Alas, the postseason has arrived. Week 18 delivered several stunning results which had a direct and profound impact on the playoff picture across both conferences. The Indianapolis Colts were shockingly eliminated from playoff contention following their soul-crushing defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders played out a thriller for the ages that nearly ended in a controversial tie that would have catapulted both teams to the playoffs. The Raiders, however, kicked a last-second field goal to confirm their place in the dance while eliminating their division rival Chargers. Elsewhere, the San Francisco 49ers performed a stunning second-half comeback to record their sixth consecutive defeat over the Los Angeles Rams while more importantly clinching a playoff spot. The Buffalo Bills clinched the AFC East division title with a win over the New York Jets. It should all lead to a plethora of intriguing and entertaining matchups on wild-card weekend. With our eyes pointed toward the action, we've ranked the six playoff contests one through six.
NO. 6: PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFSLargely considered to be the most lopsided playoff contest on paper, the Chiefs will host the Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium as comfortable favorites. The Steelers are arguably the worst team to qualify for the postseason across both conferences and it's difficult to envision them keeping this game within two scores. These two sides intersected in Week 16 with the Chiefs having obliterated the Steelers 36-10. BetOnline currently views the Chiefs as healthy 12.5-point favorites. Patrick Mahomes and his fearful supporting cast of weapons should make light work of a below-average Steelers squad that isn't built for postseason success.
NO. 5: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERSThe second-highest expected margin of victory belongs to this contest, with BetOnline currently ranking the Buccaneers as 8.5-point favorites. It's difficult to envision the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers suffering defeat at the hands of a young and inexperienced Eagles team that possesses a first-year head coach and second-year quarterback. A playoff berth represents an excellent experience for both Nick Sirianni and Jalen Hurts, but they drew the worst possible matchup here. The Buccaneers limp into this game without the services of Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, and no longer possess a plethora of offensive weapons at their disposal. With that said, Brady should be more than capable of leading the Buccaneers to a rather comfortable victory.
NO. 4: LAS VEGAS RAIDERS @ CINCINNATI BENGALSWe were tempted to rank this matchup slightly higher because it possesses otherworldly potential in the scoring department. Joe Burrow has taken a monumental step forward in his second campaign as he's taken full advantage of the NFL's most impressive supporting cast of receivers that includes haunting rookie Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, and Tee Higgins. Burrow and the Bengals are capable of scoring 30-plus on any given Sunday. They'll encounter a Raiders team that has a healthy Darren Waller and just put up 35 points in a thrilling Week 18 overtime victory that confirmed their place in the dance. This contest is of the must-watch variety.
NO. 3: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ DALLAS COWBOYSTwo of the most storied franchises in football history will meet for what promises to be a tightly-contested and intense affair. Kyle Shanahan's 49ers enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in all of professional football. San Francisco overcame a 14-point deficit in the second half to defeat their NFC West rival Rams and earn a playoff spot. The 49ers reigned victorious in seven of their final nine regular-season contests. The Cowboys own the league's most successful offensive attack, having averaged league-highs in points per game (31.2) and yards per contest (407). The Cowboys are considered slight favorites.
NO. 2: ARIZONA CARDINALS @ LOS ANGELES RAMSDivisional playoff battles have a special kind of intensity about them and we expect nothing less when the Cardinals travel to SoFi Stadium to meet the Rams on a special, newfound playoff edition of Monday Night Football. The season series is currently tied at one apiece. Kliff Kingsbury's Cardinals began the season an impressive 7-0, highlighted by their Week 4 drubbing (37-20) of the Rams. Sean McVay's unit bided their time and got some well-deserved payback when they defeated the Cardinals 30-23 in Week 14. There's no love lost between these two common opponents, and it should lead to an entertaining encounter on Monday.
NO. 1: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ BUFFALO BILLSWe meant what we said about divisional playoff encounters and this one takes the cake. The old-time rivalry between the Bills and Patriots is alive and well despite Brady's departure to the comforts of Florida. These two franchises absolutely despise one another. The Patriots captured victory in the first meeting after attempting just three passes in extremely difficult weather conditions. The post-game press conferences contained several controversial moments and only added to the intensity of this rivalry. Naturally, the Bills ultimately evened up the season series by defeating the Patriots 33-21 in Week 16 en route to their second consecutive division title. The third and final meeting promises to deliver even more entertainment.
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