The 2022 NFL Playoffs are finally upon us, and unfortunately the New Orleans Saints are not among this year’s playoff field (thanks a lot, Rams). Even without the Saints in the playoffs this year, there are quite a few players to root for, and teams to root against. We certainly have some interesting matchups this weekend, so let’s take a look at each game as well as which teams will be moving on to the Divisional Round next weekend.
Last week I went 9-7
I told you so: Steelers over Ravens!
What do I know: Rams over 49ers?
WILD CARD WEEKEND
AFC - #6 Las Vegas Raiders (10-7) at #3 Cincinnati Bengals (10-7)
Saturday, January 15th - 3:30pm CST - NBC
Only a select few teams faced the type of adversity the Raiders have this season, and despite it all, they still found their way into the playoffs. Now they come to Cincinnati, where both the fans and the franchise are absolutely starved for a playoff victory. The place affectionately known as “The Jungle” will be absolutely electric this Saturday, in what will certainly be the most anticipated Bengals playoff game in ages. These Bengals are arguably the most talented team in the field, and while much of that talent is still raw, so is Las Vegas. Cincy will put Vegas in the hole early, forcing the Raiders’ hopes solely on the arm of Derek Carr, who will face significant pressure, which will lead to crucial mistakes. Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and the Bengals offense will take advantage to the mistakes forced by Trey Hendrickson and the defense, leading Cincy to a decisive victory, sending “The Jungle” into a euphoria not seen in that town in a very, very long time. Cincinnati wins 32-13.
AFC - #5 New England Patriots (10-7) at #4 Buffalo Bills (11-6)
Saturday, January 15th - 7:15pm CST - CBS
The two AFC East rivals split the season series in 2021 and now they get their rubber match here in the playoffs. The first meeting in Buffalo was dominated by New England’s defense and ground game, pulverizing the Bills into submission, basically without quarterback play. The second meeting in New England saw the Bills turn the tables on the Pats thanks to a big game from Josh Allen on offense. On defense, the Bills forced Mac Jones to get far more involved than the first game, and they forced him into mistakes because of it. This game should play out more like the second meeting but will likely be the closest meeting of the three. This one will ultimately come down to quarterback play. Josh Allen will outplay his rookie counterpart Mac Jones, as Buffalo wins the rubber match at home. Buffalo wins 21-17.
NFC - #7 Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
Sunday, January 16th - 12:00pm CST - FOX
This one is fairly simple. The reigning champs are tasked with one main focus, which is to stop Philly’s top-ranked rushing attack. If any defense is up to the task though, it’s Tampa, who gave up under 93 rushing yards-per-game this season. On the opposite side, Philly is tasked with stopping Tom Brady and the NFL’s top-ranked passing attack, which will be a much tougher task for the Eagles defense. The Bucs have seen their receiving corps take some big hist since their dismantling against the Saints and AB’s outburst at the Jets, but they have gotten Mike Evans back to form and the rest of the reviewers have had a few weeks to get up to speed in the absence of Chris Godwin and the aforementioned AB. This will be the second meeting between these two teams this season, and although Philly came close to rallying from a big deficit at home that time, they won't be able to rally on the road in the playoffs. Philly is 0-6 against playoff teams this season and they will once again find themselves in the loss column here. Tampa wins 32-20.
NFC - #6 San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at #3 Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
Sunday, January 16th - 3:30pm CST - CBS
This could be a very intriguing matchup at Dallas. The Cowboys, despite a loss to Arizona a couple of weeks back, have been clicking on all cylinders since their OT loss to Las Vegas on Thanksgiving. San Francisco’s path to the playoffs has been far more uneven, yet they find themselves here nevertheless, thanks to a colossal choke job by the Rams last Sunday. The Niners may have just slid into the playoffs at the last possible moment, but they may very well be “that team” nobody wants to face in the playoffs. Unsurprisingly, their hopes for a surprising playoff run rests on the injured hand of Jimmy Garoppolo. Like a week ago, Jimmy G will need a clutch game against a tough defense. Unfortunately for San Francisco, Kyle Shanahan is as unsuccessful against the Cowboys as he has been successful against the Rams. The Dallas defense will make things quite uncomfortable for Jimmy G, while their offense will feature a far more varied attack led by much better quarterback play than they faced in Los Angeles. Dallas will get a big start much like the Rams did a week ago, but this team will show how to protect an early lead by building upon it and getting the best from their best players. Although theoretically a Niners upset wouldn't be surprising, this matchup makes it unlikely. Dallas wins 42-23.
AFC - #7 Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7-1) at #2 Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)
Sunday, January 16th - 7:15pm CST - NBC
Unlike the Saints, all the breaks went right for the Steelers to make this years’ playoff field, primarily the sheer ineptitude of the Chargers’ head coach last Sunday night. Their prize is a trip to face the three-time AFC finalist, two-time AFC Champion Chiefs. Pittsburgh’s best hope for the upset is for TJ Watt and the Steeler defense to make life as uncomfortable as possible for Patrick Mahomes, which is feasible. Far more unlikely is for Ben Roethlisberger to play his best game of the season against this middling Chiefs defense. It is far more likely Kansas City ends Big Ben’s tenure in Pittsburgh thanks to another big performance from Mahomes and company in Arrowhead. Kansas city wins 39-29.
NFC - #5 Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at #4 Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
Monday, January 17th - 7:15pm CST - ESPN
The Rams folded in Falcons-like fashion last week yet they move on to the playoffs in spite of the bedwetting. Now they face a team dealing with their own struggles in their divisional rivals, the Arizona Cardinals. For most of the season, Arizona seemed destined for the top-seed in the NFC, until their brutal loss at home to the eventual top-seeded Packers. The Cards have gone 4-6 since that loss and have had a tough time finding their footing since that mid-season loss. Now they face their own rubber match against the Rams, having won their early season matchup and losing the late season rematch. Matthew Stafford, San Francisco’s hero from a week ago, has yet to win a playoff game in his decade-plus career, but will find a way not to blow this one thanks to a little turnover luck from the quarterback on the other side from a change. This one will be close throughout, but an unfortunate Kyler Murray turnover will seal the game in the end, forcing us all to watch the Rams move on to the Divisional Round. Los Angeles wins 28-21.
Let’s see what the Wild Card round has in store. Here’s to an entertaining playoff weekend. Leave us your picks, comments, and insight below!