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Xavier News

The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

NFL Wild-Card Round Predictions

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WBUR Boston’s NPR News Station

The NFL playoffs are upon us, with fourteen teams vying for the ultimate hardware, a Lombardi Trophy. The Wild-Card round is typically where teams set themselves apart, and upsets can occur. Only three teams will make it out of the AFC and NFC Wild-Card rounds, and I’m here to tell you who they will be.

Browns vs. Texans (Browns 24-21)

The Browns have been plagued by injuries all year, losing All-Pro running back Nick Chubb and quarterback Deshaun Watson early in the season. However, they have managed to win eleven games and make the playoffs in a very competitive AFC. A few key players dealing with recent injuries are Amari Cooper and Myles Garrett. Both players are expected to play despite their injuries. Dustin Hopkins, though, the Browns kicker, has been out since week 16 with a hamstring injury. This is a huge hit as he has been one of the best kickers in the NFL this season. It is unknown if he will be playing or not, but his absence will be crucial for the Browns if he does not.

The Texans have completely turned their franchise around. Quarterback C.J. Stroud is not only regarded as one of the best rookies in the NFL but also one of the top quarterbacks in the entire league. The Texans have a strong-willed team with a chip on their shoulder. Their defense has improved tremendously over the year, and I expect them to perform well against the Cleveland defense.

 

Dolphins vs. Chiefs (Chiefs 21-14)

The Chiefs are coming off one of their lowest records in years. Despite this, they still won the AFC West and have home-field advantage over the Dolphins. The only key injury for the Chiefs entering the playoffs is wide receiver Rashee Rice. If he doesn’t play, it should not affect the Chiefs due to the weather forecast.

The Dolphins have a few key injuries entering this game. Jaylen Waddle and Raheem Mostert have both missed the last few weeks with ankle injuries. These are two of the most explosive players in the Dolphins’ offense and will be needed if they want to beat a solid Chiefs defense. Pass rushers Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb both sustained season-ending injuries. The Dolphins are 0-10 against teams when the temperature is under 40 degrees. The forecast in Kansas City for kickoff is negative five. The Dolphins will have to play their best game of the season if they want to escape Arrowhead.

 

Bills vs. Steelers (Bills 31-10) 

The Bills had a few injuries last week that could impact them. On offense, wideout Gabe Davis went down with a knee injury, leaving him sidelined after the fourth quarter. Offensive tackle Dion Dawkins had a gash in his hand from a cleat and has not been practicing as well. On defense, Von Miller is out for the season, and edge rusher Leonard Floyd was hurt but is expected to play. DB Rasul Douglas is out with a knee injury and has yet to participate in practice, and his game status is still unknown. Despite these injuries, I expect the Bills to take care of business at home since winning their last five games of the year.

The Steelers simply have not found their identity on offense this year. Although the Buffalo defense is missing a few key players, the Steelers’ offense just does not have the prediction. The Steelers defense has been one of the best in the NFL all season, but they’re missing one key piece. Edge rusher and potential defensive player of the year T.J. Watt will be out versus the Bills. This is an irreplaceable hit to the Steelers’ defense that will ultimately affect the score of the game.

 

Packers vs. Cowboys (Cowboys 31-28) 

The Cowboys have been one of the most inconsistent teams this year, but I expect their offense to take care of the Packers’ defense. CeeDee Lamb and Dak Prescott have become one of the most productive duos in the NFL this year, and Tony Pollard has been very productive as well. The Cowboys’ defense has struggled at times but is ultimately a top defense in the league.

The Packers have been heating up and may have found their next quarterback. Jordan Love has been putting on some great performances recently and has proven he’s here to stay. The Packers will need to be fully healthy to beat a strong Cowboys team. Key players such as DB Jaire Alexander and wide receivers Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson have all been banged up. These three players will have to be near one hundred percent if Green Bay wants to move on to the divisional round.

 

Rams vs. Lions (Rams 34-27)

Along with Green Bay, the Los Angeles Rams have been heating up too. At the beginning of the season, the Rams were missing different pieces at different times. Initially, All-Pro wideout Cooper Kupp was injured, and following him, Pro Bowl running back Kyren Williams missed a big part of the season. The only key player who will be missing is tight end Tyler Higbee, but since the addition of Puka Nacua, his production has diminished. I think the Rams are serious Super Bowl contenders and are being undermined by performances when they weren’t healthy.

The Lions have proven they are one of the top teams in the NFC. Claiming the three seed, the Lions won 12 games this season and have a very strong defense with an electrifying offense. This offense could be without arguably their best weapon in tight end Sam Laporta this weekend. Sam Laporta has been the best rookie tight end statistically in history this season and is one of the top tight ends in all of football. The rookie brings a different dynamic to the Lions’ offense, that if not present, will make it a little easier to defend. I expect this to be a great NFC matchup, but the Rams will ultimately pull it out.

 

Eagles vs. Buccaneers (Buccaneers 24-21)

The Eagles were the hottest team in the NFL but are now possibly the coldest team. Not only have they lost five of their last six games, but they have also suffered injuries across the board. Last week, Jalen Hurts and AJ Brown both sustained injuries on offense, and Devonta Smith has been out with an ankle injury. While Devonta Smith is expected to play, Brown has not participated in practice since the injury. This could be a game-time decision that affects the outcome of the game.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the pieces to win this game. Mike Evans has had yet another All-Pro season, totaling over 1200 yards and 13 touchdowns. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was shaken up in their season finale versus the Panthers but will be playing in the wild card. The Buccaneers have an underrated defense that has the opportunity to take advantage of the injury-prone Eagles offense. This will be a very close game and could go either way, but I have the Buccaneers winning on a late field goal.

About the Contributor
Patrick Masterson, Staff Writer
Patrick Masterson is a varsity lacrosse player. Patrick also enjoys watching the Baltimore Ravens, Louisville Cardinals and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He is also a Star Wars advocate, and his favorite movie in the series is "Revenge of the Sith". Another interesting milestone about him is that he is notoriously known for catching the biggest bass at Sawmill Lake in Indiana.
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