After another 18-week NFL regular season, the road to Super Bowl LVII (57) officially gets started with “Super Wild Card Weekend.” Fourteen teams have earned a shot at winning the Lombardi Trophy but that number will be trimmed to eight by Monday night. Kansas City and Philadephia will sit out this weekend’s action after earning the top seeds in the AFC and NFC, respectively.
This year’s Wild Card Round features plenty of familiarities as all six games are rematches from the regular season. It’s the fifth time since the 1970 merger this has happened, according to Elias Sports. In fact, three of the pairings are divisional, meaning it will be the third time these teams have faced off against each other.
The action gets started on Saturday with Seattle taking on San Francisco. The 49ers have won the first two meetings with their NFC West rivals and they enter this one as the hottest team in the league with 10 straight victories. On Saturday night, the Los Angeles Chargers make the cross-country trip to face Jacksonville, the AFC South champion making its first playoff appearance since the 2017 season (lost in the AFC Championship Game).
Sunday’s tripleheader starts with an AFC East rubber match between Miami and Buffalo. The Dolphins won back in Week 3 on their turf with the Bills returning the favor in mid-December. Both games were close (decided by a total of five points), but Miami has been struggling recently (had lost five in a row before beating the New York Jets on Sunday and still needed Buffalo to defeat New England to get in the playoffs) and is dealing with uncertainty at quarterback. Then in the NFC, the New York Giants will play Minnesota in Minneapolis for the second time in less than a month. In Week 16, the Vikings won 27-24 thanks to a 61-yard field goal by Greg Joseph at time expired. The Giants are in the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season (lost in the Wild Card Round) while Minnesota is out to prove its 13-4 record is more representative of this team compared to its negative (-3) point differential.
Then on a special postseason edition of “Sunday Night Football,” Baltimore and Cincinnati will face off for the second straight weekend (and third time overall). The AFC North rivals split the season series, each winning on its home field, but the Bengals’ 27-16 victory at home last Sunday prevented a coin flip from deciding the location of this game, as it was one of the scenarios outlined in the resolution approved by league owners last Friday as a result of the special circumstances that were created following the Week 17 Buffalo-Cincinnati game being ruled no-contest. (There could still be a neutral-site AFC Championship Game depending on which teams advance.) Now, the two-time division and reigning AFC champion Bengals will look for back-to-back wins over a Ravens team that may not have Lamar Jackson at quarterback.
Super Wild Card Weekend concludes with Dallas and Tampa Bay renewing acquaintances on “Monday Night Football.” These two teams opened up the season against each other, a 19-3 Buccaneers victory in AT&T Stadium, but much has changed since then. On paper, this appears to be a mismatch with the Cowboys four games better in the win column, but Tampa Bay will host as the NFC South champion and Dallas is coming off of an ugly 26-6 loss at Washington that got everyone’s attention, for the wrong reasons. Now Dak Prescott and the Cowboys have to get their act together and head to Tampa to take on a Bucs team that knows what it takes to win in the postseason. That’s something Dallas hasn’t experienced in four years.