The NFL wild is a unique and exciting game that has drawn in millions of viewers who enjoy the thrill of watching their favorite players score touchdowns.
The “nfl wild card games 2021” is a new game that will be played this year. It is part of the NFL playoffs and it is in the same league as the regular season.
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The NFL wild-card round in 2021 is chock-full of intriguing matchups, and we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know ahead of the six-game weekend. Our NFL Nation reporters provide us with the most important aspects of each game, as well as a bold prediction for each matchup and, of course, final score predictions.
Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a big stat to know and a betting nugget for each contest, and our Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. Matt Bowen picks out a key matchup to watch for every game, and Kevin Seifert tells us what to know about the officiating. Everything you want to know is here in one spot to help you get ready for a loaded weekend of NFL playoff football.
Let’s take a look at the entire wild-card schedule, which includes Joe Burrow and Derek Carr facing off on Saturday, the Patriots and Bills meeting for the third time, Tom Brady attempting to start yet another run to the Super Bowl against the Eagles, Nick Bosa and Micah Parsons facing off on Sunday afternoon, and Ben Roethlisberger attempting to keep his season alive against the Chiefs. It all comes to a head on Monday Night Football when the Cardinals take on the Rams on ESPN.
LV-CIN | NE-BUF | PHI-TB SF-DAL | PIT-KC | ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR ARI-LAR
NBC Matchup rating: 46.3 | Spread: CIN -5.5 | Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (48.5)
What to look out for: This game might come down to the wire early. The Raiders will rely on pass rushers Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue to confuse Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who is in the greatest shape of his young career. If the Bengals score early and Burrow gets into a groove, it could be a long day for a Raiders offense that was tied for 18th in yards per drive during their four-game winning run. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first playoff game in NFL history involving clubs who are each at least 18 years away from their previous postseason triumph. – Ben Little
Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow will have more receptions and touchdowns than Bengals receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who set a Super Bowl record with 1,455 receiving yards as a rookie. On Saturday, the weather will be a factor, so the vertical passing game and Chase’s explosiveness may be harmed. Renfrow, who led Las Vegas in receptions (103), receiving yards (1,038), and receiving touchdowns (9) last season, shines in the midrange passing game, particularly as a safety net for quarterback Derek Carr, who isn’t hesitant to check it down. Gutierrez, Paul
Burrow topped the NFL in completion percentage (70.4%) and yards per attempt (8.9) this season, making him the only player in NFL history to achieve both feats in the same season (25). He was sacked 51 times, and none of the previous 54 quarterbacks sacked 50 times in a season made it to the Super Bowl.
8:15 p.m. ET on Saturday | 90.7 CBS Matchup Rating | BUF -4 Spread (44)
What to look for: Can Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen repeat his performance from a few weeks ago in New England, or will his current accuracy troubles surface? Allen completed 49.3 percent of his passes in the last two games of the regular season. Meanwhile, the Patriots have limited opponents to the league’s second-lowest completion percentage this season, behind just the Bills. Furthermore, Allen has the second-worst completion rate in cold game temps (50 percent) over the last 15 seasons, so his ability to put together a more complete game at home will go a long way toward determining the result. Alaina Getzenberg is a writer who lives in New York City.
Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr Here’s a bold forecast: With temperatures expected to be around 0 degrees, Highmark Stadium will run out of hot chocolate. The Patriots’ coldest game was a 17-14 home playoff victory against the Titans on Jan. 10, 2004, when the temperature was 4 degrees with a wind chill of minus-10. The Bills’ coldest game was a 29-23 playoff triumph against the Raiders on Jan. 15, 1994, when the temperature was 0 degrees with a wind chill of minus-32. — Reiss, Mike
Since 2020, Stefon Diggs of the Bills has 15 receptions for 233 yards and three touchdowns versus Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Jackson has only allowed four touchdowns as the closest defender to all other players combined over the last two seasons.
Key to Bowen’s game plan: The Bills used late rotation from the safeties in their Week 16 victory over the Patriots, playing man on 61 percent of coverage plays against Patriots QB Mac Jones. Jones threw for 145 yards and two interceptions on 14-of-32 passing. E+ has further information.
Patriots | Bills Injuries
What you should know about officiating: The Bills were the fourth-most penalized team in the NFL (139), led by offensive lineman Dion Dawkins (nine) and Spencer Brown (six) (eight). The Patriots were rated No. 8 in the NFL (105). And with an average of 13.4 flags thrown per game, referee Brad Allen finished the regular season as the NFL’s No. 10 official. Kevin Seifert (Kevin Seifert)
Since 2010, rookie quarterbacks have gone 0-6 in the playoffs outright (2-4 against the spread). The last three rookie quarterbacks to make the playoffs have gone 0-3 against the spread and in straight games. E+ has further information.
Bills 20, Patriots 17 is Reiss’ prediction. Bills 17, Patriots 13 is Getzenberg’s prediction. BUF, 61.6 percent, according to the FPI (by an average of 3.9 points)
Must-read matchups: Is this Bill Belichick’s finest coaching effort as a Patriot? … Stefon and Trevon, brothers, continue to push one other to new heights… As the Patriots prepare for the playoffs, Jones’ performance raises concerns about the rookie wall… Top moments from the rivalry between the Patriots and the Bills… The Bills and Patriots are on opposite sides of the field in their first playoff encounter in 58 years.
FOX Matchup rating: 68.8 | Spread: TB -8.5 | Sunday, 1 p.m. ET | FOX Matchup rating: 68.8 (46)
What to look out for: The Buccaneers have had the league’s best run defense the previous two years, but they’ve looked susceptible in that area the last two weeks, allowing over 100 yards on the ground in each of their final two regular-season games. Pay particular attention to the periphery, where Eagles running back Miles Sanders’ lateral agility makes him a potential threat. The Eagles average 6.0 yards per run, while the Bucs allow 4.6 yards per carry. Last week, they struggled to defend run-pass possibilities, and coach Bruce Arians said that Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts “is a lot speedier than Sam Darnold.” The success of Tampa Bay’s defensive starters Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Lavonte David will be determined in large part by how much they can get out of them. Jenna Laine is a writer who lives in New York City.
Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady will have to lead a late touchdown drive for the Bucs to survive and advance. Sure, Hurts is making his first playoff start, and Brady is making his 46th (Hurts was just three years old when Brady made his postseason debut during the 2001 season). The reigning champion Buccaneers are, of course, huge favorites. However, Tampa Bay’s offense isn’t as potent as it was in a Week 6 victory against Philadelphia, and the Eagles have developed a new run-heavy identity (league-high 159.7 rush yards per game). The underdog Eagles will terrify the GOAT by playing free, physical, and inspired football. Tim McManus, Ph.D.
According to ESPN monitoring, Brady has been pressed on 16.8% of his dropbacks this season, his lowest percentage since 2011, and his snap-to-release time has averaged 2.5 seconds. The Eagles have blitzed opponents 19 percent of the time (the lowest in the NFL), sacked opponents 4.5 percent of the time (third worst), and pressed opponents 27% of the time (seventh-worst).
Key to Bowen’s game plan: Will the Buccaneers match up in passing situations or utilize a linebacker to re-route Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert — who has five or more catches in four of his last six games — at the line of scrimmage? E+ has further information.
4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday | CBS Matchup Rating: 79.5 | DAL -3 Spread (51)
What to watch for: These storied rivals are meeting in the postseason for the first time since the 1994 NFC Championship — and for the first time in the wild-card round. The Cowboys own a 5-2 advantage in postseason meetings against San Francisco and are 3-0 in wild-card games at AT&T Stadium. They can’t allow the Niners’ run game to control the tempo of the contest and need big plays on offense. San Francisco allowed 51 pass plays of 20 yards or more during the regular season. — Todd Archer
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Deebo Samuel, the NFL’s most dangerous versatile weapon, will remind everyone why he’s the league’s most deadly multipurpose weapon, rushing for 200+ yards from scrimmage. The Cowboys’ defense is allowing the second-most yards after catch per reception in the NFL this season, while Samuel is leading the league in getting those yards (10.0). When you combine Samuel’s ability to wreak havoc from the backfield against a Dallas defense that is vulnerable to the run (particularly on the outside), you have a recipe for a huge day. Nick Wagoner is a writer.
Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is 7-0 this season when he does not throw an interception and 2-6 when he does. Trevon Diggs of the Dallas Cowboys led the NFL with 11 interceptions, the most by any player since Everson Walls (11) in 1981.
Dallas will manipulate zone looks by overloading them and creating boundary voids, according to Bowen’s game plan. During the regular season, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw 30 explosive plays against zone coverages. E+ has further information.
Cowboys | 49ers Injuries
What to know about officiating: This will be Alex Kemp’s second playoff game as a referee, and his regular-season crew ranked No. 8 in the NFL with an average of 14.4 flags thrown per game. With 153 flags, the Cowboys were the league’s most penalized club, 10 more than the next-closest team. Guard Connor Williams, among others, topped the league in holding calls (13) and was second in total penalties (15). Trevon Diggs, the cornerback, had a total of 11 penalties. Kevin Seifert (Kevin Seifert)
Dallas went 10-3 against the spread as a favorite this season, giving them the greatest cover percentage in the NFL. It was also 6-3 against the spread this season versus teams with winning records, the best mark among teams playing this weekend. E+ has further information.
49ers 30, Cowboys 21 is Wagoner’s prediction. Cowboys 31, 49ers 27 is Archer’s choice. DAL, 64.0 percent, according to the FPI (by an average of 4.7 points)
Matchup must-reads: Why 49ers tackle Williams’ blocks went viral… Stefon and Trevon, brothers, continue to push one other to new heights… Garoppolo ‘could easily have tapped out,’ but instead he’stepped up…’ Can Parsons of the Cowboys follow in Kearse’s footsteps to the Super Bowl?
NBC Matchup rating: 61.1 | Spread: KC -13 | Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET (46)
What to look out for: Against the Steelers, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has a lifetime QBR of 91.9, the most of any opponent. Sure, there are just two games, one of which is in 2018. However, if the Steelers let Mahomes to do anything he wants — he has nine touchdown passes and zero picks in two games — Pittsburgh’s chances of winning are little to none. The Steelers have dropped three consecutive postseason games, allowing an average of 43.0 points per game. Adam Teicher’s remark
In the fourth quarter, I think the Steelers will make it a one-possession game. They were knocked out 23-0 at halftime in the regular-season matchup three weeks ago. The Steelers, on the other hand, are playing with house money this time. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger even said that his team shouldn’t be in the playoffs, claiming that they are 14th out of 14 teams. The Steelers have had success in second-half surges even when they can’t get out to a quick start. The Chiefs have more skill, but after two consecutive victories, the Steelers have momentum and will make this game closer than it should be. Brooke Pryor is an actress who plays Brooke Pryor.
Know this: Pittsburgh running back Najee Harris has 1,200 rushing yards this season, which is a club rookie record, and has at least 90 rushing yards in three of his last five games after doing it three times in the first 12 games.
8:15 p.m. on Monday ET | 83.3 ESPN/ABC Matchup Rating | LAR -4 Spread (49.5)
What to look out for: The Rams and Cardinals split the regular-season matchup, with each team winning at home. The Cardinals dominated Week 4 with a 37-20 victory, thanks to a spotless Kyler Murray performance and two mistakes that were turned into scores by their defense. Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald caused havoc on Murray in Week 14 with a three-sack performance. So, what can we anticipate from the final? The Cardinals were 8-1 on the road, while the Rams are coming off a heartbreaking defeat in the regular-season finale and want to show that they can not only move on but also remain a Super Bowl contender. Murray and Matthew Stafford are expected to compete in a quarterback duel, with the winner advancing to the divisional round. Lindsey Thiry (Lindsey Thiry)
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All indicators point to Arizona defensive lineman J.J. Watt returning from shoulder surgery for Monday night’s game, and with him, the Cardinals’ defense will get a significant lift. He’ll have two sacks and a fumble recovery to lead the Cardinals to another divisional round victory on the road. Before Watt’s injury in Week 7, Arizona’s defense was generating pressure on 31% of opponent dropbacks, but that number plummeted to 23% for the remainder of the regular season without him. Josh Weinfuss (@JoshWeinfuss)
The Rams’ Sony Michel has 554 rushing yards since Week 12, which ranks third in the NFL behind Rashaad Penny and Jonathan Taylor in that time period. On the other hand, Cardinals running back James Conner has 18 touchdowns this season, which is tied for third in the NFL.
Can Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury employ play designs to get receiver Christian Kirk free against the deep corners and crossers, as Bowen’s game plan requires? Kirk had three catches for 86 yards against the Los Angeles defense in their last encounter. E+ has further information.
Cardinals | Rams Injuries
Clay Martin will be overseeing his second playoff game as a referee, and his regular-season crew ranked No. 13 in the NFL with an average of 12.9 flags thrown per game. The Rams had the third-fewest flags in the NFL (92), while the Cardinals had the 24th-fewest (120). With 12 total penalties, offensive lineman Josh Jones led the Cardinals, including five false starts and four holding. Kevin Seifert (Kevin Seifert)
The total has gone over in four of the last five encounters between these two squads. E+ has further information.
Cardinals 34, Rams 24 is Weinfuss’ choice. Rams 28, Cardinals 21 is Thirty’s choice. LAR, 58.0 percent, according to the FPI (by an average of 2.7 points)
Must-read matchups: Is Murray Texas’ best quarterback? … Safety Weddle comes out of retirement to play for the Rams in the playoffs… Murray is expected to play his ‘best game of his career,’ according to Kingsbury… The Rams’ NFC West crown was shattered by yet another heartbreaking defeat to the 49ers.
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The “nfl wild card schedule bracket” is a day-by-day breakdown of the NFL’s wild card games. The article will also include the results and scores for each game.
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