NFL wild-card playoff preview: 6 games on tap for the initial slate

The NFL playoffs are here, and it’s wild to think that just a few months ago the Detroit Lions stunned the Kansas City Chiefs in the first game of the season.

Both of those teams have made the playoffs and could possibly meet in the Super Bowl.

The road starts here. With the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers having first-round byes, the rest of the division winners and wild-card teams will hope to narrow down the field.

Read the breakdowns of the weekend’s playoff games below.


The Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns are both back in the playoffs and riding waves of momentum to get back to the postseason. The Texans, behind C.J. Stroud and DeMeco Ryans, became the first team in the Super Bowl era to win a division with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach, respectively. The Browns are in the playoffs for the second time in the last 20 years.

All eyes will be on Stroud to see how he can handle the playoff pressure, and it’s been a minute since Houston has had any postseason success. He has 4,108 passing yards and 23 touchdown passes this season.

He’s going up against a Browns defense that features Myles Garrett, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Denzel Ward. Not to mention, Joe Flacco appears to have turned the clock back; since taking the reins as the starting quarterback, he has 1,616 passing yards and 13 touchdown passes.

Cleveland beat Houston on Christmas Eve, 36-22.


All eyes will be on Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s return to Arrowhead Stadium in a pivotal matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Patrick Mahomes-led squad is looking to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles, which hasn’t been done since the early 2000s.

But both teams have struggled down the stretch. The Dolphins were in the driver’s seat for the AFC East title before losing to the Buffalo Bills in the final game of the regular season. The Chiefs won three out of their last four, but the offense hasn’t looked the same as in past years.

The Chiefs won the AFC West division title for the eighth straight season, and Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel will have to scheme something great to top a legend in coach Andy Reid. Miami is in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-2001.

Don’t forget, the weather will be a huge factor as the wind chill is expected to make it well below zero degrees on the field in Kansas City. For what it’s worth, the last time the two teams played was in Germany earlier this season. Kansas City won the game, 21-14.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills will meet in the wild-card round to kick off Sunday’s slate of games. The Bills enter the game as the AFC East champions, having beaten the Dolphins in the final game of the regular season. The Steelers are riding a three-game winning streak to make it into the playoffs.

Pittsburgh defeated the Baltimore Ravens last weekend and needed a Jacksonville Jaguars loss to sneak in. It happened that way, and now it’s up to Mason Rudolph and the offense to try and get something done against the Bills. Without T.J. Watt, it’s going to make things even tougher on defense.

Buffalo won the AFC East for the fourth straight season as Josh Allen racked up 4,306 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes. A lot will be riding on Allen’s shoulders to make things happen and keep Buffalo turnover-free against the hungry Steelers.


There is a rich history between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers in the postseason, especially recently from Dez Bryant’s non-catch and Aaron Rodgers’ late-game heroics. Now, it’s a new era as Dallas looks to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 28 years while the Packers have a new era with Jordan Love taking snaps.

Dak Prescott led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes this season, increasing the spotlight on the Cowboys quarterback as the two teams meet in the playoffs. On defense, Micah Parsons is the leader and will be needed to continue his tear. He had 14 sacks in 2023 and became the fifth player since 1982 to have 40-plus sacks in his first three seasons.

Love was behind Prescott with 32 touchdown passes. It’s his first playoff spot and first in the post-Rodgers rea. Love has 4,159 passing yards to his credit as well. The Packers are thriving but will have to dig deep to eke out a win on the road.

Playoff football enters Ford Field for the first time. The Detroit Lions are hosting a playoff game and welcome former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams into town on Sunday night.

It’s a highly anticipated game in which quarterback Jared Goff will get a chance to enact some revenge on the Rams for trading him for Stafford a few seasons ago. The fans are going to be wild and loud as the upstart Lions look to build upon a potential dream season. Goff has 4,575 passing yards and 30 touchdown passes, and Amon-Ra St. Brown has 119 catches for 1,515 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sam LaPorta also has 10 touchdowns.

The Rams got into the playoffs behind the division-winning San Francisco 49ers. The Rams have played well as Stafford has developed Puka Nacua into a dynamite receiver in his rookie season alongside Cooper Kupp. Let’s not forget, Aaron Donald has eight sacks while rookie Kobie Turner led the team with nine.

It will be a helluva game in Detroit come Sunday night.

The wild-card finale is between the NFC South champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the defending conference champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Baker Mayfield’s last playoff appearance came when he was with the Browns in 2020. They stunned the Steelers for the team’s first postseason victory in 18 years. Now, he gets to lead the upstart Bucs against an Eagles team that appears to be in some turmoil.

A lot of the pressure will be on the Eagles. Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown were injured in their loss to the New York Giants last week. The team isn’t exactly exuding the same confidence they had this time last year. But a win fixes everything. They could march down to Tampa and beat the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay only scored nine points in their win over the Carolina Panthers last weekend.

Can Mayfield and the Bucs catch the Eagles off guard? Find out Monday.

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