Image Credit: © Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
With the 2020 NFL regular season in the rearview mirror, it’s on to the postseason. It’s the NFL’s first crack at its new playoff format featuring seven, instead of six, teams in each conference. The top seeds in the AFC and NFC – Kansas City and Green Bay – are the only teams to receive a bye.
The remaining 12 teams will all be in action on Wild Card weekend. The Bills earned the No. 2 seed in the AFC after going 13-3 and winning the AFC East for the first time since 1995. Buffalo is a 6.5-point favorite over No. 7 Indianapolis on Saturday.
The Bills have won six straight behind a virtually unstoppable offense. Quarterback Josh Allen is leading a unit that has averaged 38.2 points per game in its last six outings. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs led the NFL in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535).
That 1995 Bills season was also the last time, Buffalo won a playoff game. The Bills have only made the postseason six times since 1995, though three of those trips have come in the last four seasons. Head coach Sean McDermott looks to get his Bills over the hump with a win over a Colts team that recorded most of its wins over teams with a losing record.
The other two AFC games feature No. 3 Pittsburgh hosting No. 6 Cleveland and No. 5 Baltimore and No. 4 Tennessee. The Steelers and Browns just played in Week 17, but Pittsburgh did hold out a few starters in Cleveland’s win.
Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play, and backup Mason Rudolph almost pulled off the upset failing to tie the game late in the fourth quarter on a failed two-point conversion. This time around, the Steelers will be at home where Cleveland hasn’t won since 2003. Cleveland’s big news is that head coach Kevin Stefanski has tested positive for the coronavirus and likely will not coach on Sunday night.
In Tennessee, the Titans are a home underdog to what could be the hottest team in the NFL. After losing three straight to New England, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh, the Ravens won their last five straight. Quarterback Lamar Jackson set an NFL record by rushing for over 1,000 yards, again leading the NFL’s No. 1 rushing offense (171.2 ypg).
Tennessee counters with the NFL’s leading rusher in Derrick Henry (2,027 yards). The Titans have that win over Baltimore earlier this season and, remember, Tennessee eliminated Baltimore last year in the playoffs as an underdog.
In the NFC, the second-seeded New Orleans Saints take on Chicago, which backed into the playoffs almost by mistake. The Bears lost to Green Bay in Week 17 to finish 8-8 but earned the NFC’s final seed anyway.
No. 3 Seattle gets NFC West rival, Los Angeles, for a third time this season. The two teams split the season series, with the home team winning each game. Seattle’s defense seems to have finally flipped a switch and played much better in the second half of the season.
The big question for the Rams will be who starts at quarterback. Jared Goff missed Week 17 with a thumb injury. John Wolford started in his place and would get the start again if Goff cannot go.
The other NFC game features 11-5 Tampa Bay, which won its last four straight. The Bucs will take on No. 4 seed Washington, which is just the third team to qualify for the postseason with a losing record. The Football Team finished 7-9 but earned the NFC East Division crown and, as a result, the fourth seed in the NFC.
Washington had exactly one win over a team with a winning record all season. The offense is suspect, but the defense is legit. Washington finished ranked fourth in scoring defense (20.6 ppg) in the regular season.
BillsFans.com - Editorial Staff