As we are on the brink of Wild Card Weekend, why not give some reasons why a few teams will pull an upset off on their start to the Super Bowl? This Wild Card is stacked with some great matchups that should leave us on our living room couches for the entire day. (In no particular order)
- Baltimore Ravens (@ Titans)
It seemed like a couple days ago where the Baltimore Ravens were out of the playoff race, and MVP Lamar just wasn’t the same. Baltimore heard all the noise and turned it around to finish the season 5-0. I understand that those final 5 games weren’t against tier 1 opponents, but we still saw the improvement from Lamar and the offense that we needed to. The defense (other than the Cleveland game) have been putting up unreal numbers, forcing offenses to heavily change their playbook.
As we look at the up and coming rivalry between the Titans and Ravens, it has obviously been noted as a Derrick Henry feast. In his last two games against the Ravens, Henry has combined for 328 yards and 3 total touchdowns. His highlight reel plays stole the spotlight from Lamar Jackson, and it’s only fitting to say that LJ is due for revenge. Jackson and his number one wideout Marquise Brown have been lethal in the red zone, and to say the least, that Titans defense has just been struggling as a whole. Allowing a total of 1,933 rushing yards this season, defending J.K. Dobbins and Lamar Jackson will be that much more of a problem.
Will it be a blowout? No. But, the Titans will not have the same success as they did the previous two times. John Harbaugh will come out with a solid game plan, as he has in the past being a veteran coach, and find a way to lead this team to the Divisional Round. He forced overtime in their last meeting this season, but I’m looking at a different result, solely because of how weak that Titans defense is. They will not hold Baltimore to 12 points as they did in the Divisional last season. Henry may have a big game, but the Raven offense will be controlling the pace most of the ball game.
Final Score Prediction: BAL 34, TEN 29
A look at Lamar against struggling defenses: https://twitter.com/TheStarVision/status/1336484354151727104?s=20
- Washington Football Team
Yes, I did just list a 7-9 NFC East team to beat Tom Brady in the playoffs. I’ve been high on this team when they are led by Alex Smith. His numbers don’t wow anyone, but he does enough to lead his team to a W. Their head coach Ron Rivera has playoff experience during his time with the Carolina Panthers. He knows what it is like to be at the top and still fall (Think back to Super Bowl 50). That being said, this Washington also doesn’t feel like an underdog at all. Earlier this week, we saw rookie D-End Chase Young talk about how he is hungry to go after the G.O.A.T. It’s the motivation that this team has that stands out. This team is 5-1 this year when Alex Smith is the starting quarterback, and 2-8 when he’s not. You can’t tell me by that record that he doesn’t make an impact.
At the same time, it is very hard to pick against Tom Brady. He’s been as successful as anyone in the postseason, and is one of the clutchest players in the history of this game. That being said, his main wideout, Mike Evans, isn’t 100% healthy. Not to mention, most of this Buccaneers team is new to the playoffs. They haven’t felt the pressure or intensity of what it’s like having your season on the line. Head Coach Bruce Arians is 1-2 in the playoffs, and one of those losses is to a 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers team, coached by Ron Rivera. Yep, it’s a rematch, and Rivera is the underdog once again.
What’s the main reason I think Washington can eliminate the Buccaneers from the playoffs? It’s simple. The Washington defense. Underrated, but scary. Led by Chase Young and Ryan Kerrigan, the D-Line is one that gives offensive linemen a tough time trying to protect their quarterback. Even Tom Brady admitted to this D-Line being something else. When we look at the numbers when the Bucs face a top defense, their ugly. Against the Bears, they put up just 19 points, and that was with 253 passing yards and 106 rushing yards from Ronald Jones. What the Bears defense did was make the drive stall out near midfield. Fast forward to the Thursday Night meeting with the Saints. Tampa manages to put up 3 points, and loses by 35. Tom Brady throws for 3 interceptions, as Cam Jordan and the Saints fed up the Bucs O-line. This could be a very similar situation we could see Saturday Night. Tom Brady gets pressured around the edge, and ends up trying to make a play by throwing a deep ball which gets deflected or intercepted. Brady’s deep ball numbers haven’t been pretty, and it would be best if the Buccaneers have a more laid back game plan. All in all, Alex Smith and that Washington offense just needs to put points on the board, and I think the W is theirs. Ron Rivers has been in this exact situation, against the exact same coach. Tampa, I’m sorry, but don’t be surprised if the Football Team finds a way to knock y’all out. Oh, and Washington will also be playing at home, Fedex Field.
Final Score Prediction: WAS 26, TB 23
- Cleveland Browns
By now, the entire NFL world knows that the 18 year playoff drought has ended for the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland finished the season with an 11-5 record, and will now face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card game. They will already face a tough task before the game has started. No head coach. Kevin Stefanski and 4 others, including safety Ronnie Harrison and pro bowl guard Joel Bitonio have tested positive for COVID-19, and therefore will not be in Pittsburgh for the game. Cleveland still stands a good shot at winning this game. They have the talent, they just need to utilize it in the right way.
To be fair, the Steelers completely dominated the Browns in their first meeting, but it’s safe to say that the Browns have made a vast improvement since then. Baker Mayfield has gotten into a rhythm, and so have his receivers. Jarvis Landry has emerged as a bigger threat for defenses, and so has Rashard Higgins. Mike Priefer (Stefanski’s fill in) said that he wants to be an “extension” of head coach Kevin Stefanski. This could mean that we see a lot of play action involving Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt. Confusion is what this Browns offense needs to give the Steelers D in order to give themselves a fighting chance. Baker Mayfield had a promising game Week 17, and he just needs to keep that confidence rolling into the Wild Card.
This game is the first playoff game for many of the players on the Browns, but they do not need to be shy. Mike Tomlin is one of the greatest coaches, and he has no mercy. To win, the Browns need to get firepower early. It’s a game of momentum, and they need to win it within the first two possessions. The underdog mentality is what Cleveland will be playing with, and there is no reason to count them out with the amount of talent they have. With Denzel Ward back, expect JuJu and Ward to be going at it.
Final Score Prediction: CLE 27, PIT 23
Top Photo: Brad Mills- USA TODAY Sports