Who’s Time to Shine in the NFL?


As 2023 begins, the 17-game NFL regular season has come to a close, and just 14 of the 32 franchises will play a postseason game this weekend. The top seed from the AFC and NFC both receive automatic first-round byes. This season, The Philadelphia Eagles led the NFC with a record of 14-3, while the Kansas City Chiefs led the AFC, also winning 14 of 17. 

The first playoff game this season will feature the 9-8 Seattle Seahawks making the trip down south to Levi’s Stadium. The San Francisco 49ers(14-3) are currently on a red-hot streak. The 49ers have not lost since October 23 and are on a 10-game winning streak. The game will begin at 1:30 p.m. PT. 

Seattle clinched the final wild-card spot in week 18 with an overtime win over the LA Rams and a Detroit Lions road victory at Lambeau Field. 32-year-old veteran quarterback, Geno Smith has had the best season of his career, leading the league in completion percentage, and making his first pro bowl. 

While it would be quite a story for the Seahawks to upset the NFC favorite with Geno Smith at quarterback, the 49ers’ defense has been elite all season. With Fred Warner and Nick Bosa shutting down any potential life in the Seattle offense, I predict Brock Purdy and the 49ers will come out of the wild card round unscathed with a 38-13 victory. 

The closest anticipated game of the weekend will kick off at 5:15 p.m. PT on Saturday between the 9-8 Jacksonville Jaguars and the 10-7 LA Chargers. The spread for the game is dead even despite the Jaguars stomping the Chargers in week 3 at SoFi Stadium. 

While this game will be in Jacksonville at TIAA Bank Field, the Chargers have recovered well from a plethora of early-season injuries and should make this game much more interesting than it was in week 3. 

Trevor Lawrence and Justin Herbert are two of the most talented young quarterbacks currently in the league. Lawrence finished the regular season with 4,113 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. Herbert finished with 4,739 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. 

The Jaguar’s offense has been extremely consistent this season, averaging nearly 24 points per game. However, I do not believe the Jaguar defense will be able to overcome Herbert and his countless weapons. I predict a 33-31 Chargers victory. 

The Miami Dolphins(9-8) are the no. 7 seed in the AFC and battle AFC East rival, Buffalo Bills(13-3) at Bills Stadium, Sunday at 10 a.m. PT. 

The Bills are the most well-rounded AFC team and will not have any trouble handling the Dolphin’s third-string quarterback, Skylar Thompson. I believe the Bills will win 45-17. 

The 9-7-1 New York Giants have exceeded all expectations this season. They travel to U.S. Bank Stadium to battle the 13-4 Minnesota Vikings Sunday at 1:30 p.m. PT. While coach Brian Daboll has brought this Giants team back from poverty, I do not believe the team has the secondary to contain the Vikings’ air raid. 

I expect a hard-fought game by both sides, ending in a 27-19 Vikings victory led by Justin Jefferson. 

Many have strong, slightly unrealistic expectations for the upcoming playoffs. Although, former editor-in-chief of the Lakeland Hawkeye, David Tesch, wholeheartedly believes “Minnesota will no doubt win their first super bowl in franchise history.” 

The final Sunday game will be a week 18 rematch between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium at 5:15 p.m. PT. 

While the Ravens started the season hot, showing signs of firepower in their offense, losing quarterback Lamar Jackson to a PCL sprain has drastically hurt the team’s performance. The overall team morale when losing former MVP Jackson decreased, and so did their chances of upsetting Cincinnati. 

While Tyler Huntley is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, the former AFC champions should have no trouble taming the injured Ravens. I expect Joe Burrow and the Bengals to come out on top with a 33-17 victory. 

The Dallas Cowboys are the best NFL team that did not win their division, hands down. They will be tasked with defeating the greatest quarterback of all time on Monday night at 5:15 p.m. PT at Raymond James Stadium.  

Time and time again, Tom Brady has proven that he can beat any team on any given day, no matter the circumstances. While Brady and the Bucs have undergone their fair share of struggles this season, I can’t see the Cowboys steamrolling them in this wild-card matchup. 

This will almost certainly be a close game that comes down to the last few plays. While Tom Brady hardly ever loses in the postseason, I expect the Cowboys to rise to the occasion and pull off a 30-27 victory. 

“Hopefully, this is the first year Dak doesn’t choke in the playoffs. It will be a tight matchup against the GOAT,” said Lakeland junior and Dallas Cowboy fan, Brayden Tirri.