The famous Serby crystal ball, which prior to this crazy, wacky NFL season predicted a Super Bowl matchup between the Bills and 49ers, has been dusted just in time for the playoffs.
A lot has changed for both teams, of course: Trey Lance (ankle) lost in Week 2 and Jimmy Garoppolo (foot) was lost in Week 13 and the world of football was introduced to Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy .
The Bills have endured the emotional roller coaster of a near-tragedy with the uplifting, inspiring and heartwarming story of Damar Hamlin, who was remarkably released from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center on Monday, a week after suffering an arrest. heart while making a tackle against the Bengals’ Tee Higgins.
Can the Bills be a team of fate and win their first Super Bowl in five tries? Can Purdy be America’s Mr. Relevant? Will Tom Brady be able to capture his eighth ring? Can Patrick Mahomes win his second? Will Joe Burrow smoke post-game cigars?
The Crystal Ball of Serbia made it all clear:
Super Wild Card Weekend
Seahawks at 49ers
Geno Smith, meet Nick Bosa. Kenneth Walker III, meet Fred Warner. America, meet young Mr. Purdy, who won’t melt under the scorching lights of the playoffs. In two losses to the Niners, the Seahawks have scored one offensive touchdown. And the Niners rushed for 189 (without Christian McCaffrey) and 170 yards.
49ers 31, Seahawks 17
Chargers at Jaguars
A Golden Boys game at quarterback, Justin Herbert vs. Trevor Lawrence. Brandon Staley opted to go more Tom Coughlin than Brian Daboll in the regular season finale and might have dodged a bullet because WR Mike Williams (fullback) should be ready to go. Herbert had Williams (ankle) and Keenan Allen (hamstring) together for just four games start to finish. If Joey Bosa (groin) agrees to team up with Khalil Mack, the Bolts will enjoy an experience advantage over fellow Josh Allen and rookie Travon Walker. Forever Trevor will need Travis Etienne to take on the 28th-ranked run defense.
Chargers 27, Jaguars 24
Dolphins at Bills
The Tua Tagovailoa Dolphins went snow-on-snow with the Bills in their 32-29 last-second loss on Dec. 17. That was before Tua’s final concussion issues. Will Tua be cleared? Otherwise, expect Teddy Bridgewater (pinky) instead of rookie Skylar Thompson. The long term forecast is sunny and balmy (28 degrees) with 8 mph winds, so Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle can eat. But Josh Allen threw for 4 touchdowns and rushed for 77 yards last time out.
Win one for Damar.
Bills 33, Dolphins 17
Giants at Vikings
Daniel Jones will be armed with confidence against the league’s 31st passing defense. Saquon Barkley is rested and ready for the No. 20 rush defense. Brian Daboll and Wink Martindale are dangerous the second time they see an opponent (see Commanders). Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams will contain Dalvin Cook, and Wink won’t let Justin Jefferson (12-133-1 TD) and TJ Hockenson (13-109-2 TD) destroy the game this time around. Xavier McKinney is back (Adoree’ Jackson too?). This time, Graham Gano, not Greg Joseph, is leaving.
Giants 27, Vikings 24
Ravens at the Bengals
Their Play Like A Raven mantra is much easier when Lamar Jackson is the quarterback. He hasn’t trained for five weeks (PCL). Burrow didn’t have Higgins in the early season loss to Baltimore; he now has it alongside Ja’Marr Chase. The defending AFC champions have an eight-game winning streak. The Ravens’ passing game never recovered from the Hollywood Brown trade. The red zone has been a dead zone for them. If it’s Tyler Huntley or Anthony Brown at quarterback, everyone sings “Who Dey?” Suppose a rusty Lamar comeback and a maniacal defense led by MLB Roquan Smith neutralizing Joe Mixon, and Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters limiting Chase and Higgins, and JK Dobbins and Mark Andrews doing enough in a vicious and chippy steel cage game .
Ravens 24, Bengals 21
Cowboys at Buccaneers
Brady (with his seven rings) is 7-0 against the Cowboys. Dak Prescott has a seven-game interception streak. Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t eaten much lately. Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence will be problems, but Brady will quickly pass the ball to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin against rookie corner DaRon Bland. Playoff Lenny Fournette can have success against the 22nd-ranked point defense, and if center Ryan Jensen (knee) can return, that would be a huge lift. Brady vs. Dan Quinn … Falcons HC in Super Bowl 51 that blew that 28-3 lead at GOAT, FWIW.
Bucks 24, Cowboys 21
Ravens at Chiefs
Lamar rushed for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 36-35 early 2021 win at Baltimore to beat Mahomes for the first time in four tries. Steve Spagnuolo and Chris Jones won’t let that happen again. Magic Mahomes no longer has Tyreek Hill and it doesn’t matter. Jerick McKinnon and Isaiah Pacheco give Andy Reid more poise, and while rookie safety Kyle Hamilton has the size and range, Travis Kelce will be too savvy for him. Kadarius Toney: 1 TD, 1 twisted hamstring.
Chiefs 34, Ravens 17
Chargers at Bills
The long-range forecast calls for light snow on January 21 and snow on January 22. Austin Ekeler will have to be a passing game weapon against the fifth-ranked rushing defense (104.6 yards). Allen, Devin Singletary and James Cook will lead a rushing 150-yard assault. Earn one more for Damar.
33 bills, 21 chargers
It’s not easy to beat a division rival three times in one season.
Davis Webb is pushing to start this one, citing his chemistry with Kenny Golladay, and Daboll tells the media he’ll sit down with general manager Joe Schoen and discuss everything Friday night (eye roll). Either way, a healthy Jalen Hurts and top-ranked pass defense prove too much for Jones without a true No. 1 receiver, even as Barkley catches eight passes and totals 130 yards.
Eagles 27, Giants 17
Bucs at 49ers:
Brady against his childhood team. Brady versus Purdy. Brady’s last game as a Buc before leaving for the Raiders? Brady’s last game before leaving for Fox? Purdy has George Kittle. Brady doesn’t have Gronk. Purdy has Kyle Shanahan. Not Brady. Demeco Ryans has the second-highest rushing defense (77.7 yards).
49ers 31, Bucs 17
49ers at Eagles
Garoppolo beat the Eagles 17-11 at Linc at the start of 2021. Will Purdy blink? Don’t forget that cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry are not left out. But if there’s one team built to win physical battles on the road, it’s these 49ers. Hurts will have some success against the secondary Niner targeting AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, but Warner, Dre Greenlaw and Arik Armstead will smother Miles Sanders and make Nick Sirianni one-dimensional.
49ers 27, Eagles 24
Invoices against heads
The next Allen-Mahomes dream showdown. A strange environment at a neutral site – the halfway point between Buffalo and Kansas City is Indianapolis FYI. Gabe Davis won’t catch 4 TD passes against the Chiefs this time around, but Stefon Diggs will pull a few against a group of young, inexperienced cornerbacks, including first draft pick Trent McDuffie. The last one with the ball wins. Allen is last with the ball.
Earn another one for Damar.
33 bills, 30 counts
Super Bowl 2023
During the two weeks between the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl, Shanahan ponders the same question Bill Belichick asked before Super Bowl 36: Brady or Drew Bledsoe? For Shanny, it’s Purdy or Garoppolo, whose foot has finally healed enough. And like Belichick, he stays with a warm hand.
But when Purdy suddenly develops the yips, Garoppolo is called to the bench and brings the Niners down a hole in the first half. McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel begin to impose their will on the night, and Marv Levy and Jim Kelly sweat bullets in the owners box. But Allen, in his group at the start of a late fourth quarter practice, looks up in the stands and says, “Hey look, it’s Will Smith and Chris Rock!” This eases the tension and Allen engineers a 98-yard drive that culminates in him jumping over the end zone third and goal from 3.
Won the Big One for Damar.
Bills 33, 49ers 27