2021 NFL playoffs: How all 12 teams can win their wild-card games

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·5 min read
2021 NFL playoffs: How all 12 teams can win their wild-card games
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Starting on Saturday, we have quite the wild-card round to kick off the NFL playoffs.

The NFL expanded the playoffs last season for the first time since 1990, adding a third Wild Card team in each conference and creating “Super Wild Card Weekend”with three Wild Card games on Saturday and three games on Sunday.

With the addition of a Monday night game to the 2021 season slate, Super Wild Card Weekend will now have two Wild Card games on Saturday (4:30 PM and 8:15 PM ET), three on Sunday (1:00 PM, 4:30 PM, and 8:15 PM ET), and one on Monday (8:15 PM ET).

On Saturday, the Las Vegas Raiders play at the Cincinnati Bengals (NBC, Peacock, Universo, 4:30 PM ET) and the New England Patriots visit the Buffalo Bills (CBS, Paramount+, 8:15 PM ET).

On Sunday as the Philadelphia Eagles visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (FOX, FOX Deportes, 1:00 PM ET), the Dallas Cowboys welcome the San Francisco 49ers (CBS, Paramount+, Nickelodeon, Amazon Prime Video, 4:30 PM ET) and the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs (NBC, Peacock, Telemundo, 8:15 PM ET).

Super Wild Card Weekend concludes with the Arizona Cardinals visiting the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night (ESPN/ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+ ESPN Deportes, 8:15 PM ET).

At Touchdown Wire, we’ve got you covered with all the matchups. Using tape analysis and advanced metrics, Doug Farrar and Mark Schofield have put together pieces on how each of these 12 teams can advance to the divisional round.

How the Raiders can beat the Bengals

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

If the Raiders are to beat the Bengals to start the wild-card slate, they’ll have to account for Ja’Marr Chase, deal with Joe Mixon, and let Derek Carr eat when it’s time to throw deep.

How the Bengals can beat the Raiders

(AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

Conversely, if the Bengals want to win their first playoff game since 1990 (no, really), they’ll need to do this against the Raiders: Protect Joe Burrow (duh), attack Gus Bradley’s preferred single-high coverages, and neutralize tight end Darren Waller.

How the Patriots can beat the Bills

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

For the Patriots to go on yet another Super Bowl run, they’ll need to get past a very tough Bills team by running with purpose, create favorable situations for Mac Jones, and spy Josh Allen like a bunch of James Bonds.

How the Bills can beat the Patriots

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

If the Bills want to get past their AFC East rival, they’ll have to slow down New England’s devastating run game, make Mac Jones do things he may not yet be ready to do, and spread the ball around (and away from J.C. Jackson).

How the Eagles can beat the Buccaneers

(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

This is one of many playoff rematches from the 2021 season, and if the Eagles want to reverse the 28-22 loss they suffered to the Bucs in Week 6, they’ll have to use Jalen Hurts as an option runner, Velcro Darius Slay to Mike Evans at the line of scrimmage, and pressure Tom Brady right up the middle, specifically with one matchup that does not favor Tampa Bay at all.

How the Buccaneers can beat the Eagles

(Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

And if the Bucs are going to start running it back, and win their ninth game in their last 10, they’ll need to give Alex Cappa help with Fletcher Cox, get their run defense back on track after a few bad weeks, and build the whole pass-game plane out of Gronk and his tight end friends.

How the 49ers can beat the Cowboys

(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

The 49ers and Cowboys didn’t face off this regular season, which makes this game all the more intriguing. If San Francisco wants to upset Dallas here, they’ll need to make things manageable for Jimmy Garoppolo (good luck with that), avoid man coverage at all costs, and avoid blitzing Dak Prescott under any circumstances.

How the Cowboys can beat the 49ers

(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

And if the Cowboys are to start to fulfill their postseason promise against the 49ers, it’s time to give Trevon Diggs some help against deep double moves, counter Kyle Shanahan’s complex run concepts, and force Jimmy G to try and process openings and reads over the middle.

How the Steelers can beat the Chiefs

(Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

These two teams played in Week 16, and the Chiefs walked away with a 36-10 win. For Pittsburgh to come away with a different result this time around, they’ll want to attack the boundaries in the passing game, find a way to deal with Travis Kelce, and win the turnover battle — decisively.

How the Chiefs can beat the Steelers

(Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

For the Chiefs, it’s a bit easier. If they want to start the clock on a third straight Super Bowl appearance, they’ll need to stay patient on offense, keep Najee Harris in check, and make Ben Roethlisberger earn every completion.

How the Cardinals can beat the Rams

(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)

Preview coming soon!

How the Rams can beat the Cardinals

(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Preview coming soon!

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