NFC Wild Card Preview

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NFC Wild Card
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 03: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints reacts following their 33-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It’s over. The NFL pulled off a 17-week regular-season schedule during a global pandemic. Hats off to the league, the staff, and its players for making this happen but their work isn’t done yet. Now it’s time for the NFL Playoffs and there are some great games on the slate for this weekend, including two NFC Wild Card matchups on Saturday. Although the AFC has better games on paper than the NFC, there are a few intriguing elements in each game for the conference. Super Wild Card weekend starts on Saturday and these three NFC Wild Card games are not the ones to sleep on.

2020 NFC Wild Card Preview

Rams vs Seahawks (Saturday, 4:40ET on FOX)

The first game of the NFC Wild Card round will take place at the home of the 12th man as the Seattle Seahawks play host to division rival Los Angeles Rams. This time around, the Seahawks will have to only play with 11 men on the field because there’ll be no 12th man at home.

These two teams split the season series with each team winning at home. The last time these teams met, Seattle found a way to win despite Russell Wilson only throwing for 225 yards and a touchdown. Wilson did run for a score as he is always a threat with his legs, even when his arm isn’t working. D.K. Metcalf wasn’t that much of a factor and Chris Carson had 69 rushing yards but no touchdowns. The defense did show up and that’s the way they’re going to have to play on Saturday.

The Rams offense staggered in their last game against Seattle as Jared Goff only threw for 234 yards and threw an interception. Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds both had 60+ yards apiece but couldn’t find the endzone. Los Angeles was without their top running back, who they’ll have this time around. The defense couldn’t force a turnover, which was key in this game.

In the first matchup between these two teams, the Rams created havoc on defense as they had two interceptions and three and a half sacks with a forced fumble. That’s exactly what they have to do if they want to win this game. Goff’s status for this game is up in the air as he practiced Wednesday while he’s nursing a thumb injury, which means John Wolford might have to make his second start of the season. The Seahawks have what it takes to win this game. Wilson’s connection with Metcalf has to be on point and the defense will have to make Goff or Wolford feel uncomfortable. This is going to be a grind it out kind of game.

Buccaneers vs Washington (Saturday, 8:15ET on NBC)

Many don’t have this game being close and you know why. The Washington Football Team won a bad division with a 7-9 record. Alex Smith is efficient enough but he can’t move and the offense has only scored over 25 points in four games this season. Washington is built around the defense and that’s what this team has to hang their hat on going into the game. Their front seven, led by Chase Young, has been phenomenal. Don’t let the numbers fool you when it comes to Washington’s defense cause it’s much better than the numbers say. The defense has to play their best game yet if they want to win.

One big problem that can challenge Washington’s defense is one Tom Brady. He has a knack for these types of games and shredding defenses in playoff games. Not only does this offense have Brady, but they have a plethora of talent like Mike Evans (questionable), Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. Brady even got Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ offense has been cooking down the stretch that’s a bad sign for other teams. Even with their defense being inconsistent, this is a type of defense that can shut down Washington’s offense. This is going to be a tough one for Washington to win but having the Buccaneers travel for this game makes them feel only a little better.

Bears vs Saints (Sunday, 4:40ET on CBS)

The Chicago Bears looked promising over the past month until they ran into Green Bay last week. They scored 30 or more points in each game in December but then they went back to the offense they’ve had the first half of the season. The Bears only scored 16 points and couldn’t stop the great offense of the Packers. David Montgomery had a good game with 69 rushing yards with a touchdown and an additional 63 yards in the air. Darnell Mooney had the best game of his rookie year with a 93-yard performance. They had it close enough for Bears fans to hope before Green Bay took off again.

The Saints went neck and neck almost all season with the Packers for the number one seed before settling for the second seed. Drew Brees was out a few weeks this season with multiple injuries suffered to the ribs. He returned against the Saints three weeks ago and threw three touchdowns but wasn’t fully in rhythm yet and still isn’t.

Brees has to play like one of the best players in history in this NFC Wild Card game because you never know when this Bears defense will strike led by Khalil Mack. The Saints have one of the Offensive Player of the Year candidates at running back with Alvin Kamara, whose status is up in the air after he’s tested positive for COVID-19. They also have one of the best defense’s in the league so if the Packers’ defense did what they did to the Bears, what do you think the Saints’ will do? Montgomery is going to have to run the ball like crazy and the defense has to step up if they have any chance of winning.

AFC Wild Card Games

The other side of the NFL Playoff bracket also features some intriguing matchups:

Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills (Saturday, 1:05ET on CBS)
Baltimore Ravens vs Tennessee Titans (Sunday, 1:05ET on ESPN/ABC)
Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday, 8:15ET on NBC)

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