Wildcard Weekend – Rams (10-6) at Seahawks (12-4)
Saturday, January 9th, 4:40 pm EST.
Week seventeen was a bit of a whirlwind for the Rams. A “win and you’re in” game against Arizona and a throwing thumb injury to Jared Goff that seemed to worsen after the surgical intervention. Backup John Wolford looked shaky to start, throwing an interception on his first pass attempt, but looked poised the rest of the way and got the win over an Arizona team that was stuck in neutral without Kyler Murray. Beating the Cards with Murray in the medical tent is one thing. Beating Seattle, on the road, with Russell Wilson playing the best football of his life is another matter entirely. The Rams and Seahawks split the season series, with L.A. taking round one and Seattle winning round two. So, who takes the tiebreaker and advances? I think it’s Seattle, regardless of Jared Goff’s status. The Rams boast one of the best passing defenses in the league, but they’ll be hard pressed to cover all of Seattle’s weapons. Jalen Ramsey has been tremendous all season long, but he can’t cover BOTH D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on every play. The best solution for the Rams will be to slow down the game and keep Russell Wilson off the field. To do that, they’ll need to lean much more heavily on the run game and rookie rusher Cam Akers. It also might help, seriously, to keep Goff on the sideline. Wolford showed good game smarts in situational run plays in week seventeen, and his versatility might help keep the Seahawks linebackers from committing. At the end of the day, I’m just not sure that the Rams can do enough to stop Seattle.
Wildcard Weekend – Buccaneers (11-5) at Washington Football Team (7-9)
Saturday, January 9th, 8:15 pm EST
“Rookie mistake.” It’s a term we use all the time, usually for something frustrating, but generally relatively benign. A dropped pass. A fumble. A mistake at the office. But there are rookie mistakes, and there are Rookie Mistakes. Chase Young committed the capital letter version last weekend, when Washington clinched the NFC East title by barely beating a Philly team that was actively trying to lose. After the game, Young told everyone who could hear him “I want Tom Brady”, including the video cameras recording the “festivities” of the 7-9 division champs. I’m going to stop you right there, rook. No, you don’t. Listen. Chase Young is a great young player. Very exciting to watch. But if you think he didn’t just dig his own grave by calling out the GOAT, you are very much mistaken. Washington has a pretty solid defensive line with Young, Montez Sweat and others. But what they have, aside from that, is not much. That’s why they won the worst division in football with a record that ties the worst team to ever make the playoffs. In other words: Now is not the time to be poking dragons, and in Brady’s case, he’s not even asleep. He’s a very much awake, very much angry, fire-breathing dragon with a lot to prove. And he’s been embarrassing defenses much better than Washington’s for decades. Literally. I don’t see much of a chance for Washington to hang with Tampa Bay unless someone sends Brady to the med tent by the second quarter. It’s not going to happen.
Football Team – 10
Wildcard Weekend – Bears (8-8) at Saints (12-4)
Sunday, January 10th, 4:40 pm EST
There’s something to like about a plucky underdog. And one highly ranked seed has to fall on wildcard weekend, right? Slow your roll. Yes, the Bears took the Saints to overtime in the regular season. Yes, the Saints lost to the Raiders and the Eagles when they couldn’t rein in Jalen Hurts. But this is the real world. As much as I feel that the Bears are a better team than their record, they’ll need some good fortune on Super Wildcard Sunday to stand a chance. Michael Thomas is practicing on a limited basis in the ramp up to Sunday’s game, his availability and explosiveness are both still very much in question. Alvin Kamara is on the Covid-reserve list at the moment and practicing from home, apparently feeling plenty healthy, despite the positive test. So, the question is, do the Saints get at least one of these dudes back for Sunday’s matchup with Chicago? If even one of them is back and something like themselves, the Saints have too much firepower to be stifled. If both guys are out, or are shells of themselves, this game becomes very, very interesting. Mitch Trubisky had the Bears pumping out thirty points per game until the week seventeen run in with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. If the Saints are playing without their two best weapons, that’s got to feel scary against a Bears defense that allows a scant 4.1 yards per carry on the ground. I like the Saints to win here, but we won’t really know how this thing will go until we see the status of those two guys. For today, I’m going to assume that both are out or hindered until new information arrives.
Bears – 20
For more NFL thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: Associated Press Images