The NFC Day Games
You guys, we made it to the NFL Playoffs. It has been a season, but we are here, and this year, seven teams in each Conference made it to the dance. So, let’s start by checking a couple NFC dance cards.
Rams @ Seahawks – We are officially sleepless in Seattle, as the Rams QB1 for their first-round match-up against the Seahawks is TBD. Jared Goff is less than two weeks removed from surgery on his broken and dislocated right thumb and is listed as questionable. If he can’t play, it will be John Wolford under center. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will meet a Rams defense that allowed 18.5 points per game in the regular season. That defense of course includes Aaron Donald and his 13.5 sacks. No matter who’s under center for LA, its offense has been inconsistent all season, and while Wolford is no Goff, Goff is no Wilson. If Russell Wilson is on, advantage Seattle. Kickoff is Saturday at 4:40 pm ET/1:40 pm PT on FOX.
Bears @ Saints – On Sunday, Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears are off to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the Saints. Good luck. Brees may not be going deep much this season, but he is surrounded by offensive weapons, while the Saints boast one of the NFL’s top defenses, though they will be without DE Trey Hendrickson and that’s a big loss. Running back Alvin Kamara, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-l9 list a week ago, yesterday tweeted “See y’all Sunday,” so it sounds like he’s playing. Trubisky has been playing well as of late and the Bears defense is nothing to scoff at, but there is just too much talent in the Big Easy. Advantage, New Orleans. Kickoff is Sunday at 4:40 pm ET/1:40 pm PT on CBS.
The AFC Day Games
Colts @ Bills – Is there any team in the NFL having more fun right now than the Buffalo Bills? Well, the Bills would like to keep the party going when they host the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday at 1:05 pm ET/10:05 am PT. Buffalo QB Josh Allen is playing at an elite level. However, his top two wide receivers, Stefon Diggs (oblique) and Cole Beasley (knee) are both questionable to play. It’s a good thing Buffalo can run the ball and that its defense is third in the NFL in takeaways with 26. The Colts defense, led by DeForest Buckner and his nine sacks, has allowed 332 yards per game, which is eighth in the NFL. Running back Jonathan Taylor has made Indy’s run game formidable, while QB Philip Rivers has been doing Philip Rivers-things. This one will come down to Allen and the health of the offense. If that all goes according to plan, advantage Buffalo. The game is on CBS.
Ravens @ Titans – Revenge is a dish best served on Sunday, when the Baltimore Ravens head to Tennessee to take on the Titans, the same Titans that shocked them out of last year’s playoffs. Baltimore is bringing its five-game win streak and the NFL’s #1 rushing offense to Nissan Stadium, but the Titans counter that with running back Derrick Henry and his 2,027 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. Not too shabby. With Tennessee’s defense giving up 398.3 yards and 27. 4 points per game, this is an opportunity for Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson to make some magic in the air and on the ground on the way to victory. Advantage, Baltimore. Kickoff is Sunday at 1:05 pm ET/10:05 am PT on ABC/ESPN.
Prime Time, NFC Edition
For the first time in his career, Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady enters the postseason as a Wild Card, as the Buccaneers head to Washington, D.C. to take on the NFC East-champion Football Team. Both teams finished the season on a hot streak but only one can make the heat last to the Divisional round. I know, very dramatic.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans (knee) is questionable and will be a game-time decision, but if I were to guess, he’ll play. Add in receivers Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown and running back Ronald Jones II, and the Buccs have themselves an offense.
Both teams boast top defenses, with rookie Chase Young leading the Football Team. Offensively for Washington, QB Alex Smith, WR Terry McLaurin and running back Antonio Gibson are all questionable to play. Will they? Probably, but if the Football Team isn’t at full strength, Tompa Bay will be hard to beat. Advantage, Buccaneers.
Kickoff is Saturday at 8:15 pm ET/5:15 pm PT on NBC.
Waiting All Weekend for Sunday Night
And for our final Wild Card match-up of the weekend, Sunday Night brings us the Cleveland Browns at the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns are in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and they don’t want to be one-and-done. The Steelers were inconsistent at best over the last several weeks, after starting the season 11-0.
Cleveland will be without head coach Kevin Stefanski, who tested positive for COVID-19. Special Teams coordinator Mike Priefer will take on head coaching duties, while offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call the plays. The Browns will be without three-time Pro-Bowl guard Joel Bitonio, who also tested positive for COVID-19.
It has been a tale of two Ben Roethlisbergers, as the veteran quarterback struggled in the final weeks of the season. On the plus side, Pittsburgh has the league’s third-ranked defense in yards and points allowed, which means Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield will have his work cut out for him. Mayfield has had moments of greatness this season, but his first playoff appearance, on the road, against an AFC North-rival is a whole different ballgame, literally.
This one will come down to the QBs. Can Mayfield solidify himself as the franchise quarterback without his head coach? Can Big Ben rise to the occasion and lead his team? Time will tell. Based on playoff experience alone, advantage Pittsburgh, but this one is the epitome of any given Sunday. Kickoff is at 8:15 pm ET/5:15 pm PT on NBC.
RIP Tommy Lasorda
Tommy Lasorda, Hall of Famer and former manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, passed away at the age of 93. Lasorda managed the Dodgers from 1976-1996, during which he won two World Series titles, four National League pennant and the division eight times. He was also named the National League Manager of the Year twice.
Lasorda spent seven decades with the Dodgers organization and once said, “I bleed Dodger blue and when I die, I’m going to the big Dodger in the sky.” RIP 💙
Lindor to the Mets
With just over a month before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, we’ve got a blockbuster Major League Baseball trade.
The Cleveland Indians have sent All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets, along with pitcher Carlos Carrasco. In exchange, Cleveland gets infielders Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, as well as outfielder Isaiah Greene and right-handed pitcher Josh Wolf, both of whom were top prospects for the Mets.
Mets owner Steven Cohen, who bought the team on November 6, 2020, said he was going to increase spending, so expect a long-term contract for Lindor on the horizon.