Well, that was a weekend of interesting matchups. …Except for the Jaguars game.
Wildcard Weekend did not disappoint in terms of exciting and intriguing results. First off, the surprising Saturday matchups that resulted in the Titans and Falcons winning on the road against teams who had played better than them most of the season.
The Sunday matchups ended more expectedly, with the home teams taking both matches, but not without drama.
The Titans showed up a different team than they had been for much of the regular season. On the back of strong running by Derrick Henry and clutch plays by Marcus Mariota, the Titans were able to vanquish the Chiefs.
The Chiefs on the other hand, completely fell apart after offensive Jenga piece Travis Kelce was knocked out of the game with a concussion. The Chiefs struggled to keep offensive drives going and couldn’t stop the Titans from rolling consecutive touchdown drives to eventually take the lead. I was convinced that the last Chiefs drive would result in a field goal and a 24-22 win for Kansas City, punching their ticket to New England. But alas, that did not happen.
The Saturday night game was shocking in that Atlanta controlled the game from start to finish. Despite the Rams being the hottest team in the NFL heading into the playoffs, the inexperience of the quarterback and head coach showed as they fell behind the defending NFC Champions and never be able to catch up. With a last ditch effort stalled in the red zone, the Rams season was sealed. They have a lot to be happy about despite being eliminated from the playoffs.
The Bills-Jags affair was an impressive affair, one closer to matches of yesteryear, with strong defense and run-first offenses. Blake Bortles did his best Michael Vick impersonation, rushing for more yards than he threw, something that the Jags coaching staff can’t be too upset with, since their goal is to limit the amount of passing that Bortles has to do.
This is possibly the last game Tyrod Taylor plays for the Bills, despite playing rather solidly for the Bills the last three seasons. Who knows where the Bills are going from here, whether they’ll go with Nathan Peterman or sign a free agent since Peterman has struggled since the moment he hit the field.
The final game of the Wildcard Weekend tilt of games was an NFC South rematch of the Saints and Panthers. The Saints swept the three games they played the Panthers, but it did not come easily. The Panthers often got into the red zone, but had to settle for field goals over touchdowns, and with a chip shot miss at the beginning of the game, the Panthers were down five points late in the game, and a phantom intentional grounding call caused them to be out of range of a makeable first down and Cam Newton was sacked on a busted fourth down play. Newton played out of his mind, but the Saints offense just played better.
Overall, it was an entertaining set of games, and I hope that this upcoming week’s games are just as entertaining.
Last week: 2-2 prediction record
Saturday January 13 4:35 pm:
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
Not exactly the high octane matchup that it would’ve been if Carson Wentz had remained healthy, but an Atlanta team that looked frisky in LA could pose a serious problem even for a strong Philly defense. Nick Foles is a capable quarterback, but he hasn’t looked good the last couple of weeks, and struggled to move the offense consistently.
Score Prediction: Atlanta wins, 24-21
Saturday January 13 8:15 pm:
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots
The Titans remarkably beat the Chiefs and earned their way into the Divisional Round to play… the Patriots. Congrats! If the Titans have a shot, and its the longest of longshots, they need to rely on Derrick Henry to be the brunt of the offense. Mariota only needs to make a handful of plays if the run game can get going. The Patriots have a solid defense but it has been proven to be susceptible when they underrate their opponent. So… anything could happen?… Probably not.
Score Prediction: New England wins, 30-21
Sunday January 14 1:05 pm:
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers
A rematch where the Jaguats picked off Big Ben a whopping five times. That likely won’t happen this time, and I expect this game to be much much closer. Or, a blowout in the other direction. Blake Bortles and co. could barely put together any scoring drives against a pretty hapless Buffalo team. The Steelers have a solid defense and an outstanding offense, so this game will likely not be the one-sided affair that it was last time.
Score Prediction: Pittsburgh wins, 31-17
Sunday January 14 4:50 pm:
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
A rematch of the Week One match that featured Sam Bradford tearing apart the ‘same old’ bad Saints defense, Dalvin Cook breaking the VIkings rookie rushing debut record set by Adrian Peterson, as Adrian Peterson seethed on the Saints sideline behind Sean Payton. My, how things have changed in just a few weeks (like, comparatively.) The Saints have an offense that’s running on all cylinders and a defense that has steadily improved as the season has continued. The only problem is that they’re facing a Vikings team with a top five defense and an offense that has really solidified as the season has grown on, This is a game that I see being a shoot out, since both teams have diversified offenses that can tackle defenses in a variety of ways.
Score Prediction: Minnesota wins, 35-33