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NFL wildcard weekend predictions: which No 3 seed is heading out? | NFL

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It is not going to be business as usual within the NFL playoffs this weekend. Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s on-field cardiac arrest earlier this month will haunt proceedings, despite his near-miraculous recovery. How could it not? If there’s one thing we should always take away from the previous few weeks, it’s that the league is populated by human beings, not abstract figures on stats sheets. The playoffs will proceed as scheduled but expect the atmosphere to be more subdued than in years past. And let’s hope that the drama stays entirely football-related.

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (Saturday, 4.30pm EST/9.30pm GMT)

What the Seahawks have to do to win: The Seahawks should act like a team twiddling with house money, because they’re. Seattle squeaked into the playoffs due to a Green Bay Packers collapse and have already been beaten by the 49ers twice this season. Perhaps that may work for one of the best: we’ve seen “no person believed in us” teams pull off big upsets previously.

What the 49ers have to do to win: Brock Purdy must remain relevant. The 49ers are built to succeed regardless of who’s plugged in at quarterback – and have successfully juggled Trey Lance, Jimmy Garoppolo and now Purdy. Their 10-game winning streak, nevertheless, doesn’t really matter now that the playoffs have begun. With the stakes higher, Purdy doesn’t should step up for San Francisco to win, but he can’t regress.

Key player: Nick Bosa, DE, 49ers. Possibly one of the best defensive player within the league, Bosa is a significant reason why the 49ers feel confident regardless of who’s running the offense. Bosa led the league with 18.5 sacks and is the form of player who can bring a painful end to Seahawks QB Geno Smith’s comeback.

Prediction: 49ers over Seahawks.

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars (Saturday, 8.15 pm EST/Sunday, 1.15am GMT)

Justin Herbert’s huge arm all the time poses a threat. Photograph: Isaiah J Downing/USA Today Sports

What the Chargers have to do to win: Take a look at whatever they did the last time these two teams met and do the precise opposite. The Jaguars beat the Chargers 38-10 back in Week 3 and have been probably the most improved team since then. A healthy Justin Herbert, who was nursing a rib injury that game, should help with any uptick for LA.

What the Jaguars have to do to win: Jacksonville, meanwhile, have to forget that win altogether. Trevor Lawrence has emerged as certainly one of the sport’s great talents, but he can’t afford to get in a shootout with Herbert if the Chargers QB is making his usual number of huge throws. It’s not a simple task, however the Jags defense goes to have to reduce the variety of huge-yardage passing plays.

Key player: Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers. Another excuse the Chargers didn’t stand much of a probability against the Jaguars the last time they played? Allen wasn’t available. Now, he’s back and straight off a 100-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Denver Broncos.

Prediction: Jaguars over Chargers.

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (Sunday, 1pm EST/6pm GMT)

What the Dolphins have to do to win: The Dolphins’ best probability to win went out the window with the news that Tua Tagovailoa will remain within the concussion protocols, with rookie Skylar Thompson prone to start in his place. That probably implies that the Dolphins are going to live or die by their rushing attack. A large game from them may lead to the upset of the 12 months.

What the Bills have to do to win: The Bills are the higher team, particularly with Tagovailoa out. They are going to just have to play their normal game to be able to get a win. Will, nevertheless, their first nationally televised game since Hamlin’s collapse really matter as “normal”? It is a Bills team playing under extraordinary circumstances and nobody should blame them if it affects their on-field performance (although they acquitted themselves well last week against the Patriots).

Key player: Tre’Davious White, CB, Buffalo Bills. It’s all the time tempting to go on the offensive side of the ball in Buffalo, but an interesting wrinkle emerged against the Patriots. White put in his best performance since his return from an ACL injury, particularly when he forced a gamechanging third-quarter interception. He looks healthy enough to be a difference-maker.

Prediction: Bills over Dolphins.

Recent York Giants at Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, 4.30pm EST/9.30pm GMT)

What the Giants have to do to win: The Giants should have the opportunity to reap the benefits of Minnesota’s defense, which allowed 25.1 points and 388.7 yards a game within the regular season. The Giants don’t necessarily have a world-beating offense, despite running back Saquon Barkley’s great 12 months, but they need to have the opportunity to place up some points against the Vikings.

What the Vikings have to do to win: Kirk Cousins must maintain the ball. Yes, the Vikings had a 14-3 regular season record, but their starting QB has thrown 14 interceptions on the 12 months. Minnesota are playing at home and have probably the most talented offensive player on either team. Cousins just has to keep in mind that it isn’t him and he doesn’t should be the hero.

Key player: Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings. Probably the most prolific receivers within the league, Jefferson ended the season with 128 receptions, 1,809 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He broke records held by the likes of Cris Carter and Randy Moss. He could also be the Offensive Player of the 12 months. There’s no doubting his importance on this game.

Prediction: Giants over Vikings.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, 8.15pm EST/Monday, 1.15am GMT)

Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow are hoping for another trip to the Super BowlJa’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow are hoping for an additional trip to the Super Bowl. Photograph: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

What the Ravens have to do to win: Baltimore must create a gameplan that doesn’t involve on Lamar Jackson, who tweeted on Thursday that he won’t have the opportunity to play resulting from a left knee injury, leaving either Tyler Huntley or Anthony Brown because the starter. If Baltimore pull off a win, an enormous amount of credit shall be owed to offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

What the Bengals have to do to win: The Bengals have a transparent advantage here with Jackson sidelined. Nevertheless, quarterback Joe Burrow was sacked 41 times in the course of the regular season and has a banged-up offensive line. Burrow and the o-line need to indicate heightened in-game awareness to stop a Baltimore upset.

Key player: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals. The explanation that Burrow all the time thinks he has time to throw could also be because he’s used to twiddling with Chase. Despite only playing 12 games this season resulting from injury, Chase scored nine touchdowns and picked up 1,046 yards. It’s unattainable to assume that the Bengals will bow out of the postseason without giving us at the very least one jaw-dropping Burrow-to-Chase completion.

Prediction: Bengals over Ravens.

Dallas Cowboys at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Monday, 8.15pm EST/Tuesday, 1.15am GMT)

What the Cowboys have to do to win: Not look back. The Cowboys are 0-7 against Tom Brady-led teams and are on an eight-game losing streak in road playoff games. The Cowboys are a greater team on paper, but that doesn’t matter in the event that they fail to take care of their composure and remember they’re playing Old Brady and never the Brady-of-Old.

What the Buccaneers have to do to win: The Buccaneers can keep the Cowboys’ curse alive just by forcing them to make mistakes. Dak Prescott managed to surpass Cousins along with his league-leading 15 interceptions (tied with Davis Mills), while Dallas have been turnover-happy for much of the season. If the Bucs defense capitalizes on Dallas’ mistakes, Brady won’t should do way more than depend on his veteran savvy to guide them to a win.

Key player: Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers. So long as Brady keeps playing, he’s the important thing player. For many of his profession, that’s been a superb thing. This 12 months? He’s been inconsistent and his offensive line has left him vulnerable. Prepare yourselves now for the “is that this the last game of Brady’s profession?” chatter.

Prediction: Cowboys over Buccaneers

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