NFL playoff picks, predictions for wild-card games: Seahawks survive Eagles; Bills stuff Texans
NFL picks and predictions in the regular season may be considered a breeze compared to those in the NFL playoffs, where all 12 participating teams are worthy of their places in the AFC and NFC brackets. Of course, based on the playoff seeding, the wild-card round in 2020 does offer some relatively easy picks.
The Patriots and the Saints opened as solid home favorites over the Vikings and Titans, respectively, for the wild-card round. It’s the other two games this weekend that are troublesome when it comes to predictions.
The Texans opened as three-point home favorites over the Bills, essentially making that game a toss-up in the eyes of Vegas. Likewise, the Seahawks opening as 1 1/2-point road favorites over the Eagles presents a challenging scenario, as Seattle has to go on a long road trip to face a Philadelphia team feeling good about itself.
Considering all of the above, here are our NFL playoff picks, predictions for this weekend’s wild-card games. All odds are courtesy of SportsInsider.com.
NFL playoff picks, predictions for wild-card games
- Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans (-3)
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
Another Saturday afternoon wild-card home game for the Texans, another tough matchup. Despite the often brilliant play of Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, Houston is an average offensive team, which is bad news against the league’s second best scoring defense and third best unit in terms of yards allowed. Without much of a threat from the Texans’ running game, the Bills’ stingy pass defense can focus on taking Hopkins out of the game.
On the other side of the ball, the relative struggles of the Bills’ offense this year likely won’t be a factor against a Texans defense that gave up 388.3 yards per game in the regular season. Houston will have no answers for the speed of John Brown or the quickness of Cole Beasley, and Buffalo will get plenty from Devin Singletary and Frank Gore on the ground to run through Houston and into Baltimore for the divisional round.
Pick: Bills 24, Texans 17
- Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (-5)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Even though the Patriots suffered an embarrassing loss to end their regular season, the Titans couldn’t have been thrilled to see the defending champions fall to the No. 3 seed. New England hasn’t lost a postseason game at home since it fell to Baltimore in the divisional round of the playoffs after the 2012 season, and it hasn’t lost a wild-card game at home in a decade.
For all the chatter about the Patriots’ struggles on offense this season, they still finished with the NFL’s seventh-best unit in terms of points per game, and they have the ultimate adjustment-making crew in Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady. Plus, New England’s top-ranked defense has all the parts necessary to shut down the likes of A.J. Brown and Corey Davis, and it will take away what Tenness does best — the power running game with Derrick Henry.
Pick: Patriots 27, Titans 17
- Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints (-8)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET, Fox
The Vikings knew they would be in for a tough road trip in the wild-card round no matter what happened in Week 17, and it came in the form of a Sunday afternoon game in the raucous Superdome against the hottest team in the NFL outside of Baltimore. Minnesota is one of the most well-rounded teams in the league, but New Orleans, boosted by the resurgence of Alvin Kamara to compliment the brilliance of Michael Thomas, has rediscovered its groove.
In an effort to control time of possession and keep the crowd level to a minimum, the Vikings will want to employ the Dalvin Cook-led zone rushing attack they spent the entire season sharpening. The problem is the Saints have the NFL’s fourth best rush defense. If this becomes a duel between Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins, Minnesota will lose.
Pick: Saints 30, Vikings 21
- Seattle Seahawks (-1 1/2) at Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET, NBC
Depending on the result of their Week 17 game against the 49ers, the Seahawks were either going to host the Vikings or travel to Philly to play the Eagles in the wild-card round. Even though Seattle now has to go on a long road trip, this is the better matchup for Russell Wilson and Co.
That doesn’t mean Seattle will escape Philadelphia with an easy win — far from it. In an amazing turn of events, the Eagles not only are hosting a playoff game, but they are the team that will be impacted less by injuries. The Seahawks’ holes on defense will be a problem against Carson Wentz in the QB’s first playoff start, but the Eagles’ defense has a bigger problem with Wilson. This will be another close game between two teams that seemingly only play in close games, and in that type of contest, we trust the Seahawks QB over almost anyone.