It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the National Football League. With the 12 playoff seeds set, the action is set to begin with a full slate of games this Wild Card weekend. While the NFC field in particular is loaded, the AFC Wild Card matchups will provide some intrigue as well with the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills looking to shake things up with upset victories this Saturday. Let’s take a look at the four games we’ve got on tap for Saturday and Sunday:
Buffalo Bills @ Houston Texans
Odds: Texans -2.5
While Houston is technically the higher seed, these teams finished the season with identical 10-6 records. The Bills lost three of their final four games and thus were forced to settle for a Wild Card. However, Buffalo is a team capable of registering an upset in the opening round of the playoffs.
Recent history is against Houston. There is pressure on the Texans to deliver here as this is their fourth appearance in the playoffs in their last five seasons. However, head coach Bill O’Brien has led them to just one playoff win – a victory over the Oakland Raiders, who were forced to start backup quarterback Connor Cook.
As for the Bills, they haven’t had much playoff success themselves in recent years as they haven’t won a playoff game since 1999. The 2019 squad -- led by Josh Allen, John Brown, and Devin Singletary on offense -- is much different even than the 2017 Buffalo Bills team that lost 10-3 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs. The Bills are bouyed by their defense, which is led by young talents like Tre'Davious White, Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, and Ed Oliver. Veterans like Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, Lorenzo Alexander, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde anchor the unit.
Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots
Odds: Patriots -4.5
A Week 17 loss to the Miami Dolphins at home forced the Patriots into Wild Card weekend for the first time since 2010. The last time New England played at home on Wild Card weekend, they were beat up in a lopsided loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Fast-forward to this season and the Patriots will face a tough matchup against a Tennessee side that has played well since switch to quarterback Ryan Tannehill under center. Tannehill has sparked the vertical passing attack while running back Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing this season.
Pats quarterback Tom Brady is averaging a paltry 229.4 passing yards per game over his last nine. He’ll have to play better in the playoffs if the Patriots are to contend.
Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints
Odds: Saints -8
Sunday’s NFC Wild Card games should feature plenty of fireworks including the rematch of the Minneapolis Miracle between the Saints and Vikings. This time around, New Orleans will have the home-field advantage.
With Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook banged up and uncertainty surrounding quarterback Kirk Cousins in terms of what he’ll be capable of, it’s definitely hard to trust Minnesota in this spot. The Saints are the biggest favorite on the board for Wild Card weekend.
Seattle Seahawks @ Philadelphia Eagles
Odds: Seahawks -1.5
The final matchup of the Wild Card weekend features the Seahawks travelling across the country to face Philadelphia as a 1.5-point favorite on the road. Russell Wilson and company came within inches of beating the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17, clinching the NFC West and the No. 3 seed and then hosting Minnesota in a playoff game this week. After falling short, Seattle now faces a ton of pressure trying to rally on the road.
Carson Wentz led the Eagles to four straight wins to help them claim the NFC East crown but this team has been decimated by injuries. They’ll be without their entire starting wide receiving corps, their two best offensive linemen and at least a couple of running backs.