The 2020 NFL Playoffs are finally upon us, and thankfully the New Orleans Saints are once again among this year’s playoff field. The 2019 NFC South Champion Saints host a longtime playoff rival, in the Minnesota Vikings. Much will be made about the “Minnesota Miracle” and the Divisional Playoff game two years ago but those were different teams and that game will have no bearing on this Sunday’s matchup.
Although we have some interesting matchups this weekend, they are all headlined by Saints/Vikings. This is the marquee matchup and it should be a showcase for the Saints as they look to make their deepest playoff run in a decade. Let’s take a look at this huge game as well as which teams will be moving on to the Divisional Round next weekend.
Last week I went 11-5
I told you so: Falcons over Bucs!
What do I know: Pats over Dolphins?
WILD CARD WEEKEND
AFC - #5 Buffalo Bills (10-6) at #4 Houston Texans (10-6)
Saturday, January 4th - 3:35pm CST - ESPN/ABC
This is a really interesting matchup. Losers of three of their last four games, Buffalo comes slumping into the playoffs. Despite their recent struggles, the Bills still boast the NFL’s third-ranked defense and points will be hard to come by for Houston. The problem for the Bills is that Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense just won't be able to take advantage of the admittedly underwhelming Houston defense. The X-factor will be, as always, Deshaun Watson. The outstanding Texans quarterback will be looking to make up for his disappointing playoff debut in last year’s home Wild Card loss to Indy. Look for Watson to come through in the end, against a very good defense. Buffalo hasn't won a playoff game since 1995 and that streak will continue another year. Houston wins 17-14.
AFC - #6 Tennessee Titans (9-7) at #3 New England Patriots (12-4)
Saturday, January 4th - 7:15pm CST - CBS
Many seem to think the Pats are finally due to miss the Super Bowl this year, after appearing in the last three-straight, and while that certainly may be the case, it won't be because they lost to Tennessee in the Wild Card round. Yes, Derrick Henry is great, but he is facing the league’s top-ranked defense in Foxboro where the Pats are extremely difficult to beat. Yes, New England just lost there this past Sunday to Miami of all teams, but don't expect a second straight loss there, that’s not how Bill Belichick’s teams operate. The Patriots haven't lost in consecutive weeks at Gillette Stadium since November 2006. Reports of New England’s demise has been greatly exaggerated. While the odds they find a way to win in Kansas City next week aren't high, the Pats won't lose this week. New England takes their 10-game home playoff win streak to 11. New England wins 24-20.
NFC - #6 Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at #3 New Orleans Saints (13-3)
Sunday, January 5th - 12:05pm CST - FOX
It has been an excruciatingly long wait to get here but the Saints are finally back in the playoffs, with an opportunity to exorcise demons and fulfill a destiny of the franchise’s second Super Bowl Championship. The opportunity for the title is obvious and clear, the opportunity to slay their aforementioned demons stand directly in front of them as the Saints will face the two entities that ended their last two playoff runs: the Minnesota Vikings and NFL officiating. Now officiating will follow them as far as they go this January, but the chance to expel the Vikings stands here and now. How fitting to bounce Minnesota, who was the team that stood victorious when this series of postseason misfortune began. Sometimes you have to go back to move forward.
Dalvin Cook is back for the Vikings, and that is good for Minnesota. They desperately need him, and they desperately need him to look back to his Pro Bowl level play right off the bat, which is a huge ask against the stellar Saints run defense. The Vikings also have some fantastic pass catchers, headlined by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but they are also facing a severely underrated Saints pass defense which is more than just Marshon Lattimore, who even national broadcasters continually call “Marcus”. They will know his name and his secondary teammate’s names after they have a stellar game this Sunday. It’s the men behind center that are the key to this game. The Saints have Drew Brees, if you need to see his accomplishments, look them up yourselves, there isn't enough time or space to list them here. The Vikings have Kirk Cousins, if you need to see his accomplishments, look them up yourselves, I couldn't find anything other than him stealing money and soiling linen when it counts.
Minnesota will be no easy out, they will compete and they will make plays. Although they are seeded at 6, they are better than a team like Philly who is seeded 4, but that’s just the breaks sometimes, just ask these Saints who are seeded 3 but are arguably better than the team seeded 2, but we’ll get there next week. The cards fell here, putting the Saints and Vikings in a place where they meet again, two years after a blowout turned improbable comeback turned “Twin Cities Tragedy”. No miracles or tragedies will be found in the Superdome on Sunday, the Saints are simply the better team, and that, combined with their focus and determination, will send them to Lambeau Field in the Divisional Round. Saints win 35-24.
NFC - #5 Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at #4 Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
Sunday, January 5th - 3:40pm CST - NBC
After losing three-straight games and staring down a 5-7 season circling the drain, Philly rallied to win their last four games to win the NFC East title. In the middle of that three-game losing streak for Philly came a loss to these same Seattle Seahawks, where the Eagles scored a season low 9-points. Seattle, on the other hand, comes into the playoffs quite cold, having lost three of their last four games, all to their divisional rivals, which cost them the NFC West title with literally one yard to go. Now considering the opposite trajectories these teams are on, and Philly having homefield, it would stand to reason that the Eagles should have the upper hand here, but it simply means this game which should be a dominant win for the road team will just be a much closer game than it had any business being. Had Seattle gotten that last yard and San Francisco ended up here instead, that game might not even be worth watching. Yes, Philly has had plenty of playoff experience under Doug Pederson, but this will be Carson Wentz’s first career playoff start and it will not go as well as he hopes against playoff stalwart Russell Wilson. Seattle wins 20-14.
Let’s see what the Wild Card round has in store. The Saints are arguably the best team in this field, and they can go all the way. Here’s to hoping that actually happens, and here’s to a great playoff weekend! Leave us your picks, comments, and insight below!