NFL Weekly Predictions: Wild Card

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Indianapolis @ Buffalo (-6½)

The Colts beat the Jaguars 28-14 to secure a wild card spot and a date in Buffalo on Saturday. Jonathan Taylor rushed for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns to power Indianapolis.

"Jonathan was dominant," Frank Reich said. "But let's face it, he did it against the Jaguars defense, which is so porous, you, and more likely they, could drive a 'tank' through it.

"If we're going to beat the Bills, we'll need our rushing attack to again be as effective. That means Jonathan running the ball, and Philip Rivers running his mouth. Philip can make a grown man cry, with a devastatingly witty insult, or with a crucial interception in the red zone."

The Bills walloped the Dolphins 56-26 in chilly Buffalo to secure the AFC's No. 2 seed. Josh Allen passed for 3 touchdowns, while the Bills defense forced 4 turnovers and scored 2 touchdowns.

"The Dolphins came to town with the NFL's top scoring defense," Allen said. "So they arrived with the No. 1 defense, then left with a 'No. 2' defense.

"We certainly remember what happened last year in our first playoff game. We blew a 16-0 lead to the Texans and lost. We don't want history to repeat itself. History repeated itself much too often in the early 1990s. In fact, it just wouldn't shut up."

The Colts surprise the Bills and come out passing, and take an early 7-0 lead. But the Bills surprise the Colts with several designed runs for Allen, and Buffalo holds on with a late, time-consuming drive.

Bills win, 30-27.

Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle (-4½)

The Rams beat the Cardinals, 18-7, to reach the playoffs as the NFC's No. 6 seed. L.A.'s defense dominated, while John Wolford shook off an early interception and was error-free the rest of the way.

"John did what we asked of him," Sean McVay said, "which was very little. I told him, 'If you run the game plan correctly, no one will even notice you.' Now, Jared Goff has 'disappeared' before, but never because I asked him to.

"John will start against the Seahawks because Jared's thumb has not healed. 'Nine good fingers' is not what you want to hear from the doctor, unless you're Jason Pierre-Paul."

The Seahawks erased a 16-6 fourth-quarter deficit and beat the 49ers, 26-23. Russell Wilson found Tyler Lockett for 2 short TD passes to lead the charge.

"Tyler's been quiet lately," Pete Carroll said, "but he showed up in a big way against the 49ers. We call Tyler 'Bill,' because he shows up once a month.

"This will be our third game against the Rams. It's an intense rivalry, and there's a lot of animosity between the Seahawks and the Rams. We don't agree on much, if anything, but one thing we both can agree upon is that neither one of these teams is capable of winning the Super Bowl."

Seattle wins, 23-15.

Tampa Bay @ Washington (+7½)

The Buccaneers dominated the Falcons 44-27 in Tampa, led by Tom Brady's 399 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, two each to Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin.

"How'd things work out in New England?" Brady said. "You could say Cam Newton was a 'complete failure,' but that would insinuate a 'completion.'

"I love the receivers on this team. I'll take Godwin, Brown, Mike Evans, and Gronk over those receivers in New England, who, respectfully, will remain nameless, because I don't know their names.

"I hear Chase Young is 'coming for' me. Does he think the game is in Tampa? Anyway, I've got news for him: I've been chased by much scarier entities than he, like Father Time, and NFL investigators, and more NFL investigators."

Washington beat the Eagles 20-14 at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night to capture the NFC East title. Philly trailed 17-14 in the fourth quarter when Doug Pederson inexplicably pulled Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld.

"'WFT,'" Ron Rivera said, "meet 'WTF!' Less than three years ago, Doug was holding his index finger high in the air after winning the Super Bowl. On Sunday night, that index finger became a 'Giant' middle finger.

"I'm pretty sure Doug knew what he was doing. When everyone else is playing checkers, Doug's playing checkers also, but very badly.

"I think Doug set an NFL record, by alienating two quarterbacks in the span of less than a month. Doug's no 'quarterback whisperer'; he's more of a 'quarterback whimperer.'

"I don't think the Bucs will be benching Brady, so if we're going to win this game, we're going to have to take it on our own terms. Luckily, Dwayne Haskins doesn't factor into it at all. Getting rid of Haskins was the best thing that happened to this team. He was a bad influence. We call his dismissal 'Dwayne-ing the Swamp.'"

Buccaneers win, 23-19.

Baltimore @ Tennessee (+3½)

Lamar Jackson led the Ravens to a convincing 38-3 win over the Bengals in Cincinnati. Jackson passed for 3 scores and rushed for 97 yards, giving him 1,005 yards rushing this season.

"Lamar became the first quarterback in history to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons," John Harbaugh said. "We call that 'Dropping a Deuce.'

"We haven't forgotten the pain of losing to the Titans in last season's playoffs, and back in October. It hurts. If I had to describe it, I'd liken it to a stabbing pain in the side. On that note, who better to help us heal those wounds than the great Ray Lewis, who may be the greatest motivator in NFL history. Ray's such a scary motivator, when he says 'Jump,' you might reply, 'Off this bridge?' or 'Out of this window?,' or, 'Is this going to result in an out-of-court settlement?'"

Sam Sloman booted a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Titans a 41-38 win over the Texans and the AFC South crown. Derrick Henry rushed for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns, and became just the eighth player in NFL history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in a season.

"What Derrick has done this year is inhuman," Mike Vrabel said. "And the things he does to would-be tacklers is inhumane. Derrick has made the stiff arm an art form. His right arm should be bronzed and displayed in the Hall of Fame, and, for a very specific segment of the population, his right arm should be cast in latex and sold in an adult entertainment store.

"We're gonna need our defense to step up big time and make plays against the Ravens. Our defense has been so-so this season. By that, I mean 'so, so' bad."

Ravens win, 31-24.

Chicago @ New Orleans (-9)

Despite losing 35-16 at home to the Packers, the Bears fell into the NFC's No. 7 seed thanks to Arizona's loss to the Rams.

"We couldn't stop Aaron Rodgers," Matt Nagy said. "Well, we could, but it would require him to be a Bear.

"We did not play well at all as a team. Thankfully, there are at least two words that rhyme with 'suck,' and one is 'luck.' The other is what I say when I look at my quarterback depth chart.

"Whatever happens in New Orleans, we can say we had a successful year. Anytime you can go 8-8 and back your way into the playoffs, you should be happy."

The Saints crushed the Panthers 33-7 at Bank of America Stadium and enter the playoffs as the NFC's No. 2 seed. With Alvin Kamara out with COVID issues, the Saints rushed for 156 yards, while Drew Brees passed for 3 touchdowns.

"Everybody contributed," Sean Payton said. "Those are two words I never thought I'd use again after the NFL's 'Bountygate' investigation in 2010.

"Alvin will be ready to go. He's committed 100% to sending Drew off into retirement with another Super Bowl. And, Alvin really wants a ring that doesn't go in his face."

Saints win, 31-17.

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-4½)

The Browns held on and beat the Steelers 24-22 in Cleveland to earn a wild card berth and a rematch with Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.

"We celebrated," Baker Mayfield said, "but it was short-lived. We had another COVID-19 outbreak that will sideline Kevin Stefanski, two other coaches, and several players. It's like getting kicked in the nuts, while simultaneously having a cotton swab jammed so far up your nose it hits your eyebrow.

"To make matters worse, Jedrick Wills and Rashard Higgins were cited for drag racing. On the bright side, it didn't involve RuPaul.

"Have you heard? Johnny Manziel is joining a startup football league in which fans can actually call plays. It's called 'Fan Controlled Football,' and Johnny's team will be called the 'Controlled Substances.'"

With the AFC North title locked up, the Steelers rested several starters and fell 24-22 to the Browns.

"I know the Browns may be short-handed," Mike Tomlin said, "but we can't worry about that. We have to handle ourselves. We have to handle our business, much like Lamar Jackson once did on a Monday night, when he 'took care of business.' And that's our mindset."

Steelers win, 31-22.

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