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NFL Wild Card Predictions

by Alejandro Menendez

Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills scrambles with the ball avoiding a tackle by James Pierre #42 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Highmark Stadium on Oct. 9, 2022, in Orchard Park, New York. (Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images/TNS)

As the 2023-24 NFL season comes to an end, we now enter into the best time of year for football: The Playoffs. Having battled through 17 games just to reach this point, teams will now have to put it all on the table and limit mistakes in order to continue advancing and hopefully reach the ultimate goal of a Super Bowl.

Throughout this year, the AFC has seemed to be the stronger conference in the league, and standing atop it is the Baltimore Ravens who have seemingly dominated almost every game with a 13-3 record and a first-round bye coming into the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Buffalo Bills

The first matchup to be witnessed in Wild Card Weekend will be when the Steelers (10-7) fly up north to play the surging Buffalo Bills (11-6), who have won 5 in a row. Many have the Bills as major favorites for a good reason. However, I would take a slightly different approach to this game as Buffalo has struggled to handle easier teams this year, losing to the Jets, Broncos and Patriots. Despite this, I think with the way the Bills are playing and the skill of Josh Allen, the Bills will beat the Steelers pretty decisively.

Bills 27-13.

Houston Texans vs Cleveland Browns

Continuing in the AFC, the Cleveland Browns (11-6) will have to go on the road to play the Houston Texans (10-7) and QB C.J. Stroud in Houston. Both of these teams have had a very unpredictable but successful year as the Texans were by no means expected to make the playoffs, and the Browns have started a total of four different quarterbacks throughout the year. To me, this game will come down to which quarterback can make the most plays and more importantly, the least big mistakes. On one hand, you have the veteran Joe Flacco who has made a miraculous return after being out of football and has led the Browns to a 4-1 record with him under center. On the other hand, there is Stroud, who is likely the Offensive Rookie of the Year and is putting up some of the best rookie numbers this sport has ever seen. The only problem is that he’s going up against one of, if not the best, defenses in the NFL led by defensive end Myles Garrett. All things considered, this game has all the makings of a classic, and I think it will be. In the end however, I think that with home-field advantage and the talent of Stroud, the Texans will pull out the win and Stroud will continue his historical rookie season.

Texans 31-27.

Miami Dolphins vs Kansas City Chiefs

Wrapping up the AFC will be the Miami Dolphins (11-6)  heading into Arrowhead to face the Kansas City Chiefs (11-6). This has been an up-and-down year for both teams with the Dolphins having led the division virtually the whole year before losing it to Buffalo in Week 17 on Sunday Night Football, and the Chiefs having struggled to get anything going late in the year due to the underperformance of their receiving core and turnovers by Patrick Mahomes. The most interesting factor in this game I think is certainly the weather as it is forecasted to be around 0 degrees Fahrenheit and could even drop below 0. Interestingly, the Dolphins have lost nine straight cold weather games in addition to the fact that this will be Tua’s first playoff appearance in his career. Despite this, I think that the Dolphins can put up a fight as this game will likely be a run-first battle and the Dolphins backfield has been incredible this season with Raheem Mostert and Devon Achane. However, they will have to combat the ultra playoff experienced Mahomes who has an 11-3 record postseason record. Personally, I think that this game could go either way but I’m going to take the upset providing that the Dolphins have a more skilled team and have looked better throughout the year.

Dolphins 24-21.

Philadelphia Eagles vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Now moving on to the NFC, where the Niners have dominated this year and go into the playoffs with a bye and some huge confidence moving forward. The Philadelphia Eagles (11-6) playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-8) in Tampa Bay in what seems to be an unpredicted matchup considering that the Eagles were atop the NFC and expected to win their division before dropping five of their last six games. The big concern for this team is not only their struggling offense but also their once-stellar defense which has become a huge liability for this team allowing 360 YPG. If Tampa Bay wants to pull off the upset, then QB Baker Mayfield and WR Mike Evans have to both play an incredible game and use their home crowd to their advantage. However, in this game, I think that the Eagles will show who they really are as a team and beat the Bucs, though I’m not sure that I see them going very far in the playoffs with the way they have been performing,

Eagles 30-17.

LA Rams vs Detroit Lions

Next is the Los Angeles Rams (10-7) playing in Detroit (12-5) where both QBs will take on their former team in what seems to be an incredible matchup. Detroit has had a stellar year with a much-improved defense and an incredible offense led by Jared Goff and Amon Ra St.-Brown. But the Rams have found their stride in the last few games of the season with incredible play from QB Matthew Stafford and rising star WR Puka Nacua. I think this game will be a great watch, but surprisingly, I think the Rams will pull off the upset against the Lions.

Rams 34-31.

Green Bay Packers vs Dallas Cowboys

Finally to conclude NFL Wild Card Weekend is the Green Bay Packers (9-8) against the Dallas Cowboys (12-5). This game in all ways looks as if it’s going to be all Dallas. Not only have they been the better team throughout the season, but they are 9-0 at home this season and have dominated in almost every home game. The only way that I possibly see the Packers finding a way in this game would be any self-inflicted mistakes by the Cowboys, especially any turnovers by QB Dak Prescott. Now Jordan Love and the Packers have a lot to look forward to in the coming years, as it seems they have found their quarterback. But this year the answer seems obvious.

Cowboys 40-17.

As you can see, there are so many matchups to look forward to in this year's playoffs with so many implications moving forward. This year should contain a thrilling postseason for NFL fans in which we will get to witness the greatest football played all year.

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