Closing out NFL Wild Card Weekend
If one day of three NFL playoff games wasn't enough for you to handle, don't worry because the NFL has another tripleheader of playoff action on tap for Sunday.
After Matthew Hanson did such a great job at trying to predict Saturday's slate, he has handed the reins over to me to try and forecast what is going to happen to close out the Wild Card Round.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick HenryRob Carr - Getty Images
1:05 pm EST (ABC/ESPN)
Baltimore will have revenge on their mind when they travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon. Not only did the Titans knock the Ravens out of the playoffs last year, Tennessee also defeated Baltimore in overtime in November. The Ravens were leading the Titans 21-10 in the regular season matchup before Tennessee was able to mount a comeback. Justin Tucker forced overtime before Derrick Henry's 29-yard touchdown scamper gave the Ravens their second straight loss.
The Ravens enter this year's playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, having won their last five games. Not only has Lamar Jackson regained some of his MVP form from last year, the Ravens have found a new weapon in rookie running back J.K. Dobbins. Dating back to the November loss to Tennessee, Dobbins has scored at least one touchdown in each of the last six games.
Derrick Henry may get all the headlines for the Titans after rushing for 2,017 yards this year, but Baltimore can't sleep on Ryan Tannehill. The Tennessee quarterback has thrown for 3,819 yards and a career-high 33 touchdowns this year. A.J. Brown was Tannehill's favorite target, eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving and catching 11 touchdowns this year. Henry and Tannehill will be hoping that guard Rodger Saffold is healthy enough to play on Sunday, especially with the Titans already having lost Taylor Lewan for the season. Even though Saffold hasn't yet practiced this week, the Indiana product has said he is playing against the Ravens.
As well as the Ravens have been playing recently, they haven't exactly being playing tough competition. During their five-game winning streak, the only win for Baltimore over a winning team came against the Browns last month. Tennessee has been a bad matchup for the Ravens the last two times they've played, and it's hard not to see the Titans causing the same problems for Baltimore. The combination of Henry and Tannehill tops Jackson and Dobbins in Nashville.
Prediction: Tennessee 27, Baltimore 20
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew BreesChuck Cook - USA TODAY Sports
4:40 pm EST (CBS)
Spread: Saints -10
Following the battle between the Ravens and Titans, another rematch of an overtime game from November is on tap. The New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears battled on the first day of November in Chicago, with New Orleans squeaking out a 26-23 win. Not only will the setting for this game be different, both teams will have a few different faces involved on Sunday afternoon.
The biggest difference for Chicago will be at quarterback. Last time these teams met, Nick Foles was taking the snaps for the Bears. Since then, Mitchell Trubisky has reclaimed his starting quarterback position, and has cut down on the mistakes, throwing 10 touchdowns and just five interceptions over the last six games. Trubisky has been helped by the emergence of David Montgomery at running back. Since Trubisky returned at quarterback, Montgomery has recorded three 100-yard rushing performances and scored nine touchdowns.
It seems like as soon as the Saints take care of one issue on offense, another pops up. Whether it be Michael Thomas dealing with injuries seemingly all year long, Drew Brees breaking 11 ribs, or all the Saints running backs sidelined last week due to COVID-19 protocols, somehow New Orleans has navigated the issues and found themselves as the second seed in the NFC. After catching 155 passes last year, Thomas has only played in seven games this year, hauling in 40 passes during that time. Thomas is practicing ahead of Sunday's game, and is expected to play. Not only will the return of Thomas give Brees his favorite target back, it will also take some of the pressure off of Alvin Kamara, who has been playing at an MVP level this year.
The Saints are a different team at home in the dome, even if there will only be limited fans in attendance. This game would be more of a fight if this game were being played in Chicago, because of the colder temperatures that Brees and company aren't used to playing in. Not only will the offense of the Saints be tough for the Bears to match, the defense of New Orleans knows how to create turnovers, which means we'll see the return of bad Mitch Trubisky. The Saints should easily move on to the next round of the playoffs.
Prediction: New Orleans 31, Chicago 17
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben RoethlisbergerCharles LeClaire - USA TODAY Sports
8:15 pm EST (NBC)
Spread: Steelers -6
The Cleveland Browns made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years and now their pets heads are falling off. Cleveland has already been dealing with COVID-19 issues over the past few weeks, and things got even worse this week when it was announced that head coach Kevin Stefanski wouldn't be able to coach after testing positive. This leaves special teams coordinator Mike Preifer to serve as acting head coach in Stefanski's absence, and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt to take over the play calling duties on Sunday night.
Just to get to the playoffs, Cleveland barely snuck by the Steelers last week. Pittsburgh was resting most of their starters and still had a chance to send the game to overtime, but Mason Rudolph wasn't able to convert the two-point conversion attempt after the Steelers had closed the score to 24-22. Steeler fans won't have to worry about seeing Rudolph this week, as Ben Roethlisberger will be back at quarterback for Pittsburgh, looking to continue his mastery over the Browns.
It'd be great to see the Browns earn their first playoff win in forever. Sadly, it doesn't look like it is in the cards for Cleveland. A week off could rejuvenate Big Ben, who has already attempted over 600 passes this year. The Steelers have struggled to run the ball all year, and even though Cleveland knows the Steelers will want to pass the football, it could be hard to slow Pittsburgh down, especially with the status of cornerback Denzel Ward up in the air. Add in the injury and COVID issues Cleveland has been dealing with on the offensive line, and Baker Mayfield could be running for his life on Sunday night against T.J. Watt and the talented defensive line of the Steelers.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 30, Cleveland 20