The 2021 season NFL wild-card round is set and we are in for some great match-ups. With seven new teams in the playoffs from last year, there are bound to be a few upsets this weekend. This week will include a few rematches from the season that will become statement wins for franchises looking to take the next step.
Additionally, in this years playoffs the number one seeds from each conference are the only teams with a first round bye. This change comes after the NFL expanded the wild-card round and NFL regular season. With that being said, let’s get started breaking down the weekend.
Patriots at Bills
Keys to the game
For the Patriots: Mac Jones will have to take care of the football. Jones threw 2 interceptions in the week 16 match-up where the Patriots gave him more opportunities to throw the ball. In the week 13 match-up, Jones had only 3 opportunities to throw the ball. That won’t be possible in the playoffs. The games are just a little different and the stakes are raised.
Since the first match-up, the patriots have become them most blitzed team in the NFL. Mac will have to show some poise if he expect to get the Patriots into the second round
Furthermore, the Patriots ran the ball really well in the week 13 and 16. The temperatures in Buffalo, NY will be freezing for the game, so running the ball could be the Patriots biggest asset. My only concern will be keeping Josh Allen and his talented receiving core in check.
For the Bills: Josh Allen put on a huge performance against the Patriots just a few weeks ago. 30/47 for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns. The difference will be the weather in this game. Again, the temperatures will be low and from recent memory, Josh Allen hasn’t performed so well in cold weather. The weather is expected to be about 30 degrees colder than the last time these two teams played.If Allen can find a rhythm early, the Bills could put this game a way early.
For the Patriots: Bill Belichick will be the ultimate X-factor for the Patriots for this game. His extensive experience coaching in the playoffs will give the patriots an upper hand in critical situations. Does every tough outcome go Belichicks way? No, but it is not bad to have in your back pocket.
I want to take you all back to when the Patriots faced the Chiefs in the 2018 playoffs. I think it was one of Belichicks’ greatest coaching schemes of his career. In that game, the Patriots took the game back to old school football. The offense played slower and ran the ball efficiently against the young Kansas City Chiefs. They also kept the how powered offense of the Chiefs off the field for most of the game; winning the time of possession 43:59 to 20:53.
I see this game and the weather playing into the Patriots hands if Belichick is able to keep the Bills offense off the field and win the time of possession.
For the Bills: The X-factor for the Bills will be the pass rush. How quickly can the Bills D-line get to the rookie Mac Jones and disrupt his timing? Jones has a completion percentage of 67.6% this year overall, but a 45.7% against the Bills. When Mac is rolling like he was mid-season, the Patriots offense can move the ball enough to win the game. Furthermore, the Bills are 12th in the league in sacks with 42 on the year.
Patriots 24, Bills 21
Raiders at Bengals
Keys to the game
For the Raiders: The Raiders defense will need to play lights out against Joe Burrow who is playing as good as anyone in the league. If they can slow down the Bengals passing attack the Raiders defense will give themselves a chance at an upset. Maxx Crosby, who got his first pro bowl nod this year, and Yannick Ngakoue will become the were able to get pressure on Burrow in their first match-up. That game was close until the 4th quarter.
For the Bengals: Joe Burrow is the most dangerous quarterback coming into super wild-card weekend. Burrow’s numbers matches up only with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers coming into this years playoffs. He has a stud at receiver and a monster to hand the ball off too. Burrow gives the Bengals the feeling that they can win any and every game they walk into. This could very well much be Burrow’s coming out party to the league. With 34 touchdowns on the year, Joe Burrow covers up the flaws in the bengals game. The entire game will come down to how well the offensive line protects Joe Burrow.
For the Raiders: The game comes down to the D-line of the Raiders, but the X-factor of the game is Derek Carr. He is the leader of this Raiders team that has gone through a lot this year. Carr gives them a chance to win this game. This will be Carr’s first playoff game of his career as well, so we should expect him to perform well. The Raiders don’t have a lot of explosive players on this team and weren’t expected to even be in the playoffs. If Carr can pull on the underdog heart strings of his teammates, I believe there’s a chance they win this game.
For the Bengals: Ja’marr Chase will be a problem if Joe Burrow has the time to get him the ball. He is a physical wide receiver and a mismatch that will exploit the Raiders secondary. Chase had 5 games of over 100 yards and two 200 yard games. After a rough start in preseason, Chase has been one of the most dominating receivers in the NFL. The Raiders don’t have anyone on defense who can lock him down.
Bengals 32, Raiders 20