The 2021 NFL playoffs are finally here!
It took an extra regular season week to arrive at this point, but the drama-filled Week 18 helped finalize the pairings during Super Wild Card Weekend.
12 NFL teams will try to extend their campaign into the Divisional Round in a knockout postseason game.
The win-or-go-home scenario makes the teams play at their best and leave nothing to chance.
While all of the matchups are worth watching, here are three showdowns that will merit the most attention.
3. New England Patriots At Buffalo Bills
These two teams fought for the AFC East title until the last regular-season game, but the Buffalo Bills emerged victorious after winning over the New York Jets.
The Bills lost four of six games at one point but bounced back by winning four straight.
Sean McDermott‘s crew is one of the few NFL teams equally talented on both offense and defense.
The Bills ranked fifth in total yards (381.9), sixth in rushing yards (129.9), and third in points (28.4) per game.
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 10, 2022
On defense, Buffalo allowed the fewest total yards (272.8), passing yards (163), and points (17) per game.
However, the stats might not matter during the playoffs, especially with Bill Belichick, who knows how to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses.
Their Week 13 road win against the Bills is a fantastic example wherein the New England Patriots exploited Buffalo’s run defense to score a 14-10 victory.
In that game, New England had 222 rushing yards, 111 of which were courtesy of Damien Harris.
Bills v Patriots, Round 3, incoming.
— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) January 10, 2022
Likewise, the Patriots defense allowed the second-fewest points per game at 17.8.
But the six-time Super Bowl champions must re-discover their winning ways after dropping three of their last four games to close the regular season.
2. San Francisco 49ers At Dallas Cowboys
These two teams will revive a storied NFL rivalry that dates back to the 1980s.
The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys last had a postseason game against each other during the 1994 NFC Championship, which San Francisco won en route to a Super Bowl title.
The Cowboys had one of the most explosive offenses all season, averaging a league-best 31.2 points per game.
454 days ago, Dak Prescott suffered a compound ankle fracture which ended his 2020 season
The following season, Dak
Led his team to a 12-5 record.
Threw for 37 TDs in a season, a franchise record
& swept the NFC East. First time since 1998
THE comeback player of the year 👏🏾 pic.twitter.com/pXFCqxCvW8
— J ✭ (@AMERlCASTEAM) January 9, 2022
CeeDee Lamb also finished the regular season with 1,102 yards and six touchdown receptions.
But if the Niners’ comeback win against the Los Angeles Rams is a preview of things to come, the Cowboys cannot take the road team lightly.
Kyle Shanahan’s troops won seven of their last nine games to make a postseason return after a one-year absence.
Defense has been the 49ers’ strong suit as they allowed the third-fewest total yards (310) and eighth-fewest points (21.5) per game.
The 49ers officially finish the 2021 season ranked 3rd in the NFL in total defense
What an absolutely incredible debut season for first time defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans
— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) January 10, 2022
1. Arizona Cardinals At Los Angeles Rams
Although only one game separates these two teams, the Rams host the Arizona Cardinals as NFC West champions.
However, late in the season, the Rams’ five-game winning streak helped them overtake Arizona in the standings.
Nevertheless, this showdown promises to be an exciting matchup, and it won’t be surprising if the game turns into a shootout.
Rams vs Cardinals part 3 is gonna be fire lowkey
— Brett ⚡️ (@Brettafilter) January 10, 2022
Los Angeles must also play hard throughout the game to avoid another second-half meltdown.
It’s also time for the elite players on the Rams’ defense to live up to expectations.
Cardinals fans will make the trip to Los Angeles, and Rams fans cannot allow the red and white to dominate the crowd.