Saturday, January 22, 2022

NFL Super Wild Card Weekend viewing guide: Ranking the top matchups for the opening round of the playoffs

The mad dash to SoFi Stadium for Super Bowl LVI starts now. Super Wild Card Weekend is upon us, and we have six playoff matchups to sink our teeth into throughout the weekend and even into Monday night. All of these matchups promise to have no shortage of drama as we have a number of storied franchises going head-to-head along with some great quarterback matchups. 

While all of these games deserve your attention over the coming days, there are naturally a few matchups that are especially intriguing. Below, you’ll find our ranking of this opening playoff slate along with the viewing information you need to catch all the action. 

6. Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs

Date: Sunday, Jan. 16 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET

Location: Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City, MO)

TV: 
NBC | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

Odds: Chiefs -12.5, O/U 46.5

The Steelers snuck into the playoffs thanks to a wild series of dominos falling in Week 18, which included an overtime win over the Ravens and Raiders-Chargers not ending in a tie. While they may have earned a spot in the postseason, the oddsmakers don’t see them advancing further than this since this game with the Chiefs — winners of nine of their last 10 — is the biggest spread in the wild-card slate. Ben Roethlisberger has looked very much like a quarterback that is at the end of his career and the Steelers offense was barely able to average 20 points per game this season. Sure, an upset would have the league’s collective jaw on the floor, but this game doesn’t feel like it’ll be as competitive as the others this weekend. 

5. Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Date: Sunday, Jan. 16 | Time: 1 p.m. ET

Location: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL)

TV: 
Fox | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

Odds: Buccaneers -9, O/U 47

Eagles-Bucs is another game where the oddsmakers are projecting the home team to have a sizable advantage. Tampa Bay is looking to make another Super Bowl run, while the Eagles will look to play spoiler when they roll into Raymond James Stadium. While it will almost certainly be mentioned, there really isn’t much meat on the bone with Tom Brady facing a team that beat him in the Super Bowl a few years ago with the quarterback now on a new team and the Eagles no longer employing key pieces to that championship run (Doug Pederson, Nick Foles, etc.). Had it been that same core, this game may have been a bit higher on the list just from a narrative standpoint. That said, this is a No. 2 seed going up against a team that was just one game above .500 in the regular season. 

4. Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

Date: Saturday, Jan. 15 | Time: 4:30 p.m. ET

Location: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati)

TV: 
NBC | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

Odds: Bengals -5.5, O/U 49

I think this could be one of the more underrated games on the opening slate. Las Vegas is coming off a wild overtime victory against the Chargers, which now has them running into the playoffs on a four-game winning streak. If they are firing on all cylinders, they could be a tough out for Cincinnati. Don’t be fooled by the Bengals’ 32-13 victory when these teams faced one another in Week 11. That game was much closer than the final score indicated as Cincy only held a field goal lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter before the Raiders completely collapsed. I, for one, am fascinated to see how Joe Burrow performs in his first-ever playoff game. As we saw at LSU, the young quarterback does have a knack for playing well in the biggest moments and now has an opportunity to give the Bengals their first playoff win since 1991. 

3. Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams

Date: Monday, Jan. 17 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET

Location: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, CA)

TV: 
ESPN | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

Odds: Rams -4, O/U 49.5

This will be the rubber match between these two NFC West rivals. They both defended their home turf throughout the regular season and boast two of the more powerful offenses in the NFL. In their two previous games, they combined for 110 points, so this could be a high-flying affair. That said, there are also several questions surrounding both of these clubs heading into Monday night. The Cardinals limped down the stretch by dropping four of their final five games (including a Week 14 loss to the Rams). Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford will enter the postseason for the first time with the Rams and will look to earn his first-ever playoff win after going 0-3 during his tenure in Detroit. This game will likely come down to the quarterback in Stafford and Kyler Murray, and who can will their respective team to victory, which is always good theater. 

2. New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills

Date: Saturday, Jan. 15 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET

Location: Highmark Stadium (Orchard Park, NY)

TV: 
CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)

Odds: Bills -4, O/U 44

Patriots vs. Bills III is set for Saturday night, and it looks like we’ll be in for another hard-nosed matchup between these AFC East rivals. The division came right down to the wire in Week 18 with Buffalo ultimately coming up on top, but these two teams did split the season series, with both clubs pulling out road victories. Now, they’ll face each other in the playoffs for the first time since 1963. This should be a chippy game on both sides, and the weather also looks like it may be a factor, with the forecast calling for sub-zero temperatures. If you’re looking for an old-school rock fight, this could be it. It’ll also be interesting to see how New England’s rookie quarterback Mac Jones deals with his first taste of playoff football. If the Patriots do pull off the upset, Jones would become just the 10th rookie quarterback in history to win a playoff game

1. San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys

Date: Sunday, Jan. 16 | Time: 4:30 p.m. ET

Location: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, TX)

TV: 
CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)

Odds: Cowboys -3, O/U 51

There are many reasons why Niners-Cowboys is pegged as the top game of the week. From a gambling standpoint, this game has the closest spread of the bunch and the highest total, so the oddsmakers are looking for this to be a high-scoring game that could very well come down to the wire.

The Cowboys come into the playoffs with an offense that can hang 50 points on a given day and a defense that ranks atop the league in almost every meaningful category. While Dallas has a ton of firepower, the 49ers also have some grit to them as they jammed their way into the playoff picture after winning seven of their last nine games. There is also no shortage of star power as the Niners have one of the more electrifying players in Deebo Samuel, while the Cowboys have a rookie phenom in linebacker Micah Parsons

You also have two of the NFL’s more storied franchises that have a rivalry that goes back to the 1970s. Dallas had three playoff wins (including two NFC Championship victories) in the early ’70s, while the 49ers were able to come away with a last-second win over the Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship thanks to Dwight Clark hauling in “The Catch” from Joe Montana. Of course, the 1990s sparked the rivalry back up as they met numerous times in the NFC Championship and volleyed Super Bowl titles for half the decade. Now, we’ll get the latest chapter in this historic rivalry. 

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