Neither rain nor sleet nor global pandemic shall keep the mighty NFL from completing its 256-game regular season and barreling into the league's first 14-team postseason.
Super Wild Card Weekend – a two-day, six-game playoff smorgasbord – kicks off Saturday and features everything from 43-year-old Tom Brady's quest for a seventh championship to Cleveland seeking its first Super Bowl appearance while battling a COVID-19 outbreak that will force head coach Kevin Stefanski to watch helplessly from home.
A record five teams averaged at least 30 points in a season that saw more points (12,692) and touchdowns (1,473) scored than ever before. The highest-scoring team, Green Bay (31.8), gets the weekend off as the NFC's No. 1 seed, but the other four – Buffalo (31.3), Tampa Bay (30.8), Tennessee (30.7) and New Orleans (30.1) – are in action this weekend.
Defending champion Kansas City, which has the league's best record (14-2) and its sixth-highest scoring offense, has the week off as the AFC's No. 1 seed.
No. 7 COLTS (11-5) at No. 2 BILLS (13-3)
Time/TV: Saturday, 12:05 p.m. (CBS)
The matchup: Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and Buffalo's second-ranked scoring attack (31.3) roll into the playoffs on a 56-point outburst that came with Allen sitting out the second half. Allen is the first player in NFL history with at least 4,500 yards passing, 35 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns. Indianapolis counters with the 10th-ranked scoring defense (22.6) and the potential to control the ball with rookie rushing leader Jonathan Taylor (1,169 yards, 5.0 average, 11 TDs).
Key stat: Jan. 6, 1996, the last time the Bills won a playoff game.
The Colts will win if: An offensive line missing left tackle Anthony Castonzo protects turnover-prone Philip Rivers; Taylor runs like he did in Week 17 (253 yards); and DeForest Buckner (five sacks in his last three games) stirs up a pass rush that disrupts Allen's rhythm.
The Bills will win if: Allen plays with poise, and a defense that's third in takeaways (26) slows Taylor and harasses Rivers.
Line: Bills -6 1/2.
Craig's pick: Bills 31, Colts 24
No. 6 RAMS (10-6) at No. 3 SEAHAWKS (12-4)
Time/TV: Saturday, 3:40 p.m. (Fox)
The matchup: Jared Goff might return from his thumb injury to face a resurgent Seattle defense he struggled against in a 20-9 loss two weeks ago. Goff played well in the first meeting, a Rams win, but since then Seattle has gone 6-1 while allowing only 15 points per game.
Key stat: 20, Aaron Donald's tackles for loss, including 13 sacks, in 14 games against the Rams.
The Rams will win if: Goff or backup John Wolford – whose NFL debut came in last week's win – play a clean game and hand things over to the 10th-ranked running attack and an elite defense featuring the game's best defender in Donald.
The Seahawks will win if: Their defense, which was allowing an average of 29.6 points through nine games, continues a seven-week surge and is able to turn the game over to Russell Wilson in the fourth quarter.
Line: Seahawks -4.
Craig's pick: Seahawks 23, Rams 16.
No. 5 BUCCANEERS (11-5) at No. 4 WASHINGTON (7-9)
Time/TV: Saturday, 7:15 p.m. (NBC)
The matchup: Washington's fourth-ranked scoring defense (20.6) will need its vaunted pass rush to rough up Tom Brady to have any chance of taking down the No. 3 scoring attack (30.8) and joining the 2010 Seahawks (7-9) and 2015 Panthers (7-8-1) as losing teams that won playoff openers.
Key stat: 27, Washington's turnovers, fourth worst in the NFL.
The Buccaneers will win if: Brady's protection lives up to its regular-season performance – 22 sacks allowed, fourth fewest in the league.
Washington will win if: Its excellent front four, led by rookie Chase Young, take over the game; and Washington quarterbacks Alex Smith (10 turnovers in eight games) and possibly Taylor Heinicke play a clean game.
Line: Buccaneers -8 1/2.
Craig's pick: Buccaneers 24, Washington 12
No. 5 RAVENS (11-5) at No. 4 TITANS (11-5)
Time/TV: Sunday, 12:05 p.m. (ESPN)
The matchup: Tennessee upset the No. 1-seeded Ravens in last year's divisional round and beat them again 30-24 in overtime in November. But the Ravens are riding a five-game win streak with Lamar Jackson looking like the guy who won the 2019 MVP.
Key stat: 10.3, Baltimore's margin of victory, best in the league.
The Ravens will win if: The No. 2 scoring defense (18.9) stops reigning two-time rushing champion Derrick Henry; and Jackson takes advantage of Tennessee's sieve of a defense.
The Titans will win if: Henry outmuscles Baltimore again (328 yards rushing in the last two meetings); Ryan Tannehill protects the ball; and that 28th-ranked defense (seventh in takeaways with 23) forces multiple turnovers.
Line: Ravens -3.
Craig's pick: Ravens 38, Titans 27.
No. 7 BEARS (8-8) at No. 2 SAINTS (12-4)
Time/TV: Sunday, 3:40 p.m. (CBS)
The matchup: Michael Thomas, who didn't play in the 26-23 overtime win at Chicago in November, returns from injured reserve, giving Drew Brees a boost as the Saints' No. 5 scoring defense (21.1) tries to repeat what the Packers did in holding the Bears to 16 points in a Week 17 rout.
Key stat: 31.2, Chicago's scoring average in its last five games, 11.6 higher than the first 11 games.
The Bears will win if: They stuff the Saints' sixth-ranked running attack (141.6); get David Montgomery going in the running game; and Mitchell Trubisky doesn't throw the game away.
The Saints will win if: Thomas is up to speed; Alvin Kamara returns from the reserve-COVID-19 list; and the offensive line keeps playing like the NFC's best pile-movers.
Line: Saints -10.
Craig's pick: Saints 35, Bears 13.
No. 6 BROWNS (11-5) at No. 3 STEELERS (12-4)
Time/TV: Sunday, 7:15 p.m. (NBC)
The matchup: At full strength, the Steelers beat the Browns 38-7 in October. Resting Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt and other key starters last week, they lost only 24-22. Back in the playoffs for the first time in 18 years, the Browns also will be down six members because of COVID-19, including head coach Kevin Stefanski, two position coaches and Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio.
Key stat: 56 and 14, Pittsburgh's league-leading totals in sacks and sacks allowed.
The Browns will win if: Their No. 3 rushing attack (148.4) controls the game; Baker Mayfield takes care of the ball; and the Myles Garrett-led pass rush disrupts Roethlisberger.
The Steelers will win if: They protect Roethlisberger and rattle Mayfield in his playoff debut.
Line: Steelers -6.
Craig's pick: Browns 31, Steelers 28.
AFC Divisional Round
No. 1 Chiefs 41, No. 6 Browns 24
No. 5 Ravens 35, No. 2 Bills 31
NFC Divisional Round
No. 1 Packers 44, No. 5 Buccaneers 41
No. 3 Seahawks 34, No. 2 Saints 28
AFC: No. 5 Ravens 38, No. 1 Chiefs 35 OT
NFC: No. 1 Packers 34, No. 3 Seahawks 28
SUPER BOWL LV
Ravens 31, Packers 30
Regular season totals
Last week's picks: 10-6; vs. the spread: 6-10
Year to date: 167-89-1; 126-130-1