Let’s first take a look at the NFL playoffs by looking at how the bracket might play out. I’ll use what we know about the first six wildcard round matches to pick the winners of this weekend’s games, explore the matches that will result from those divisional round wins, and so on. In the end, I will choose Super Bowl LVII and the champion, and I will stick to the prediction I made on SportsCenter before the start of the season.

Now, before we get started, let me be clear: this would be wrong. Matching all six wildcards correctly would be a small miracle, not to mention picking all 13 games correctly. If you are reading this to be angry about who I choose, you are wasting your time. Instead, I’m just trying to explore how these matches can develop and what we’ll be looking for if two teams do actually play in a real postseason grid.

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Some matches require a long, exhaustive list of analysis options. Others can be described in one or two sentences. As we start in the AFC, two of the three games this weekend could be decided before they start due to injured quarterbacks.

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Go to round:
Wild Card Weekend: NFC | AFC
Divisional Round: NFC | AFC
Conference title games: NFC | AFC
Super Bowl LVII

Wild Card at AFC Weekend

(7) Miami Dolphins to (2) Buffalo Bills

Sunday at 1:00 pm ET on CBS.
Spread: BUF -13 (43.5)

It seems academic to discuss this matchup if the Dolphins release Skylar Thompson as a quarterback against the Bills. Brock Purdy was a magician for the 49ers, but his fellow rookie seventh-round pick ran into trouble in Miami. Thompson played like a typical rookie late in the round, averaging 5.1 yards per attempt and a 57.1% completion percentage over 105 pass attempts. Except for the really unexpected, Thompson against this Bill defense is a dishonest fight.

The return of Teddy Bridgewater would make things a little fairer given that the journeyman has averaged 8.6 passing yards per attempt out of 79 pass attempts this season. He missed Week 18 with a dislocated finger on his throwing hand, which does not appear to be conducive to the game. Coach Mike McDaniel said Wednesday that the Dolphins are gearing up for Thompson’s start, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if McDaniel turns to Bridgewater if the offense finds it difficult to turn the ball early.

In any case, it’s unlikely to be a competitive game, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Billy rested his starting players at some point in the second half. Prediction: Billy 27, Dolphins 7.


(6) Baltimore Ravens to (3) Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday 8:15 pm ET on NBC
Spread: CIN -8.5 (40.5)