30 December 2019 22:38

Los Angeles Rams Pittsburgh Steelers Aaron Donald

Doug Pederson's team gutted out huge wins in the past couple of weeks to sneak into the playoff field, but Philly is just too banged up to make a run. But even if the Eagles somehow sneak past the Seahawks—who are dealing with their own injury issues right now—next week, it'd be tough to go on the road in the divisional round and beat a talented group like the 49ers. At their best, the Vikings have looked like one of the top teams in football this season. If that Vikings team shows up in the wild-card round against New Orleans, Minnesota may very well have a chance to pull off an upset. In Week 16, with the chance at a division title on the line, the Vikings got dismantled by the Packers defense; Cousins averaged just 3.13 yards per attempt and completed 16 of his 31 attempts in a 23-10 throttling.

But New Orleans has a talented defense and frightening front four that could easily give the Vikings fits in the same way Green Bay did. It's been a fun season for Bills fans, but it still feels like this team is a year away from making any significant noise in the postseason. The Titans want to pound the ball with Derrick Henry—who looked healthy and explosive on Sunday after sitting out Week 16 with a hamstring injury—and use play-action complements to their ground game. The Patriots' top-ranked defense will be a significant challenge for this Titans group, but it wouldn't be shocking to see Tennessee go into New England and pull off a win. The Texans are expected to get J.J. Watt back this week after he missed eight games with a torn pec, but even with their star pass rusher back in the fold, there are plenty of questions about how Houston's defense will hold up against teams like Baltimore and Kansas City—should the Texans make it past the wild-card round.

After starting the season on an MVP-worthy tear, Wilson has fallen off a bit during the second half of the year, but he still brought this team within about 6 inches of winning the NFC West on Sunday night. Injuries to key players like Chris Carson, Duane Brown, and Quandre Diggs have hurt Seattle, but no one would be surprised if this group went on the road and beat the Eagles next weekend—despite being short-handed. A win over Philly would likely mean a rubber match with the 49ers in the divisional round, and we've already seen how well Seattle plays against its division rivals this season. With a first-round bye on the line on Sunday, the Packers were expected to blow out a David Blough–led Detroit team. But even with a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round, it's hard to imagine Green Bay beating a team like New Orleans if the offense continues to struggle.

New England has lost ugly games in December before, but with a first-round bye on the line, the Patriots couldn't dispatch a four-win Dolphins team that's in the midst of an organizational teardown. No one would be surprised if the Patriots defense carried them to a couple of ugly wins and got this team back into the AFC championship game, but it also wouldn't be shocking to see New England lose to a feisty Titans team on Saturday. After riding a red-hot defense for the first half of the season, the Niners have been forced to lean on head coach Kyle Shanahan and the offense in recent weeks. This weekend, instead of hosting a Titans team that beat them in November, the Chiefs will be watching the wild-card round from the comfort of their own homes. Running back Alvin Kamara hasn't produced this season like he has in the past, but he's looked good over the Saints' past couple of games. If New Orleans can take care of the Vikings this week, the team will head to Green Bay for the divisional round. Winning two road games en route to the Super Bowl is a significant challenge, but this is the type of team that can pull it off. Below, I ranked all 12 playoff teams by how much I trust them as we head into the Wild Card Round. However, with their offensive line and run game, they have a shot to end those road playoff demons. The Chiefs just have large portions of the game where they don't do much on offense, but they always know they have the home run opportunities. Granted, they beat a Texans team not playing their best players, but the Titans looked impressive in their wild card-clinching victory. But eventually you become how your team plays in big games, and the Vikings don't win them often with Cousins. Saints/Eagles/Seahawks at Green Bay Packers, 6:40 p.m. Brian Blanco/Associated Press Two more will take place on Sunday, while the four top seeds—the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs—spend the week on a bye. Thanks to a surprising Week 17 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots find themselves without a first-round bye for the first time since 2009. New England is a mess offensively, but it still has the most experienced quarterback-coach duo in the playoffs and a high-level defense. They've been playing playoff football for the last three weeks while chasing a first-round bye.