Wildcard weekend was rarely competitive in the NFC. Tampa Bay and Los Angeles easily won their games. San Francisco provided audiences with the best and closest game capped with a dramatic finish. The remaining four (the Green Bay Packers had a week off) teams have a great shot at getting to both the conference championship and the Super Bowl. Even with a battered 49ers team in the picture, no team is an easy out. It’s time to analyze which two teams have the best shot at making the next round.
#6 San Francisco 49ers v. #1 Green Bay Packers
Another fun playoff rivalry involving the 49ers. They’ve manhandled Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers three times since last decade. However a lot’s different since the 2020 conference championship in Santa Clara.
The Packers are a more complete team with defensive coordinator Joe Barry calling plays. Under Barry’s defense, Green Bay surrenders under 22 points per game. They’ve been good at stopping the run and getting after opposing quarterbacks. This presents a unique problem to San Francisco; running the ball 30 times knowing Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers could turn the game against them early or trusting an inexperienced Trey Lance or injured Jimmy Garappolo behind center.
Those aren’t good options for a four quarter playoff game. Rodgers is getting receiver Randall Cobb back this Saturday and left tackle David Bakhtiari is 100%. San Francisco’s best pass rusher Nick Bosa is still recovering from the concussion he suffered Sunday. At their best the 49ers can keep the game close and at worst Green Bay can run away with the score by halftime.
Prediction: Packers win 30-20
#4 Los Angeles Rams v. #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another rematch from earlier this season features two teams on the cusp of history. The Rams have a chance of being the first football team to win a championship based in Los Angeles and the second straight team to host a super bowl while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to be the first team to repeat title wins since the Patriots in the mid-2000s.
For Tampa to win Sunday, they have to run the football consistently. Offensive linemen Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen will play hurt and that means making room for runningbacks is the best option to keep both in the game without additional flare-ups. The combination of Le’Veon Bell, Giovani Bernard, Ronald Jones II and Ke’Shawn Vaughn is enough to keep the Rams front seven off-balance. The Bucs have to stick to the gameplan and not deviate, otherwise it’ll be open season on quarterback Tom Brady.
The Los Angeles offense may be in a tricky situation. Runningback Cam Akers is back and it creates more balance and less pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford. Tampa’s defense isn’t good to run against. The Buccaneers have most of their secondary in Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead back. Outside of four big play receivers, the Rams don’t have enough depth to take on a Tampa secondary at full health. Combined with Stafford’s ability to throw an interception returned for a touchdown every other week, it’s hard to see how this offense can be consistent in a stadium many teams struggled in this season.
Prediction: Buccaneers win 20-16
Last weeks record: 3-0
Overall season record: 169-109