The NFL’s playoff field is set: Taking a first look at each matchup on Wild Card Weekend

Jan 8, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s playoff field is set: Taking a first look at each matchup on Wild Card Weekend

NFC Wild Card: No. 7 Seattle Seahawks (9-8) at No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (13-4)

Time/TV: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CT/FOX

The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers will kick off the NFL’s wild card round Saturday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Seattle advanced to the playoffs after defeating the Rams and benefiting from Detroit’s win at Green Bay on Sunday night. San Francisco clinched the NFC West a month ago but continued to trample over its schedule en route to a season-ending 10-game win streak. The Seahawks and 49ers met twice this season in divisional matchups, each dominated by the 49ers, 27-7 and 21-13, respectively. In direct contrast to San Francisco, Seattle struggled down the stretch. The Seahawks won just three of their final eight games and only beat two playoff-bound teams all season. They’ll have a significant uphill battle ahead of them against the mighty 49ers. 

AFC Wild Card: No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers (10-7) at No. 4 Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8)

Time/TV: Saturday, 7:15 p.m. CT/NBC

The Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars will meet in the AFC wild card round Saturday night at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. The Chargers clinched their playoff berth with two weeks to spare, using a late winning streak to ensure that they’d have a chance to prove their mettle. Jacksonville needed a Week 18 win over the Tennessee Titans to clinch the division, a feat they completed with a late fumble return touchdown. The Chargers and Jaguars met way back in Week 3, a 38-10 blowout win for Jacksonville that moved it to 2-1 at the time. Los Angeles was favored heavily in that game, indicative of how low expectations were for the Jags back in September. The Jaguars and Chargers share in common that late-season surges gave them this opportunity – Los Angeles finished the season winning four of five, while Jacksonville finished with five straight wins to move from 4-8 to 9-8. Both are led by tall, young quarterbacks with high expectations, although most would argue that the Chargers ought to be further along than the Jaguars. Jacksonville, in front of its suddenly raucous home crowd, would love nothing more than to prove otherwise.

AFC Wild Card: No. 7 Miami Dolphins (9-8) at No. 2 Buffalo Bills (13-3)

Time/TV: Sunday, noon CT/CBS

The Miami Dolphins will take on the Buffalo Bills in the AFC wild card round Sunday afternoon at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. Miami’s road to the playoffs wasn’t pretty, but an 11-6 win in Week 18, along with a loss by New England, ensured that Mike McDaniel’s first season at the helm would lead to a playoff berth. Buffalo finished off a dominant, emotional season 13-3, one game short of a full 17-game slate because of Week 17’s Monday Night Football cancellation. Buffalo showcased incredible heart and companionship ahead of Week 18’s win and are playing for more than just their Super Bowl hopes as safety Damar Hamlin’s condition continues to improve. Miami, while thrilled to reach the playoffs, seemingly limps into the field with little certainty at quarterback. The Dolphins lost five straight before finishing the season with a win, and the consensus opinion is that they stand little chance on the road in Buffalo without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa under center. Miami and Buffalo split their two regular season matchups, but both games were started by Tagovailoa at quarterback.

NFC Wild Card: No. 6 New York Giants (9-7-1) at No. 3 Minnesota Vikings (13-4)

Time/TV: Sunday, 3:30 p.m. CT/FOX

The New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings will play in the NFC wild card round Sunday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. New York’s 7-1 start to the season preceded a much more pedestrian ride to the finish line, but the Giants did enough to firmly establish a wild card berth ahead of Week 18’s game at Philadelphia. As a result, head coach Brian Daboll elected to rest his starters to engineer an extra week of rest ahead of the playoffs. Minnesota finished the season 13-4, but it was never that easy. The Vikings won just twice by more than one score and lost four games by an average of more than 22 points per game. The Giants visited Minnesota on Christmas Eve, a game the Vikings won 27-24 despite New York gaining 88 more yards and averaging 1.7 more yards per play than Minnesota. The Giants know they’re capable of winning on Sunday afternoon, but nothing comes easy on the road in the playoffs.

AFC Wild Card: No. 6 Baltimore Ravens (10-7) at No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)

Time/TV: Sunday, 7:15 p.m. CT/NBC 

The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals will meet in the AFC wild card round Sunday night at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, their second straight week battling on the same field. Baltimore faced tons of adversity during the 2022 season, eventually losing hold of the AFC North lead as injuries ravaged the Ravens’ offense and the Bengals surged. The Ravens became accustomed to winning ugly with quarterbacks Tyler Huntley and Anthony Brown carrying the load in Lamar Jackson’s stead and did so successfully with enough frequency to clinch a playoff berth. The Cincinnati Bengals’ defense of last season’s AFC Championship was a resounding regular season success and led to a dominant AFC North title run. The Bengals won their last eight games to finish the season and look as capable as any team of winning the Lombardi Trophy. The Ravens and Bengals split their two games this season, with the home team winning both – but it is important to note that Baltimore was without quarterback Lamar Jackson in their loss. Jackson’s status ought to be closely monitored ahead of next Sunday’s game, as it is difficult to imagine the Ravens flipping the script without him.

NFC Wild Card: No. 5 Dallas Cowboys (12-5) at No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9)

Time/TV: Monday, 7:15 p.m. CT/ESPN

The Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will battle in the NFC wild card round Monday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Dallas sputtered to the finish line with a blowout loss in Week 18 at Washington but otherwise played well down the stretch. Overall, the Cowboys won six of their final eight to create separation from the other wild card teams in the NFC standings. Tampa Bay really never found its footing this season but won the incredibly weak NFC South anyway. The Buccaneers’ 8-9 finish was quarterback Tom Brady’s first losing season as a starting quarterback, and Brady’s offense (18.4 points per game) was a big part of why. Tampa Bay and Dallas did meet this season, all the way back in Week 1 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Buccaneers stifled the Cowboys in that game, topping Dallas 19-3 while allowing just 3.8 yards per play. Dallas will need to improve on that performance – as well as its season-ending performance in Week 18 – if it hopes to take down Tampa Bay on the road.

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