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Confidence rankings for straight-up picks in the Wild Card round

The NFL playoffs are upon us. We pick winners in the Wild Card round and rank by confidence.

Lucas Oil Stadium with the Wild Card logo painted on the field before a NFL AFC Wild Card football game between the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 NFL Playoffs get underway in less than 24 hours. We get an expanded pool of teams this year, with an extra wild card team in each conference. That has resulted in only one first round bye per conference and now a whopping six games in the Wild Card round. I suppose that’s why the NFL is insisting on referring to this weekend as the “Super” Wild Card round.

We get a pair of tripleheaders this weekend to kick off the playoffs. On Saturday, the Buffalo Bills host the Indianapolis Colts, followed by the Seattle Seahawks hosting the Los Angeles Rams, and then close with the Washington Football Team hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On Sunday, the Tennessee Titans host the Baltimore Ravens, then the New Orleans Saints host the Chicago Bears, and finally the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Cleveland Browns.

This weekend we have four home favorites and twqo road favorites. The Bucs are 8-point favorites over the 7-9 Football Team and the Ravens are a field goal favorite over Tennessee. Considering Derrick Henry and their upset of the Ravens last year, I could see a lot of folks backing Tennessee.

There’s plenty to consider for purposes of the spread, but let’s start with the most important thing in the playoffs — just outright winning the game. Below I’ve listed out my six straight-up picks for the weekend and ranked them based on how confident I am in the pick.

Bills over Colts: The Indy defense is stout and won’t roll over, but I just don’t see the Colts being able to hang with the Bills offense. The only way this goes south for Buffalo is if Josh Allen reverts to pre-2020 form. He’s taken a big step forward and I think we see Buffalo rolls.

Saints over Bears: The Saints are expected to have Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas back. The Bears defense is solid, but I have zero faith in Mitchell Trubisky continuing his recent solid run when he faces a strong Saints defense.

Steelers over Browns: In a normal playoff game, I would be much less confident with the Steelers. However, when you add in the COVID-19 issues Cleveland has faced this week, I feel better about Pittsburgh. The Browns had to work remotely much of the week, and did not have their first in-person practice until Friday. I don’t think Cleveland gets blown out, but they’ve got a lot to overcome.

Seahawks over Rams: The teams split the first two games and meet in Seattle for the third. Jared Goff is a huge question mark, and even if he plays, the thumb remains a concern. The Rams defense will keep them in this game, but the offense faces some huge questions.

Bucs over Washington: Washington slipped into the playoffs at 7-9, but that defense is really good. Chase Young could single-handedly make Tom Brady’s life miserable. That coupled with Antonio Gibson giving the Bucs some trouble is the reason this is so low down the list.

Titans over Ravens: Derrick Henry made the Ravens’ life miserable last year and I think that coupled with Ryan Tannehill’s solid second season in Nashville has me bullish on the Titans. I don’t expect either side to win this in a blowout, but a narrow win by either team would not surprise me.

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