The NFL playoffs are finally here. We've got a two-game slate on Saturday, three games on Sunday, and one more on Monday night for Super Wild Card Weekend.
Just as we did throughout the regular season, we are going to treat you to a list of bold predictions for what we expect to happen during this weekend's contests. Instead of just doing a list of five, though, we're going with one prediction for each game.
Without further ado...
49ers vs. Seahawks: Kittle kills it
Perhaps no NFL player is on more of a roll right now than 49ers tight end George Kittle. He is clearly Brock Purdy's favored target among the non-Christian McCaffrey skill-position players. Over his last four games, Kittle has receiving lines of 4-93-2, 6-120-2, 4-23-1, and 4-29-2. That's 18 catches for 265 yards and seven scores in a four-game span. Meanwhile, only one NFL team allowed more receiving yards to tight ends this season than did the Seahawks, who yielded 1,115 yards to players at that position. That includes Kittle's 4-93-2 game back in Week 15. We're betting a repeat here, with Kittle going off once again, against a familiar opponent that struggles to defend players at like him.
Jaguars vs. Chargers: Justin Herbert outduels Trevor Lawrence
After putting together an outrageously good stretch of football from Week 9 through Week 15 (70.4% completions, 14 touchdowns, one interception), Lawrence slowed down a bit over the final three game of the year (67.9% completions, one touchdown, one pick). At the same time, the Chargers defense picked it up a bit over the second half of the year, going from 11th in pass defense DVOA in Weeks 1 through 9 to fourth in Weeks 10 through 17. Meanwhile, Justin Herbert averaged just 6.4 yards per attempt through Week 10. Since Keenan Allen returned to the lineup in Week 11, he's back up to 7.3 yards per attempt. He's completed 71.3% of his passes through that stretch, while throwing just four picks in eight games. Jacksonville's pass defense has been sievelike for most of the season, and that's not good for this matchup.
Bills vs. Dolphins: Buffalo offense channels 2022 playoffs
In last year's postseason run, the Bills put forth two of the best offensive performances in recent memory. Against the Patriots on Super Wild Card Weekend, Buffalo racked up 482 total yards and scored 47 points, scoring a touchdown on each of its first seven possessions of the game. The only drive on which the Bills did not reach the end zone was the final possession of the game, which included only three kneel-downs. For an encore, the Bills posted 422 yards and 36 points against the Chiefs, losing in overtime only because they did not get a chance to touch the ball. Five of their nine drives ended in touchdowns in that contest as well. If you're counting, that's 12 touchdowns in 16 competitive drives. Against Miami a few weeks ago, the Bills put up 446 yards and 32 points. Miami's pass defense has been eminently burnable throughout this year, and if the Bills can give Josh Allen good protection, he will burn them once again.
Vikings vs. Giants: The Justin Jefferson show
The Vikings and Giants played each other three weeks ago. Minnesota won that game 27-24, powered by a typical Justin Jefferson performance: The likely All-Pro caught 12 passes for 133 yards and a score. That was in line with performances of other No. 1 wide receivers against the Giants defense this season. New York checked in just 22nd in DVOA against opposing No. 1 wideouts, according to Football Outsiders. Only six teams gave up more catches per game (8.6) to No. 1s than did New York. By contrast, the Giants ranked third in DVOA against No. 2 receivers and sixth against all other wideouts. They just couldn't handle the best of the best, and Jefferson is the best of the best.
Bengals vs. Ravens: Ravens defense keeps it close without Lamar
Prior to their bye week, the Ravens had a pretty good defense. They checked in 14th in Football Outsiders' DVOA, ranking 20th against the run and 10th against the pass. Since their bye, the Ravens are second in DVOA, checking in third against the run and seventh against the pass. That includes the Week 18 game against these Bengals where the Ravens rested a number of players (especially on offense), yet still held Cincinnati to 257 total yards and Joe Burrow to just 5.1 yards per attempt. Baltimore will not have Lamar Jackson under center for this matchup, but we're betting that the defense keeps the Ravens in the game for longer than expected, even if they don't come away with a win.
Buccaneers vs. Cowboys: Jerry Jones goes back on his word
Earlier this week, Jerry Jones did his weekly radio appearance and stated that if the Cowboys lose to the Buccaneers, Mike McCarthy will not lose his job. I don't believe him. If Dallas loses to Tampa on Monday night (which I, a Cowboys fan, have been predicting will happen since it became clear all the way back in October that we would likely see this matchup on Super Wild Card Weekend), then the Cowboys will have a new coach next season. Whether that's Dan Quinn, Sean Payton, or somebody else, is not yet clear. But it won't be Mike McCarthy.