With the 2019 regular season in the rearview mirror, it’s full speed ahead in a mad dash to Miami for Super Bowl LIV. For the Ravens, Chiefs, 49ers and Packers, they all get to sick back and relax this Wild Card Weekend and await the result for the next round. For the rest of the teams in contention, it’s now do-or-die.
Prior to all these games kicking off this weekend, we took a deep dive at each matchup and decided to rank which one has the most appeal all the way down to the one where you may want to hit the snooze button. One game that is of particular intrigue on a couple different fronts is the Patriots hosting the Titans in Foxboro. It’s been a decade since New England was forced to play in this round and will do so by seeing an old friend in Mike Vrabel. While that game certainly is worth watching, it’s not our No. 1 game on the slate.
With that said, here’s our top-four games ranked for Wild-Card Weekend:
Time: Sunday, Jan. 5, 1:05 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz SuperDome (New Orleans, LA)
The Minnesota Vikings (10-6) and New Orleans Saints (13-3) have the best combined record out of the four teams heading into Wild-Card Weekend.
Had certain dominos fallen the right way, Drew Brees and company wouldn’t even be playing this weekend and instead be sitting back with a first-round bye. Despite having to play the extra playoff game, the Saints are looked at outside of the No. 1 seeded 49ers heading into the postseason. Brees, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara represent a three-headed monster that will undoubtably put up points in the SuperDome.
As for the Vikings, they’ll likely have star running back Dalvin Cook back into the starting rotation for this game, which should do wonders for their offense. All through the season, Minnesota has been a competitive ground-and-pound team that utilizes play-action extremely well due to Cook’s stardom. That has helped quarterback Kirk Cousins immensely and it will fascinating to watch how he responds in his first playoff game with the Vikings since inking that three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed contract in 2018.
2. Titans at Patriots (-5.5)
Time: Saturday, Jan. 4, 8:15 p.m. ET
Where: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, MA)
TV: CBS | Stream: CBS All Access
I mean, anytime you see the Patriots on Wild-Card Weekend, it’s sure to raise some eyebrows. It’s been an entire decade since New England has been forced to suit up for the first round of the playoffs as it was in 2009 when they fell to the Baltimore Ravens in what was a rare early exit for Bill Belichick’s club. Following a stunning Week 17 loss to the Miami Dolphins that helped bump them out of the No. 2 seed, they’ll now host former Patriots linebacker turned Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel on Saturday.
On top of this simply being a rare sight to behold with the Pats playing on Wild-Card Weekend, this game has some sneaky upset potential as well. New England does struggle when squaring up against familiar faces like Vrabel, who beat them down in Tennessee just last year. One could make the case with Ryan Tannehill now under center, that the Titans are an even better team now than they were during that 2018 upset.
New England was lifeless in their most recent loss to Miami and Tom Brady, who has been dealing with a right elbow injury, was pretty inaccurate at times. Meanwhile, what has been a historic Patriots defense for most of the year folded against Ryan Fitzpatrick. If both Brady and the New England defense fall flat again, the Patriots could be bounced out in short order.
If that happens, there’s a chance — because of his upcoming unrestricted free agent status — that this could be the final game for Tom Brady in a New England Patriots uniform. Yeah, that sounds crazy, but it’s technically possible. If just that fact alone doesn’t get you to tune in, well, this may not be the sport for you.
Time: Saturday, Jan. 4, 4:35 p.m. ET
Location: NRG Stadium (Houston, TX)
The Buffalo Bills have been one of the biggest surprise teams of the 2019 season. They boast one of the league’s best defenses, are extremely well coached under Sean McDermott, and second-year quarterback Josh Allen has taken a solid leap this season — utilizing his arm and legs to produce offense for Buffalo.
On the other side of the field, the Houston Texans are going to be getting a big boost to their defense with the remarkable return of J.J. Watt, who Raiders in Week 8. On top of getting their star pass rusher back, Houston will trot out one of the best quarterback-receiver duos in the entire playoffs in Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins.after suffering a torn pectoral muscle against the
With both teams having the capability to put up points in a hurry, this should be a pretty entertaining game throughout.
Time: Sunday, Jan. 5, 4:40 p.m. ET
Location: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia, PA)
Seattle vs. Philadelphia is the only playoff game this weekend that features a home underdog. Because the Eagles went 9-7 on the year and just barely were able to edge out the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East crown and the Seahawks nearly overtook the current No. 1 seed 49ers for the much more difficult NFC West title, it’s hardly a surprise.
The Eagles are still pretty banged up heading into the matchup and just Brandon Brooks for the year. They may get Lane Johnson back along with rookie running back Miles Sanders, which should help them out offensively. One of the biggest and largely underrated storylines revolving around Philadelphia, however, that this is quarterback Carson Wentz’s first playoff game of his career. How he performs in this game will absolutely be something to monitor all afternoon.
As for the Seahawks, they’ve been able to show flashes of Super Bowl potential this season with quarterback Russell Wilson under center and nearly won the division. Back in Week 12, Seattle was able to give Carson Wentz fits in their lone matchup of the regular season, sacking him three times, picking him off twice and recovered two of his fumbles.
Lincoln Financial will certainly be a rocking environment, but Seattle is, overall, the better team.