The NFL wild-card spherical for the 2021 time is stacked with good matchups, and we acquired you lined with what you will need to know heading into the 6-activity weekend. Our NFL Nation reporters carry us the biggest keys to each and every activity, a daring prediction for each individual matchup and, of training course, final score picks.
Furthermore, ESPN Stats & Information provides a significant stat to know and a betting nugget for each individual contest, and our Soccer Electrical power Index (FPI) goes inside the figures with a matchup ranking (on a scale of one to one hundred) and a activity projection. Matt Bowen picks out a key matchup to watch for each and every activity, and Kevin Seifert tells us what to know about the officiating. All the things you want to know is listed here in just one spot to assist you get all set for a loaded weekend of NFL playoff football.
Let us get into the total wild-card slate, with Tom Brady trying to start nonetheless one more operate to the Super Bowl from the Eagles, Nick Bosa and Micah Parsons dealing with off on Sunday afternoon and Ben Roethlisberger actively playing in what could most likely be his final postseason from the Chiefs. It all culminates with a Monday Evening Soccer matchup amongst the Cardinals and the Rams on ESPN.
FPI prediction: CIN, 67.5% (by an common of six. points)
Jump to a matchup:
PIT-KC | ARI-LAR
Sunday, one p.m. ET | FOX
Matchup ranking: 68.eight | Unfold: TB -eight.5 (forty six)
What to watch for: The Buccaneers have boasted the league’s top rated-ranked operate defense the earlier two many years but have seemed susceptible in that section the earlier two weeks, giving up over one hundred yards on the floor in each individual of the final two typical-time online games. Fork out close focus to the perimeter, wherever Eagles running again Miles Sanders is risky with his lateral quickness. The Eagles common six. yards for each have, and the Bucs have supplied up four.six yards a pop. They also experienced troubles defending operate-move possibilities final week, and mentor Bruce Arians acknowledged that Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts “is a whole lot a lot quicker than Sam Darnold.” Considerably will rely on how much Tampa Bay can get out of defensive starters Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Lavonte David. — Jenna Laine
Bold prediction: It will consider a late scoring travel by Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady for the Bucs to survive and advance. Positive, this is Hurts’ initially playoff start and Brady’s 46th (Hurts was just a few many years outdated when Brady built his postseason debut all through the 2001 time). And indeed, the defending champion Bucs are heavy favorites. But Tampa Bay doesn’t have the same firepower on offense as it did in a 7 days six get over Philly, though the Eagles have recognized a new operate-heavy identification (league-large 159.seven rush yards for each activity). The underdog Eagles will enjoy loose, bodily and impressed football and put a scare into the GOAT. — Tim McManus
Stat to know: In accordance to ESPN tracking, Brady was pressured on 16.eight% of his dropbacks this time, his cheapest because 2011, and has averaged two.5 seconds from snap to release. The Eagles have blitzed 19% of the time (cheapest in the NFL), sacked opponents four.5% of the time (third-worst) and pressured opponents 27% of the time (seventh-worst).
Bowen’s activity-plan key: The Buccaneers have been Cover three-heavy this time (31.two% of protection snaps), but will they match up in passing predicaments or use a linebacker to reroute Eagles limited close Dallas Goedert — who has 5 or far more receptions in four of his earlier 6 online games — at the line of scrimmage? Browse far more on E+.
Jeff Saturday and Domonique Foxworth break down whether the Eagles have any edge from the Buccaneers in Sunday’s wild-card matchup.
Accidents: Eagles | Buccaneers
What to know for officiating: Referee Craig Wrolstad, whose typical-time crew ranked No. 9 in the NFL with 13.eight flags thrown for each activity, obtained his initially playoff assignment in 5 many years listed here. Roughing the passer flags are typically thrown by the referee, and Wrolstad tied for the league’s 2nd-most this kind of calls (12). The Eagles and Buccaneers, on the other hand, were being only called for a few roughing flags apiece all through the time. — Kevin Seifert
Betting nugget: Philadelphia is 10-one from the distribute as a postseason underdog because 2001 (six-5 outright), and it lined in 5 of its earlier 6 playoff online games. Browse far more on E+.
McManus’ choose: Buccaneers 31, Eagles 30
Laine’s choose: Buccaneers 31, Eagles 26
FPI prediction: TB, 77.four% (by an common of 9.9 points)
Matchup need to-reads: What would make Eagles quarterback Hurts tick? ‘He desires to be so perfect’ … Sherman put on hurt reserve, shifts focus to ‘coaching butt off’ for Buccaneers … Brady revisits snub of Foles’ handshake ahead of rematch vs. Eagles, states ‘I check out to be a very good sport’
Sunday, four:30 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup ranking: seventy nine.5 | Unfold: DAL -three (51)
What to watch for: These storied rivals are meeting in the postseason for the initially time because the 1994 NFC Championship — and for the initially time in the wild-card spherical. The Cowboys personal a 5-two edge in postseason conferences from San Francisco and are three- in wild-card online games at AT&T Stadium. They can’t permit the Niners’ operate activity to command the tempo of the contest, and they will need significant plays on offense. San Francisco authorized 51 move plays of twenty yards or far more all through the typical time. — Todd Archer
Bold prediction: San Francisco receiver Deebo Samuel will remind every person that he’s the NFL’s most risky multipurpose offensive participant, heading for 200-additionally yards from scrimmage. The Cowboys’ secondary is giving up six.three yards just after capture for each reception this time, 2nd-most in the NFL, though Samuel is initially in the league in attaining those people yards (10.). Include in Samuel’s capability to generate havoc from the backfield from a Dallas defense prone to the operate (specially on the perimeter), and Samuel is perfectly-positioned for a significant working day. — Nick Wagoner
Stat to know: Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is seven- when he doesn’t toss an interception this time and two-six when he does. Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs led the NFL with eleven interceptions, which was the most by any participant because Everson Walls (eleven) in 1981.
Bowen’s activity-plan key: Check out for Dallas to manipulate zone appears by overloading them and making boundary voids. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott posted 30 explosive-enjoy throws from zone coverages all through the typical time. Browse far more on E+.
Accidents: 49ers | Cowboys
What to know for officiating: Alex Kemp will be the referee in his 2nd playoff activity, and his typical-time crew ranked No. eight in the NFL with an common of fourteen.four flags thrown for each activity. He could have his palms total with the Cowboys, who were being the league’s most penalized workforce with 153 flags — 10 far more than the future-closest workforce. Amongst other players, guard Connor Williams led the league in holding calls (13) and was 2nd total with 15 whole penalties. Cornerback Trevon Diggs experienced eleven whole penalties. — Kevin Seifert
Betting nugget: Dallas was 10-three from the distribute as a favorite this time, the finest include proportion in those people spots in the NFL. It also went six-three from the distribute from teams with successful information this time, finest amid teams actively playing this weekend. Browse far more on E+.
Wagoner’s choose: 49ers 30, Cowboys 21
Archer’s choose: Cowboys 31, 49ers 27
FPI prediction: DAL, sixty four.% (by an common of four.seven points)
Matchup need to-reads: Why the blocks of 49ers deal with Williams went viral … Brothers Stefon and Trevon go on to press each individual other to more heights … Garoppolo ‘could have effortlessly tapped out,’ instead he ‘stepped up’ … Can Cowboys’ Parsons adhere to Kearse’s footsteps all the way to the Super Bowl?
Sunday, eight:15 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup ranking: 61.one | Unfold: KC -13 (forty six)
What to watch for: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has a career QBR of ninety one.9 from the Steelers, better than from any other opponent. Positive, it truly is only two online games, such as just one in 2018. But if the Steelers permit Mahomes to do as he pleases — he has 9 TD passes with zero interceptions in the two online games — Pittsburgh’s path to victory seems nonexistent. The Steelers have lost a few straight playoff online games, giving up an common of forty three. points in those people online games. — Adam Teicher
Bold prediction: The Steelers will make it a just one-possession activity in the fourth quarter. They acquired blown out in the typical-time meeting a few weeks ago and trailed 23- at halftime. This time about, nevertheless, the Steelers are actively playing with house cash. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger even reported his club likely should not be in the playoffs and that they’re 14th out of the fourteen teams in the playoffs. But even when they can’t get off to a rapidly start, the Steelers have experienced achievement in 2nd-50 % surges. The Chiefs have far more expertise, but the Steelers have the momentum just after two straight wins and will make this activity nearer than it should really be. — Brooke Pryor
Stat to know: Pittsburgh running again Najee Harris experienced one,200 rushing yards this time — a workforce rookie record — and at least ninety rushing yards in a few of his earlier 5 online games just after accomplishing so a few whole instances in the initially 12 online games of time.
Louis Riddick breaks down the keys to achievement for the Steelers to upset the Chiefs on wild-card weekend.
Bowen’s activity-plan key: Seem for the Chiefs to get limited close Travis Kelce involved a whole lot, utilizing flood ideas and over routes. Browse far more on E+.
Accidents: Steelers | Chiefs
What to know for officiating: Two Steelers — receiver Dionte Johnson and offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor — tied for 2nd in the league in false starts off (6), but Chiefs defensive deal with Chris Jones tied for third in the NFL with a whole of 7 defensive offsides, encroachment or neutral zone infractions. And the Steelers could want to concentrate on Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who tied for 2nd in the NFL with 5 defensive move interference penalties. Referee Shawn Smith’s typical-time crew tied for No. eleven in the NFL with an common of 13.three flags thrown for each activity. — Kevin Seifert
Betting nugget: Ten of Kansas City’s seventeen online games this time went over the whole, tied for the 2nd-maximum over proportion in the NFL this time. But only 6 of Pittsburgh’s online games went over the whole. Browse far more on E+.
Pryor’s choose: Chiefs 31, Steelers 24
Teicher’s choose: Chiefs 26, Steelers 16
FPI prediction: KC, 75.9% (by an common of 9.three points)
Matchup need to-reads: Steelers open up 21-working day window for Smith-Schuster to return from hurt reserve … Steadiness of Reid righted the Chiefs’ time … Roethlisberger on Steelers’ long odds from Chiefs: ‘Let’s just go in and enjoy and have fun’ … Chiefs have dominated initially quarters, but just after that ‘they’re stalling out’
Monday, eight:15 p.m. ET | ESPN/ABC
Matchup ranking: eighty three.three | Unfold: LAR -four (49.5)
What to watch for: The Rams and Cardinals break up the typical-time series, each individual successful on the highway. The Cardinals dominated in 7 days four with a 37-twenty get, enabled by a flawless Kyler Murray performance and their defense forcing two turnovers that were being c
onverted into touchdowns. In 7 days fourteen, Rams defensive deal with Aaron Donald wreaked havoc for Murray when he turned in a a few-sack outing. What can be predicted in the rubber match? The Cardinals played their finest on the highway (eight-one), though the Rams are coming off a disheartening reduction in the typical-time finale and are intent on proving they can not only go on but also keep on being a Super Bowl-caliber workforce. Check out for Murray and Matthew Stafford to enter a quarterback duel, with the just one who provides the fewest glitches advancing to the divisional spherical. — Lindsey Thiry
Bold prediction: All signs stage to Arizona defensive lineman J.J. Watt returning from shoulder surgery for Monday night’s activity, and with him will arrive a significant improve for the Cardinals’ defense. He will get two sacks and a fumble restoration to spark the Cardinals into the divisional spherical with one more highway get. Arizona’s defense was generating tension on 31% of opponent dropbacks prior to Watt’s 7 days seven injury, but that dropped to 23% without having him over the relaxation of the typical time. — Josh Weinfuss
Stat to know: Rams running again Sony Michel has 554 rushing yards because 7 days 12, the third-most in the NFL over that span powering Rashaad Penny and Jonathan Taylor. But on the other sideline, Cardinals running again James Conner scored eighteen touchdowns this time, the NFL’s third-most this time.
Bowen’s activity-plan key: Can Arizona mentor Kliff Kingsbury use enjoy designs to get receiver Christian Kirk loose on the deep corners and crossers? Kirk experienced a few receptions for 86 yards in the final meeting with the L.A. defense. Browse far more on E+.
Accidents: Cardinals | Rams
What to know for officiating: Clay Martin will be appearing in his 2nd playoff activity as a referee, and his typical-time crew ranked No. 13 in the NFL with an common of 12.9 flags thrown for each activity. The Rams finished the time with the NFL’s third-fewest flags (ninety two), though the Cardinals ranked No. 24 with one hundred twenty. Offensive lineman Josh Jones led the Cardinals will 12 whole flags, such as 5 false starts off and four holds. — Kevin Seifert
Betting nugget: Four of the earlier 5 conferences amongst these two teams have long gone over the whole. Browse far more on E+.
Weinfuss’ choose: Cardinals 34, Rams 24
Thiry’s choose: Rams 28, Cardinals 21
FPI prediction: LAR, fifty eight.% (by an common of two.seven points)
Matchup need to-reads: Is Murray the finest QB from Texas? … Security Weddle unretires, joins Rams for playoffs … Kingsbury expects Murray to enjoy ‘best activity of his career’ … Rams’ NFC West title spoiled by one more bitter reduction to 49ers
Saturday’s online games
Saturday, four:30 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup ranking: forty six.three | Unfold: CIN -5.5 (48.5)
What to watch for: This activity could be resolved early. The Raiders will need move-rushers Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue to fluster Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who is now in the finest sort of his youthful career. If Cincinnati goes up early and Burrow finds his rhythm, it could be a long working day for a Raiders offense that was tied for 18th in yards for each travel all through their four-activity get streak. Both of those teams will want this just one poorly it truly is the initially playoff meeting in NFL historical past amongst teams who are each individual at least eighteen many years taken off from their final postseason get, for each the Elias Sports activities Bureau. — Ben Infant
Bold prediction: Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow will have far more catches and far more TDs than Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase, whose one,455 receiving yards were being the most by a rookie in the Super Bowl period. Weather conditions will be a issue on Saturday, so the vertical passing activity and Chase’s explosiveness could be negatively impacted. But that plays into the midrange passing activity in which Renfrow — who led Las Vegas in catches (103), receiving yards (one,038) and receiving TDs (9) — excels, specially as the safety blanket for quarterback Derek Carr, who is not frightened to look at it down. — Paul Gutierrez
Stat to know: Burrow led the NFL in completion proportion (70.four%) and yards for each attempt (eight.9) this time, the youngest participant in NFL historical past at any time to do each in the same time (25). Nonetheless, he was also sacked 51 instances, and of the previous fifty four QBs sacked 50 instances in a time, none arrived at the Super Bowl.
Dan Orlovsky and Ryan Clark assume Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers’ defense to dismantle the Cowboys in the wild-card spherical.
Bowen’s activity-plan key: Seem for Bengals running again Joe Mixon to press the ball to the perimeter in what should really be a large-volume working day for him on Saturday. Browse far more on E+.
Accidents: Raiders | Bengals
What to know for officiating: This activity will attribute a matchup of the NFL’s least penalized workforce from the third-most penalized workforce. The Raiders (142) were being flagged nearly 70% far more routinely than the Bengals (84), and Vegas offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood led the league in false starts off (7). Referee Jerome Boger obtained his 2nd consecutive playoff assignment just after heading 7 many years without having just one, and his typical-time crew tied for No. eleven in the NFL with an common of 13.three flags thrown for each activity. — Kevin Seifert
Betting nugget: Carr is 19-13 from the distribute as an underdog over the earlier a few seasons. Browse far more on E+.
Gutierrez’s choose: Raiders twenty, Bengals seventeen
Baby’s choose: Bengals 31, Raiders seventeen
Matchup need to-reads: ‘Job’s not done’: Raiders’ Carr ultimately receives a playoff start, but desires far more … Bengals poised to close ‘Curse of Bo Jackson’ … Within the chaos and weirdness of the 2021 Raiders time
Saturday, eight:15 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup ranking: ninety.seven | Unfold: BUF -four (44)
What to watch for: Can Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen put on a performance like he did in New England a couple weeks ago, or will his current precision troubles exhibit up? In the final two online games of the typical time, Allen done 49.three% of passes. The Patriots, in the meantime, held opponents to the 2nd-cheapest completion proportion in the league this calendar year, only powering the Bills. Furthermore, Allen has the 2nd-worst completion proportion in freezing activity temperatures over the earlier 15 seasons (50%), so his capability to put with each other a far more finish activity at household will go a long way in analyzing the outcome. — Alaina Getzenberg
Bold prediction: Brrrrrr. This is a daring prediction: They are heading to operate out of scorching chocolate at Highmark Stadium, with temperatures projected to be about degrees. The coldest activity the Patriots at any time played was a seventeen-fourteen household playoff get over the Titans on Jan. 10, 2004, when it was four degrees with a wind chill of minus-10. For the Bills, the coldest activity in franchise historical past was Jan. 15, 1994 — a 29-23 playoff get over the Raiders when it was degrees with a wind chill of minus-32. — Mike Reiss
Stat to know: Bills receiver Stefon Diggs has 15 catches for 233 yards and a few touchdowns from Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson because 2020. Jackson has only authorized four touchdowns as the closest defender to all other players merged over the earlier two seasons, for each NFL’s Upcoming Gen Stats.
Bowen’s activity-plan key: In the 7 days 16 get over the Patriots, the Bills played male on 61% of protection snaps from Patriots QB Mac Jones, though also utilizing late rotation from the safeties. Jones was fourteen-of-32 for one hundred forty five yards and two interceptions. Browse far more on E+.
Accidents: Patriots | Bills
What to know for officiating: The Bills were being the NFL’s fourth-most penalized workforce (139), led by offensive linemen deal with Dion Dawkins (9) and Spencer Brown (eight). The Patriots ranked No. eight (105). And referee Brad Allen’s typical time ranked No. 10 in the NFL with an common of 13.four flags thrown for each activity. — Kevin Seifert
Betting nugget: The earlier a few rookie quarterbacks to get to the playoffs went -three from the distribute and outright. Browse far more on E+.
Reiss’ choose: Bills twenty, Patriots seventeen
Getzenberg’s choose: Bills seventeen, Patriots 13
FPI prediction: BUF, 61.six% (by an common of three.9 points)
Matchup need to-reads: Is this Belichick’s finest coaching job with the Patriots? … Brothers Stefon and Trevon go on to press each individual other to more heights … Jones’ enjoy sparks thoughts about rookie wall as Patriots enter playoffs … Top moments from the Patriots-Bills rivalry … Bills, Patriots enter their initially playoff matchup in fifty eight many years on distinct paths