Super Wild Card Weekend is in the books, and we’re already onto the next round of action in the 2024 NFL playoffs. Six teams have moved on. Another six have been left behind. While the latter clubs will no doubt hurry to begin planning for the offseason, those who remain in the mix for this year’s Lombardi Trophy have plenty of their own hurdles to clear in the coming weeks.
On that note, here are the biggest questions facing each of the teams remaining in the playoffs:
Baltimore Ravens: Can Lamar get over the hump?
Past playoff games may not directly affect Lamar Jackson going into their Divisional Round matchup with Houston, but just like Dak Prescott in Dallas, he’s still got big-stage boxes to check, entering with a 1-3 record as a playoff starter. He’s been more efficient as a passer and decision-maker in Todd Monken’s system, but now it’s time to deliver in a must-win scenario.
Buffalo Bills: Can they survive more injuries on ‘D’?
We all know Josh Allen, James Cook, Stefon Diggs and Dalton Kincaid are capable of getting this team on the scoreboard. But after missing key starters in Rasul Douglas and Tyrel Dodson, Buffalo’s defense took more hits against Pittsburgh, losing Taron Johnson and Terrel Bernard, among others. They’ll need as many reinforcements as they can get versus Kansas City.
Detroit Lions: How long will the clean pockets last?
They deserve all the credit in the world for bringing playoff hopes to fruition, and Jared Goff was particularly sharp in their back-and-forth with the Rams. But almost all his work came from a pristine pocket. We know Goff is a different quarterback when pressured — more affected than most — and the Buccaneers are coming into town after a blitz-crazy domination of the Eagles.
Green Bay Packers: How far can the youth movement go?
Jordan Love looked unstoppable slinging it against the so-called “elite” Cowboys defense in Green Bay’s blowout wild-card win. The speed at his disposal was also apparent. But facing the 49ers is a different task, with even more experience and physicality on the other side. Is it possible the Packers are a year ahead of schedule? Or are they so electric to play spoiler again?
Houston Texans: Can the defense hold up?
There are precious few questions about C.J. Stroud right now, especially after the remarkable rookie QB shredded the Browns’ vaunted defense in the wild-card round. But Joe Flacco’s reckless passing may have aided their own “D,” whereas Lamar Jackson and Co. should pose a greater threat this weekend. They’ve been a bit more vulnerable through the air.
Kansas City Chiefs: Will they stay committed to the run?
Let’s be real: When push comes to shove, it’s Patrick Mahomes who’s built to propel this team, as well as the Chris Jones-led defense, whose physicality completely befuddled the Dolphins. But Isiah Pacheco has been an underrated key for their success; the Chiefs are 8-2 this year when he gets at least 15 carries, helping balance an attack also featuring an emergent Rashee Rice.
San Francisco 49ers: Can they live up to the hype?
No one really denies the all-star talent they’ve got on both sides of the ball, not to mention the sidelines. Now it comes down to meeting expectations. Brock Purdy’s last playoff start ended early due to injury, and Christian McCaffrey is coming off a calf issue. If they’re both healthy along with the other pillars of Kyle Shanahan’s attack, they’re well positioned to advance.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can they tighten up in opposing territory?
Baker Mayfield was on fire dicing up the porous Eagles defense on Monday, as was Todd Bowles’ pass rush, but the crazy thing is Tampa Bay probably could’ve — or should’ve — beaten Philly by even more. Mayfield took a couple sacks that pushed them out of field-goal range, and drops also hurt potential scoring series. They’ll need to be sharper to beat Detroit.