NFL 2017 – Wildcard Weekend

Playoffs!

Should be a good weekend. Lots of new teams in the playoffs this season: Titans, Bills, Jaguars. A new era of AFC powers has arisen… hopefully?

Another year of Patriots and Steelers in the top two spots. I’m actually excited for the Jaguars this year. Their defense is fun to watch, But as everyone has predicted, their biggest problem is Blake Bortles. I predict they’re still one to two years away from making a serious playoff run. Maybe with Alex Smith or Eli Manning at the helm next year will help them make the turn?….

The Rams ride into the playoffs as the most exciting team in the NFC, at least in my opinion. Sean McVay for Coach of the Year. Good chance if he wins a playoff game, damn near certain if Rams make the NFC Championship. If he makes the Super Bowl… Jeff Fisher can never show his face in public again.

As good as Case Keenum has been this season, it doesn’t feel like a sexy matchup with their starting running backs and prior franchise quarterback on the sidelines. Eagles feel very similar, with the MVP-until-he-tore-his-ACL Carson Wentz not playing and the very milquetoast Nick Foles at the helm. Zero points against the Cowboys is very very very worrisome.

But, in the Eagles’ favor, they rest of the NFC has been problematic. Falcons snuck into the playoffs after playing very unevenly most of the season. Panthers have been a different team week to week. Vikings and Saints have been consistent but anything could happen once the playoffs happen.

In terms of regular season predictions record: I had finished Week 15 with a 137-86 record, and the following two weeks were Week 16: 12-4 and Week 17: 11-5, meaning I finished the regular season with as 160-95. That’s 255 games… and there are 256 games in a season. Means I did my math long. I’ll take that on the chin, so I’ll say I went 160-96 this season. Not too shabby overall, if I do say so myself.

Okay, let’s get into the Wildcard Weekend predictions:

Tennessee Titans as Kansas City Chiefs:
Sat. Jan. 6, 4:35pm

Marcus Mariota and the Titans have snuck into the playoffs after a very uneven 2017 campaign which saw the offense looked lost for stretches. Kansas City has had their own share of problems on an offense that started out hot and has cooled significantly as the season has progressed. This is going to seem like an easy matchup to punch Kansas City’s ticket to the Divisional Round and a trip to New England, but Tennessee will put up a fight. I still expect KC to win at home and with more playoff experience.

Score Prediction: Kansas City wins, 24-17

 

Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams
Sat. Jan. 6, 8:15pm

Atlanta snuck their way into the playoffs after taking a massive step back offensively from their Super Bowl berth 2016 season. There aren’t many teams hotter than the Rams but I fear that the lack of postseason experience for everyone on the team from the coaches to the players will cause problems for them in this first trip. Atlanta has made runs in stretches before, but this is somehow not the same team that put up 28 points against the Patriots last February. I have the Rams taking this, but the Falcons could take this if the Rams have playoff jitters and mishandle the game.

Score Prediction: Los Angeles wins, 31-28

 

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sun. Jan. 7, 1:00pm

Another team that snuck their way into the playoffs, the Bills, snapping their 18-year playoff drought. They’re treated to a matchup with (one of) the best defenses in the league, on the road, with a shaky offensive line, a quarterback the coaches don’t seem to trust, a hurt star running back, and a banged up lackluster receiver group. Recipe for success, methinks not. Still, Tyrod Taylor could cause fits for the Jaguars; Jags gave up 50 yards to Russell Wilson, 84 to Mariota in two meetings, and 67 to Jacoby Brissett in two meetings. It may not seem like a lot, but when that’s what your team is the best at… I still think Jags will take this game but look for Tyrod to have a big game, because this might be an audition tape if the Bills decide to cut ties with Taylor

Score Prediction: Jacksonville wins, 27-21

 

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Sun. Jan. 7, 4:40pm

The third and final matchup between these two NFC South powers. New Orleans has completely reenvisioned themselves with a stout and powerful run game behind the two headed monster of Ingram and Kamara. Carolina tried desperately to do the same and keep Cam Newton protected; the results were very mixed bag. Christian McCaffery was sporadic across the season, Jonathan Stewart appears to be at the end of his career, and Cam Newton had career highs in rush attempts, rush yards, rush yards per game, had his highest completion rating of his career, save his MVP campaign, but also had a career low yards per attempt, lowest pass yards per game, and his highest interception percentage of his career. It’s definitely not what Ron Rivera and the coaching staff had in mind in August of last year, but it got them to a 11-5 record and a playoff berth, so results are results. New Orleans took each of the first two matchups between these two teams, and unless Cam Newton can be Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and the rest of the Justice League, a solid defense and game changing run game from New Orleans will be too much to overcome.

Score Prediction: New Orleans wins, 33-28

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