The 2023 NFL Playoffs are upon us, and unfortunately the New Orleans Saints are not among this year’s playoff field. 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 8-8
I told you so: Jaguars over Titans!
What do I know: Saints over Panthers?
WILD CARD WEEKEND
NFC - #7 Seattle Seahawks (9-8) at #2 San Francisco 49ers (13-4)
Saturday, January 14th - 3:30pm CST - FOX
The NFL’s best defense will prove they are just that, having the most dominant defensive effort of the Wild Card round. The key will be San Francisco’s disruptive defensive front shutting down the Seattle ground game while also getting to Geno Smith early and often. On the other side, the Niners will get big performances from their stars in Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle. But it will ultimately be rookie standout Brock Purdy who shines brightest, after shaking off some possible playoff nerves, coming through with a huge performance to earn his first playoff win, and it certainly won't be his last. San Francisco wins 24-10.
AFC - #5 Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) at #4 Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)
Saturday, January 14th - 7:15pm CST - NBC
Jags fans have waited a half-decade to get back to the playoffs, and the crowd in DUUUVAL will be electric. Both Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence make their playoff debuts under the bright lights in this one, and both will be expected to carry their team’s fortunes despite their inexperience on this stage. Who does have crucial playoff experience in this game? Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson, who drastically overmatches his Chargers counterpart in Brandon Staley, who has a history of making critical errors in critical moments. With that, it will be Pederson and Lawrence who shine brightest under the lights in this one. Jacksonville wins 31-17.
AFC - #7 Miami Dolphins (9-8) at #2 Buffalo Bills (13-3)
Sunday, January 15th - 12:00pm CST - CBS
Miami doesn't just come limping into the playoffs, they are crawling their way into Buffalo with an offense so lifeless it would make even Pete Carmichael laugh. Now the Dolphins must face their AFC East rivals who are riding a wave of emotion in the aftermath of Damar Hamlin’s frightening ordeal. Without a healthy Tua under center for Miami, the Dolphins won't be able to keep up with Buffalo’s offensive attack, which will be carried by a monster game from star quarterback Josh Allen. Buffalo wins 26-19.
NFC - #6 New York Giants (9-7-1) at #3 Minnesota Vikings (13-4)
Sunday, January 15th - 3:30pm CST - FOX
Let’s be honest, the Vikings have lived this season on the edge of a knife, and that will continue in this matchup, which will be just as close as their Week 16 thriller on Christmas Eve. The quarterback play is pretty even in this matchup, and both QB’s will have big games, but it may ultimately come down to which rushing attack can control the game on the ground, between Saquon Barkley and Dalvin Cook. The key for the Giants is to not let Justin Jefferson, the Vikings’ best player beat them, which is far easier said than done. It will be Jefferson who comes through with the biggest plays in the end, leading the Vikings to another razor-close win. Minnesota wins 27-24.
AFC - #6 Baltimore Ravens (10-7) at #3 Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
Sunday, January 15th - 7:15pm CST - NBC
This rematch from last Sunday will look pretty similar to that game, with the reigning AFC Champions handling their AFC North rivals at home. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase will have big games on offense for Cincy, but it will be the Bengals defense that comes through with a monster effort, forcing a myriad of turnovers and shutting down the Ravens offense, who will be wishing they had Lamar Jackson on the field in this one-sided contest only kept remotely close by divisional familiarity. Cincinnati wins 23-13.
NFC - #5 Dallas Cowboys (12-5) at #4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)
Monday, January 16th - 7:15pm CST - ESPN
Since arriving in Tampa, Tom Brady has had his way with the Cowboys in their two season-opening wins against Dallas. There is a serious amount of pressure on Dallas in these playoffs and this is arguably the worst-possible draw the Cowboys could have landed right out of the gate. It will be Tampa’s front-seven taking away what Dallas does best, running the ball, that ultimately sinks the Cowboys, putting the pressure on Dak Prescott to come through with a huge play, which he will be unable to do, as he will be under a barrage of pressure all game long. Brady will make his mistakes as well, but he will also come through when he is needed the most. Brady will do Brady things, and Mike McCarthy will do Mike McCarthy things. Come Tuesday morning, Dallas may be throwing their ten-gallon hat in the Sean Payton sweepstakes ring. Tampa Bay wins 23-19.
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!