Photograph: Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Sports
OK, so the much ballyhooed Super Wild Card Weekend slate ended up being something of a bust. Of the six games, four ended up being blowouts, with only the Cincinnati Bengals’ win over the Las Vegas Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys’ epic choke-job against the San Francisco 49ers providing much drama. However, with the NFL playoff field culled down to eight, the divisional round traditionally ends up providing fans with the most exciting four games of the year. Here are our predictions for which teams will be advancing to the conference finals.
Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans (Saturday, 4.30pm EST/9.30pm GMT)
What the Bengals need to do to win: At the risk of repeating ourselves, the Bengals’ success lies in Joe Burrow keeping it up. If Burrow can have another performance like the one had against the Raiders last week, where he threw for two touchdowns (albeit one with an assist from an erroneous whistle) and amassed 244 yards, the Bengals could pull off something nearly unthinkable: a playoff winning streak.
What the Titans need to do to win: Rely heavily on their running game. Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill has had a fine year, but the passing game is not their true strength. Plus, the Bengals’ defense has allowed a not-ideal 4.4 yards per rush this season, making it a crucial weakness for the Titans’ running back corps to exploit.
Key player: Derrick Henry, running back, Titans. While Henry has been out with a fractured foot since Week 8, the unstoppable running back is one of the best players in the league when healthy. The question is how good he will be. Tennessee has proven they can with without him, going 6-3 in his absence, but the playoffs are a different beast and the Titans are at their most dangerous when Henry is barreling through hapless defenses.
Prediction: Bengals over Titans
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (Saturday, 8.15pm EST/Sunday 1.15am GMT)
What the 49ers need to do to win:…