NFL Wild Card Weekend — Our predictions for who wins the first round of the playoffs

Matt Rourke/APRussell Wilson and Carson Wentz will face off in the Wild Card on Sunday.


The NFL playoffs are here!

Saturday kicks off Wild Card Weekend, as the four AFC teams battle before the NFC teams face off on Sunday. Wild Card Weekend is always prone to upsets, and this year’s matchups feel even less certain than usual, as the games could go in any direction.

The Sports Insider team made its predictions for how the games will play out. See who we think will advance in the playoffs this weekend below.


Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans

Eric Christian Smith/APDeshaun Watson.

Cork Gaines: Bills. This Bills team is going to get shut down once they face a good defence. The Texans are not that team. Yes, they will have J.J. Watt back, but it is hard to believe he is going to be at full-throttle the entire game after missing eight games.

Scott Davis: Bills. The Texans have played up and down to their competition this season, their defence is weak, Deshaun Watson hasn’t played his best football down the stretch, and the Texans enter the playoffs with more injury questions than Buffalo.

Tyler Lauletta: Texans. Depending on the health of Will Fuller and which side of the bed the Bills defence wakes up on, this game could go either way. But in a coin flip, give me the team that has DeAndre Hopkins.

Meredith Cash: Texans. I could see Deshaun Watson breaking through and leading the Texans on a surprise playoff run in his third season under centre. With J.J. Watt making his return and a chance to vie for the franchise’s first divisional-round victory on the line, I’m taking Houston to outmaneuver an elite Buffalo defence.


Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots

Elise Amendola/APTom Brady.

Cork Gaines: Patriots. The Titans were one of the five or six best teams in the NFL in the second half of the season. The Patriots were not. If this game were in Nashville, I would be tempted to take the Titans. It is not. Pats will win, but this will be a better game than some might realise.

Scott Davis: Patriots. Ryan Tannehill and the red-hot Titans offence are due for some regression, and I believe in Bill Belichick’s ability to scheme up a plan to slow them down. Tom Brady has given us reason to doubt him this season, but ultimately, in the playoffs, I want to see him fail to meet the challenge before betting against him.

Tyler Lauletta: Titans. Ryan Tannehill outplays Tom Brady, the once-dominant Patriots defence shrinks to a shell of itself as they against the Dolphin in Week 17, Derrick Henry runs for 227 yards and three touchdowns, cats befriend dogs, and the Patriots fail to play in the AFC Championship for the first time since 2010.

Meredith Cash: Patriots. Ryan Tannehill has put on quite a show in Tennessee since taking over quarterback, making the Titans a very trendy – and tempting – pick to pull off the upset. But even with rumours swirling that Saturday night could be the Tom Brady’s final stint at Gillette Stadium, I’m still not ready to write off the 42-year-old legend.


Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints

Mark Zaleski/APDrew Brees and Michael Thomas.

Cork Gaines: Saints. Dalvin Cook is said to be ready to go against the Saints. It won’t be enough. The Saints are the best team in the NFC right now.

Scott Davis: Saints. Drew Brees and the Saints offence lit the world on fire over their last seven games, averaging 36 points per game, while Brees threw 22 touchdowns to one interception. That’s a lot of fire-power for any team to counter, let alone in the Superdome.

Tyler Lauletta: Saints. New Orleans is on a roll right now and Kirk Cousins has never won a big game in his career. You like that?

Meredith Cash: Saints. I have yet to see Kirk Cousins show up in big moments. He struggles in primetime and, heading into this season, won just five of 25 games against teams that finished the year with a winning record. With Drew Brees and company waging a revenge tour after last year’s disaster, I suspect Minnesota’s 2019 season will end just as it started: full of tumult and questions about Cousins’ value.


Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles

Michael Perez/APRussell Wilson.

Cork Gaines: Seahawks. I don’t trust either of these teams. But if this is a one-score game in the fourth quarter, I trust Russell Wilson more than I trust Carson Wentz.

Scott Davis: Seahawks. The Seahawks enter this game in shaky shape, but Russell Wilson has delivered when they have needed him. There is a certain mystique around this Eagles team, but they didn’t put it together over 16 games and have too many injuries on offence.

Tyler Lauletta: Eagles. With both teams in tatters due to injury, this game could go a few directions. In one reality, broken plays and undisciplined defence leads to an unexpected shootout. In another, this game is a defensive slog with neither short-handed offence able to find a break. I’m aiming the latter and hoping my home team can come through. Go Birds.

Meredith Cash: Seahawks. The Eagles barely squeaked out a playoff berth in a disastrous NFC East, while Russell Wilson has enjoyed an MVP-calibre season despite facing a stacked field in the NFC West. Even with the raucous Philadelphia faithful behind them Sunday, the depleted Eagles won’t have enough to overcome the Seahawks’ experience, composure, and not-so-secret weapon in Beast Mode.


Now, check out our rankings of all 12 playoff teams…

AP Photo/Frank Victores

NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where all 12 playoff teams stand heading into the wild-card round >

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