The 2023 NFL regular is in the books and after weeks of predictions and clinching scenarios, the 14-team field is now set. Unlike most years, there are no real heavy favorites who stand out from either the AFC or NFC so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
Unfortunately, our Denver Broncos were eliminated from the playoffs on New Year's Eve but we can always root for whoever is playing against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs.
With all that said, here is how I think Super Wildcard Weekend will play out and who I believe will advance into the next round of the playoffs.
Super Wildcard Weekend
Cleveland Browns (5) vs. Houston Texans(4)
This will be a matchup against two teams who surprised this past season. The Texans went from picking second overall in the draft to winning their division and making the playoffs in one year. Meanwhile, the Browns continued to thrive this season despite starting five different quarterbacks, losing running back Nick Chubb to a nasty knee injury, and dealing with injuries throughout their roster. A big part of their recent success has been the emergence of veteran quarterback Joe Flacco.
As for this game, I am going with the road team. Defense wins championships and the Browns have one of the best defenses in the NFL. I think their defense will be too much for rookie standout quarterback C.J. Stroud and Flacco and their run game will continue to be solid.
Miami Dolphins(6) vs. Kansas City Chiefs(3)
The Dolphins lost the AFC East in the final game of the season but still made the playoffs as a wildcard team. They are a bit banged up and will be playing on the road as a 6th seed so they will be facing an uphill battle. As for the Chiefs, they have really been struggling in the second half of the season on offense and their playmakers have not been making plays for QB Patrick Mahomes. They are not the same offensive juggernaut that we are used to seeing in past postseasons.
Unfortunately, I think the Chiefs will pull this one out. It will be a close one but the Dolphins will be playing on the road, in the extreme cold, and dealing with injuries throughout their roster. I think it’ll be too much for them to overcome.
Pittsburgh Steelers(7) vs. Buffalo Bills(2)
The Steelers continue to defy the odds and win despite their struggles at quarterback and on offense throughout the year. Mason Rudolph has taken over at quarterback and sparked an offense that was struggling. Their run game and defense are still what makes them successful but they will need some luck to advance in the postseason. As for the Bills, they have come alive in the second half of the season and have played like one of the best teams in the league. They went from being a .500 team that fired their offensive coordinator to winning the AFC East and being the two-seed in the AFC.
Ultimately, I think the Bills will be too much for the Steelers. This game might be closer than some expect, but in the end, I think the Bills will continue to win and advance to the next round.
Philadelphia Eagles(5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers(4)
The Eagles went from being a Super Bowl favorite to completely falling apart and settling for a fifth seed in the NFC. They’re dealing with mounting injuries, poor play, and just turmoil up and down the team. As for the Bucs, they won the NFC South and have been rolling with Baker Mayfield under center. I don’t think they’re a Super Bowl favorite, but they could make some noise in the postseason.
I think the Eagles' struggles will continue into the postseason. Jalen Hurts is banged up and the Eagles are dealing with injuries all over the team. I think Baker and the Bucs will do just enough to continue the Eagles' downfall.
Los Angeles Rams(6) vs. Detroit Lions(3)
The Rams went from being viewed as a potential bottom-feeder to a playoff team that nobody will want to face in the postseason. Matt Stafford is healthy, their run game is rolling with Kyren Williams, and rookie Puka Nacua has the passing game rolling. Their defense is overachieving and they could be a tough out in the postseason. The Lions are one of the darlings of the season and are viewed as Super Bowl favorites. They will be playing at home and will provide a tough environment for the Rams.
This is a tough one for me as I can see it going either way, but in the end, I am going with the home team. The Lions run game will be too much and Jared Goff will spread the ball around and continue to make plays. Losing breakout tight end Sam LaPorta stings, but they have plenty of weapons to work with.
Green Bay Packers(7) vs. Dallas Cowboys(2)
The Green Bay Packers did it once again. They have gone from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers to now to Jordan Love who has really come into his own this season. They made a late-season rally to make the playoffs and their young inexperienced offense could be dangerous in the playoffs. The Cowboys have looked like one of the best teams in the NFL this season but will look to shake their postseason struggles and win a Super Bowl.
I have to predict an upset and I think this is the one. The Packers are hot and have a very young and inexperienced offense ready to make some noise in the postseason. The Cowboys on the other hand are a talented team that routinely struggles in the playoffs. I think they fall into that same trap in this one and fall to the Packers