Now that the regular season came to an end this past Sunday, it’s time to look ahead to the AFC and NFC Wild Card round matchups. All of these teams had plenty to play for this weekend whether it was for playoff seeding, division crowns, or just to get into the playoffs. On the NFC side, there are two playoff games on Sunday and one on Monday. The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes to through Lambeau Field as the Green Bay Packers clinched the number one seed in week 17. These three Wild Card matchups are a great way to start the NFL Playoffs.
2022 NFC Wild Card Preview
Eagles (7) vs Buccaneers (2)
Date: Sunday, January 16th.
The first game on the NFC side will take place first thing on Sunday as the Philadelphia Eagles travel to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After starting the season just 2-5, the Eagles won four out of their last five games and seven of their last ten overall to make the playoffs. It looked like they were too conservative and much like last year’s team to start the season but something clicked in Nick Sirianni, causing something to spark in Jalen Hurts as well. The play-calling and in-game management from these two have gotten better down the stretch of the regular season.
A key contributor to this is the Eagles run game with Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, and Kenneth Gainwell. As a team, they’ve rushed for 100-plus yards in 12-straight games, making them the number one rushing attack in the league. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles’ defense has gotten better as well. Even though they’re 18th in points against, the defense has kept the opponents under 20 points five of the last six games. Staying on the defensive side of the ball, Philadelphia is both top ten in total yards and rushing yards per game. They’ll have a tough task ahead of them in this NFC Wild Card matchup.
As for Tampa Bay, their offense has been on point all season. Even with guys in and out of the lineup, they’re still tops in the league in most offensive categories. This includes points scored (2nd) and passing yards (1st), making them 2nd in total yards per game. The Buccaneers are also one of the best teams in the league at converting on third down, ranking 2nd in the league at a 47 percent clip. None of this is surprising when you have Tom Brady as your quarterback. He’s having an MVP-caliber season with over 5,000 passing yards, 43 touchdowns, and a 67.5 completion percentage.
Two of Brady’s top targets will be missing as Chris Godwin suffered a season-ending injury earlier in the year and we all heard about the Antonio Brown fiasco. This probably puts even more pressure on the defense to perform even better. Tampa Bay’s defense is 5th in points allowed and the rush defense stays hot from last year as they’re 3rd in the league on that side of the ball. One thing that needs to improve on heading into the playoffs is the passing defense, which ranks 21st. Other than that, the Buccaneers are a dangerous team and many don’t like how the Eagles matchup.
49ers (6) vs Cowboys (3)
Date: Sunday, January 16th.
TV: CBS and Nickelodeon
The second game on Sunday in the NFC Wild Card round will be the San Francisco 49ers taking on the Dallas Cowboys. San Francisco came into the season looking for a bounce-back year. Like the Eagles, they got out to a rough start, going 2-4 through six games. After that, everything changed and they went 8-3 for the remainder of the season. The 49ers clinched a playoff spot after overcoming a 17-0 deficit against the Rams this past Sunday to win 27-24.
The offense has started to become more explosive with Deebo Samuel emerging as one of the most versatile lethal threats in the game and George Kittle, who is one of the best tight ends in the league. The rushing attack has contributed significantly to their success as they rank 7th in the league. Even though the 49ers are middle of the pack in points scored, they’re 8th in total yards. If they can transfer their yards into points, this team will become even more dangerous.
The Cowboys will counter with an even better offense. Led by Dak Prescott, Dallas is ranked 1st in both points scored and total yards. They’ll surely miss Michael Gallup but Dak throwing to Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb isn’t too shabby. Their rushing attack can rival San Francisco’s as the Cowboys rank 9th in that department. This offense is dangerous but it’ll be going up against a 49ers defense who ranks in the top ten in points allowed and top three in total yards. The Cowboys would love to match the intensity on defense with Micah Parsons leading the way. This game will certainly be one of the best of Wild Card weekend.
Cardinals (5) vs Rams (4)
Date: Monday, January 17th.
TV: ESPN and ABC
Wild Card weekend will cap off with a divisional rivalry game as the Arizona Cardinals take on the Los Angeles Rams. The Cardinals started the season as the last undefeated team in the league at 7-0 before losing to the Packers at home. After that collapse, they went on to lose five of their last nine, including a horrendous loss to the Lions. They come into the playoffs looking to prove that they are for real and still are that team from the beginning of the season.
Despite the downward trend, this offense still is ranked 6th in total yards and 11th in points scored. This offense can be scary with Kyler Murray under center passing to DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green, to name a few. Despite an injury causing running back Chase Edmonds to miss a few games, James Connor held down the fort and led this rushing attack to 10th in the league. Edmonds is still dealing with a toe and rib injury but if these two come into the playoffs healthy, lookout.
The Rams are also tops in the league in total yards and even score more points per game than Arizona. Matthew Stafford comes into the playoffs needing to prove he can win the big game. Cooper Kupp has been the best in the league in terms of stats as he earned the triple crown by leading the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Odell Beckham Jr. has started to look comfortable in this offense, which is huge if teams focus on Kupp all game. The Rams are, to everyone’s surprise, getting Cam Akers back for the playoffs. If he can get close to what he was, this 25th ranked rushing attack will catapult towards the top.
This game might come down to defensive stops. The Cardinals are top ten in points allowed while the Rams are middle of the pack. The Cardinals will bring a fierce pass rush with Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt, who’s coming back from injury. Budda Baker will also be on the back end, creating havoc for the opponents passing attack but the Rams might be more equipped on that side of the ball. The Cardinals pass rush will be rivaled by the likes of Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Leonard Floyd, with Jalen Ramsey in the defensive backfield. This game will cap off the Wild Card round and it’s sure to be a dog fight all the way through.