Greatest Story on Turf Wild Card Weekend
Updated: Jan 22, 2022
6. Chiefs vs. Steelers
Storyline: No Country for Old Men
The Legend Killer Patrick Mahomes is primed and ready to end the career of Big Ben. However, despite what Ben says, he is not prepared to go away quietly. He was embarrassed last year in the playoffs, and he wants to leave a lasting impression in the playoffs. On paper, the Chiefs severely outmatch the Steelers. It's the biggest talent gap of the wildcard weekend.
However, the Chiefs are a little banged up. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are banged up, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire is out. People are suggesting that the Chiefs should even rest some starters. However, the Steelers know they are the underdogs. They also know they owe the Chiefs one from earlier in the season. Plus, they have nothing to lose. They aren't even supposed to be in the playoffs. They are playing for Ben, and they want to send him off the right way. Don't underestimate the Steelers. This is still a playoff game, and the Steelers are one of the scrappiest teams in the league. It will be a war of wills. Will Mahomes forge ahead and cement his dynasty, or will Big Ben be able to pull one more trick from his sleeve to bolster his own legacy?
5. Eagles vs. Bucs
Storyline: Brady vs. The Eagles 3
Tom Brady has been around for such a long time. In the first war, Brady defeated Donovan McNabb's Eagles and stopped them from reaching ultimate success in Super Bowl 39, even though many thought the Eagles were the better team. In the second war, Nick Foles defeated Brady in Super Bowl 52. This time people felt like the Patriots had the better team. Brady terrorized Andy Reid and his new team, the Chiefs preventing them from reaching a Super Bowl in the AFC Championship in 2018. Brady went on to win another Super Bowl that year. Then, Brady met Andy again last year in the Super Bowl and beat him again.
This year, Brady will meet the Eagles for the first time in the playoffs. Most people would say Brady has the better team this year. However, the Eagles are healthy, and the Bucs are the opposite of healthy. Can Brady defeat the Eagles and go up 2-1 on them? Or will Jalen Hurts prove he is the franchise and forge his legacy at Brady's expense?
4. Bills vs. Patriots
Storyline: Frozen in Time
History often repeats itself, and it definitely is in this game, but for who? The Bills had historically lost their shirts to the Patriots, but it feels like it's finally their time. Like Skip Bayless, the Bills fans feel it's finally their turn. Is it though? They split wins with the Patriots during the season. One game, they ran over the Patriots, and in another game, they were defeated in their own stadium in freezing cold temperatures. Well, the Bills will have the home-field advantage again, and they will be in freezing cold temperatures again. Can they beat Patriots this time and cement the fact that it's their division now? It feels like they have to because a lot of their coaches may be moving on next season to coach other teams, so this moment with this staff is fleeting. They need to capture it.
The Patriots look to be turning back the clocks on their dynasty. They got their defense back, and they spent the most money they have in a while in free agency and got some pieces around their rookie QB, Mac Jones. Some call Mac the baby goat, comparing him to Brady. Brady won a Super Bowl in his first year as a starter. Can Mac do the same? Mac had been brilliant most of the year, but then he played the Bills in the cold and threw three passes. The Patriots won the game, but a part of Mac never left that field. He has been terrible since, and he was routed in their second matchup with the Bills. Now, he gets a chance to turn back the clocks. Mac gets to face the Bills again, in the cold again, and at the Bills stadium again. Can he find that piece of himself he lost on the field in the first matchup and reclaim his greatness? This could be Mac's version of Brady's first playoff win in the snow against the Raiders, and the dynasty could begin again or the game could destroy Mac and signal the end of the Patriots.
3. Raiders vs. Bengals
Storyline: Feast or Famine?
Both of these teams have been dying of thirst in terms of playoff success. The Raiders, the outlaws of the league, have had to fight through on and off-the-field adversity. They shouldn't have made it this far, but they scratched and clawed and battled, and they upset teams and refused to lose. It came down to the last second of overtime in the game of the season led by the phenomenal Derek Carr. The Raiders knocked the Chargers out and made the playoffs. It's also interesting to note the Raiders last made the playoffs in 2016. When Gruden was hired in 2018, he tore the team down and rebuilt, but they didn't make it back until after he was fired.
The Raiders won a playoff game in 2002. However, the Bengals haven't won a playoff game in thirty years. Joe Burrow has changed the culture. He was drafted to a losing organization, and he did a lot of losing his first year, but he never got used to losing and he kept competing. Now, just a year later, he has led the Bengals to the playoffs, and they command one of the most potent NFL offenses in the league. Both of these teams are hungry, and I expect a dogfight. One of these teams will finally have their playoff drought ended, but which one?
2. Cowboys vs. 49ers
Storyline: Recapturing the Glory Days
Both the 49ers and the Cowboys are two-storied franchises with a history of success. The 49ers have the most recent success, but the Cowboys are the better team on paper this year. The 49ers are a rag-tag bunch that has forced their way into the playoffs, and they are the most physical team in the playoffs. The Cowboys are the most talented team in the playoffs, and it's time to see what attribute wins out.
The Cowboys have been a meme for a while, but this year is different. They are serious contenders, and they are the most talented and healthy team in the playoffs. It's their time, their moment that they need to capture. They have to put it all together and bring home the championship. Dak Prescott is the highest-paid QB. It's time for him to prove that he is elite without a shadow of a doubt. It's time for Mike McCarthy to prove his Super Bowl ring wasn't all Aaron Rodgers. It's time for the Cowboys to prove they are still a championship-caliber franchise.
The 49ers have a lot to prove as well. They made it to a Super Bowl, but they didn't win. They only ever won games with Jimmy Garoppolo, but they have paid up to replace him. The problem is, once again, Jimmy G is the one leading the way to Super Bowl. Jimmy G has an injured hand, and he is fighting for his QB life out there. He is fighting to reclaim the title he lost and prove he is the man, and if not for the 49ers, then for other teams. 49ers want to win a championship before their window closes, and this could be their last bite of the apple for a while. This matchup could vindicate one of these great franchises, but which one?
1. Cardinals vs. Rams
Storyline: For the First Time in Forever
The Cardinals are making their first playoff run of this era. They are meeting a division rival they have beat before. However, they have also been beaten by the Rams. This one is for all the marbles. The Cardinals have a bad tendency to fall off at the end of the season, and they don't have playoff experience, but they are trying to rewrite the narrative. They are trying to get their first playoff win. The Cardinals are ready to have their coming-out party. They want everyone to know they are an elite team that people can trust and prove that Murray is one of the elite QBs. They can do that with a playoff win.
However, the Rams will have something to say about that. They are one of the most talented teams in the playoffs, and they aren't messing around. To paraphrase J. Cole, "If they had been betting on themselves, they have completely doubled down." They traded their future for Matthew Stafford, traded for Odell Beckham Jr., and traded for Von Miller and Sony Michel. They believe their time is now, and they have put their money where their mouth is. They won the division, but the playoffs are where we see if they made the right choices. Stafford has never won a playoff game, but everyone has seen his greatness. However, he has been struggling with pick-sixes lately. He has been shielded from criticism because most people want to see him win, and they believe in his talent. Plus, he is on a new team, and everyone recognizes how hard it is to change teams. So, everyone has been holding their breath until playoffs to see who Stafford truly is. Stafford has a unique opportunity to rewrite the narrative of his career. If he can win a playoff game, he basically writes his ticket to the Hall of Fame and confirms everyone's suspensions about his talent. However, if he loses and fails to secure a playoff win with the Rams, the floodgates will open on Stafford and the Rams. One of these franchises will be turning the corner, but which one?