The 2021 NFL playoffs will kick off this weekend after a very long season full of positive Covid-19 tests and ups and downs for many teams. The playoffs will begin on January 9 and 10 and will feature six matchups rather than the usual four. Below is a breakdown of what is going to happen this weekend, and what my predictions are. However, it is important to note that this year there are only two first round byes reserved for the two number one seeds (Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs).
No. 2 Buffalos Bills (13-3) vs. No. 7 Indianapolis Colts (11-5) 1:05 p.m. ET, Jan. 9
The Bills had one of their best regular seasons ever, rolling through most matchups behind QB Josh Allen and newly acquired WR Stefon Diggs. They look to continue their stride against the Colts, who just had their AFC South title ripped away when the Titans beat the Texans last week. They will end up getting stuck with the toughest Wildcard Weekend opponent in the Bills.
No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) vs. No. 6 Cleveland Browns (11-5) 8:15 p.m. ET, Jan. 10
After winning 11 games straight to start the regular season, the Steelers lost 4 out of their last 5 games and quickly dropped down to the number three seed. Nonetheless, the Browns have had offensive struggles and have been inconsistent. Do not be quick to sleep on the Steelers as they have one of the most experienced QB in Ben Roethlisberger and a defense that has not allowed more than 30 points this year.
No. 4 Tennessee Titans (11-5) vs. No. 5 Baltimore Ravens (11-5) 1:05 p.m. ET, Jan. 10
The Titans knocked out Baltimore in the playoffs last year and were lucky enough to beat them again in the regular season this year. The Ravens have had their struggles, but they have been cruising lately. If the Ravens defense can stop the Titans run game with Derrick Henry, and Lamar Jackson can redeem himself as an MVP, then surely the Titans will experience a first round exit.
No. 2 New Orleans Saints (12-4) vs. No. 7 Chicago Bears (8-8) 4:40 p.m. ET, Jan. 10
The Bears are the third team in NFL history to make the playoffs after losing six straight, which is not really something to brag about. Their underwhelming offense was led by Mitch Trubisky, who was benched by backup Nick Foles at the beginning of the season before being reinstated in Week 12. The Bears will have to rely on their elite defense and put enough pressure on a declining Drew Brees to make more mistakes to keep it a close game.
No. 3 Seattle Seahawks (12-4) vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Rams (10-6) 4:40 p.m. ET, Jan. 9
These two teams played each other twice this regular season and split the matchup. The largest determining factor in this game is the health of Rams QB Jared Goff. He missed the last game with a thumb injury and he is going to be needed if their offense continues to decline and Seattle’s defense continues to rise.
No. 4 Washington Football Team (7-9) vs No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) 8:15 p.m. ET, Jan. 9
Every so often, a division is so bad that a team going .500 or worse can make the playoffs. Washington is that team, and will most likely get demolished this weekend. Tom Brady is once again in the playoffs on his new team and will show no mercy.
The lowest seeds from the AFC and NFC who make it to the next round will play Green Bay and Kansas City. It should be a very interesting playoff this year, especially with the addition of two more teams to watch.