Eagles QB Jalen Hurts (pictured right) will star in Sunday’s (16/01) game against the BuccaneersAll-Pro Reels (Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution)/Wikimedia Commons

The 2021 NFL regular season came to a climactic conclusion last weekend (09/01), as the Raiders narrowly beat the Chargers in overtime with a playoff spot on the line. Meanwhile, the Broncos, Bears, Dolphins, Giants, Texans, and Vikings have all separated from their respective head coaches due to disappointing seasons, adding to the already vacant spots at the Jaguars and the Raiders.

Now that the regular season has finished, seven teams from each conference will compete in the playoffs in order to select the Super Bowl contenders. The four division winners take seeds one through four, and they are joined by three other teams with the best records. The playoffs begin with Wild Card Weekend, running from today (15/01) until Tuesday (18/01), in which division winners receive home field advantage and two takes on seven, six plays three, and four faces five. The top seed in each conference gets a bye into the divisional round, with the Titans overcoming significant injury problems to take top seed in the American Football Conference (AFC), while the Packers once again placed top in the National Football Conference (NFC).

This is all you need to know ahead of Wild Card Weekend, which begins later this evening with the Las Vegas Raiders taking on the Cincinnati Bengals.

Game of the weekend

Rams vs. Cardinals

You’ll have to wait until the Weekend’s final fixture to see the most exhilarating of the lot, as the Los Angeles Rams clash with the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday. The divisional rivals have already played out two exciting games this season, with both sides taking one apiece. With the opposing quarterbacks, Rams’ Matt Stafford and Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, both having incredible arm talent and strong receiving corps that have the ability to spread the field, expect this to be a high-scoring affair.


  • Rams QB Matt Stafford will rely on Cooper Kupp. Kupp has had the second most productive season ever for a wide receiver with 1,947 yards and sixteen touchdowns, and has proven his reliability on the big occasions.
  • Defensive tackle Aaron Donald will have Cardinals QB Kyler Murray constantly under pressure. He had 3.0 sacks in their last meeting last month.
  • James Conner will be vital in the red zone for Cardinals. The fifth-year running back has two touchdowns in each game against the Rams this season, without surpassing fifty yards in either.

Key matchup: AJ Green vs. Jalen Ramsey. The Cardinals are without number one receiver DeAndre Hopkins, so veteran Green will be challenged with overcoming the best lockdown corner in the league.

Advanced analysis: Matt Stafford has never won a playoff game, but his twelve years in Detroit did him little favours.

Score prediction: Cardinals 30-38 Rams

Potential blowout

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday evening will see the Eagles take on the Buccaneers. The Eagles could pose a problem to some of the other playoff teams in the NFC with their elite running offense, but the Bucs’ run-stop defence should neutralise this threat. Also, the Bucs have Tom Brady - enough said.


  • The Eagles’ defence will not sack Brady. Tampa Bay’s offensive line ranks among the best in the league and rarely allows pressure.
  • Scotty Miller will get a touchdown for the Bucs. He may only have five receptions this season, but the loss of Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown creates an opportunity for Miller.
  • The announcers will say that the Eagles are ‘establishing the run’. Their offensive line is awesome and very likeable.

Advanced analysis: The two faced each other in Week 6, when the Bucs won 28-22. This scoreline flattered the Eagles who fell behind 28-7 before getting back into the game.

Score prediction: Eagles 17-31 Buccaneers 

Evenly matched

Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots

Another divisional matchup on Wild Card Weekend set to take place in the early hours of Sunday morning is the Bills facing the Patriots. While both teams each won against each other on the road, the Patriots’ win in Buffalo was most telling for predictions of how this game will play out. It’s also worth noting that these are two of the league’s best defences.

Predictions (made under the impression it will be snowing. Weather reports don’t forecast snow, but my brain disagrees; if these predictions are wrong, blame the weather not me):

  • Mac Jones will throw the ball fifteen times. A massive increase from last time in Buffalo when he only attempted a franchise-low three passes. The Patriots’ game plan will be to avoid the Bills’ elite secondary.
  • Cold hands: there will be fumbles,
  • The Bills will be very dependent on the performance of QB Josh Allen. Not only do they lose when Allen has one of his inaccurate games, he is also a major factor in their run game.


Mountain View

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Key matchup: Bills’ O-tackles vs. Patriots linebackers Matt Judon and Kyle van Noy. Judon has 12.5 sacks but only one in two games against Buffalo.

Advanced analysis: Running back Damien Harris has rushed for over 100 yards in each outing against the Bills. Josh Allen (QB) is currently top of the Josh Allen power rankings ahead of Josh Allen (Jaguars DE).

Score prediction: Patriots 13-17 Bills

Potential upset

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Las Vegas Raiders

The Bengals are heavy favourites because of the connection between QB Joe Burrow and his receivers. They also battered the Raiders when the two teams met earlier this season. However, the Raiders have managed to stay in big games this season and kicker Daniel Carlson has hit five game winners, including one deep in overtime last week to send the Raiders into the playoffs.


  • Ja’Marr Chase will have a long touchdown, but Tee Higgins will be Joe Burrow’s primary target.
  • The Raiders’ defensive line will dominate the Bengals’ offensive line. Burrow has a tendency to hold on to the ball too long and has taken the most sacks of any QB this season (51).
  • The Raiders are good enough to keep this game close and sneak a late winner.

Advanced analysis: The Bengals have two players called Michael Thomas, the Raiders have none - makes you think. The Bengals have also not won a playoff game since 1991, nine years before Ja’Marr Chase was born. They are the first cat team to make the playoffs in four years.

Score prediction: Raiders 27-24 Bengals

In the weekend’s other two fixtures, the Dallas Cowboys will take on the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers clash with the Kansas City Chiefs. San Francisco’s creative offensive scheme creates opportunities to exploit the speed of their running backs and wide receivers, which can have success against the Dallas defence. Meanwhile down in Dallas, injuries will play a massive role in this game as first-choice running backs for both teams have missed practice this week. The Chiefs will also have makeshift right tackle Andrew Wylie facing the excellent Steelers pass rush.

Score predictions: 49ers 22-28 Cowboys; Steelers 9-34 Chiefs

The start of the playoffs mark an increase in stakes with just three games now separating the teams from this year’s Super Bowl. However, it also marks a decrease in the number of games for us psychotic fans across the pond who want to stay up till 4am Monday morning to watch the Chiefs maul the Steelers, while the Cowboys vs. 49ers game will also be aired on Nickelodeon with the Ninja Turtles and Spongebob involved. Should be a fun weekend.