HomeFootball DirtThe best games for Wild Card weekend, fully bracketed

The best games for Wild Card weekend, fully bracketed

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Top seed: Baltimore Ravens (13-4)

Wild Card matchups:

  • (5) Cleveland Browns at (4) Houston Texans: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
  • (6) Miami Dolphins at (3) Kansas City Chiefs: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET (Peacock)
  • (7) Pittsburgh Steelers at (2) Buffalo Bills: Sunday, Noon ET (CBS)

Best game: Dolphins at Chiefs

OK, “best” is subjective here. This is a game with a potential “feels like” temperature in the negative teens. It’s going to be bitterly cold in Kansas City, turning deep throws into rapidly descending cannon balls and every hit, no matter how minor, into a symphony of pain with accompaniment from ground that’s long since frozen into a densely packed solid.

That means the level of play is going to be gross, and the Dolphins and Chiefs are both sorta built for that. Kansas City won the AFC West, partially because the division was a mess but partially because it was able to overcome a certain level of slop produced by bad play from the team’s wideouts and questionable decisions from its MVP quarterback. Miami made it to the playoffs and inspired zero confidence along the way, beating exactly one team with a winning record. But the Dolphins can put up points in a hurry, and one busted coverage could be all it takes for Tyreek Hill or De’Von Achane to rip off a game-changing play and put their team in front.

This game will almost certainly be ugly, But at a certain point, there’s a beauty in that grossness. Dolphins-Chiefs in subzero temperatures will invite us to revel in the slop, waiting for the fleeting moments of bliss that resemble the fireworks we’d otherwise expect from Hill’s return to western Missouri.

Best chance for an upset: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills

Speaking of ugly! It’s impossible to know which version of the Bills will show up any given week, seeing as this team went from 14 percent playoff odds to an AFC East title over the course of a five-game win streak to wrap the 2023 season.

Pittsburgh managed to win 10 games with Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky behind center. We know they can thrive despite chaos. We know that defense can capitalize if the Allen that came out in the first half against the Dolphins missing throws and tossing more interceptions (two) than touchdowns) emerges again. It won’t be easy in Buffalo, but the Steelers won’t be put off by the cold and would be happy to grind this game down to a rock fight.

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