It was just six short weeks ago that the Bills were on the outside looking in. A five-game win streak to end the season changed all that and once again brought playoff hysteria to Western New York, Southern Ontario, and beyond. Photo Credit: Buffalo Bills/X.
While most in Niagara, Buffalo fans or not, will be glued to their viewing and listening devices Sunday afternoon when the Bills host the Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL Wild Card Weekend actually begins Saturday.
We’ll get to Saturday’s game momentarily, but first the Buffalo Bills. It was just six short weeks ago that the Bills were on the outside looking in. A five-game win streak to end the season changed all that and once again brought playoff hysteria to western New York, southern Ontario, and beyond.
The Bills (11-6) enter the postseason as the second seed in the American Football Conference (AFC). They’ve won five in a row and will face the seventh seed Steelers (10-7), who themselves have won three straight games.
“This is a good football team, undefeated under [quarterback] Mason Rudolph,” said Bills head coach Sean McDermott ahead of the matchup with the Steelers.
Weather in Buffalo, especially in January, could be a sidebar.
With a high expected around minus three degrees Celsius, wind between 20 and 35 miles per hour, and a potential for snow showers, the ground game could be the focus for both teams.
Pittsburgh, however, will be without star pass-rusher T.J. Watt, who will be sidelined with a knee injury.
“Playing without T.J. is significant,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “But to be quite honest with you we’ve played without a lot of people this year, it’s just another opportunity for us to strike a blow for the team.
“It’s going to be a committee approach. We better strengthen our output in other areas because T.J. is one of a kind.”
The Bills are a 10-point favorite and double-digit favorites are 11-0 in the wild card round, straight up, all-time.
Also Sunday, seventh-seeded Green Bay visits the No. 2 Dallas Packers, who are 4-0 all-time at AT&T Stadium, despite being the underdog in every game.
The late game Sunday sees the sixth-seeded L.A. Rams at third-ranked Detroit, and this game is all about the quarterbacks as Drew Stafford returns home, while Jared Goff also gets to face off against his former team.
The Rams are the hottest team in the National Football Conference (NFC) entering the playoffs. They’re winners of four in a row.
The Monday nighter features No. 4 Tampa Bay home to fifth-ranked Philadelphia. The Eagles have struggled down the stretch and it will be interesting to see if they can find their groove again to return to the Super Bowl for a second straight season.
Back to Saturday, where the early game sees fifth-seeded Cleveland at number four Houston. The story line here is the rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud for the Texans and the veteran Joe Flacco at QB for the Browns. Cleveland is the slight favorite in this one.
On Saturday night, number three Kansas City hosts sixth-seeded Miami. The Dolphins feature the league’s number one offense, but they’ve failed to score more than 22 points in three straight games, while K.C. sports the NFL’s second-best defense.
The top two teams in each respective conference, the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, earned first-round playoff byes.
Let the predicting and the prognosticating begin. The NFL playoffs always produce upsets.