NFL Playoff Picks: Wild Card Weekend

This weekend, the NFL holds its first-ever six-game Wild Card Weekend, during a global pandemic, a few days after the U.S. Capitol was put under siege. Read the room, guys.

But hey, if the games will go on, so will the picks, despite the fact that neither John nor Joe is particularly good at making them. Presumably, the lack of a hometown team in the field will increase the chances of them actually getting things right. There’s only one way to find out…to the picks!

NFC

#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at #4 Washington Football Team

John: 2020 was finally the year to bet against the Patriots. 2021 is not a year to bet against Tom Brady. At least not in the first round. Against a team with a losing record. Pick: Buccaneers

Joe: Folks have been talking about the fifth seed destroying the NFC East champion on Wild Card Weekend since, like, mid-October. And yet, why do I feel like it isn’t going to happen? Mike Evans’ status is unknown, but Brady still has enough weapons at his disposal; having said that, the Football Team defense is pretty good! However, the Football Team offense is not. This game will be surprisingly close, though it will still signal the last time we can use “Football Team” without looking like hipster dorks. Pick: Buccaneers

#6 Los Angeles Rams at #3 Seattle Seahawks

John: Divisional opponents are a tough prediction, but this one smells like a road upset. Look for Jared Goff to bounce back from his empty effort on December 27 and find the end zone. Pick: Rams

Joe: We spent all year wondering what was wrong with Carson Wentz, but the guy drafted ahead of him, Goff, didn’t exactly inspire the confidence of his fan base, either. In fact, his backup, “John Wolford,” played well enough in Week 17 to lead the Rams to a victory that clinched a playoff berth and cause a bit of controversy this week. If Goff is healthy enough to play, who starts? Who cares; Seattle might have shown multiple personalities this season, but the ‘Hawks will beat the Rams. Pick: Seahawks

#7 Chicago Bears at #2 New Orleans Saints

John: Despite their hiccups against Philly and Kansas City, New Orleans closed out the season with two straight victories. No way the Saints lose this one. Pick: Saints (lock)

Joe: In past playoff years, the Saints would be resting and awaiting Seattle, Tampa Bay, or Washington in the next round. This year, they have to take on the Bears, led by Mitch Trubisky. And, when he’s 4-of-22 for 27 yards and two interceptions at halftime, Nick Foles. I think the Saints could very easily come out of the NFC, so it follows that this is my Lock of the Week; New Orleans will roll over Chicago like one of those pavers that’s supposed to fix the pothole but instead just makes it a different color than the rest of the street for a week until it begins to settle and makes the road uneven again and within a couple months it’s like they never did anything at all. I digress. Pick: Saints (lock)

AFC

#5 Baltimore Ravens at #4 Tennessee Titans

Joe: Lamar Jackson is good, right? Well, if the Titans hold serve at home, then he will be 0-3 in the playoffs in his career, and it will officially become a Thing. What’s standing in Jackson’s way? Only Derrick Henry, the third-most unstoppable force on Earth behind only gravity and that burp that just has to come out in the middle of you speaking to the group on a Zoom call for work. Curse you, carbonated beverage! Anyway, this will be a high-scoring affair, but I think Bawl’mer gets its revenge for its stunning Divisional Round loss a season ago. Pick: Ravens

John: The Ravens took a step back after entering the playoffs as a heavy favorite last year. Baltimore brings the #8 rushing defense against Henry; odds are Henry will carry Tennessee to just one more win. Pick: Titans

#6 Cleveland Browns at #3 Pittsburgh Steelers

Joe: These two teams met a week ago, and Pittsburgh was a two-point conversion away from tying it late…with Mason “The Guy Myles Garrett Tried to Decapitate with His Own Helmet” Rudolph at quarterback in a game that Cleveland absolutely had to win. It’s cool that the Browns don’t suck, but I feel like they need to show me something before I go and pick them to win a playoff game on the road. Pick: Steelers

John: No NFL team got screwed by the league more often than the Steelers in 2020. These teams went 1-1 against each other in the regular season, but the Browns barely squeaked by in a quasi-bye week effort from Pittsburgh. Pick: Steelers

GAME OF THE WEEK: #7 Indianapolis Colts at #2 Buffalo Bills

Joe: Buffalo enjoyed – and that is the appropriate word – its best season in a quarter century in 2020, and is a chic pick to win the whole thing. The Bills are good! But Indianapolis is, too. This could very easily be the best game of the weekend, and it’s the one that starts the whole slate. The first Wild Card Saturday game to kick off at 1:00 in years, people might not even remember it’s happening until it’s half over. Their loss, and, in this case, I believe it will be the Colts’ loss as well. Pick: Bills

John: There is a solid chance that Buffalo steamrolls the Colts this weekend, but the backstory for this game is enough to plant the seeds of doubt. Colts coach Frank Reich is a beloved figure in Buffalo. It would be apropos for Reich to knock the Bills out of the playoffs after their best season in decades. This game also has some local interest: Philadelphia-area native Sean McDermott has a shot to lead Buffalo on a rare playoff run. After its Super Bowl losses and extensive rebuilding project, Buffalo has earned the right to enjoy multiple playoff wins (finally). Pick: Bills

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