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NFL Wild Card Weekend lived up to its name last week as we saw a game postponed and affected by the snow, one that saw a top-five coldest game of all time and what may have been a former Super Bowl MVP’s last hurrah. After the dust settled, four teams with Super Bowl aspirations remained in the AFC.
With two former MVPs, a potential future star and the Madden 24 cover player still in the mix, things are about to get interesting. Who will take the next step? Will it be the favorites (Baltimore Ravens), the defending champions (Kansas City Chiefs), the upstarts (Houston Texans) or the long-anticipated team (Buffalo Bills)?
#4. Houston Texans vs. #1 Baltimore Ravens – Saturday, 4:30 P.M.
A David and Goliath story, Houston vs. Baltimore features a match up between a front runner for the Most Valuable Player award and the front runner for the Offensive Rookie Of The Year award. After an impressive showing against the Cleveland Browns, can Houston take down their former iteration whose coming off an incredible season? Can the Ravens flock avoid another early exit in the playoffs?
Houston Texans: Denzel Perryman – Linebacker
Lamar Jackson is one of the hardest quarterbacks to defend in the league: he only threw seven interceptions and is hard to bring down for sacks due to his size and legs. So how do you stop him?
Like most mobile quarterbacks, it should start with the linebackers. Denzel Perryman is often seen as a good pass defending linebacker but to limit Jackson, he’s going to need to able to play spy well and he’s going to need to be able to stop him from using his legs. If the defensive line can get to Jackson, that will make his job easier, but that’s easier said than done
Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Stephens – Cornerback
There’s an old saying, speed kills. That’s how Houston ultimately beat the Cleveland Browns: using their speedy wide receivers and allowing quarterback C.J. Stroud to make the proper throws. Baltimore can not allow that.
While Marlon Humphrey is most likely to cover wide receiver Nico Collins, wide receiver John Metchie III and tight end Brevin Jordan have sneaky speed and can get plenty of yards after catch. While having the safety net of safety Kyle Hamilton is a plus, if these receivers get back there, Houston can really wreak havoc on this game.
Prediction: Baltimore wins, 38-17. We said it last week and Houston ended up winning, but while Houston is getting there, they aren’t quite there yet. Baltimore has a lot going their way and are looking to get the monkey of their back after losing most of their playoff games in the Lamar Jackson era.
#3. Kansas City Chiefs vs. #2. Buffalo Bills – Sunday, 6:30 P.M.
Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes is developing a lot of rivalries lately. In particular, Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback and Joe Burrow and Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen all have faced Mahomes multiple times and pushed him to his limits. Now, faced with his first ever road playoff game, the two-time Most Valuable Player looks to enter the tundra that is Buffalo and take down one of football’s hottest teams.
Kansas City Chiefs: Steve Spagnuolo – Defensive Coordinator
Kansas City’s offense has concerns with the reliability of their wide receivers, we all know this. However, it’s the defense that should be concerning here. Buffalo has speed on the outside and size on the inside. Not just the usual wide receiver-tight end speed and strength though, this one is different.
If you give Buffalo that opening in the pass game, they will take advantage of it. Even their run game is even more dangerous than most other teams, with once again, speed and size. Spagnuolo has often done a great job in preparing the Kansas City for these kind of challenges but sometimes, there’s one that gets past him.
Buffalo Bills: Khalil Shakir – Wide Receiver
We all know the damage that Stefon Diggs can do, but Shakir is often slept on. A good combination of speed and route running, he may not be able to take over the game in the same way top tier wide receivers can, but when overlooked, he can do some damage. Just ask Pittsburgh after giving up a slippery touchdown to him late in the game.
Prediction: Buffalo Bills win, 42-40. This is going to be a game of the year candidate, so expect a high scoring shootout. In the end, Buffalo just looks like a better team and should continue to ride momentum to the AFC Championship game. Kansas City may be the “Anti-Hero” when it comes to potentially facing the Baltimore Ravens, but this “Bad Blood” will send them “Back To December” to the last time they played, resulting in a “Cruel Summer.”