’s been in Detroit, and has helped them become one of the NFL’s best teams after being a laughing stock for years. Even though I think the Lions are very good, I think the experience of the Rams will prevail. The Rams have been playing excellent football for weeks. They are 7-1 in their last eight games, and that one loss was to the Baltimore Ravens in overtime.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeat Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have been the polar opposite of the Rams for the last several weeks. They are 1-5 in their last six games, and the one win was a close one against the New York Giants on Christmas Day. They just can’t seem to do much right on offense or defense at the moment. The offense was already looking off, and then Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown both got banged up in Week 18 against the Giants. Even though they have been struggling as of late, the Eagles have a lot of talent on offense, and can play great against any team. That could potentially happen against an inconsistent Bucs’ defense. However, the Eagles’ defense is just bad. If Baker Mayfield, who is dealing with a rib injury, can be 80 or 90% of himself, will dice up that Eagles’ secondary. I also expect Rachaad White to have success running the ball against them as well. Opponents are averaging 150.3 rush yards per game in the last seven games against the Eagles.
Header Photo: Matthew Stafford makes his return to Detroit as the Rams take on the Lions on Wild Card weekend. (Seth Wenig/The Associated Press)
Write to Mohamed Warsame at firstname.lastname@example.org