It is day two of the wild card weekend games. There are three games that will feature explosive offenses as well as some of the best pass rushers in the NFL.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key for Eagles: When on offense, Philadelphia needs to use the speed of quarterback Jalen Hurts and their running backs to control the clock. They need to keep Tom Brady on the sideline. So, run the football efficiently, plus throw in some end arounds or receiver handoffs, especially with how fast and explosive the Eagles receivers are. On defense, they need to get pressure on Brady. Philly’s front four can wreck the comfort level of a quarterback almost at will. They need to make Brady uncomfortable and make him move around to commit mistakes.
Key for the Bucs: On offense, they need to run the ball even with Leonard Fournette not available. Tampa doesn’t want to let Brady throw 50 times in the game because they could leave him open to take hits, so expect them to try to establish the run and mix the running backs. On defense, they need to hit or sack Hurts often. He has started to get comfortable in his game the last few weeks (he did miss the season finale), so the Bucs need their front seven to get pressure on him. Hurts is prone to mistakes when he is facing a lot of pressure, and Tampa is one of the better teams in the NFL to generate pressure.
X-Factor: Gio Bernard. The Bucs running back was activated from IR on Saturday, but he may be asked to do a lot, especially with Fournette not on the roster. Brady loves his running backs.
Prediction: Bucs 24 Eagles 21
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Key for the 49ers: They need to run the football effectively the way they have the last few weeks. They get running back Eli Mitchell back this weekend, so that will be a big plus. They also used receiver Deebo Samuel all over the field, so expect him to be used in the run game. The 49ers run the football at a high level when it is playoff time. They have a banged-up secondary on defense and will have to deal with Ceedee Lamb and Amari Cooper. The secondary can’t give up explosive plays to either one. Both receivers can take over a game, so the 49ers defense must be ready for them.
Key for the Cowboys: Get the ball to Lamb and Cooper. The 49ers have a beat-up secondary, so the Cowboys need to take advantage of them. It was a rough last month for the Cowboys, but they ended the season on a high note when they thrashed the Eagles. The offense needs Dak Prescott to play at a high level, so if he is able to get the ball to Lamb and Cooper early, it could be hard for the 49ers to counter. On defense, the Cowboys need to get pressure on Jimmy G. He has been effective as of late, but if Micah Parsons can hit him and hit him early, it could be a long day for the 49ers, especially if they get Garoppolo to commit mistakes.
X-Factor: Nick Bosa. It is strange that Bosa hasn’t been talked about all season even though he is coming off a 15.5 sack season. He could be the game-changer that could tip the game in the 49ers favor.
Prediction: 49ers 31 Cowboys 29
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Key for Pittsburgh: The Steelers must play differently than they did three weeks ago. Offensively they couldn’t do anything against Kansas City’s defense. They must be more creative this week and throw caution into the wind. They are getting Juju back plus the emerging Diontae Johnson, so help the Steelers offense be more explosive. What the Steelers need is for Big Ben to turn the clock back to have one last playoff run. On defense, they can’t let Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill beat them. The Steelers defense is good enough to match up against the weapons on Kansas City. TJ Watt needs to be the ultimate disruptor and get quarterback Patrick Mahomes down multiple times for them to have a shot.
Key for Kansas City: Do what you always do. The Chiefs are no strangers to the playoffs, so they need to play their style, which is getting the ball to their playmakers. Hill and Kelce can take over a game better than almost any duo in the NFL. Hill is a little hobbled, so expect the Chiefs to get other weapons involved. On defense, they have improved since acquiring Melvin Ingram from the Steelers, so they need to generate a pass rush to disrupt Big Ben. The Chiefs just need to be the Chiefs.
X-Factor: Darrel Williams. The running back for the Chiefs has been their ultimate weapon. He is heavily involved in the pass and run game for Kansas City. Expect him to have a big game with CEH out.
Chiefs 31 Steelers 14