This year has been no stranger to adjustments and this weekend is no exception to that theme. Instead of featuring the usual four games, the 2020 season has a new Super Wild Card weekend with three games on both Saturday and Sunday and only two teams on a bye.
That means we get more football, which is a nice bonus considering the kind of year we had to live through.
The regular season is over, as are our fantasy football leagues, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to end. Whether you’re in a playoff fantasy tournament, a playoff bracket pool, or taking a dip into daily fantasy, there are still a lot of reasons to keep your eyes on this weekend’s games. Not doing any of those during the playoffs? Keep an eye on players that you want to monitor for next year’s fantasy season. Or, just enjoy football without having to worry about your fantasy players or your score.
Colts-Bills Saturday 1/9 @ 1:05 PM EST
We are kicking off the Super Wild Card weekend with the Colts-Bills, which is my game to watch for the Saturday slate. The Colts Defense has been stout, ranking in the top-15 or better against fantasy position groups. However, the last few weeks have exposed some cracks in their armor, notably at the quarterback position.
Season-long, the Colts are ranked 10th, allowing 367 completions, 4080 passing yards, and 24 touchdowns. They have manufactured 15 interceptions, which is tied for third-best in the league. They have allowed only 221 QB rushing yards and five touchdowns to the position. In the last four weeks, they have dropped to 27th with nine touchdown passes allowed, only two interceptions, and 38 rushing yards and a touchdown to QBs. That rushing TD came from Derek Carr in Week 14 and he isn’t exactly known for his rushing ability.
On the other side of the ball, the Buffalo Bills are on fire and have a real shot of making it thanks to some dramatic improvements from QB Josh Allen. Not only does he lead all fantasy quarterbacks but he is the number one fantasy player in 2020. He is first in total PPR points, fifth in both passing yards and passing touchdowns, eighth in rushing yards, and third in rushing touchdowns by quarterbacks. Oh, he also is one of four quarterbacks this year with a receiving touchdown in his stat line.
This game will be a tough matchup for both offenses and both defenses will get to show off their talents. Whoever wins this game will be making a statement to the rest of the league.
Rams-Seahawks Saturday 1/9 @ 4:40 PM EST
The Rams-Seahawks game had great potential to be a gritty, grudge-match between the two division rivals who will be facing each other for the third time this year. They each have a win in their series with both teams getting their win at home.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson started the season white-hot but cooled considerably in the second half. Still, it’s hard to put much past Wilson who is a seasoned veteran capable of creating magic when Seattle needs it most. Their defense, which is playing “opposite day” with Wilson’s production, started sluggishly but picked up their game to close out the season. In the last four weeks, they have sacked opposing quarterbacks 13 times with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Even on a good (healthy) day, the Rams QB Jared Goff has had … well, not a great year. He’s ranked 19th on the season throwing 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and was even called out by head coach Sean McVay about protecting the football. Then, Goff broke his thumb which required surgery. This allowed backup John Wolford to become the starter and lead them to victory over the Arizona Cardinals last week.
We don’t know which QB will be the starting quarterback this Saturday, which is less than ideal on any game day, let alone the playoffs.
With Wilson struggling and questions surrounding the quarterback for the Rams, this game will likely become a defensive battle. I give the advantage to the Seahawks here, but it may come down to the wire with Aaron Donald making Wilson run for his life behind the offensive line.
Players to Watch: Seattle DST
Buccaneers-Washington Saturday 1/9 @ 8:15 PM EST
There was a reason that HC Bruce Arians rolled with all of his starters to win last week against the Falcons. A win would allow them to face the victor of the NFC East and I use the “victor” lightly. After a hotly debated loss by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Football Team was crowned the NFC East champion with a 7-9 record.
It makes obvious sense that Arians would pull out all the stops to make sure that their first game of the playoffs would be against the Eagles (4-11), Cowboys (6-10), Giants (6-10), or Washington.
Just because the NFC East has struggled this year, doesn’t mean that the Buccaneers’ matchup with Washington is going to be a cakewalk. QB Tom Brady will need to face a defensive front seven that includes rookie Chase Young and Montez Sweat who have combined for 60 solo tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 32 QB hits, and 16.5 sacks.
WR Mike Evans was injured during last week’s game against Atlanta and his status for Saturday’s matchup is still up in the air. He was spotted at practice on Thursday, which is trending in the right direction for this return. Even without Evans, Brady still has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal like Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, and Rob Gronkowski.
While Washington has one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, the same cannot be said for their offense. Their quarterback room has been a carousel of players coming and going due to ineptitude or injury including Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith, and Taylor Heinicke. After injuring his calf, Smith is officially questionable heading into the Super Wild Card weekend. The next man up is Heinicke, who has experience with HC Ron Rivera and his system. If Smith can’t go, it’s not great for the offense. However, WR Terry McLaurin has proven he can get it done if he can stay healthy and on the field and TE Logan Thomas has exploded onto the radar as the fantasy TE3 for the 2020 season. RB Antonio Gibson is questionable with a lingering toe injury, but J.D. McKissic is still healthy and heavily active in the passing game.
Ravens-Titans Sunday 1/10 @ 1:05 PM EST
Once again, my game to watch is the first of the day. Not only are we looking at two offenses with explosive power, but this also a revenge game for the Ravens. The Titans knocked Baltimore out of the playoffs last year, even though QB Lamar Jackson won the MVP.
Baltimore’s offense has picked up their pace over the last month after an impressive slump and Jackson looks like he’s back to MVP caliber. The Titans, with the help of MVP hopeful Derrick Henry, have been steamrolling their way to the playoffs for a majority of the season.
If there is one thing that the Ravens have that the Titans lack, it's a solid defense. The Titans’ defense is ranked 22nd or worse against the QB, RB, and WR positions in the last four weeks. The Ravens Defense are ranked in the top-10 across all positions save running backs. If there is any team that could use that to their advantage, it’s the Titans with King Henry.
This game has all of the hallmarks of a high-scoring, close game that may end up going into overtime like in their Week 11 meeting.
Players to Watch: Everyone.
Bears-Saints Sunday 1/10 @ 4:40 PM EST
The Chicago Bears had a bit of luck to get in the playoffs only to face the New Orleans Saints at their home in the Superdome. I know that “at home” doesn’t exactly mean the same thing that it has pre-COVID, but that still means that QB Drew Brees plays in a dome where he performs the best.
The Bears’ defense continues to be impressive, which is a big reason why they are in the playoffs in the first place. Facing the Saints, and keeping their scoring in check, will be a daunting task, but this isn’t Chicago’s first rodeo against New Orleans. In Week 8, the Bears took the Saints into overtime tied at 23-23 where K Will Lutz kicked a field to take the win for the Saints.
New Orleans has proved that they can get the job done no matter who they have on offense. They have been missing WR Michael Thomas for the majority of the season, Brees himself was out for four weeks, and last week all of the running backs were put on COVID-reserve. Despite all of the missing pieces, New Orleans has strung together 12 wins and only four losses.
Mitchell Trubisky has reclaimed his place as the starting quarterback, but the Bears’ offense is far from explosive. RB David Montgomery has been the shining jewel in the last five weeks, scoring over 20 points a week to finish off the season. The Saints are ranked number one against the run in terms of season-long stats, but they have stumbled a bit in the last four weeks. They have allowed six of their nine rushing touchdowns during that time with teams exploiting the crack in their armor. If the Bears have any hope of keeping up with the Saints, who will have Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara (likely) back, the offense will need to go through Montgomery.
WR Allen Robinson is set to become a free agent after this season so I am very curious to watch his performance. He can change the outcome of the game if Trubisky can get on his level.
Browns-Steelers Sunday 1/10 @ 8:15 PM EST
The heartbreak the Browns players and fanbase must be going through right now is something I cannot fathom. Not only did they barely squeak out a win against a Steelers team who was resting most of the starters but that win just led to playing them the next week, at their house, with all of their starters… now fully-rested starters. Then, to put the cherry on their 2020 season, COVID-19 is taking one of their best offensive linemen as well as their head coach Kevin Stefanski (and play-caller) out of the picture.
Special teams coach Mike Priefer will be taking over at the helm and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will be calling the plays.
This is the worst possible way to end the playoff drought, but here we are.
On the bright side, the Browns will still have most of their starting offensive weapons like WR Jarvis Landry as well as RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Stefanski’s offense is run-first and run-heavy so having their star backs healthy is paramount. Even QB Baker Mayfield showed off some rushing chops in last week’s performance, which took the Steelers by surprise. Missing OL Joel Bitonio will be a serious problem for the Browns who need him for the run game as well as pass protection.
The Steelers are not without their flaws this season, despite starting 11-0. The gaping chasm in their run game has become startlingly apparent. This will be the biggest issue that Pittsburgh will need to address if they have any hope of advancing as far as the Super Bowl. A healthy and rested Ben Roethlisberger is an excellent way to begin the playoffs, but it won’t be enough to take them all the way.
Bills WR Stefon Diggs is questionable with an oblique injury. WR Cole Beasley is questionable with a knee injury… Washington’s WR Terry McLaurin is questionable with an ankle injury. QB Alex Smith is questionable. RB Antonio Gibson is questionable with the lingering turf toe injury. … Titans K Stephen Gostkowski was activated from COVID-19 reserve. … Saints RB Alvin Kamara participated in virtual practice on Thursday. WR Michael Thomas is expected to return for Sunday’s matchup. … Steelers TE Eric Ebron was activated from COVID-19 reserve.