The NFL The postseason is down to eight teams, and the rest of the field includes many who were expected to be here — the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills — and a few surprises.
The bracket includes the seventh-ranked Green Bay Packers — the NFL's youngest team this season — the Houston Texans, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions, who have risen above expectations. With some surprising twists and turns on the field in the wild card round, here are five bold predictions for what will happen in the four games across Saturday and Sunday.
1. Jordan Love leads the Packers past their longtime playoff nemesis: the 49ers
Another week for the Green Bay Packers in the postseason makes for another classic NFC playoff matchup. The seventh-seeded Packers became the youngest team (average age: 25 years, 214 days) to win a playoff game since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger, beating the second-seeded Dallas Cowboys 48–32.
It is Green Bay's 37th all-time postseason victory in league history, tied with the New England Patriots. On Saturday night, the Packers will face the NFC's first-seeded 12-5 San Francisco 49ers, marking the NFL-high 10th playoff matchup between the two franchises.
The Niners — who have 36 playoff wins in their history, just one behind the Packers — lead 5-4 in the all-time postseason series between these two historic heavyweights, with four straight postseason wins against Green Bay and former Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now, the Packers have a new pilot at the helm of their offense in first-year starter Jordan Love. He threw the second-most passing touchdowns (32). NFL regular season and helped the Packers win seven of their last nine games, including the playoffs, while throwing 21 touchdowns and just one interception in that span.
Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (1999) joined the Kansas City Chiefs as a full-time NFL starting quarterback, with Love and 49ers starting quarterback Brock Purdy two of five quarterbacks to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and 4,000 passing yards in their first seasons. quarterback Patrick Mahomes (2018) and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (2020).
In Love's last three games, must-win wins over the Vikings, Bears and Cowboys, he has produced a perfect passer rating (158.3) while being pressured, going 290 yards on 17-of-21 passing and four touchdowns. Love was 5 of 7 for 152 yards and two touchdowns when pressured against the Cowboys. On Saturday, he'll continue to pile up pass rushes en route to the Packers' first NFC Championship Game appearance since the 2020 season.
2. Josh Allen goes nuclear on the Chiefs' second-ranked scoring defense
The Kansas City Chiefs have allowed 17.3 points per game this season, the second-fewest in the NFL and the best by an Andy Reid-coached team since the 2004 Eagles (16.3). They have yet to allow a 300-yard passer this season, and their 81% press man coverage rate is second-highest in the NFL.
Josh Allen is coming off his first playoff game with three passing touchdowns, at least 70 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in Monday's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. His 44 total touchdowns this season are the most in the NFL. He leads the league in both total touchdowns (174) and turnovers (75) over the past four seasons.
What happens when the Bills' star quarterback collides with the Chiefs' defense? Allen shreds Kansas City's 'D', which prefers playing with its back to the quarterback, providing enough production to overcome a big day from Patrick Mahomes in his first career road playoff game.
3. Ravens intercept Texans rookie CJ Strode multiple times
Texans rookie quarterback CJ Stroud, the second overall pick in 2023 The NFL Draft, led the NFL in touchdown-to-interception ratio during the regular season (23-5). He also has the best touchdown-to-interception ratio (21-2, 10.5) in NFL history (minimum 250 pass attempts) against winning teams, including the playoffs.
That turns against the AFC's first-seeded Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore leads the NFL in scoring defense (16.5 points per game), takeaways (31, tied for the most in the league with the New York Giants) and sacks (60). First team in NFL history to lead and/or co-lead the league in those categories in a single season. Stroud and the Texans faced off in the regular-season opener for both teams, with the freshman quarterback going 28-for-44 with no touchdowns or interceptions.
On Saturday, the Ravens' top-ranked defense flusters Stroud in the Ravens' first playoff road game, and at least one safety went to Geno Stone and turned him over twice.
4. Lions keep Buccaneers out of end zone
The Tampa Buccaneers were rewarded with 13 missed tackles as Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield passed for 337 yards and three passing touchdowns in a 32-9 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Super Wild Card Weekend.
However, that won't happen in Detroit, where the Lions are looking to win two regular season games for the first time since 1957. Don Campbell, especially defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, will heat up the defense against a Tampa Bay team that struggles against the run. ball.
Hutchinson became the first player in team history to have multiple sacks in three consecutive games. First player since at least 2006 to have at least as many sacks and five or more quarterback hits in three straight games. Hutchinson's 39% quarterback pressure rate is the highest of any player with at least 20 pass rushes over the past five postseasons. He led the NFL in quarterback pressures (110) and natural pressures (74) this season.
It will be a tough day in Detroit for Mayfield as Tampa Bay fails to score a touchdown.
5. The Packers intercept Brock Birdy multiple times
Brock Birdie is having a fantastic season. Former Mr. Set the record for yards per attempt (9.6) in a season of non-conformity (minimum 350 attempts) and led the NFL in passer rating (113.0). He was the favorite for league MVP as his 4,280 passing yards this season were the most in 49ers history, making him the first Pro Bowl quarterback since Jeff Garcia in 2002.
However, it may not be Purdy's day on Saturday against a Green Bay defense that has been terrible at times this season (they gave up 30 points to the Carolina Panthers) but has come on strong of late. The Packers held their final two regular-season opponents to 10 points or fewer, then held the Cowboys' high-powered offense to just 7 points in the first half in last week's upset (although Dallas managed 32 in a strong second half).
With Jair Alexander and the Green Bay defense coming off two interceptions, they will continue to rise against the 49ers — Purdy has thrown some big plays, 4 against the Ravens and both the Vikings and Bengals — as the Packers cruise to victory.