The 2021 NFL Playoffs are finally upon us, and thankfully the New Orleans Saints are once again among this year’s playoff field. The 2020 NFC South Champions host an old playoff rival, in the Chicago Bears. We certainly have some interesting matchups this weekend, headlined by Saints/Bears. Let’s take a look at this 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: Chargers over Chiefs!
What do I know: Cowboys over Giants?
WILD CARD WEEKEND
AFC - #7 Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at #2 Buffalo Bills (13-3)
Saturday, January 9th - 12:05pm CST - CBS
The Buffalo Bills have not won a playoff game since December 30, 1995. Now, of course, this Bills team is easily the best one since their early 90’s heyday, but it will still be quite an exercise to move past those demons. The demons of the “Music City Miracle”. The demons of blowing a 16-0 3rd quarter lead in the Wild Card a year ago. Those demons don’t leave easily, but they can and will be overcome. Indianapolis has great offensive balance and an unheralded defense. They will fight Buffalo tooth and nail, but they simply won't have enough to beat a Buffalo team ready to put their demons to rest. This one will be better than many think. Buffalo wins 27-26.
NFC - #6 Los Angeles Rams (10-6) at #3 Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
Saturday, January 9th - 3:40pm CST - FOX
Sean McVay has Pete Carroll’s number. McVay has a 5-3 record against Carroll. McVay has the NFL’s top-ranked defense, while Carroll’s once worst-ranked defense only climbed out of the abyss by facing some of the league’s worst offenses over the last six weeks. What McVay doesn't have is his starting quarterback, in his place, a rookie making his second-ever start. What Carroll does have is All-Pro quarterback Russell Wilson. That will be enough to make the difference in what will be an extremely close game. Wilson finds a way against Aaron Donald and company, and Seattle moves on. Seattle wins 21-20.
NFC - #5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) at #4 Washington Football Team (7-9)
Saturday, January 9th - 7:15pm CST - NBC
The Washington defense is good. Damn good. Only bested by the aforementioned Rams defense. It’s what gives Washington any glimmer of hope, because their offense is bad. Damn bad. Washington’s only chance is to have Chase Young and company get to Tom Brady early and often. It is just too much to ask the Washington defense to stop the Tampa passing attack. While it is true that Tampa has run up their stats on cupcake opponents the last three weeks, it cannot be argued those cupcakes have helped Tampa get their mojo back. Tampa failed to win the NFC South, but their consolation prize is the sub-.500 division champion everyone in the NFC field wanted a piece of. Tampa will take that piece and move on. Tampa wins 26-17.
AFC - #5 Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at #4 Tennessee Titans (11-5)
Sunday, January 10th - 12:05pm CST - ESPN
The last time we saw Tennessee vs Baltimore in the playoffs a year ago, Derrick Henry was steamrolling the vaunted Ravens defense for roughly 200 yards on the ground. He followed that up this regular season with a 133-yard performance including a 29-yard touchdown run in overtime to once again defeat the Ravens in Baltimore. Now the Ravens get another chance at revenge, this time in Tennessee. The main issue for Baltimore is they simply cannot afford to fall behind early, they have proven they aren't built to overcome it. The Tennessee defense is not as good now as they were a year ago, but their offense outside of Henry is, and that will be the difference when Baltimore sells out to stop Henry and stop the bleeding. Tennessee wins 27-23.
NFC - #7 Chicago Bears (8-8) at #2 New Orleans Saints (12-4)
Sunday, January 10th - 3:40pm CST - CBS
We spoke earlier about demons, and no team in the past decade has playoff demons like the New Orleans Saints. We know the stories: “Beastquake”, “Gregg’s Blitz”, “Colston’s Pass”, “The Minnesota Miracle”, “The No-Call”, and “The Push-Off”. They all have cute names and highlight clips, and some have left deeper scars than others. Despite those losses, there have been victories that lead to some of those scars as well. The Saints are not some downtrodden team looking to finally get an elusive playoff win, this is a team that has faced some tough breaks, some tough matchups in the face of injury or tough luck. This is not one of those matchups. This Saints team is getting back not just starter talent, but All-Pro talent at just the right time. The Saints are a better team now than the one that won in overtime in Chicago during the regular season. That Bears team started former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles at quarterback, now they send out Mitchell Trubisky who is 0-2 all-time against the Saints. Trubisky now faces the NFL’s fourth-ranked defense, a defense primed to be the difference for the Saints’ playoff fortunes. Those fortunes start with an outstanding showing for the Saints this Sunday. Saints win 29-20.
AFC - #6 Cleveland Browns (11-5) at #3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Sunday, January 10th - 7:15pm CST - NBC
Cleveland finds themselves in an incredibly difficult position, playing in their first playoff game in nearly two decades, but now without their head coach on the sideline due to COVID protocol. Now they face the team they barely defeated in order to qualify for the playoffs a week ago. Pittsburgh rested their starting quarterback for that game, but Ben Roethlisberger will be under center for this one. Pittsburgh may be unable to effectively run the ball, but they will simply lean on what has earned them the 3-seed, their third-ranked defense and their passing attack. Those will be enough to dispatch of an undermanned Browns team that caught some tough breaks at the worst possible time. Pittsburgh wins 30-16.
Let’s see what the Wild Card round has in store. The Saints are among the best teams in this field, and they could 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!