Finalized Schedule of NFL Wild Card Games for the 2023-24 season with key factors and potential ultimatums.

Following Week 18 of this past season, the final standings and playoff games have been secured for teams to begin for a chance to participate in this year’s Super Bowl. With a total of 14 teams present, 12 will participate in a traditional one-game elimination series, accumulating to six games dispersed throughout the weekend. 

The first of two games taking place on Saturday, Jan. 13 includes the Houston Texans visiting the Cleveland Browns. The two franchises have seen limited success in their team history, however, elite quarterback play from Texans rookie CJ Stroud and the best defense in the NFL the Browns possess should provide the fans with ambition and expectations. 

With both teams dealing with crucial offensive injuries, the first playoff game of the season will boil down to a defensive showcase. With The Browns being the No.1 passing and total in the league and narrowly outside the top 10 and No.11 against the run, the motivated and experienced Browns team is favored to prevail.

The second and final game of Saturday possesses more of the traditional cliche NFL Playoff atmosphere in which the Miami Dolphins travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs. 

The opportunity for the Dolphins to advance will revolve around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s ability to continue his above-average play and orchestrate the explosiveness of the Dolphins’ offense in the extreme weather conditions expected.

“It probably will be cold. It will be the same for both teams. For us and for the individuals in the locker room, I know they will not use that as an excuse.” Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniels said in response to the weather.

As “cherry picking” a statistic does not confirm any outcomes, Tagovailoa is 0-4 in games at which the weather at kickoff has been 45 degrees or under. Kansas City frequently plays in this weather as the home-field advantage for one of the loudest fan bases in the NFL will assist in making Tagovailoa uncomfortable and unable to get the ball to his playmakers. 

To begin Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers play the AFC East champion Buffalo Bills. A challenge for both with one team that is mostly healthy, only missing their best player along with intentionally starting their backup quarterback. Meanwhile, the other team has had certain offensive weapons become inconsistent lately in their production. 

The absence of TJ Watt for the Steelers will decrease the pressure against the mobile Josh Allen, as the Bills have been on a five-game winning streak and are notorious for carrying momentum into games.

The second game of Sunday is another playoff clash between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys with head coach Mike McCarthy coaching against his former team in a revenge game. A victory for either head coach will improve their credibility as fans have developed opinions regarding their success due to the team’s individual performance with little impact from the coaches themselves. 

The two teams possess decades of rivalry within the history of the league between Brett Farve and Aaron Rodgers getting the best of America’s Team to now potentially the third-generation Packers quarterback Jordan Love.

“It’s not just me. It’s everybody around me making plays. They’re stepping up, guys are making big-time catches right now. I think everyone on the offense is just playing at a high level,” Love explained in a press conference regarding the team’s success. 

Entering as the underdog in his first playoff game resembles a new era in Green Bay that has the potential to continue carrying the name “Title Town”. The credit provided by the young quarterback adds fuel to the elite Cowboys’ defense along with the motivation for his own team as high-level talent is required to at a bare minimum slow down the star-studded Cowboys’ offense. 

Next, the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions both face off against their former franchisee quarterbacks. 

“I understand what the people of Detroit, what the city of Detroit meant to me in my time in my career, what they meant to my family. I hope they feel that back.” Stafford said.

While respect for the city of Detroit remains present for Stafford, for Goff this is the definition of a revenge game. Failing to beat his former team two years ago before a Super Bowl victory without him has only escalated this encounter for Goff’s legacy even more. 

Wrapping up Wild Card weekend is the lone Monday night game featuring the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

With the Eagles on a decline in performance, the momentum carried into the playoffs will surely be a test of legibility as a contender. Losing five of their past six games has regressed the team’s chemistry with subpar play within the entire team. An interesting game for both teams as Tampa Bay looks to use this to their advantage and make up for the loss back in week three with a healthy team and home-field advantage. 

The winners of the games will advance to the Divisional Round the following week and bring them a step closer to a Lombardi Trophy.