By Hannah Brewitt, CNN
The NFL Playoffs have finally arrived. On Saturday night, the San Francisco 49ers and Jaguars punched their tickets to the divisional round. By Monday evening, four more teams will join them and be one step closer to the NFL’s biggest stage. Here’s what to expect on Sunday and Monday:
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, 1:00 p.m. ET
Sunday begins with the Bills hosting the AFC East rival Dolphins. Led by star quarterback Josh Allen, the No. 2 seed Bills are the heavy favorite, especially now that Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been officially ruled out.
The two teams have already met twice this season, with the series split 1-1. In the first game, the Dolphins squeaked away with a victory mainly due to careless turnovers and mistakes made by the Bills. The second time around, the Bills rallied in the final minutes to walk away with a 32-29 win.
In both games, Allen was superb, throwing for a combined 704 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. What’s worth noting is that the Bills controlled their own fate in both of these games.
In both contests, they were clearly the better team, whether they played like it or not. If they show up this week, play to their full potential, and eliminate sloppy mistakes, they should have no problems locking down a victory.
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, 4:30 p.m. ET
Sunday’s four o’clock slate is full of firsts. First-year head coach Brian Daboll and the Giants will travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. Quarterback Daniel Jones will make his first career playoff start, and it will be the team’s first playoff appearance in six seasons.
While the Giants are the road underdogs, they are well equipped to compete with, or even beat, the NFC North Champions. The two teams met on Christmas Eve in a game that came down to a Justin Tucker field goal. Throughout the season, many of the Vikings’ other victories were decided by a single score. This week’s contest will likely go down to the wire just the same.
If the Giants manage to walk away with a win and make it out of the Wild Card stage, it’s likely that the buck stops there. Their chances of beating the 49ers or Eagles in the next round are much slimmer. The Vikings are more likely to make a deeper postseason run if they get past the first round, but the Giants are not to be underestimated.
Ravens at Bengals, 8:15 p.m. ET
The Ravens and Bengals will meet for the second straight week and the third time this season on Sunday night. The divisional rivals split the regular season series, with each earning a victory at home.
This time around, Baltimore will be without starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has not played since December 4. Backup Tyler Huntley is listed as a game-time decision. Playing without QB1 always poses a challenge; there will be added reliance on the defense and the run game to take care of business. The Ravens’ best shot at victory is to get momentum early, and avoid significant deficits at costs.
The Bengals are the obvious favorite, boasting the better record and playing at home with a mostly healthy roster. Just last season, they made it all the way to the Super Bowl. They defeated the Raiders, Titans, and Chiefs, only to fall to the Rams in the final stage.
The Ravens haven’t been to the playoffs since 2020, when they lost to the Bills in the AFC divisional round. Despite Cincinnati’s upperhand, anything can happen in a playoff game between divisional rivals. These opponents know each others’ strengths and weaknesses very well, and will use that to their advantage.
Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Wild Card Weekend will wrap up with a primetime battle between the Bucs and the Cowboys.
Dallas finished the regular season with a record of 12-5, especially impressive considering they played a significant stretch without veteran quarterback Dak Prescott. Tampa Bay struggled their way through a disappointing regular season and finished with a losing record of 8-9, but still managed to emerge NFC South Champions.
While the Cowboys are the better team on paper, they have the disadvantage of playing on the road. The last time Dallas won a road playoff game was 30 years ago; since then, they’ve lost all eight postseason games.
Furthermore, the Buccaneers have the “X” factor: Tom Brady. The veteran signal-caller enters this playoff stretch with the most games started by a quarterback, wins by a starting quarterback, Super Bowl titles and Super Bowl MVPs. In his career against the Cowboys, he’s a flawless 7-0.
A lights-out performance from Brady could be enough to power this Bucs team to victory.
How to Watch
Here’s how to catch these teams and others across the league in action, from wherever you are.
Australia: NFL Game Pass, ESPN, 7Plus
Brazil: NFL Game Pass, ESPN
Canada: CTV, TSN, RDS, NFL Game Pass on DAZN
Germany: NFL Game Pass, ProSieben MAXX, DAZN
Mexico: NFL Game Pass, TUDN, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sky Sports
UK: NFL Game Pass, Sky Sports, ITV, Channel 5
US: NFL Game Pass, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, Amazon Prime
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