Maggie and Nathan’s Playoff Prognostication



Miami Dolphins fans cheer as the team defeats the New York Jets during an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Dolphins defeated the Jets 11-6 to advance to the playoffs (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

(7) Seahawks @ (2) 49ers – Saturday, January 14th @ 4:30 P.M. on FOX

Nathan: 31-14 49ers

Opening up as double-digit favorites, the 49ers take on the Seahawks in Santa Clara to open up Wild Card Weekend. The Niners defeated the Seahawks twice already this season, outscoring them 48-20 in the two matchups. The 49ers were the seventh best rushing attack in the league this season, averaging just shy of 140 yards a game. The Seahawks, however, come in as the third worst defense this season when it comes to stopping the run, allowing more than 150 yards a game. Seattle’s defense faces a very difficult task, facing a team that has averaged 33.5 points per game since Brock Purdy has taken over at quarterback. Adding Christian McCaffery to this offense that already includes Deebo Samuel and George Kittle presents a very tough task for the Seattle defense. While their defense has to do their best to shut down the explosive offense San Francisco has, the offense for the Seahawks faces an even more difficult challenge, facing the top-ranked defense in the league. The defense for the 49ers allowed the fewest yards per game to their opponents, and were top three in the league in takeaways. Regardless of all these stats from the season, the playoffs are a brand new game and a division game makes it way more interesting. An NFC West battle between a Niners team that’s riding a ten-game winning streak and a Seahawks team that just snuck in is set up to kickoff the playoffs with an entertaining start.


Maggie: 31-10 49ers 

Wild Card Weekend kicks off with an NFC matchup with the Seattle Seahawks taking on the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. These NFC West Division foes played each other twice during the regular season. The 49ers beat the Seahawks in a week two matchup with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback and then again during a week 15 matchup with Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy, leading the offense. Led by Comeback Player of the Year candidate, Geno Smith, the Seahawks went 9-8 this year and 4-4 on the road, while the 49ers went 13-4 this season with an 8-1 record at home. Although they’re facing the top-rated defense in the NFL, the biggest concern for the Seahawks isn’t their offense, it’s their defense. Seattle ranked 26th in the league in team defense, the 2nd worst defense of the teams in the playoffs. In addition to their awesome defense, the 49ers have one of the best offenses in the league, even though they had injuries at quarterback, running back and wide receiver throughout the season. The cards are stacked against the Seahawks and as difficult as it is to beat the same team multiple times in the same season, the 49ers should have no trouble advancing to the second round of the playoffs.


(5) Chargers @ (4) Jaguars – Saturday, January 14th @ 8:15 P.M. on NBC

Nathan: 24-21 Jaguars 

The Jaguars open up as slight underdogs as they get set to meet the Chargers on Saturday night in Jacksonville. This is the second meeting between these two teams, as they met in Los Angeles back in week 3, a matchup the Jaguars dominated, winning 38-10. Jacksonville controlled the time of possession and gained over 400 total yards of offense in this game. Winning time of possession is going to be key for both sides in order to advance to the next round, especially with having defenses that have struggled throughout the course of the season. Both teams landed in the bottom half of the league in total defense this year, while both finished in the top 10 in total offense. The Jaguars are going to have to lean on running back Travis Etienne this game as his over 1,000 yard rushing season faces the fifth-worst run defense in the league. The Jaguars as a team ran for 154 yards against the Chargers back in week 3, and will look to be as successful this time around. For the Chargers, they will look to Justin Herbert and the league’s third best passing attack to lead the way, facing a Jaguars pass defense that finished fifth worst in the league during the regular season. However, Jacksonville is riding a five-game win streak in which they allowed 15.6 points per game and scored an average of 29.2 points per game in that stretch. On the flip side, the Chargers have won four out of their last five, and held opponents to 15.0 points per game over the course of those five weeks. With both defenses playing well down the stretch, this game could turn into a field position game where one mistake could be what determines the outcome. This primetime showdown between young superstars sets up to be a back-and-forth battle that will not disappoint. 


Maggie: 23-20 Jaguars 

Saturday’s second matchup pits the Los Angeles Charges against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. The Chargers are the away team even though they had the better regular season record. This could be one of the best matchups of the weekend as the Chargers had the 9th rated offense and 20th rated defense while the Jaguars had the 10th rated offense and 24th rated defense in the NFL this season. The Jaguars, who had the worst record in the NFL last year, picked the right time to get hot, having won six of their last seven games since their bye week. Don’t be surprised if this game comes down to a field goal as time expires.


(7) Dolphins @ (2) Bills – Sunday, January 15th @ 1:00 P.M. on CBS

Nathan: 35-13 Bills

The Bills open up as double-digit favorites ahead of their Wild Card matchup against division rival the Miami Dolphins. The teams split their regular season matchups, with each team winning at home. The major storyline ahead of this AFC East showdown is the status of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who missed the last two games with a concussion. Tua was ruled out on Wednesday due to doctors being unable to clear him. As a result, Skylar Thompson is expected to get the start at quarterback for a Dolphins team that has struggled as of late.The Dolphins have dropped five of their last six games, while the Bills look to extend their seven game winning streak. Josh Allen leads the Bills’ second best total offense this season, and provides a task for the Dolphins defense that is going to be hard to handle. Allen threw for 304 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Bills 32-29 win over Miami in week 16. Raheem Mostert led the way for Miami, rushing for 136 yards on 17 carries. With Tua unable to play, the Dolphins are going to have to rely on Mostert and the run game to get the job done against a Bills rush defense that finished fifth best in the league during the regular season. This game is not shaping out to be one that works out in Miami’s favor. This also is the Dolphins’ first playoff appearance since 2016, while the Bills have made it each of the last four seasons. Playing in Buffalo offers an even greater advantage for the Bills aside from the larger amount of experience the Bills have. Regardless of the QB situation, the Dolphins defense hasn’t proved themselves to be strong enough to be able to slow down the Bills offense enough to keep this game close. What could be a high scoring game may quickly turn into a lopsided contest.


Maggie: 39-9 Bills 

Will the Dolphins be able to stand the heat at Highmark Stadium this Sunday? These AFC East Division foes split the season series with both teams winning at home. The big question mark for the Dolphins is who will start at quarterback for a team that has Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle at wide receiver. Tua Tagovailoa has already been ruled out for the game and backup Teddy Bridgewater remains limited due to a dislocated pinky on his throwing hand as well as a knee issue. If Bridgewater is unable to start, look for rookie Skylar Thompson to line up behind center for the Dolphins. The Bills are coming off last week’s big victory against the New England Patriots which saw Nyheim Hines return two kickoffs for touchdowns. No Bills player even had one in the last three years. The Bills were 7-1 at home this season with their only loss coming at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings in a thrilling overtime game, while the Dolphins only won three games away from home. The Bills have the best offense playing on Wild Card Weekend, so the Dolphins will have to step up their defensive game if they’re going to have any chance on Sunday. Look for the Dolphins to keep the game close for the first quarter and a half, then the Bills to put their foot on the gas while cruising to victory. They could be a team of destiny this year. As a Bills fan, I hope they “Squish the Fish.” Let’s go Buffalo!!! 


(6) Giants @ (3) Vikings – Sunday, January 15th @ 4:30 P.M. on FOX

Nathan: 31-24 Vikings 

Sunday’s late afternoon showdown in Minneapolis features a rematch from an entertaining week 16 game between the Giants and the Vikings that ended with a 61 yard game winning field goal from Greg Joseph as time expired. New York outgained Minnesota by almost 100 yards, but two turnovers were costly. The Giants defense struggled mightily against the pass, allowing two players to have double-digit receptions and over 100 receiving yards. One of these players, the NFL’s leading receiver Justin Jefferson, totaled over 1,800 receiving yards this year. Finding a way to slow down Jefferson needs to be a priority for New York, but making it a point to defend him opens up so many other options for Kirk Cousins and the sixth best passing offense in the regular season. This doesn’t keep the Giants out of it, however. Daniel Jones threw for 334 yards in their previous meeting against a Vikings defense that was second worst in the league defending the pass. As a team, Minnesota has allowed 29.5 points per game over their last nine games. Finding a way to slow down the Giants offense this time around should be an easier task for the Vikings. Priority needs to be placed on containing Saquon Barkley, who has led the backfield for the Giants’ fourth best rushing attack this year. On the flip side, Minnesota should look to take advantage of New York’s sixth worst run defense in the league. If the Giants defense places an emphasis on conserving Jefferson, look for Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison to lead the way for the Vikings offense. In a game like this where there are many favorable matchups, the turnovers are going to be a major factor. Both teams have struggled to get pressure on opposing QBs and have given up many sacks themselves. With a game so tight as this one, it should be expected for it to come down to the wire. The Vikings went 11-0 in one possession games this season, while the Giants were 8-4-1 in said games. In a game that could quickly turn into a shootout, the Vikings offense have proven to be more trustworthy than the Giants.


Maggie: 27-23 Giants

The New York Giants will travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. It’s the only game of Wild Card Weekend that will take place in a dome, so the Minneapolis weather won’t be a factor in this game. The Giants started out the season hot, winning six of their first eight games, but they could only manage three more wins and a tie the rest of the way. The Vikings cruised to a record of 13-4, which included eight wins at home. Despite their excellent record, there are many people who think the Vikings just aren’t that good in part due to having the 31st ranked defense in the NFL this season. If Saquon Barkley can run the ball effectively, opening the passing game for Daniel Jones and his wide receivers, the Giants have a chance. However, the Giants will have to contend with Kirk Cousins passing to Justin Jefferson, while not forgetting about running back Dalvin Cook. Look for the Giants to squeak by with a victory to keep their season alive


(6) Ravens @ (3) Bengals – Sunday, January 15th @ 8:15 P.M. on NBC

Nathan: 27-13 Bengals

The Super Bowl redemption run begins Sunday night for the Cincinnati Bengals, as they host their division rival Baltimore Ravens. Led by quarterback Joe Burrow, the Bengals enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the AFC, having won eight games in a row. Burrow was remarkable in the playoffs last season, throwing for 276 yards per game in their impressive stretch to an AFC title. Falling just short of a Super Bowl title, Cincinnati has played with a chip on their shoulder this season, and their shot at a championship run starts off with a familiar foe. This game features a positive matchup for Burrow, as the Ravens finished as the league’s seventh worst pass defense. It is going to be very difficult for the Ravens defense to contain all the weapons the Bengals offense has to offer, especially star wideout Jamar Chase. Chase, in four career games against the Ravens, has 30 receptions for 362 yards and a couple of touchdowns. For the Bengals defense, their biggest challenge will be slowing down the Ravens second best rushing attack from the regular season. The Ravens ran for 155 yards against the Bengals back in week 5. In week 18, the Ravens only ran for 110 yards. The major difference between the two games is that Lamar Jackson was healthy in week 5, but was out in the week 18 game. With Lamar’s inability to play Sunday’s game, the Ravens are going to have to rely on their defense to get the job done, since they have only scored an average of 12.5 points per game since Jackson’s injury back in week 13. Given the amount of firepower the Bengals offense has, the chances for the Ravens to pull off a major upset is highly unlikely. A very physical game should be expected in Cincy on Sunday night, but the momentum the Bengals are carrying right now just seems too difficult for the Ravens to be able to handle. The Bengals next playoff run begins on Sunday, and this will be a great start for them on their quest for a title. 


Maggie: 30-23 Bengals 

Sunday night ends with the Baltimore Ravens playing against their AFC North rivals the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is the third matchup this year between these teams and the first two games were close with each team winning at home. This game will decide the season series and who moves on to the next round. The Bengals lost in last year’s Super Bowl and are hoping to make it there again but win this time. With Lamar Jackson being listed as doubtful for the game, the Ravens will probably start Tyler Huntley, although he is dealing with some injuries of his own. Despite all their injuries, don’t expect the Ravens to roll over. The Ravens boast the 9th ranked defense, so they could keep it close enough to pull out the victory. However, when everyone on the Bengals’ starting roster is healthy, they are an unstoppable force with Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon on offense. These teams met just last week with the Bengals beating the Ravens. Beating a team once is hard enough, let alone having to beat them two weeks in a row. The Bengals aren’t too happy with how the NFL handled the seedings for the playoffs due to the cancellation of their game with the Bills, so I expect them to come out strong and pull off the victory.


(5) Cowboys @ (4) Buccaneers – Monday, January 16th @ 8:15 P.M. on ESPN

Nathan: 24-17 Buccaneers

Round 1 of the postseason finishes with what many believe will be the best game of the weekend. It’s a primetime battle on Monday night between Tom Brady and “America’s Team.” Two teams that had such high hopes coming into this season have seen their seasons trending in the wrong direction down the stretch. The Bucs won their division with a losing record, and the Cowboys have not been playing their best football as of late. Quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown an interception in seven straight games, and leads the league with 15 interceptions during the regular season, even with missing five weeks due to injury. The Cowboys defense was fifth best in the league in points per game allowed, but hasn’t been their best over the past few weeks. They now get to face Tom Brady, who hasn’t lost to the Cowboys in his career. Brady is also 2-0 in the wild card round as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers offense is now starting to find its rhythm, and will pose a difficult challenge to any team they may face this postseason. The two teams faced off back in week 1 in Dallas, and it was Tampa Bay who won that game in dominating fashion, 19-3. Tampa was led by strong performances from wide receiver Mike Evans and running back Leonard Fournette. This rematch comes at a time where both teams are completely different than where they were in week 1. The inconsistency of the Cowboys offense, however, remains the same. What should concern Dallas more is the momentum the Bucs offense has had over the past couple of weeks. They have found their rhythm and Brady has looked the best he had all season. In his last five full games, Brady has thrown for over 300 yards per game, while receiver Mike Evans has over 106 yards per game in his last three games. These two will look to take advantage of a Dallas defense that has had their problems as of late. Tampa’s defense has also improved over the fast few weeks, generating more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and creating takeaways. What many may believe could be Tom Brady’s final season will make it very tough to knock him out. With the struggles they have faced as a team, I don’t see the Cowboys getting the job done on Monday night. 


Maggie: 27-19 Buccaneers

The final game of Wild Card Weekend takes place on Monday Night Football with the Dallas Cowboys traveling to Tampa Bay, Florida to take on the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The G.O.A.T., Tom Brady, has never lost to the Cowboys in his Hall of Fame career. Could this be the time his streak comes to an end? The Buccaneers had a losing record, 8-9, but still made the playoffs, showing you just how bad the NFC South was this year. Just because their record wasn’t great, doesn’t mean that they are a bad team. The Cowboys were 12-5 during the regular season even though Dak Prescott missed several games due to injury. Dak Prescott has thrown 15 interceptions this season in 12 games. The Cowboys played one of their worst games of the season last week in a loss to the Washington Commanders and rookie quarterback Sam Howell. Now they face a Buccaneers team who they lost to during the first week of the season when they could only score a field goal. Will Prescott be able to rally his teammates, or will Brady live to play another week? Well, they don’t call him the G.O.A.T. for nothing, so look for Brady to lead the Buccaneers to another victory.