NFL Wild Card Round Predictions

Before the 2019-’20 NFL season I predicted everything that was going to happen. I picked all eight division winners and all four wild card teams, gave write ups about every division, and came out of it having picked every single one of ’em correctly. Truly a masterclass in blogging and projecting NFL football teams.

I’m kidding. Of my twelve teams picks, in the NFC I was right on two division winners (Eagles and Packers) and one wild card (Vikings); in the AFC I was, again, right on two division winners (Patriots and Chiefs) and one wild card (Bills). Overall 6/12 still qualifies as 50% if I’m not mistaken, which I am more than okay with given my awful track record predicting anything related to the NFL.

Unironically two teams that I didn’t have making the playoffs, the 49ers (13-3) and Ravens (14-2), are as of right now the favorites to represent their respective conferences in the Super Bowl. That not only makes sense given they are the two number one seeds — meaning they will each have home field throughout the playoffs — but also objectively. I think someone would have a hard time arguing that there is a more talented team in the NFC than San Francisco, just as I think the Ravens are the most talented AFC squad.

If I had to power rank the 12 remaining teams, regardless of conference affiliation, it would look something like this:

1. Ravens
2. Chiefs
3. 49ers
4. Saints
5. Patriots
6. Packers
7. Vikings
8. Eagles
9. Seahawks

I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll be betting on any of the games, or any of the future bets, but here is where I am currently leaning on Wild Card weekend (all lines courtesy of Bovada):

1. Buffalo Bills (+3) at Houston Texans

Per my makeshift on the spot rankings, these are the bottom two teams. While one of them has to win this one, I don’t see either winning on the road in the Divisional Round. In this particular matchup I think the Bills have a strong enough defense to hold DeShaun Watson to around 20 points, and I think Buffalo’s offense, despite being built for cold weather, has enough speed at their talent positions to play well on turf.

I don’t see the scoring in this game going much beyond the low 20’s (the over/under sits at a perfect 42.5, where I like the slight over), but I can see a big play at some point coming from either WR John Brown or RB Devin Singletary, and I think Buffalo wins outright by a field goal.

Final score: Bills 23, Texans 20

2. New England Patriots (-5) vs Tennessee Titans

If we are to assume home field advantage is worth 3 points (and perhaps as much as 3.5 at a place like New England), then what this line is telling us is that the Patriots are only 2 points better than the Titans? That doesn’t make sense. Yeah, the Patriots haven’t been very good in the second half of the season. And sure, they are coming off a terrible loss that dropped them out of the 2-seed, surrendering a first round bye to the Chiefs.

But c’mon. These are still the Patriots. You are telling me that neither Tom Brady nor Bill Belichick have a No One Believes In Us speech in them? Maybe not this week. Maybe they’ll save that for Round Two when they have to go in to Kansas City.

Final score: Patriots 27, Titans 13

3. Minnesota Vikings (+8) at New Orleans Saints

I feel bad for the Vikings, because I actually think if things had shaken a certain way that they could carve a path to the NFC Championship game. I am that much of a believer in their overall team talent, and the strength of their head coach. The problem with a Saints matchup, on the road no less, is that Minnesota has a suspect secondary. Drew Brees and Michael Thomas should be able to do whatever they want in the passing game, potentially forcing Kirk Cousins to play catch up for most of the game.

That isn’t to say I don’t like the Vikings to cover the spread, since 8 points is a pretty large number given the must-win circumstances of the NFL playoffs. Before the week I guessed it would be something in the range of 5.5 or 6 points. While I do think the Saints home-field advantage will ultimately be too much to overcome, I could see a scenario where New Orleans is in control and Minnesota finds a way to sneak in the end zone late in the game.

Final score: Saints 31, Vikings 26

4. Philadelphia Eagles (+2.5) vs Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks somehow navigated through an 11-5 campaign despite a point differential of only +7. Remarkably, in 16 games they averaged being less than a half-point better than their opponents. They won 11 games and 10 of them were by one score or less; five of those wins were by 4 points or less. Those wins are in the bank, of course, and they did come within a few inches of winning their division. So it isn’t that much of a shock that public perception is on their side by virtue of being favored on the road by 2.5 points.

But I’m going to short all the Seattle stock and roll with Philadelphia, a team that almost nothing went right for in 2019. Injuries in all areas have crippled their ceiling, and in all likelihood will end their season in the Division Round — if they are fortunate enough to escape this Seahawks matchup. I don’t know where their loss is going to come, but I am fairly confident that they will put up a helluva fight.

Final score: Eagles 20, Seahawks 16.

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