The 2020 NFL season is in the books and for the first time under the new playoff format, a total of six games will be played on Super Wild Card Weekend. With the addition of one team to both conferences, the number one seed will get the lone bye week while everyone else is in action.
Under the old playoff format, the number two seed would have also had the opening weekend off, but now they’ll host the final Wild Card team. With three games being played on Saturday and Sunday of Super Wild Card Weekend, there are six teams looking to push forward to Super Bowl LV.
However, with half the field being eliminated, six teams will wonder what-if while the other six will move on. But which six will that be?
Without further ado, here is one reason each team could advance to the Divisional Round when the Super Wild Card Weekend wraps up. This article will focus on the teams playing on Sunday.
Super Wild Card Weekend: Sunday Teams
Look no further than reigning NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson, to march his Baltimore Ravens into Tennessee looking for revenge on the road. Last year when these two teams faced off, it was Tennessee that shocked Baltimore ending their quest for a Lombardi Trophy. Now, winners of five straight, Baltimore is surging heading into Super Wild Card Weekend looking like the team they were a season ago that was like playing a game of EA’s Madden series.
However, one key difference in Jackson’s game over the final weeks of the season was his ability to play quarterback. Jackson has always featured a run-first mentality rather than a pocket quarterback but by now getting the ball more to Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown, Jackson’s quarterback play could be more lethal. Make no mistake about it that when protection fails, Jackson will take off and thrash teams on the ground as he’s done since becoming the starter.
Ryan Tannehill should and will be praised for the remarkable job he’s done for the Tennessee Titans since coming over last season, but all eyes will be on Derrick Henry. Henry, at various times this season, has looked virtually unstoppable. Even with defenses knowing what’s coming, Henry still rushed for over 2,000 yards this season. Henry will be an impossible player to defend and is Tennessee’s best bet to reach Super Bowl LV.
Tennessee will host Baltimore this time looking to once again prove they’re the better team in the AFC. Henry has had a field day in the last two meetings with a combined 328 rushing yards and one touchdown. If Tennessee gets another dominant performance from Henry, then there may not be a team remaining that could contain Tennessee’s deadly rushing attack.
Limping into the playoffs usually never bodes well, but the playoffs are an unpredictable bunch. The Chicago Bears will look to do what the Minnesota Vikings did a season ago: upset the New Orleans Saints at home. Mitchell Trubisky has been playing better as of late and the Monsters of the Midway can still wreck opposing quarterbacks. But this one is going to come down in Matt Nagy can outcoach Sean Payton — which is no small task.
Nagy has been rumored to be on the hot seat in Chicago but since relieving himself of calling the plays, and handing them over to Bill Lazor, the offense has looked better, overall. However, Nagy has to put together a plan that’s going to keep Trubisky on the field while making sure his defense is well-rested. The job of a head coach is never easy — and often scrutinized for each mistake — but capturing an upset win to end an opposing team’s Super Bowl aspirations? That may be enough to keep Nagy around.
New Orleans Saints
This may be the last real shot New Orleans has in both terms of talent and chances. An aging Drew Brees may not be around much longer and gadget-player-turned-quarterback Taysom Hill may not be the long-term answer. But that’s looking ahead and not focusing on the now. Despite the running back corps getting hit with covid-19, New Orleans proved that they can be as dominant as ever with whatever roster they put on the field.
With the lack of overall fans in stadiums across the NFL — not counting small numbers that have been let in — one of the loudest stadiums remaining in the playoffs will be but a peep when they take the field on Sunday. With fans or without, playing in New Orleans hasn’t exactly been a home-field advantage coming with two losses in three games at home. One way or another, New Orleans must make visiting road teams earn every single yard or it’ll be another heartbreaking season.
The city of Cleveland should be proud of their team for snapping a playoff drought since the dinosaurs existed. Okay, it wasn’t THAT long ago, but it has been a long time coming since any new-age Cleveland fan has seen their team play in the playoffs. The new generation led by Baker Mayfield and company, will have to go it without head coach Kevin Stefanski. Still, this has been as exciting a team Cleveland had put out since 2002. The bad news? They’ll have to win at Pittsburgh in which they haven’t done so for 17 seasons.
If the Cleveland Browns are going to win a playoff game, they cannot allow the moment to be too big for them. They’ll be going up against a veteran head coach (Mike Tomlin) and quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) with Super Bowl experience in spades. For as young as this Cleveland team is, they’re even greener with the majority tasting the playoffs for the first time. Take the game one snap at a time and let Mayfield get into a groove. If Cleveland is playing Hero Ball early and often, then this one won’t have the legs to go the distance.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have looked like two completely different teams in both halves of the season. One moment they’re the best team in the league and the next they struggle to put up 20 points. Pittsburgh, despite going 11-0, couldn’t clinch the AFC North until the penultimate week of the season. Teams were able to execute a gameplan and predict Pittsburgh’s moves and in their four losses, they’ve looked mightily pedestrian.
So, what has happen for Pittsburgh to survive Cleveland on Super Wild Card Weekend? It starts with Roethlisberger returning to the gunslinger form that he was when they went 11-0. It also includes Pittsburgh’s defense, led by Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt, to cause turnovers and pressuring the quarterbacks. All of these things sound easy on paper, but Pittsburgh executed both to perfection in 2020 for the majority of the season. What better time to return to their identity then hosting a Cleveland team they haven’t lost to since 2003.
Intriguing Super Wild Card Weekend Matchups
Sunday’s slate of games proves to be just as fantastic as Saturday’s slate. Baltimore will have revenge on their minds when they meet Tennessee for the second-straight year. While Tennessee is licking at the chops to release their running beast, Henry. Chicago may have stumbled into the playoffs but don’t tell them that as they look to complete a major road upset.
Is it more of the same for New Orleans against the NFC North, or can they finally escape the first round? Cleveland has the makings of a team on the rise — and has already been hit by covid to start the playoffs. Pittsburgh appeared to be heading towards Super Bowl LV before falling back down to Earth. Will one of these AFC North teams prove doubters wrong?
Bring on Super Wild Card Weekend.
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