Eight teams remain in the battle royal for the Lombardi Trophy, and after this week it will be four. The four games slotted for this weekend are bound to provide all sorts of drama and exciting action for any football fan.
Super Wild Card Weekend gave fans a bit of everything. The Bengals snapped a 31-year drought in a close win over the Raiders. The Bills, Chiefs and Rams all won in dominating fashion, while the 49ers got out of Dallas with the only upset of the weekend. And Brady was… typical Brady, as the Bucs easily handled the Eagles.
Below I will be breaking down the games set for Sunday, January 23. The teams who made it to the Super Bowl last season both play on Sunday. The Chiefs welcome the Bills to Arrowhead and the Buccaneers play host to the Rams. At this point, the difference in the rosters of these teams is minor and it will come down to a few key reasons why each team will win their game. Feels like some upsets brewing for Sunday’s action.
No. 4 Rams (12-5) at No. 2 Buccaneers (13-4) – Sunday, 3:00 p.m. ET, (NBC)
Line: Buccaneers -3.0
After the Rams traded for Mathew Stafford, many believed this matchup was bound to happen in the playoffs. The defending Super Bowl champs have been one of the toughest teams all season but couldn’t quite catch the Packers for the No. 1 seed. The Rams have looked like the most complete team at times, but at other times they have looked average because of stupid mistakes. During Week 3 the Rams defeated the Bucs in L.A, 34-24. Brady’s greatness is undeniable, but he is 5-6 in the playoffs against teams he lost to during the regular season.
Three reasons why the Rams will beat the Bucs
Aaron Donald and the Rams’ pass rush will disrupt Brady and the Buccaneers’ offense. Tampa Bay’s offensive line suffered two key injuries in their wild card game against the Eagles. RT Tristen Wirf and C Ryan Jensen, who have both been selected to the Pro Bowl, exited the game. Neither lineman participated in Wednesday or Thursday practice. At this point it is hard to tell if they will be ready to play against the Rams – keep an eye on the injury report if you are placing bets. Von Miller, Donald, and the Rams front seven just got done harassing Cardinals’ QB Kyler Murray – practically pressuring him on every drop back, and holding him to 183 passing yards. Those guys will be licking their chops if the Bucs are without two of their three Pro Bowl offensive linemen.
Matt Stafford and LA’s offense stay balanced, which will keep the Buc’s defense guessing. The NFL’s leading receiver Cooper Kupp and newly acquired WR Odell Beckham Jr. will lead the passing attack against the Bucs' 21st ranked passing defense. That being said, the key player in the Rams offense may be TE Tyler Higbee. Tampa Bay yielded 92 receptions and a 73% catch rate to tight ends during the regular season, which ranks near the bottom of the NFL.
CB Jalen Ramsey does a terrific job taking away Mike Evans and he records a pick. His past two games against Bucs’ No. 1 wide receiver, Ramsey has been downright dominant. Evans has only recorded five catches for 54 yards over that span. Brady will have to attack Ramsey because the Bucs receiving corps is without WRs Chris Godwin or Antonio Brown. This means Ramsey will have plenty of opportunities to make some game-changing plays, which is not usually the case because many QBs smarly avoid the best CB in the league.
Why the Rams will win the Super Bowl
The Rams have the most start-studded roster in the league and the Super Bowl is being played in their home stadium. Stafford was the missing link.
Three reasons why the Bucs can beat the Rams
When was the last time you successfully bet against Brady in the playoffs? Brady puts together one of his most impressive playoff performances – which is saying a lot. A depleted offense against a great Rams’ defense makes for another heroic story for TB12. The seven-time Super Bowl champ prepares better than anyone, ever, and he will have his team ready to win come the fourth. Brady has thrown 27 TDs to four interceptions at home this season. With how well Brady has played in a Bucs uniform it is very hard to imagine a scenario where he gets bounced from the playoffs this early.
“Playoff Lenny” is back and puts together a complete game in his return. RB Leonard Fournette has not suited up for the Bucs since tweaking his hamstring on Dec. 19, but he was seen at Thursday’s practice. Forunette got the name “Playoff Lenny” after last year’s Super Bowl run, where he averaged 112 total yards and 1 TD per game. Fournette was a huge part of the Bucs offense before getting hurt this season and should provide a big spark against the Rams.
Rob Gronkowski dominates the Rams' weakness on their defense – their safeties. The Rams signed SS Eric Weddle out of retirement ahead of the NFC Wild Card Playoffs to fill their void at safety. Making his first appearance since 2019, Weddle played 34% of the Rams’ defensive snaps. Gronk is widely considered the best TE and he is tough to stop for any defense, especially one relying on a guy who had been at home the past two seasons. Gronkowski is set to have a career day and he will be spiking the ball in the Rams endzone on Sunday.
Why the Buccaneers will win the Super Bowl
Brady continues to define time and continues his dominance over the rest of the NFL. The Buccanneers practically reloaded their whole roster from their championship team last season – so they could do it again.
No. 3 Bills (11-6) at No. 2 Chiefs (12-5) – Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET, (CBS)
Line: Chiefs -2.5
These teams are forging a rivalry and it is being compared to the Patriots-Colts rivalry of the early 2000s. Similar to that previous epic rivalry, this present one features two of the best young quarterbacks in the league. The rivalry is just getting started with the advantage currently going to Patrick Mahomes, who is 2-1 against Josh Allen. Allen got his first win over Mahomes in Week 5 of the regular season when the Bills dominated the Chiefs 38-20. If the football Gods are good to us we will be able to watch this rivalry unfold for many years to come.
Three reasons the Bills will beat the Chiefs
Buffalo played a perfect game last week and is firing on all cylinders. The Bills became the first team in the NFL to have zero punts, fourth downs, field goals, and turnovers as they dismantled the Patriots 47-17 on Sunday. The Bills are the first team in the Super Bowl era to score a TD on each of their first seven drives of a playoff game. Allen had more passing TDs (five) than he had incompletions against the Patriots’ defense that ranks near the top in most defensive categories. It’s simple if Allen and the Bills’ offense plays this well again they will also blow out the Chiefs.
Buffalo finished the regular season with the highest-pressure rate (30.8%) and the highest hurry rate (15.4%) in the NFL. The Bills achieved these numbers while only blitzing 26% of the time (13th in the NFL). If there is one way to beat the Chiefs it is to pressure Mahomes without blitzing. Buffalo owns the top-ranked passing and scoring defenses which is key for them to advance to the conference championship.
The Bills’ newfound run game keeps their offense ahead of the chains. The Bills are averaging 32.5 points in their last six games and a big part of the offense’s success is due to the rushing attack. They averaged 164 rushing yards per game over that six-game span. The Chiefs’ defense ranks 21st at stopping the run and 27th at stopping the pass. The Bills should be able to stay balanced in their attack which will keep the Chiefs’ defense playing on their heels.
Why the Bills will win the Super Bowl
They are playing at their full potential and have one of the best QBs, WRs and coaches in the NFL. Josh Allen stays hot and makes the leap from good to great.
Three reasons why the Chiefs can beat the Bills
Mahomes is 7-2 in the playoffs – his only losses have come to teams led by Tom Brady. Andy Reid is one of the best coaches in the NFL and that matters more than people think in the playoffs. Ried and Mahomes seem impossible to beat in January unless, of course, you are the GOAT. The Bills already have run into this Chief's dynasty in the playoffs and it ended up being their last game of the season last year.
"I am glad we are playing at Arrowhead next week,” Mahomes said in his post-game interview after beating the Steelers. Arrowhead will be full of Chiefs’ fanatics making it a hostile place to play for the Bills. The Chiefs are 8-2 at Arrowhead this year (including playoffs) and they sure will use home-field to their advantage.
Mahomes out-performs Allen and proves why he is being called the best (since Brady). Mahomes’ 105.1 career passer rating in the postseason is the highest by any QB with five-plus starts since the 1970 merger. Mix that with Coach Ried’s playcalling and two of the best pass-catchers (Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill) and you have a team that is never out of the game. The Chiefs have the league’s No. 1 passing DVOA over the last eight weeks and they prove to be too much for the Bills’ defense – who will be without their best CB Tre’Davious White.
Why the Chiefs will win the Super Bowl
They have been in the Super Bowl the past two years, winning one, which makes them one of the most playoff experienced teams in the tournament. LB Melvin Ingram is the piece the defense was missing to put them over the top.