NFL Playoffs: Ranking the 6 Games on Super Wild Card Weekend
The 2021 NFL Playoffs have officially arrived in the form of Super Wild Card Weekend. Twelve teams, including Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will play across a three-day span in hopes of advancing to the Divisional Round.
This year’s edition of Super Wild Card Weekend features six games — two on Saturday, three on Sunday, and one on Monday night — and many of the game’s most recognizable faces. Brady and the Buccaneers host Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon, only hours before Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes welcomes the 9-7-1 Pittsburgh Steelers to town.
Of the six games in question, which are the best? For this list, we considered everything from the players in question (obviously) to history, recent and old, between the teams facing one another.
Based on consideration of the aforementioned prerequisites, the best games on Super Wild Card Weekend rank as follows:
6. Pittsburgh Steelers-Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 8:15 p.m., NBC)
When a starting quarterback outright admits his team doesn’t have a chance, it’s hard to get excited about a game, let alone a primetime matchup on Super Wild Card Weekend. Thanks, Ben Roethlisberger. You ruined it for the rest of us.
Well, maybe not. Instead of watching Mahomes and the Chiefs try shredding the Steelers’ defense for the second time in a month (Kansas City won 36-10 on Dec. 26), football fans can spend Sunday night doing something far more interesting, like binging The Sopranos for the 80th time or watching Spider-Man: No Way Home for the 75th time.
5. Arizona Cardinals-Los Angeles Rams (Monday, 8:15 p.m., ABC/ESPN and ESPN2)
Had Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley not called a timeout late in Week 18, his team may very well have reached the playoffs. As a result, the Chiefs would have hosted the Raiders, which is only relevant because it would have been the fifth-best game on this list.
However, that’s not what happened, and the NFC West showdown is instead the second-worst game on this list. These two teams split the season series and faced off on Monday Night Football on Dec 13. a game the Rams won 30-23.
If Arizona continues its recent woes and Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford doesn’t stop throwing interceptions, at least the ManningCast may provide fans with some laughs.
4. Philadelphia Eagles-Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox)
Now, things are starting to get interesting. Brady is the ageless wonder at 44 years old, and he remains must-see TV, especially for those rooting for him to fall short of winning an eighth Super Bowl ring.
When Tampa Bay and Philadelphia faced off earlier this season, Hurts threw one touchdown and ran for two more in a 28-22 Eagles loss on Oct. 14. The Eagles will need the Pro Bowler to unleash everything in his arsenal if he intends on upsetting Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champions on Sunday afternoon.
Older fans of both teams will remember these teams’ playoff clashes in the early 2000s, including the Buccaneers’ 27-10 victory in the 2002 NFC Championship Game. Only weeks earlier, Brady had wrapped up his third NFL season and second as the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback. Jalen Hurts, the Eagles’ current starting quarterback, was 4 years old at the time.
3. Las Vegas Raiders-Cincinnati Bengals (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., NBC)
Despite allowing 32 points in a Nov. 21 loss to the Bengals, the Raiders’ defense limited Cincinnati’s fearsome offense to only 288 total yards. If Las Vegas hopes to pull off an upset on Saturday afternoon, Rich Bisaccia’s squad will need to replicate that strong defensive performance.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 73.7% of his passes for 1,966 yards, 13 touchdowns, and three interceptions in six games after defeating the Raiders. The 2019 Heisman Trophy winner is trending upward at the right time, as is rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who averaged five catches, 94 yards, and a touchdown in that six-game span.
Although Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has historically struggled in cold-weather games, he’ll have a chance to turn things around this weekend in his playoff debut.
2. New England Patriots-Buffalo Bills (Saturday, 8:15 p.m., CBS)
Saturday night’s forecast calls for single-digit temperatures and a chance of snow in Buffalo. Yes, please. Buffalo and New England split the season series, each winning on the road, and have a storied rivalry dating back over 60 years. A postseason game featuring inclement weather and two elite defenses could make for a fun new chapter.
These teams are seemingly trending in different directions, and not only because Buffalo won the AFC East for a second straight year. New England lost three of its final four games, only defeating the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars at home, and rookie quarterback Mac Jones threw five interceptions in that stretch.
Buffalo ended the year on a four-game winning streak and revived its AFC East title hopes with a 33-21 victory over the Patriots on Dec. 26. Third-year running back Devin Singletary rushed for 232 yards and five touchdowns on 4.3 yards per carry in that stretch, jumpstarting what had been an inconsistent Bills’ ground attack.
If all goes to plan, Round 3 of the Bills-Patriots 2021 season series will be an exciting primetime showdown. However, there is still one game this weekend that brings far more intrigue.
1. San Francisco 49ers-Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 4:30 p.m., CBS and Nickelodeon)
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, 1960, Richard Nixon officially conceded the presidential election to Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. Twelve days later, the 49ers forced seven turnovers in a 26-14 victory over the Cowboys, then in their first year of existence.
Over 60 years later, the Cowboys will host the 49ers on Super Wild Card Weekend. It’s been nearly 30 years since their last postseason showdown, a 38-20 49ers victory in the 1994 NFC Championship Game; current Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was 1 year old, and his San Francisco counterpart, Jimmy Garoppolo, had just turned 3 two months earlier.
Although Dallas leads the all-time series 19-17-1 and holds a 5-2 advantage in the postseason, Cowboys fans will never forget “The Catch.” The 49ers might need a similar miracle, perhaps courtesy of Pro Bowl receiver Deebo Samuel, if San Francisco plans to leave AT&T Stadium with a victory on Sunday.
If that isn’t enough, don’t forget that Nickelodeon will air a simulcast featuring slime. No one, not even Bill Belichick, can beat slime.
Like Sportscasting on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @sportscasting19.