The NFL regular season has come to a close, and this weekend marks the beginning of the playoffs with the four Wild-Card games. Wild-Card Weekend actually gives us four very intriguing matchups that could easily go either way. The matchups are as follows.
Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Many people thought that this could be Tennessee’s year to win the AFC South and make a run in the playoffs. A strong offense headed by Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray has fallen short of expectations though. They still managed to grab a Wild-Card spot and have a chance to prove they can be what many once hoped.
The Chiefs started the season looking like the best team in the NFL after a 42-27 throttling of the Patriots in Week 1 and a 5-0 start. Their next 7 weeks had them go 1-6 though and many began to worry. Kansas City seemed to return to form though and ended the season with a timely 4 game win streak.
A key for Kansas City in this game is to get the rookie, Kareem Hunt, going early and often. He has been a key cog in the offense, and the Chiefs often rely on him for a spark. During the rough patch for the Chiefs, Hunt often disappeared along with the rest of the KC offense.
I think deep down that the Titans have the talent to beat a somewhat wishy-washy Chiefs team. A key to this is for Mariota to take care of the ball, which is something he has struggled with this year. The surging KC Chiefs will be too much for the Titans to keep up with though, but I still expect it to be close.
The Pick: Chiefs win 24-20.
Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills! The Bills are finally back in the playoffs after a 17-year dry spell, which was the longest streak in major sports. Buffalo got a huge helping hand from Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals who came back and knocked off Joe Flacco’s Ravens in a thriller.
The Jags are also a bit of a surprise, as they had stretches this season where they played as good as any team in the league. Jacksonville lost some key playmakers on offense to injury, but with arguably the league’s best defense, the Jaguars took the AFC South title for the first time since 1999.
An important storyline for this game is LeSean McCoy and his health. Shady sprained his ankle against the Dolphins last week and is considered day-to-day. Without McCoy, I do not think the Bills’ offense has enough to overcome Jacksonville’s stout defense. If LeSean McCoy plays, the Bills will have a better chance, but I do not see them winning this one.
The Pick: Jaguars win 27-17.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams
The Atlanta Falcons have fallen short of expectations this year. With all the talent they have, this team could easily have been the 1 or 2 seed and returned to the Super Bowl after their collapse last year. That talent is still there though just waiting to break out and show everyone they are for real.
LA has had an incredible season under new HC Sean McVay. He has completely turned this team around from how horrid the offense looked at times last year. This year, Goff, Gurley, and the whole offensive unit has looked like the best in the NFL and has shown they can compete with any team in the league.
Atlanta needs to score 20 points to have a chance to win this game. They are 10-0 this season when they score at least 20 points and 0-6 when they don’t. That will not be easy though, as this Rams Defense is as strong as their offense is. LA needs to stay balanced and do what they have done all year to get the win here.
The Pick: Rams win 31-23.
Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
The Panthers are a team that I am surprised is 11-5. Whenever I watched them, it seemed like they struggled as a whole. They played well against good teams and poor against bad ones, but here they are, with Cam Newton at the helm, primed to make a playoff run. I expect them to give the Saints all they can handle.
New Orleans has been one of the most fun teams to watch this year with the backfield of Mark Ingram and rookie sensation Alvin Kamara. Not only that, but they are piloted by Drew Brees, who has plenty of experience and knows how to win. Their defense is also better than usual, which is a big component of their success.
If both Kamara and Ingram are playing how they can and should, the Panthers defense will have a hard time shutting down the Saints. Cam Newton needs to do his part and be the complete player he is AND take care of the ball to keep Carolina in this game. The Saints have beaten the Panthers twice already this year, and I expect the 3rd time will not be the charm for Carolina.
The Pick: Saints win 34-20.
Yep, that’s right. I hate to do it, but I’m picking chalk in these matchups. That would give us these games in the Divisional Round.
New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: Saints win 31-13.
Nick Foles does not quite have the talent to compete with the Saints offense here.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Vikings win 27-24 in OT.
The Rams have a chance to win it in regulation but miss the field goal with Greg Zuerlein on the IR.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots
The Pick: Patriots win 34-10.
Major revenge game for TB12 and Patriots fans in this one as the Chiefs offense falls flat.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Steelers win 27-16.
The Jags can’t keep up with the Steelers offensive power even with Antonio Brown still out.
New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Saints win 17-14.
Both teams struggle offensively throughout, and rookie Marshon Lattimore picks off Case Keenum while trying to mount a comeback, denying the Vikings at a chance to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots
The Pick: Patriots win 31-21.
We have no “catch” drama at the end of this one as Brady and Gronk are at the top of their game and get out to an early lead, leaving the Killer B’s in the dust.
Super Bowl LII
New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots
The Pick: Saints win 35-31.
Brees and Brady battle in a great game between two veteran leaders, but like most of the season, the real story is Alvin Kamara. The rookie from Tennessee wins the Super Bowl MVP with a game including a kickoff return touchdown, a receiving touchdown, and 140 yards from scrimmage.