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Expand chart
Logos: Sports-Logos.Net; Chart: Axios Visuals

It's been seven years since a wild-card weekend team won the Super Bowl.

Why it matters: The momentum being carried over from last week by teams like the Titans, the demise of home-field advantage and the lack of experienced quarterbacks in the field suggest that this could be the year of the underdog.

Vikings at 49ers
  • Kickoff: Saturday, 4:35pm ET (NBC)
  • Weather: 56°F, Partly cloudy
  • Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
  • Spread: SF -7
  • O/U: 44.5

How the underdog can win: By grabbing an early lead. Minnesota's offense is built around a power rushing attack led by Dalvin Cook and the play-action looks they get off that (Kirk Cousins excels in play-action). When they're rolling, the Vikings have one of the most efficient passing games in football, so a fast start would be huge.

Titans at Ravens
  • Kickoff: Saturday, 8:15pm ET (CBS)
  • Weather: 59°F, Overcast
  • Announcers: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn
  • Spread: BAL -10
  • O/U: 47

How the underdog can win: By feeding the rookie. Tennessee squeaked out a 20-13 win over New England despite their passing offense hitting a wall. That can't happen against the high-powered Ravens (NFL-best 33.4 ppg), so Ryan Tannehill must target rookie WR A.J. Brown early and often and hope he can beat Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey and Baltimore's excellent man coverage.

Texans at Chiefs
  • Kickoff: Sunday, 3:05pm ET (CBS)
  • Weather: 32°F, Partly cloudy
  • Announcers: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson, Jay Feely
  • Spread: KC -9
  • O/U: 51

How the underdog can win: Run it back. The Texans narrowly beat the Chiefs in Week 6 by committing to the run (Deshaun Watson, Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson combined for 192 yards) which, in turn, limited Kansas City to just 47 offensive plays (vs. 83 for Houston). Perhaps they can execute that game plan once again in a cold weather game that might demand it.

Seahawks at Packers
  • Kickoff: Sunday, 6:30pm ET (FOX)
  • Weather: 22°F, Overcast (snow expected Saturday)
  • Announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews, Chris Myers
  • Spread: GB -4.5
  • O/U: 46.5

How the underdog can win: Jadeveon Clowney. Seattle was 16th in pass rush win rate this year (D-line beat 43% of blocks), while Green Bay ranked first in pass block win rate (O-line held 72% of blocks). So the Seahawks will need their best athlete to step up and bother Aaron Rodgers, who completes 69% of non-pressured passes (vs. 45% under pressure).

Go deeper: Running the ball is back in the NFL

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

8 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.