NFL’s Wild Card round promises excitement

With no clear favorites this season, any teams could be heading to the 2022 Super Bowl


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The Tennessee Titans clinched the top seed in the AFC and will be sitting out of the Wild Card round.

Christina Denovio, Sports Editor

The NFL playoff picture has been set. On Jan. 15, the Wild Card round will kick off the NFL Playoffs. 

While fans have been predicting which teams will be facing off in the Super Bowl on Feb. 13, this season has taught everyone to expect the unexpected. During the 2021-2022 regular season, no team went undefeated. In fact, no team came even close to having a perfect season.

Last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and their NFC rivals, the Green Bay Packers, both ended their seasons 13-4 (only a 76.5 win percentage), which was the best record in the NFL this year. Both teams secured positions in the playoffs, and it was the Packers who clinched the top seed in the NFC.

The Tennessee Titans clinched the top seed in the AFC with a record of 12-5. The Kansas City Chiefs, last year’s AFC champions, also ended the regular season 12-5 (in comparison to their 14-2 record last year).

With no clear frontrunner, anything can happen this NFL playoff season. There may very well be one — or even two — dark horses going to the Super Bowl. The Wild Card round will reveal which teams have the talent and strategy to advance to the Divisional Round and potentially go all the way.

No. 4 Cincinnati vs. No. 5 Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals will start off the wild-card round on Jan. 15. Dealing with injuries from their final regular-season game against the Cleveland Browns, the Bengals will face a disadvantage against their opponents. 

Less than two months ago, Cincinnati defeated Las Vegas 32-13 after an impressive fourth-quarter effort in which the Bengals scored 19 points. However, with the Bengals’ backup safety Ricardo Allen suffering a concussion and defensive tackle Josh Tupou dealing with a sprained MCL, there is no guarantee the Bengals will pull out a stellar performance. 

No. 3 Buffalo vs. No. 6 New England

Later that day, the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills will face off. These division rivals will finally get to settle the score after split results in December. On Dec. 6, the Patriots beat the Bills 14-10. On Dec. 26, however, the Bills defeated the Pats 33-21 in what proved to be a one-sided game. 

The Bills remain favorites to win on Saturday, but a strong performance by Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and the rest of the New England offense could tip the scales in the Patriots’ favor.

No. 2 Tampa Bay vs. No. 7 Philadelphia

The aforementioned 2021 Super Bowl champion Buccaneers are the heavy favorites against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles barely broke .500 this year and finished the season 9-8. 

The Bucs should remain cautious, though, as Philadelphia’s rushing abilities may pose a threat — or at least a nuisance — to Tampa Bay. If Bucs quarterback Tom Brady is still hungry for his eighth ring, his team will have to overpower a tough Philadelphia defense in the wild-card round. 

No. 3 Dallas vs. No. 6 San Francisco

The San Francisco 49ers will have to shake off their rocky season — and coming third in their division — if they want to have a chance against the Dallas Cowboys, who clinched the NFC East. Though the 49ers most recent Super Bowl appearance was just two years ago, they have yet to show true domination beyond that 2019-20 season.

The Cowboys have had a better regular season, but they may be rusty after having missed the last two playoff berths. 

While Dallas still seems like an NFL powerhouse, it’s important to remember that their dominant streak began three decades ago and ended before most Wake Forest students were born. 

No. 2 Kansas City vs. No. 7 Pittsburgh

This year marks the seventh consecutive playoff appearance for the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s become hard to imagine the Chiefs not being contenders for the Super Bowl. Leaders of the AFC West, Kansas City would be stunned if they were to lose against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In just his fourth year as starting quarterback for the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes has already established himself as a leader and proved his ability to guide his team at the highest level. 

While the Chiefs would’ve preferred not to play in the wild-card round, the Titans outperformed them and clinched the conference, meaning that Kansas City has an extra obstacle to make it to the Super Bowl for the third year in a row.

No. 4 Los Angeles Rams vs. No. 5 Arizona

The Arizona Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams have been neck and neck as divisional rivals this season. While the Rams clinched the division with a 12-5 record, the Cardinals were not far behind at 11-6.

In the teams’ most recent matchup, the Rams emerged victorious, defeating the Cardinals 30-23 just last month.