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The Greatest Story on Turf: Wildcard Weekend

6. Dolphins vs. Bengals

Poetic Justice Put it in a Song.

The Dolphins still need their starting or backup Qb and will be starting Skyler Thompson as their third string Qb in the playoffs. It's unfortunate for Tua, who has been ruled out because of injury. It's an unfortunate situation for the Fins fans whose team has finally made playoffs, but they can't really take advantage of it. It's not because Skylar is a horrible QB, but he isn't the starter, and it's unfortunate that the Dolphins can't go best-on-best with the rest of the AFC.

However, it's poetic that the Dolphins have ended up as cannon fodder for the Bills. The Dolphins beat the Bills in their first game. However, to beat the Bills, they sacrificed Tua and kept him in the game after clear signs that he wasn't alright. They won that game, and they even made playoffs, but now, when it's time to face the Bills for a chance to advance to the Super Bowl, the Dolphins don't have Tua because of that decision in the first Bills vs. Dolphins game.

For the Bills, it's happening all over again. They are facing this year's Patriots. A division rival they split games with in the regular season. A rival that had a hot run during the regular season but, for some reason or another, is now a limited ceiling team who is just lucky to have made playoffs. The Dolphins are a talented team, and they will fight tooth and nail to come out ahead. However, can the Bills continue to stay within themselves, play their game, and win their 8th straight game?

Prediction Bills


5. Ravens vs. Bengals

Long Road Home

For the Ravens, this playoff game is a mixed bag. Last season the Ravens lost Lamar Jackson to injury, they couldn't sustain the lead in the AFC North, and they missed the playoffs. This year the Ravens only had to win one game to sustain the lead that Lamar gave them in the playoff race. However, once again, they have lost him to injury. However, the organization's relationship with Lamar must be considered in this current situation.

Lamar Jackson saved John Harborough's job by taking the Ravens to the playoffs in his rookie year. He has won a unanimous MVP, and his win-loss record is immaculate. Yet when it came time to pay Lamar, the Ravens got quiet. Currently, the Ravens have refused to pay the market rate for their elite Qb. In addition to that, the Ravens have never supported Lamar with weapons. Lamar had to watch as wide receivers flew around the league, new stars were drafted, and all he got was his number one receiver getting traded away.

Lamar is the only elite Qb of his year that has yet to show their potential. Lamar has never had a certified number-one receiver or a great receiving core in general. So we have never seen just how far he could go in the passing game. As a result, he has had to put his body on the line for the Ravens to produce, and it has ended with him being injured the last two years.

The Ravens now do not have Lamar available for this playoff game. Maybe if the Ravens paid him, he would be more willing to risk his body for this game. Maybe if the Ravens gave him receivers, he could depend on them to get open, and he wouldn't even be hurt right now. The Ravens didn't want to pay Lamar. Fine, you get what you pay for. Go out and win with Huntley. You wanted to draft, pay for, and trade for defensive players. Fine, go let your defense win the game. By pay and roster construction, the Ravens have treated Lamar like he isn't their driving force. So they deserve this opportunity to try and win in the playoffs without him.

For the Bengals, this is simple. They are on the road back to the Super Bowl to finish what they started last year, and they know what they need to do and how to do it. This Raven's game should be easy for them, but it will still be a valuable test. Can the Bengals do what they are supposed to do? Meaning, can the Bengals avoid beating themselves and giving the Raven's opportunities to win? Can the Bengals fight through the Raven's tough defense that has given them problems in the past and avoid creating film that more well-rounded playoff teams can use against them in the coming rounds?

Prediction Bengals


4. Seahawks vs. 49ers

Hey, Look at us. Who Would Have thought? Not Me

The Seahawks were supposed to fall apart without Russell Wilson. Pete Caroll was supposed to be exposed. Geno was supposed to be one of the worst Qb's in the league. However, Geno revived his career this year and played the best football of his life. Pete Caroll showed why he is a future Hall of Famer, and the Seahawk's defense turned into a force over the course of the season. Now one of the worst projected teams in the league is in the playoffs.

They play the 49ers, one of the league's most dominant teams. Even Pete Caroll said, "Unfortunately, we play the 49ers." However, Pete Caroll knows there is a way to win every game. Pete Caroll has made a career out of winning games he wasn't supposed to win and always finding a way to be relevant. The 49ers have played the Seahawks twice, and twice they have beaten the Seahawks. However, all losses aren't created equal. The 49ers blew the Seahawks out 27-7 in the first game, but it was a one-score game in the second. It's hard to beat a team three times in a row. Can Pete Caroll pull out the upset?

The 49ers are a stacked team that was expected to get to the playoffs, but the road hasn't been linear. The 49ers started the year with Lance, who struggled in camp. Then he lost to Justin Fields, who the 49ers passed on. Then right after that, he got injured in the first Seahawks game, and immediately Jimmy G came in, and the team looked better. Jimmy had the team rolling, and the defense got going after a little struggle, and then the 49ers traded for Christian McCaffery, and they looked unstoppable. Then Jimmy got hurt, and Brock Purdy stepped in, and he was sensational. However, now it's playoff time, and every player is under more pressure than ever. Ironically the last Qb drafted after the first round and win a playoff game was the Seahawk's, Russell Wilson. Will the pressure crush Purdy or turn him into a diamond?

Prediction 49ers


3.Giants vs. Vikings

What Are You Made of?

The Vikings have had one of the most exciting seasons in the NFL. Watching the Vikings play football this season has been like watching Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. It's exciting, action-packed, and inspiring, but it also makes you wonder if this is all planned or are the Vikings flying by the seat of their pants and finding a way to bail themselves out of bad positions. The Viking's first-year head coach has led the team to a 13-4 record, and everyone seems to be playing better. However, because the Vikings are always in close games, most people don't believe in them. In the playoffs, the Vikings have a chance to show the world who they really are. Are they a fluke team that will fold under pressure in the bright lights of the playoffs like so many other Viking teams, or are they exactly who their record says they are?

The Giants also have a first-year coach, and they are happy to even be in the playoffs. However, they wouldn't be here if they were just a team happy to have a winning season. The Giants believe they are as good as anyone, and they play like it. The last time the Giants and Vikings faced off, the Vikings only escaped with a three-point victory. Will they be able to get away again? The Giants could very feasibly win this game. This will be the first game for Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, and Daboll as a head coach. Will they be able to rise to the occasion? How far can the Giants go?

Prediction Vikings


2.Jaguars vs. Chargers

At Who's Expense

This is a very tight game. The Jaguars have the worst of the two teams on paper. However, they are also healthier than the Chargers. They also have a coach with Super Bowl head coaching experience, whereas the Chargers have a coach making his debut in the playoffs as a head coach. The Jaguars also have a defense that guards the run better than the Chargers and gets more takeaways than the Chargers do. However, the Chargers are bottom five in the league in giveaways. This game is going to come down to Trevor Lawrence. Everyone keeps saying how special he is despite him really only being good up to this point.

The playoffs are where Lawrence will prove whether or not he is special. Trevor wasn't great in the last game of the season, where the Jaguars were playing for their playoff lives. He had a few errant throws, one of which was sailing a ball to a receiver who was completely alone in the endzone. Trevor was by no means horrible in that game, but he was also by no means great. In the end, the defense got the deciding score and determined the game for the Jaguars. In the Jaguar's first meeting with the Chargers, the defense shut down an injured Chargers team, leading to a win. In this playoff game, the Jaguar's defense won't be able to completely stop a healthier Chargers air attack. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne will determine the outcome of this game. The Charger's run defense is not great. The Jags will win if Etienne can run wild on the Chargers, and Trevor can play efficiently against a tough Chargers secondary. Can they stand up to the challenge? Will Trevor Lawrence have a coming-out party at Herbert's expense?

Herbert is making his playoff debut, and he will finally get to prove whether or not he belongs in the company of the other elite Qbs. His first task is to distinguish himself from Lawrence. You would think Herbert would be a no-brainer pick over a second-year Qb, but there actually isn't that much distinguishing him from Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars. Both Herbert and Lawrence are NFL darlings. Lawrence is a guy who was picked number one overall and touted as a generational talent. Herbert is a guy who came out of nowhere when the Qb ahead of him got hurt. Herbert will be the one to determine the game on his side as well. The Jaguars are a top-12 run defense, but they aren't as good at defending the pass. If The Chargers are going to win, it needs to come from Herbert. Which NFL darling will come out on top?

Also, Staley's job should be on the line. His boneheaded decision to keep his starters in a meaningless game at the end of the season has cost them Mike Williams for the playoffs. Also, his boneheaded decision last year to call a timeout in the Raiders game cost them a playoff spot. Staley has been making bad choices that have cost this team. If he can't turn it around in the playoffs, the Chargers need to consider whether or not this is the coach that should guide this team in the future.

Prediction Chargers


1. Bucs vs. Cowboys

80 Percent Mental

Now is the time when the Cowboys get a chance to quiet the haters and naysayers. They have the perfect opponent to do it against. It's the Goat Tom Brady in a down year where he and the Bucs are lucky to even be in the playoffs. If the Cowboys play to their potential, they should win this game. However, this is the perfect test because the Bucs have the mental edge. I have criticized the Cowboys all season for not being mentally strong and winning the games they are supposed to win. The Cowboys have never beaten Tom Brady. Can they overcome the mental edge that Tom holds over them and play within themselves and win the game? Or will they shoot themselves in the foot, throw pick-sixes, and go three and out, trying to be too aggressive? Mike McCarthy has been criticized for his situational awareness. Tom Brady and the Bucs thrive at situational football. They are the perfect test for the Cowboy's coach and players. The Bucs are a talented team, and they will test the Cowboys mentally and physically.

The Bucs have been having a down year. For some reason, it could be the offensive line injuries and defensive injuries. The Bucs have never put it all together for whatever reason this year. The offense especially has looked awful this year, and it doesn't make sense with all the talent this team has. However, the Bucs have made it to the playoffs, and it's now a new season. Can Brady do what he has always done and flip that switch in the playoffs? Can he beat the Cowboys for the eighth straight time? Or is this the year we see Tom fall off and realize he can't flip that switch anymore?

Prediction Bucs




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