NFL Weekly Predictions: Wild Card

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Las Vegas @ Cincinnati (-6½)

The Bengals lost 21-16 at Cleveland without Joe Burrow and several other starters.

"As Case Keenum/Brandon Allen matchups go," Burrow said, "this was a real barnburner. Nothing says 'last week of the season with absolutely no playoff implications' like 'Keenum vs. Allen.'

"We really had nothing to play for. And that's been pretty common for this franchise in the last week of the season for quite some time. We're looking for the franchise's first playoff win since 1990. That's over three decades of not winning a playoff game. It literally has been a lifetime ago that the Bengals won a playoff game.

"But fate could be on our side. It's going to be around 30 degrees on Saturday in Cincinnati, and cold weather is Derek Carr's kryptonite. Carr is 0-5 since 2014 starting games in which the temperature at kickoff was under 38. He's also never won a game in February regardless of weather conditions. But then again, neither have I."

The Raiders beat the Chargers 35-32 at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday night and claimed the AFC's final playoff spot.

"It was win or go home," Derek Carr said. "So, our analytics department, which consists of a coin, told us we had no other choice but to 'go for it.' But not from our own 18 yard line.

"Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will have his hands full scheming a defense to stop the Bengals. We all know Joe Burrow likes to celebrate wins with a cigar on occasion. For this game, we're calling our defense 'Bill Clinton,' because a cigar better not be in anyone's mouth after the game."

Bengals win, 30-17.

New England @ Buffalo (-4½)

The Patriots lost 33-24 at Miami and enter the playoffs as a wild card, and will face the Bills in Buffalo. Mac Jones struggled against Miami's aggressive defense, and later described his performance as "super embarrassing."

"'Super-embarrassing performance' is not a phrase you want to be uttering as a quarterback," Jones said. "Unless you're Doug Flutie, and you just gave a reason why a gullible mark watching at home should order a jar of Nugenix, while your sidekick Frank Thomas looms over you like a giant.

"But if there's anything that needs a testosterone boost, it's me and my arm. And if there's one thing to 'supplement' my limits as a passer, it's our running game.

"It's gonna be cold in Buffalo on Saturday night. I'm talking single digits. I don't care how great a player is, that kind of weather is hard to withstand. Bill Belichick said even the great Lawrence Taylor had trouble with single digit temperatures. He preferred them more in the teens."

The Bills locked up the AFC East title with a 27-10 win over the visiting Jets.

"We split with the Patriots in the regular season," Sean McDermott said. "So that makes this playoff the 'rubber match.' To commemorate the occasion, every fan in attendance will receive a free Trojan condom. Should the game go to overtime, each fan will subsequently receive a Trojan Extended Pleasure condom.

"The forecast for Saturday in Buffalo calls for a high temperature of 10 degrees and a low of one. With those temperatures, coupled with the frenzied insanity of the Bills Mafia, I'm guessing you'll see a lot of things, like tables, Patriots merchandise, and humans, on fire. Trust me, I've seen what the people of the Bills Mafia eat and drink; there's gonna be more things 'inflamed' than just hemorrhoids."

Bills win, 26-24.

Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay (-8½)

With a wild card berth sewn up, the Eagles rested most of their starters as the Cowboys cruised to a 51-26 win on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Philly earned a trip to face Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Tampa.

"Tom Brady shudders when he has to face the Eagles in the playoffs," Nick Sirianni said. "That could be due to bad memories from the Super Bowl 52 loss, or due to excited anticipation, knowing he threw for over 500 yards in that game.

"Our game plan is no secret. We're gonna be like railing at FedEx Field and hold nothing back. We're going to run the ball, but we'll have to do so around Tampa's All-Pro nose tackle Vita Vea. Vea's a massive human being. It's not often you task your ball carriers with circumnavigating anything, much less a person."

The Buccaneers beat the Panthers, 41-17, and moved up to the No. 2 seed with the Rams loss to the 49ers. Tom Brady passed for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns, and totaled a career-best 5,316 yards passing for the year.

"Those 5,316 yards led the league," Brady said. "If you look back at the NFL's history, most 44-year-olds could only lead the league in age, or be dead from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

"I'm not done winning Super Bowls. Trust me, when I choose to walk away, it won't be a rash decision, like that of Antonio Brown. It will be slow, and deliberate, and procedural, much like my 40-yard-dash at the 2000 NFL Combine.

"And speaking of Antonio Brown, I'd like A.B. to know that he is still welcome in my house. It just has to be one of my houses that I'm not at. And he's not allowed to move any of the furniture, or open any of the windows. And, he's always welcome to leave unexpectedly."

Buccaneers win, 27-23.

San Francisco @ Dallas (-3½)

The 49ers stormed back from an early 17-0 deficit to the Rams before mounting a comeback that culminated in a 27-24 overtime win that put San Francisco in the playoffs. Deebo Samuel rushed for a touchdown, passed for a touchdown, and had 4 receptions for 95 yards.

"Good things always happen when the ball is in Deebo's hands," Kyle Shanahan said. "I would love to be able to say the same about my quarterbacks.

"But sometimes, you just have to say 'what the hell,' let your quarterback sling it, and face the consequences. And you know me, I face consequences head on, by blaming Jimmy. If there's one thing I'm not afraid to throw, it's blame.

"The Cowboys and 49ers have won a combined 10 Super Bowls. Good memories, and good memory, if you can name the year of either team's last title."

Dak Prescott passed for 5 touchdowns as the Cowboys hammered the Eagles 51-26 in Philadelphia.

"Dak broke Tony Romo's Cowboys record for most TD passes in a season," Mike McCarthy said. "Since he did it against Philly's third-string, the media didn't make a big deal about it. In fact, the news broke first on the Corona Hotline.

"Dak still has a ways to go if he wants to match Tony's career accomplishments. But he's well on his way, because like Romo, he's never sniffed a Super Bowl championship.

"I'm confident our defense can make life difficult for Jimmy Garoppolo. I'm a lot like Kyle Shanahan in that I don't have faith in Jimmy G. either."

The Dallas defense limits Samuel, but George Kittle picks up the slack with 8 catches for 114 yards and 2 scores.

San Fran wins, 28-26.

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City (-12½)

The Steelers beat the Ravens 16-13 in overtime and earned an unlikely playoff berth thanks to Jacksonville's win over the Colts.

"We owe the Jags a debt of gratitude," Mike Tomlin said. "And we owe the Chargers something too. If they don't find a way to lose that game, we'd be home for the playoffs. So, I feel there's no more appropriate gift to send Brandon Staley than a 'tie.'

"Trevor Lawrence finally showed the talent you'd expect to see from the overall No. 1 pick. He looked good against the Colts. Trevor played less like a sub and more like a legitimate spokesperson for a sub.

"T.J. Watt had one sack and tied Michael Strahan's NFL record of 22½ sacks. I heard that Michael Strahan fell down when he found out his record was tied. As you would expect, he landed right on top of Brett Favre."

The Chiefs beat the Broncos 28-24 in Denver on Saturday night and had to settle for the AFC's No. 2 seed when the Titans clinched the top seed with a win at Houston.

"We know the Steelers always bring the defense," Patrick Mahomes said, "but you shouldn't underestimate their offense. We shouldn't, but we're going to anyway. That Steelers offense is 21st in the league in points per game. They're scoring only 20 points on a weekly basis. So, they're scoring points on a weakly basis. I think it all boils down to quarterback arm strength. I can throw a ball out of the stadium. Big Ben can barely throw it in the stadium.

"I hate to say it, but my younger brother Jackson will probably do something stupid at the game or on social media. He's a disgrace to the name 'Mahomes,' and also a disgrace to the correct spelling of the name 'Mahomes.' But for what he lacks in football talent, he fails to make up for it with any other talent."

Chiefs win, 31-23.

Arizona @ L.A. Rams (-4½)

The Rams lost 27-24 to the 49ers in overtime, but clinched the NFC West anyway thanks to Arizona's loss to Seattle.

"We're hosting the first ever playoff game at SoFi Stadium," Sean McVay said. "It's going to be epic. Unlike those of the Chargers, our fans actually show up to our games, albeit 1-2 hours late, due to traffic.

"People may question Matthew Stafford's ability to lead a team in the playoffs. I myself have no worries whatsoever. Many would consider what I just said as an example of my 'lie-ability,' which sounds a lot like the word 'liability.' Hopefully, Matthew can draw some motivation from what his Georgia Bulldogs did. I'm not saying he should win it all, I'm just saying win one single playoff game."

The Cardinals lost 38-30 at home to the Seahawks. A win would have given Arizona the NFC West crown due to the Rams loss to the 49ers.

"This will be our third meeting with the Rams," Kliff Kingsbury said. "So, we both know each other well. For example, we both know that neither team is very adept at clinching a division outright.

"We're pretty amped to be playing in the Monday night game to anchor Super Wild Card Weekend. I'm excited to coach in my first playoff game, and show the doubters what I can do. Those very doubters kind of agree, because they say since it's my first playoff game, it will show."

McVay opts for a conservative game plan, heavy on the run, and Aaron Donald locks up the middle of the trenches, freeing his cohorts to control Kyler Murray from the outside in.

Rams win, 31-24.

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