The NFL Playoffs have finally arrived. The highly-anticipated Wild Card Weekend kicks off with two games on Saturday.
By the end of the weekend, three teams will be eliminated and three teams will be one step closer to the NFL’s biggest stage.
Here’s what to expect on Saturday:
The weekend begins in Santa Clara, California with the NFC West rivals Seahawks and 49ers. It will be the third meeting between the two teams this season, though just the second time they have ever met in the postseason.
Most interestingly, the matchup features two improbable quarterbacks that 18 weeks ago no one could have predicted would be in this position.
As the successor to Russell Wilson, Seahawks’ quarterback Geno Smith stepped into the role with low expectations. He not only met those expectations, but surpassed them by posting career numbers in nearly every category.
At 32 years old, he earned his first Pro Bowl bid and his first trip to the postseason in his 10-year career. He powered the Seahawks to a winning season and secured the seventh and final NFC playoff spot.
Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, Smith is poised as a frontrunner for comeback player of the year.
On the opposing side is 2022’s “Mr. Irrelevant,” who contrary to the nickname, will not be soon forgotten.
Brock Purdy reluctantly earned the title as the last pick in last year’s draft. What 49ers executives didn’t know at the time was that the pick would eventually save their season.
The team started the year with three quarterbacks. After Trey Lance and Jimmy Garropolo suffered unlikely season-ending injuries, the keys were handed to the rookie Purdy. The 23-year-old took the opportunity in his stride, leading the 49ers to a perfect six wins in six games to wrap up the season.
If he’s able to continue past the first round, the rise of Mr. Irrelevant will no doubt be one of the most extraordinary stories of the entire season.
All circumstances considered, the stage is set for a 49ers victory.
Kyle Shanahan’s squad is healthy despite a season full of injuries, has one of the best defensive units in the league, and is riding a 10-game winning streak. They have the experience, the talent, and the momentum needed to make a deep playoff run.
While it’s quite remarkable that the underdog Seahawks have made it this far, it’s likely that their season ends here.
Both teams have a lot to prove when the Jaguars host the Chargers on Saturday night.
Neither team was expected to make the playoffs this season. Neither team has seen the playoffs in the past five years. Neither franchise has ever won a Super Bowl.
If the Jags make it out of the first round, they would become the first team in NFL history to win a postseason just a season after finishing with the league’s worst or tied-for-the-worst record.
This game is arguably the most evenly matched of the entire weekend.
Both teams hit their stride at the end of the regular season, with the Jaguars ending on a five-game win streak and the Chargers winning four of their final five. Both teams possess some of the league’s most promising young quarterbacks making their postseason debut, Trevor Lawrence, 23, and Justin Herbert, 24, respectively.
Herbert finished the regular season ranked second in completions and pass yards, and with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Lawrence, despite an up-and-down season, set career highs in pass yards and touchdown passes. He finished with 25 touchdowns and over the last 10 weeks of the season, led the AFC with a 104.6 passer rating.
Ultimately, this game will likely be a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. The Jaguars have the better ground game, but the Chargers have the better passing game.
Neither defense is equipped to stop their opponents’ biggest strengths. The outcome of this game will likely be decided by a single score or late-game mistake.
Here’s how to catch these teams and others across the league in action, from wherever you are.
Australia: NFL Game Pass, ESPN, 7Plus
Brazil: NFL Game Pass, ESPN
Canada: CTV, TSN, RDS, NFL Game Pass on DAZN
Germany: NFL Game Pass, ProSieben MAXX, DAZN
Mexico: NFL Game Pass, TUDN, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sky Sports
UK: NFL Game Pass, Sky Sports, ITV, Channel 5
US: NFL Game Pass, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, ESPN, Amazon Prime