Wild-card games in the NFL Saturday and Sunday were entertaining, but two additional games on Monday will determine the divisional round schedule, as the Steelers’ game at Buffalo was postponed due to a snowstorm.
Let’s start with Monday’s schedule:
NFL Wild-Card Round: Steelers at Bills
The paths the Bills and Steelers took to this game share an uncanny amount of similarities, from losing key players for extended periods to putting together season-ending winning streaks despite slim playoff chances.
Both teams also fired their offensive coordinators in the middle of the season, making them the first playoff teams to do so since the Ravens in 2012. The Steelers are searching for their first playoff victory since 2016, while the Bills are 13-2 in playoff games played at home since 1970.
Pittsburgh will face a struggle in limiting quarterback Josh Allen in the postseason, as Allen is the only player in NFL playoff history to average 250 passing yards and 50 rushing yards per game (minimum five games) and has the highest combined average yardage (343.9).
Steelers running back Najee Harris will have at least 100 yards rushing for the third time in a row. The Steelers’ rushing defense is likely the toughest they’ve faced in at least a month, with opponents averaging 103 yards per game in their last three games.
Harris, on the other hand, had two games with 100-plus rushing yards. The Steelers will rely heavily on their ground game with temperatures anticipated to be below freezing, wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour, and possible light snow. Harris, who shared the backfield with Jaylen Warren, received 255 touches in the regular season, the fewest in his three-year NFL career, allowing him to be as fresh as possible for the playoffs.
During the regular season, the Steelers lead the NFL with nine one-score wins, the most in a single season in franchise history.
Dion Dawkins, left tackle for the Buffalo Bills. With T.J. Watt missing, Alex Highsmith is even more important to the Steelers’ pass rush. If Dawkins, who has had a fantastic season and ranks fourth in pass block win rate among tackles, can shut down Highsmith, Allen should have an easy day.
Pittsburgh must run the ball effectively between the tackles. Harris and Warren had a strong regular season, and Buffalo allowed 4.6 yards per carry on inside runs, which ranked 30th in the NFL.
This game will benefit from one of the NFL’s most dependable officials. Carl Cheffers has officiated the Super Bowl twice in the last three years and three times in the last seven. His team threw the third-fewest flags in the league (12.1 per game) during the regular season.
During the regular season, the Steelers went 10-7 ATS, with the unders going 11-6. During the regular season, the Bills were 7-10 ATS, with the unders going 11-6.
NFL Wild-Card Round: Eagles at Buccaneers
This is the Week 3 rematch that Bucs inside linebacker Devin White prophesied so precisely after the Bucs’ 25-11 home loss on “Monday Night Football.” However, these groups have taken opposing paths. The Buccaneers have won five of their last six games, while the Eagles have lost five of theirs.
The Buccaneers’ defense will also be altered since senior assistant Matt Patricia took over in Week 15. Both quarterbacks are dealing with ailments, with Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield suffering a rib injury as well as an ankle issue, and Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts suffering a finger injury on his throwing hand in Week 18.
Rachaad White of the Buccaneers will have more than 125 yards on the ground. The Eagles restricted Tampa Bay to 41 rushing yards in their last meeting. However, the run defense has since gone off a cliff, averaging 142 yards per game over the last seven games. A hurt Mayfield may rely on White in both the ground and short passing game.
Hurts has battled with blitz ball security, throwing five touchdowns and eight interceptions. This season, no quarterback had more than eight turnovers while blitzed. Hurts will face a Tampa Bay defense that blitzed at the third-highest rate during the regular season this weekend.
Hurts’ index finger. He revealed on Thursday that he hadn’t tossed a ball since he injured his finger in Week 18. If that injury prevents him from throwing the ball on Monday night, this is a very different story.
Can D’Andre Swift help Philadelphia’s running game? He rushed for 130 yards against Tampa Bay in Week 3, and incorporating him into the running game might help the Eagles establish a rhythm.
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