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After a long and very hard season, the NFL playoffs are set to begin. With a seventh seed being added to each conference, the two seeds lose a bye week and instead now have to play their way into the divisional round. With a slew of intriguing and high intensity matchups on the slate for January 9 and 10, lets take a look at each showdown and breakdown how the game could go, in order of scheduled kickoff time.

Saturday 1/9

1:05 PM ET #7 Indianapolis Colts 11-5 @ #2 Buffalo Bills 13-3

MVP hopeful Josh Allen and the red hot Buffalo Bills get set to host their first playoff game in almost 25 years against the Indianapolis Colts. Head Coach Frank Reich, a former Bill himself, takes the Colts to the playoffs for the second time in three years. Both of these teams have played great football all season and neither lost consecutive games at any point. Both squads are built off of great defenses as the Bills specialize in the secondary with Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde while the Colts bring the heat up front with DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard, not to mention Rock-Ya Sin, Kenny Moore and a resurgent Xavier Rhodes in coverage. But the big difference between these two teams comes on offense. Buffalo has been a juggernaut with the ball all year as Stefon Diggs led the league in receiving yards (1,535) in his first year with the team. His chemistry with Josh Allen has been outstanding in its first year as Allen has benefitted to the point where he is likely to finish in the top 5 of MVP voting. While Diggs will garner attention from the Colts elite secondary, veteran Cole Beasley and breakout Gabriel Davis are still serious threats on offense. With Indianapolis however, they score points more physically. A deep backfield that has burst onto the scene with pass catching threat Nyheim Hines and powerhouse Jonathan Taylor behind a top 5 offensive line, the Colts pound the ground hard on a weekly basis. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, Buffalo’s run defense seems to be hitting its stride as nobody has cracked 150 yards on them in the last six weeks. And with TY Hilton’s down season and home field advantage for Buffalo, the Bills will be able to force the Colts into a one dimensional offense and pull away from a close game at halftime to win comfortably, advancing in the playoffs for the first time since 1995. Final: Bills Win 28-17

4:40 PM ET #6 Los Angeles Rams 10-6 @ #3 Seattle Seahawks 12-4

An NFC West rubber match comes in Saturday’s second game as the division champion Seattle Seahawks host the team they kept from hosting a playoff game in the rival Los Angeles Rams. The Seahawks and Rams have met twice already this season with Los Angeles coming out on top in week 10 while Seattle shut them down in a division clinching week 16 victory. These two teams enter the playoffs on opposite notes as Seattle comes in riding a four game win streak and dramatic improvement on the defensive side of the ball while Los Angeles has struggled in their last six games with losses to the beaten up 49ers and an embarrassing loss to the Jets at home in week 15. As far as this matchup goes though, the Rams offense will be the biggest key. After Jared Goff and company couldn’t find the end zone in week 16’s defeat at Lumen Field, Goff suffered a thumb injury that kept him out of a critical week 17 matchup in which backup John Wolford played well enough to win. If the Rams want any chance of beating Seattle, Goff needs to be on the field. Without him there is no chance. Even if the former first overall pick is available, the Rams don’t have much of a shot. Seattle’s early season struggles on defense have come and gone as the whole unit has improved greatly later in the year. With all pro Russell Wilson having Chris Carson, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the field, we know the Hawks will find the end zone. While Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and Jalen Ramsey will be able to limit the points, the beaten up offense will have trouble finding any sort of footing. This game will look a lot like the week 16 matchup as Seattle will handle the Rams on defense and score timely to secure a playoff win. Final: Seahawks Win 21-10

8:15 PM ET #5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-5 @ #4 Washington Football Team 7-9

What many think to be the most predictable game of the weekend, could turn out to be quite the competition. While Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense has been firing on all cylinders as of late, amassing 400+ yards of offense in three of their last four games. With Washington though, they have won with defense. Washington is fourth in the league in least points allowed and allowed the second fewest total yards to opponents all season. The keys to this game will be the performance of the Washington offense and Tampa defense. With a deep backfield and Terry McLaurin on the outside, Alex Smith has enough help on offense to score some points. But Tampa’s defense, although inconsistent at times, ranks sixth in the league in yards allowed and top 10 in points allowed. If the Buccaneers defense plays like they can, as long as Brady stays hot, Washington doesn’t have much of a chance. While it’s been a better than expected season for the Football Team, playoff Tom Brady with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski at his disposal will be too much. Washington won’t produce enough offense to keep up with Tampa as Brady and the Bucs are able to break Washington’s tough defense and head on to a rematch with Green Bay. Final: Buccaneers win 31-17

Sunday 1/10

1:05 PM ET #5 Baltimore Ravens 11-5 @ #4 Tennessee Titans 11-5

In a rematch from last year’s divisional round upset, this time its the Titans hosting the same Ravens team they eliminated from the playoffs a year ago. Not only that, but Tennessee continued their recent dominance over Baltimore in a week 11 thriller where an offensive explosion from Ryan Tannehill was instrumental in a classic overtime victory on the road. In the second meeting of the year between the two teams, they stack up as near opposites. The Titans have won their games this year on offense as Ryan Tannehill’s continued improvement compliments a monster 2,000+ yards of total rushing this season by Derrick Henry, not to mention the wideout weapons of Corey Davis and AJ Brown. Baltimore however, has thrived on shutdown defense as Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters headline the unit that gave up the second least points in football this year. On the other sides of the ball, Tennessee’s defense has been highly inconsistent and gave up points very easily as the secondary regressed all year. Baltimore’s offense seems to have found some traction from its early struggles as Lamar Jackson has improved as a passer and JK Dobbins has emerged as a threat at running back. Much like November’s shootout, the winner of this game will have to win with their style of football. The higher scoring it is, the more it favors the Titans. The lower the offense, Baltimore’s edge increases. In this edition though, the Ravens offense does not have enough weapons in the pass game to truly take advantage of Tennessee’s weak secondary, which will knock scores off the board. Over the last year, Baltimore (really no one for that matter) has not been able to stop Derrick Henry and he has been in quite the rhythm the last few weeks. If he keeps this up, which all signs say he will, King Henry will lead his Titans to a very close, back and forth, down to the wire victory to send the Titans on and demote Lamar Jackson’s playoff record to 0-3. Final: Titans win 28-20

4:40 PM ET #7 Chicago Bears 8-8 @ #2 New Orleans Saints 12-4

Of all of the games this weekend, this is the one most are writing off and for good reason. But when you take a closer look, Chicago has more of a chance than you think. The Bears have endured a very up and down season in which they began 5-1, lost 6 in a row, and then won three of four to stumble into the playoffs all while having undergone multiple QB changes and having their coach put on and off the hot seat. Mitchell Trubisky has looked very good in the last four weeks and with the offensive line improving enough to give David Montgomery and Allen Robinson enough time to make their impact, this offense is seemingly getting on track. And of course, a defense with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks on the line along with Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson and standout rookie Jaylon Johnson patrolling the field has been as advertised. But they are going up against the most playoff hardened team in the NFC. In a year in which New Orleans has played more than half the season without star receiver Michael Thomas and missed 4 games from Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and an outstanding defense still managed 12 wins and yet another NFC South crown. But the problem with the Saints in this game is with who won’t be there for them. Alvin Kamara was held out of the season finale as he contracted COVID-19. His status for the wild card game is in major question but what could be even more concerning is the full health of Thomas and Brees. New Orleans top wideout was placed on IR for the last three weeks of the season and Brees since his return from a collapsed lung has looked like a shell of his former self. The Saints look like they may have trouble getting points on the board but if their defense can step up like it has all season, they should be fine. If Kamara is not available, which even if he was he would have gone without practicing for a week, this will be a low scoring game for a while. But with the Saints versatility on offense, they’ll be able to pull away late and get the job done at home, setting up a divisional round clash with Seattle and ending the Bears season. Final: Saints win 24-10

8:15 PM ET #6 Cleveland Browns 11-5 @ #3 Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4

In the eyes of many, this is the most intriguing game of this year’s wild card slate. Two bitter rivals facing off in a de facto AFC North championship game. In their two matchups this season, Pittsburgh handled Cleveland with ease in week 6 and then lost to them (albeit with the Steelers backups) late last week. Both teams have gone about winning in their own way this year as Cleveland has utilized the best backfield in the league to make their first playoff appearance since 2002 while Pittsburgh has reverted back to a tough defense formula that won them their second division title in the last four years. The rivals ended the season on somewhat similar notes as Pittsburgh, after an 11-0 start, lost four out of their last five and the Browns went an average 2-2, beating the Steelers in the season finale but suffering a loss to the Jets the week before. The teams stack up rather evenly as offensively, the Steelers deep receiving core has been their driving force to points while Cleveland’s dominant backfield has pounded its way here. On defense both have their generational talent on the edge in Myles Garrett and TJ Watt respectively. The rest of the units though see a large gap between the Steelers secondary and Cleveland’s as Pittsburgh snagged a league high 18 interceptions this year. Unfortunately, both squads enter this game at a disadvantage as Cleveland’s coach of the year candidate Kevin Stefanski is out due to COVID-19. Pittsburgh’s downside comes at their own fault as they have lost four out of their last five games including one to these same Browns less than a week ago. This game is going to be decided by Baker Mayfield and the offensive playcalling. If the Browns pound the ground and utilize play action, they have a serious chance to upend the Steelers. But if they miss opportunities and the secondary can’t keep down the various Pittsburgh weapons, it could be a long game. In the end though, Cleveland without their head coach, will stick to what got them here and run the ball all night, holding possession for long drives to keep the Steelers offense off the field. Pittsburgh will get their points up with the ball but limiting their time on the field will be key for the team. If they can pull off this very possible possession war, the Browns can win this game. If they can utilize this strategy, they can win. After the firing words of JuJu Smith-Schuster on Thursday referring to the Browns as “The same nameless gray faces”, Cleveland  will be fired up and will want to take advantage of a free falling Pittsburgh team. And they will. The Browns shock the world and move on to the divisional round, winning their first playoff game since the original franchise moved to Baltimore and bringing the Steelers season to a crashing end. Final Browns win 20-17

Image: USA Today