Ranking the top matchups for the wild-card playoffs: Ravens-Titans headlines loaded postseason slate

Playoffs? You’re talking about playoffs? You’re damn right we are! The NFL’s regular season came to a close last week and now the path to Super Bowl LV has been set and will kick off in just a few days with Super Wild-Card Weekend. Week 17 proved to have a flair for the dramatics as this playoff picture continued to come into focus and that level of suspense likely will carry over into the postseason with a number of juicy matchups on the slate. 

Which ones are the best? Well, that’s what we are here to figure out today as we’re set to rank all six of these matchups that’ll occur over the course of Saturday and Sunday. Of course, some already have built-in storylines that make it a bit obvious to tell why they are set to be fantastic games while others are starting to create some spice this week whether it be due to injury questions or bulletin board material. What’s great about this list is that even the least anticipated game is going to be exciting, which sets up a great weekend of football for all of us.

Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN)

I mean, how do you not put this as No. 1? These two teams have some recent history together and don’t seem to like one another very much. Prior to their matchup in Week 11, Titans corner Malcolm Butler and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh got into a verbal altercation that had nearly both sidelines go to blows at midfield. 

From there, that game needed overtime to determine a winner, which came courtesy of Derrick Henry, who rushed for a walk-off touchdown. This game is also a rematch of last year’s Divisional Round where Tennessee was able to upset Baltimore, 28-12. That gives the Titans a 2-0 record over these Ravens over their previous two matchups and Baltimore will certainly be looking for some revenge early on Sunday. 

This game also has plenty of star power with Lamar Jackson, Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry all slated to go. Jackson has been ripping through the league as of late and has recently looked like the MVP version of himself from 2019. Since returning from COVID in Week 13, Jackson has completed 67% of his passes and thrown 11 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He’s also rushed for 430 yards and four more scores. Meanwhile, Henry is hot off a 250 rushing yard performance against the Texans where he amassed 2,000 rushing yards for the season. 

Saturday 1:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

Want a fun fact? Prior to this season, the Colts — who now play in the AFC South — had a more recent AFC East championship than the Buffalo Bills. For the first time since 1995, Sean McDermott’s team was able to win the division and are now looking for their first playoff win since that ’95 season on Saturday when they host the Colts. Buffalo has been must-see TV for the bulk of this season and has largely been due to the MVP-caliber play of Josh Allen. They come into the playoffs winning six straight games by double digits and had DeAndre Hopkins not caught that ridiculous Hail Hary back in Week 10, Buffalo would be riding a 10-game winning streak. 

As things stand on the doorstep of the playoffs, the Bills look like the team most equipped to possibly dethrone the Chiefs in the AFC. If they can continue this strong play when the lights get even brighter, confidence should build even more which is why this game is so fascinating. 

Meanwhile, you have a Colts team led by Philip Rivers who is trying to make one last push for that elusive Super Bowl. Indy has a defense that can crash any playoff party, especially with DeForest Buckner residing in that front seven. This had the potential of having the highest drama as these clubs are evenly matched. 

Also, having a small contingent of Bills Mafia in the stands for this game brings with it another form of entertainment.  

Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET (CBS)

This game is interesting from the standpoint of what it could mean going forward. For New Orleans, it’s expected that Drew Brees is going to retire after this season, which means any one of these contests could be the last we see of this all-time great. That on its own almost makes this game mandatory viewing. On the other side, if Mitchell Trubisky continues to play well, he could extend his rise from the dead and solidify his future with the Bears going forward. If he pulls off the upset and Chicago somehow wins, you can essentially take it to the bank that he’s there for 2021 and beyond. 

This game also has a couple of the hottest backs in the NFL in Alvin Kamara and David Montgomery. While Kamara missed last week’s finale against due to a positive COVID-19 test, he is slated to return this week and provide an encore to his six-touchdown performance the last time he was on the field. Meanwhile, Montgomery has been a monster since Week 12, totaling 824 scrimmage yards and eight touchdowns over six games.  

With the Saints, they are looked at as one of the Super Bowl favorites and if receiver Michael Thomas can return to form after ending the year on IR, that makes New Orleans even more dangerous in the weeks ahead.  

This game will also be broadcasted on Nickelodeon which adds the possibility of someone getting slimmed, which adds to the fun.

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)

Chase Young added some spice to this matchup after winning the NFC East on Sunday as cameras caught him calling out Tom Brady as he skipped off the field. It’s probably never wise for someone to poke the bear like this and Bruce Arians even acknowledged that saying, “you better watch what you wish for.” That bulletin board material for Tampa Bay does give us some extra juice heading into Saturday, but that’s not the main reason why this game has so much intrigue. As is almost always the case, it comes down to the quarterbacks. 

For Brady, this is his first bid for a Super Bowl without Bill Belichick by his side, and if he’s able to go on a run that only furthers his case of being the key cog in New England all those years. The 43-year-old comes into the playoffs in peak form, averaging 333.3 passing yards while totaling 12 touchdowns and just one interception over his final four games of the regular season. Tampa Bay has all the talent on offense and defense to go on a deep run and if they start to click, they could be dangerous. 

With Washington, they are the perfect Cinderella story. Alex Smith’s story has Comeback Player of the Year written all over it and Ron Rivera was able to lead his team to a division title while battling cancer. In my book, it’s the best story in the NFL in 2020 and just getting to this point is an accomplishment. If they can pull out a playoff win, it’s one for the history books.  

Sunday, 8:15 p.m. (NBC) 

This game quite possibly could be higher on this list, but the loss of head coach Kevin Stefanski for the Browns due to COVID-19 does kind of take the wind out of the sails in this game a bit. Still, it’ll be nice to see Cleveland in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and, as long as the COVID-19 situation doesn’t continue to run through the organization, you can never go wrong with two division rivals going toe-to-toe. What also gives me pause about putting this game a bit higher on this list is Cleveland’s starters having trouble handling Pittsburgh’s B Team led by Mason Rudolph in Week 17. If they bring that same effort into Super Wild-Card Weekend, Ben Roethlisberger, who is 12-0 against Cleveland in his career, could have his way with this Browns club. 

Saturday, 4:40 p.m. ET (FOX) 

This is another game that could be higher on this list if certain pieces were a bit more clear. With the Rams quarterback situation still uncertain, it takes a bit of the excitement out of this NFC West matchup between L.A. and Seattle. If Jared Goff plays, we’re in for a more competitive matchup. If John Wolford starts, however, it just doesn’t have the same appeal even if Sean McVay coaches his team up the way he can to put them in a position to win. 

That said, the Seahawks are coming into the playoffs a little under the radar. While the defense had a horrid start to the year, they’ve been much better as of late, allowing just 16 points per game over the last eight games (fewest in the NFL). If Carlos Dunlap and Jamal Adams can continue to lead that unit and maintain that level of play to pair alongside Russell Wilson and their offense, Seattle could be a sleeper team in the NFC. 

Published: 2021-01-06 16:06:23

Tags: #Ranking #top #matchups #wildcard #playoffs #RavensTitans #headlines #loaded #postseason #slate

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