Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks (-3.5) – Saturday, January 9 at 4:40pm ET on FOX
This game is one of the hardest to predict during the 2021 Wild Card Weekend. The Seahawks started the season 6-1 with their only loss coming in OT to the Cardinals. Then something happened with their offense that brought the red hot top team in the West down to earth. Yes, the Seahawks still won 6 of their final 9 games, but aside from a decimation of the 2-14 Jets in week 14, their offense just hasn’t looked right. While their defense has improved from one of the worst in the league to a solid unit over that same timeframe, Russell Wilson and his offense have struggled. This is a bad omen for the team as they get set to host the Rams. The Rams have been one of the best defenses in the league all season and rarely give up big plays downfield. Yes, their offense has many issues of their own, and there’s a chance that Jared Goff will still be sidelined with a thumb injury on Saturday, but if Jalen Ramsey (who is averaging just 20 yards allowed per game) can shut down DK Metcalf, I think the Rams can win in a possession battle. They also have the added benefit of not having to worry about Seattle’s “12th Man” since fans will not be allowed into the stadium. All of this adds up to a low-scoring defensive battle like their previous two meeting this season (each team won one). If the Rams can do enough with their running game on Saturday, they’ll likely leave Seattle victorious.
Prediction: Rams 16, Seahawks 13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8) @ Washington Football Team – Saturday, January 9 at 8:15pm ET on NBC
In my lifetime, I have now seen three teams finish the regular season under .500 and make the playoffs. In 2010, the Seahawks won their division at 7-9, and the Panthers did it in 2014 at 7-8-1. Both times, the team won their first playoff game. The Seahawks had the “Beast Quake” and the Panthers got to face the Ryan Lindley quarterbacked Cardinals. Each time I picked the under .500 team to win their first playoff game, and each time they did. I want to make it 3-for-3, but I simply can’t pick the Washington Football Team in this game. It’s been a great story this year to follow the fake-named team with their coach Ron Rivera battling cancer and their quarterback Alex Smith returning from a life-threatening leg injury. But, unfortunately for the WFT, they’re lined up against Tom Brady. Yes, the same Tom Brady that was booted in the first round of the playoffs and booted from New England in the offseason. A motivated Tom Brady is not a guy I’d want to line up against in the playoffs. I actually think the defensive front seven of the WFT will be able to limit Brady’s production and this won’t be a blowout, but Washington’s offense just isn’t there. Rivera talked earlier this week about potentially doing a quarterback snap split between Smith and Taylor Heinicke which would be a complete nightmare. I want the Football Team to pull this one off, but I just don’t see it happening.
Prediction: Bucs 27, Washington 20
Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints (-10) – Sunday, January 10 at 4:40pm ET on CBS
What is there to even say about this game? The Bears are bad, and the Saints are good. Like really, really good. I know they’ve had their playoff woes in the past few seasons, but are we really going to be looking for a phantom pass interference or a blown coverage and missed tackle to sink the Saints this time around? I don’t think so. The Bears showed Sunday against the Packers that they have the ability to slow the game down and keep high-powered offenses off the field with long, tough drives. But that’s not going to be the big concern on Sunday. It’s going to be how the Bears will even move the ball against this Saints defense. The only reason I’m not predicting them to get shut out is because I think they’ll get an early field goal before Nick Foles takes over in the second half. And we all know playoff Nick Foles is good for at least a touchdown. Give me the Saints big in this one…oh, and it’s being played on Nickelodeon. That should tell you what the scheduling crew thinks of this game.
Prediction: Saints 38, Bears 10
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