This year’s NFC Wild Card round will feature six teams instead of four. What’s interesting is that there are four quarterbacks that have at least eight years of experience and have won a Super Bowl (except Alex Smith) compared to the other two quarterbacks who have no playoff wins combined. The question is, will that matter?
Chicago Bears (7) at New Orleans Saints (2)
In arguably one of the craziest NFL seasons, two teams facing questions about their future at the quarterback position will meet in Sunday’s afternoon battle. The New Orleans Saints (12-4) will host the Chicago Bears (8-8). In what could be New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees’ final run, the question is can he continue his hot streak before walking off into the sunset? Can Chicago quarterback Mitch Trubisky show that he belongs with fellow draft mates Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson?
Keys To The Game
Chicago needs to play conservatively on offense to have any chance against New Orleans. The Saints have taken away the football 26 times, which is fourth in the NFL, while the Bears have given it away 22 times, which is tied for 20th. Defensively, Chicago has to stay ready for anything. With questions around the game, including if running back Alvin Kamara will play due to a positive Covid-19 test and how much utility player Taysom Hill plays, the unknowns are abundant.
For the Saints to get rolling, the offensive line needs to continue to block well for Brees. The Saints went up against some great defensive lines this year but Chicago’s front seven is still really good. Defensively, New Orleans needs to make Trubisky throw. Trubisky has played better this year but as well as the Saints’ defense been this year, they should feast on mistakes.
Chicago Bears – David Montgomery; Running Back: Any opportunity to take more of the game out of Trubisky’s hands, could bode well for any kind of success.
New Orleans Saints – Emmanuel Sanders; Wide Receiver: With Michael Thomas possibly being rusty if he plays and no Tre’Quan Smith, Sanders is the only one who’s had chemistry with Brees this year.
Simply put, this game should be all Saints. The defense is too strong and Brees should shift it into another gear. It’s going to be hard, if not nearly impossible for Chicago to keep up. Saints win 34-13. – Eric Urbanowicz
Los Angeles Rams (6) at Seattle Seahawks (3)
There is nothing like a good interdivisional rivalry to kick off the playoffs. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks meet up in this matchup and this game will be as good as any. These two teams know each other very well after splitting the season series (1-1).
Keys To The Game
Now that Jared Goff is more than likely out with a broken thumb, backup quarterback John Wolford will run the offense. The running game has to be effective to avoid third and long for an inexperienced quarterback. Defensively, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey have shown why they are top billing at their positions, the rest of the defense just has to play follow the leaders.
The Seahawks must be a dual-threat offense. The passing game is at it’s best when they are successful running the ball, which will create play-action. This usually results in a long touchdown pass for Russell Wilson. On defense, the Seahawks will need to find a way to generate pressure as well as securing the backend. They cannot allow big chunk plays and will need the Rams to play behind the sticks.
Rams – Cam Akers; Running Back: The Rams have a better winning percentage when Akers is getting 10-plus touches per game. He hasn’t had many eye-popping games but his presence is felt in this offense.
Seahawks – Carlos Dunlap; Defensive End: If the Seahawks hope to slow down this Rams team, Dunlap will need to lead the charge in getting pressure on Wolford
As much as I like Russell Wilson in this matchup, the Seahawks defense is too bad to look over. The Rams take this one 35-21. – Courtlandt Griffin
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) at Washington Redskins (4)
In fitting fashion for the 2020 season, the 6-9 Washington Football Team will host the 11-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The visiting Buccaneers come in hot, winning four in a row with the offense finally clicking. Washington barely won their division but was able to get their quarterback Smith back. This is the only Wild Card matchup that will feature two quarterbacks that have played in at least seven playoff games in their careers.
Keys To The Game
With all of the weapons Tom Brady has in the passing game, it’s a must to get the running game going with both Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette to slow down Washington’s pass rush. The Football Team’s ability to use their running game to set up the pass is their bread and butter. The Buccaneers defensive front seven has to control the line of scrimmage in order to dictate the game.
Washington needs to use a lot of misdirections to confuse the defense and keep them off balanced. The less Smith gets hit, the better chance they have to win the game. Defensively it’s simple; hit Tom Brady as much as you can. It’s been known that the more Brady goes down, the more uncomfortable he gets, which causes errand throws.
Buccaneers – Leonard Fournette; Running Back: His bruising style coupled with the ability to catch the check down passes will open up the passing game.
Football Team – Daron Payne; Defensive Tackle: Payne has to push the pocket back to Brady during the pass and clog up the middle to help stop the run in order to dominate the trenches.
Not many are giving Washington a chance but if they control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, they have a great chance to win this game. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers have too much playoff experience on the offensive side of the ball. 34-19 Buccaneers. – Raphael Haynes