Win or go home for twelve teams on wildcard weekend

It’s all to play for in the first year of the extended playoff format.

Six games, two days and one action-packed weekend await fans across the globe. Fourteen teams have earned the right to be in the playoffs and twelve are set to compete this weekend. The new playoff format means that only one team gets a bye into the divisional round – compared to two in previous years.

Saturday

Colts @ Bills

The Buffalo Bills have enjoyed a wealth of success this season and the plaudits should go to Josh Allen and his ability to lead this offense. Allen has emerged as an elite-level talent at Quarterback. The addition of Stefon Diggs in the off-season took the Buffalo offense to a new level. The Indianapolis Colts had to win last weekend to earn their playoff spot and rookie running back Jonathon Taylor put the team on his back. Taylor rushed for an astounding 253 yards and two touchdowns. This matchup will be an exciting end to end game in my opinion – with both offenses giving everything they’ve got to progress.

Rams @ Seahawks

We should expect a cagey start in this game as both offenses try to find their footing early on. The LA Rams still don’t know who their starting QB will be come Saturday. Jared Goff is still questionable to play with a thumb injury so the starting job still lies with John Wolford. For Seattle to be successful, the offense must get into rhythm early. Russell Wilson must establish a clear connection with his receivers and utilise their ability. It’s no secret Jalen Ramsey will lockdown one half of the field so the Seahawks should scheme to the opposite side, using Tyler Lockett to their advantage. The Seahawks are carrying the momentum into this game and I expect them to run out victorious.

Buccaneers @ Washington  

Tom Brady has taken the Buccaneers back to the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Washington Football Team was last there in 2015. Playing in the late game on Saturday night, a national audience will have the opportunity to watch this game in a prime time capacity. The story of Alex Smith is one that warms hearts the world over and with him now having the chance to play in the playoffs – this narrative will be the true winner regardless of the result. Unfortunately, empathy doesn’t win football games and Smith and the WFT have their work cut out for them if they want to beat an in-form Brady and Tampa.

Sunday

Ravens @ Titans

Perhaps one of the most contentious matchups of the weekend, the Ravens and Titans have a history of bad blood dating back to last year’s divisional round. The Titans shocked many by eliminating the Ravens last season and when the pair met earlier in the season it was Tennessee who once again came out on top. Expect a hard-hitting, fast pace, run first offense type of game in this AFC grudge match.

Bears @ Saints

The Saints luck in the playoffs in recent years has been nothing short of abysmal. The Chicago Bears’ season, despite making it to the playoffs, has been quite close to abysmal. They got off to a 5-1 start before losing six consecutive games. This matchup has all the makings of a game that will go down to the wire. The cocktail of the Saints rotten luck, and the unpredictability of the Bears means this game is likely to be exciting and a Bears upset would not be a shocking result.

Browns @ Steelers 

This is the game of the weekend. The Cleveland Browns are back in the playoffs following an 18-year drought. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the team to beat all season long but a couple of losses in the second half of the season stained their record and cost them the number one seed, finishing as the third overall seed. Covid has sidelined a large majority of the Brown’s coaching staff and key players on both sides of the ball. It is likely we have been robbed of the true potential blockbuster we all wanted but nonetheless this game is set to be tense, tight and feisty throughout.

Expect drama across the board as the 2020 playoffs, and the road to Tampa begins. With everyone having sacrificed so much to reach this stage of the season, all teams will be putting everything on the line to progress in this do or die scenario.

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Michael Lavery writes on behalf of the Irish NFL Show who are in partnership with Pundit Arena. Tune into their Sunday, Monday and Thursday shows every week on Facebook.