Get ready for a super-sized NFL wild-card weekend.
In 1982, there was a 16-team bracket due to a strike-shortened season. That was the last time we’ve had more than four games in the first weekend of the NFL playoffs, before this season.
With the NFL expanding the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams, we’ll get wall-to-wall playoff football on wild-card weekend. Here is the schedule for the three games on Saturday of wild-card weekend, all times Eastern.
No. 7 Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at No. 2 Buffalo Bills (13-3), 1:05 p.m. CBS
The Bills will host a playoff game for the first time since Dec. 28, 1996 after winning the AFC East. The Bills, behind MVP candidate Josh Allen at quarterback, locked up the No. 2 seed in the AFC with a 56-26 win in Week 17 over the New York Jets. They’ll face the Colts, who narrowly avoided becoming the third 11-5 team in NFL history to miss the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins’ loss in Week 17 gave the Colts a chance, and they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to clinch a playoff spot. The Colts had a shot at the division title and a home game, but the Tennessee Titans hit a field goal on their final play of the game to beat the Houston Texans, knocking the Colts back to the No. 7 seed and a date in Buffalo to start the playoffs.
No. 6 Los Angeles Rams (10-6) at No. 3 Seattle Seahawks (12-4), 4:40 p.m. FOX
The biggest question for this game between NFC West rivals will be the health of Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Goff had thumb surgery after Week 16, and John Wolford made his first NFL start in the Rams’ finale. After the Rams clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Arizona Cardinals, coach Sean McVay was noncommittal about Goff’s status for their first playoff game.
The Seahawks had a shot for the NFC’s No. 1 seed going into Week 17 and beat the San Francisco 49ers, but didn’t get the help they needed. The Seahawks split the season series with the Rams but clinched the NFC West championship with a 20-9 win over Los Angeles in Week 16.
No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) at No. 4 New York Giants/Washington Football Team, 8:15 p.m. NBC
Tom Brady will be making his first appearance on the NFC side of the playoff bracket. Brady threw 40 touchdowns this season and led the Bucs to a wild-card spot. They’ll face the third losing team in NFL history to make the playoffs.
The NFC East this season has been a punch line, and predictably ended without a team reaching .500. The Giants were amazingly alive for a playoff spot even despite a 6-10 record. They were alive with a win over the Cowboys, and needed a loss by Washington in the regular-season finale to get in the postseason field. Washington would clinch the NFC East in the final game of Week 17 with a win, which would have given them a 7-9 record.
Here is the Sunday schedule for the three games of wild-card weekend.
No. 5 Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at No. 4 Tennessee Titans (11-5), 1:05 p.m. ABC/ESPN
The AFC South went down to the wire, with the Titans taking the division title on a Week 17 win over the Houston Texans. That sets up a playoff rematch from last season, when the Titans went to Baltimore and upset the top-seeded Ravens. The Ravens finished the season on a roll, winning their final five games to make the playoffs. They had an astonishing 404 rushing yards in a Week 17 win over the Bengals that clinched a playoff spot, including 97 rushing yards from reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. Jackson is the first quarterback in NFL history with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
The Titans needed every second of the 2020 season to clinch a division title. A 52-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill to A.J. Brown in the final seconds led to a Sam Sloman field-goal that ricocheted in off the right upright to beat the Houston Texans 41-38.
No. 7 Chicago Bears (8-8) at No. 2 New Orleans Saints (12-4), 4:40 p.m. CBS/Nickelodeon/Amazon Prime
The Bears backed into the playoffs, but they got in. The Bears lost to the Packers 35-16 in Week 17, but a loss by the Arizona Cardinals pushed the Bears in through the back door to the postseason. The Bears are just the third team in NFL history to make the playoffs after a five-game losing streak. The others to pull that off were the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals and the 2014 Carolina Panthers, who lost five in a row but won the NFC South at 7-8-1.
The Saints were shut out of a bye for the second straight season despite a great record. Last season the Saints were the No. 3 seed in the NFC despite a 13-3 record and lost their first playoff game to the Minnesota Vikings. This season the Saints won in Week 17 but didn’t get any help and have to settle the No. 2 seed in the first season of the NFL’s expanded playoffs.
No. 6 Cleveland Browns (11-5) at No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4), 8:15 p.m. NBC
The Browns are back in the playoffs for the first time in 18 years, against the team they faced in their only other playoff appearance since coming back to the NFL in 1999.
In Week 17 the Browns beat the Steelers, who were resting starters, and that sets up a rematch on wild-card weekend. The Steelers hung tough and lost 24-22 with Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt and a few others sitting. Pittsburgh started 11-0 before losing four of their last five. The last time the Browns were in the playoffs, they blew a lead and lost 36-33 to the Steelers in a wild-card game at the end of the 2002 season. The last time the Browns made the playoffs, current starting quarterback Baker Mayfield was 7 years old.
BYES — AFC No. 1 seed: Kansas City Chiefs (14-2), NFC No. 1 seed: Green Bay Packers (13-3)
The Chiefs rested starters in Week 17 with the top seed already locked up. The Packers needed to win in Week 17 and did so, pulling away from the Bears late for a 35-16 win.
The defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs rested starters in Week 17 with the top seed already locked up. The Packers needed to win in Week 17 and did so, pulling away from the Bears late for a 35-16 win.