AFC Wild Card Preview – Rematch Rampage

Eric Urbanowicz
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After a crazy end to the regular season, the NFL playoffs are set to begin and it all starts with the Wild Card round. With half of the teams playing in this round returning from last year, two coming back for the first time in years and one appearing for the first time without their former “Golden Boy,” things are going to get wild. When they do, the one team that does benefit is the one who earned their first round bye, the Tennessee Titans.

Past the storylines and everything in between is the fact that these six teams are playing in rematches from earlier this year. One side will be looking for revenge, while the other looks to flex their muscles again. In one case, it will serve as the ultimate rubber match between the teams.

So what can we expect? Who will win? Let’s take a peek:

 

  Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) vs  Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)  – Saturday, 4:30 PM

When these two played earlier this season, Las Vegas was able to hold quarterback Joe Burrow under 150 yards passing, however they couldn’t stop running back Joe Mixon from having himself a game. It was the opposite for Cincinnati as quarterback Derek Carr carved up the Bengals’ defense, while running back Josh Jacobs couldn’t get it going, rushing for only 37 yards. In the end, Cincinnati claimed victory, 32-13.

 

X-Factor:

Las Vegas – Tight End Darren Waller – Everybody knows that Waller is one of the best tight ends in football right now, that’s not the question: his health is. Waller played in his first game this past week since the Thanksgiving Day games. He isn’t going to be at full strength, but if he can be anywhere near productive as his usual self, he’ll give Las Vegas a much needed weapon.

Cincinnati: Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie – The Cincinnati offense is very good but the same can’t be said about this defense. Awuzie has been their best cornerback this season, and given that the team has struggled against the pass, they’re going to need him to step up.

Prediction: Cincinnati wins, 31-21. Cincinnati has been waiting for their first playoff win since 1991, and this is where it should happen.

 

  New England Patriots (10-7) vs Buffalo Bills (11-6) – Saturday, 8:15 PM
Last year, Buffalo got their first real taste of success over New England head coach Bill Belichick, en route to an AFC Championship loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. They look to do it again, with a familiar foe, lead by a new quarterback.

Unlike the other two matchups, Buffalo and New England have met twice and both times the road team won. The first time these two met, New England saw one of the ugliest wins because of weather with a 14-10 win, that saw quarterback Mac Jones throw only three passes. In their second contest, Buffalo stampeded over New England, 33-21. This brings us to the ultimate rubber match, with the road ahead being the prize.

 

X-Factor:

New England: Quarterback Mac Jones –  Jones hasn’t really had a good performance against Buffalo. The first matchup was played in blizzard conditions that saw New England run the ball 46 times. The second time, Jones only passed for 145 yards with two interceptions. This game will be crucial to Jones’ future in the NFL. Next year won’t be any easier for him, but a playoff win can boost his confidence.

Buffalo: Safety Micah Hyde – The last time Buffalo met New England, Hyde intercepted Jones twice. That may have been a one-time thing, but if he does that again, then Buffalo should be hold an advantage. Good quarterbacks shake off bad games, however, young quarterbacks can sometimes see things like this linger.

Prediction: New England wins, 24-21.  It should be close, it could be a last second field goal that decides the game, but New England may pull off the upset here.

 

  Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) vs  Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) – Sunday, 8:15 PM
In the ultimate David vs Goliath matchup, Kansas City hosts Pittsburgh in what will be one of the most viewed games this weekend. It’s not often that the “old guard” is referred to as David but in this sense, they face a team that’s looking to make it back to the Super Bowl for the third straight year.

The last time these two teams faced off, Pittsburgh could not keep up, falling 36-10. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes went off on the black and yellow, going 23-30 for 258 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger saw his struggles continue by barely throwing for 151 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

 

X-Factor:

Pittsburgh: Wide Receiver Chase Claypool – The Kansas City defense is beatable: running back Najee Harris will have to play a role, but wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Claypool will need to pick up the slack for Big Ben. This will be his last game if they can’t give him some help.

Kansas City: Running Back Clyde Edwards-Helaire – Simply put, the Pittsburgh defense can’t stop the run. Whether it’s CEH, Derrick Gore or Darrel Williams, they have to take advantage.

Prediction: Kansas City wins 42-17. Pittsburgh had a magical run to get to the playoffs, however the magic stops here.

Eric Urbanowicz

Connecticut

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