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NFL Wildcard Playoff Predictions

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Could it be a first-round sweep for all the home teams?

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

NFL Wildcard Weekend is approaching! While the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Minnesota Vikings each enjoy their first-round bye, let’s predict who their opponents will be.


Saturday, Jan. 6th (4:35 PM): Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs

I will say that it is a little frustrating that two teams that finished with a 9-7 record ended up making the playoffs. A decade earlier (2007), the Browns, under Derek Anderson, finished with a 10-6 record. The Indianapolis Colts, already having locked up the AFC South, benched everyone and gifted the Titans a Week 17 victory. Despite the Titans also finishing 10-6, they owned a tiebreaker in the common opponents category.

It’s easy to label the Titans as the easiest opponent in this year’s playoffs. If you want the most proof of that, consider the fact that they could only score field goals against the Browns back in October, and had to take them to overtime before winning 12-9. The Titans feature a good run defense, but they don’t excel in any one particular area on offense.

The Chiefs’ defense ended up being pretty bad in 2017, with (in my opinion) the loss of Eric Berry being a key factor in that. I thought they were the best team in football with their 5-0 start, which included wins over both No. 1 seeds in the NFL to begin the year. Before you could blink, though, their record was 6-6. The good thing is that they finished the season strong, winning their final four games. The Chiefs should win this game without sweating too much. Chiefs 27, Titans 17

Poll

Who will win?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Tennessee Titans
    (48 votes)
  • 89%
    Kansas City Chiefs
    (397 votes)
445 votes total Vote Now

Saturday, Jan. 6th (8:15 PM): Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams

One thing is for certain: this isn’t the same Falcons offense as a year ago. In their last five games, they averaged 17.6 points per game. In their final five games of 2016, they averaged 36.4 points per game. They also averaged 36 points per game in the playoffs last year. They still have pretty much the same pool of talent, which is a testament to how important former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was.

Not including the finale (in which they rested starters), the Rams averaged 32.4 points per game in their previous five games to close out the season. They ended up being the stunning offensive juggernaut of the NFC with second-year QB Jared Goff finishing the year with a 100.5 QB rating and RB Todd Gurley having over 2,000 yards on offense with 19 touchdowns.

But you never know what will happen when you take an inexperienced playoff team (Rams) vs. one that represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last year (Falcons). I’m choosing to side with Gurley’s explosiveness. Rams 28, Falcons 20

Poll

Who will win?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Atlanta Falcons
    (176 votes)
  • 61%
    Los Angeles Rams
    (280 votes)
456 votes total Vote Now

Sunday, Jan. 7th (1:05 PM): Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

I loved seeing the Cincinnati Bengals stun the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, eliminating them from the playoffs when all of their players, coaches, and fans probably thought they were going to win heading into that 4th-and-12 play. I loved the reaction videos of Bills fans and players celebrating when they saw the Ravens lose. The donations to Andy Dalton’s charity have been fun too. But I think the fun ends Sunday when the Bills take on the Jaguars.

I still don’t trust Blake Bortles not to screw this whole thing up for Jacksonville, but the Jaguars do run the ball very well. They’re also an excellent defense, especially when it comes to stopping the pass. The Bills don’t defend the run very well, and LeSean McCoy is dealing with an ankle injury. I think we’ll see Buffalo try to be creative to pull off the upset, but their risks won’t pay off. Jaguars 28, Bills 10

Poll

Who will win?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Buffalo Bills
    (133 votes)
  • 69%
    Jacksonville Jaguars
    (310 votes)
443 votes total Vote Now

Sunday, Jan. 7th (4:40 PM): Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints

Our final Wildcard Weekend game features our only divisional match-up of the first-round. The Saints swept the season series, winning the first time in Carolina (34-13) and then the second time at home (31-21). The Saints lost five games this year, and four of them were against the Vikings, Patriots, Rams, and Falcons. The point to make there is that they might not be the best-of-the-best in the NFL, but they are consistent and don’t suffer these weird upset losses. The fact that they took care of business twice against the Panthers has already set one of those standards.

The Saints returned to being an excellent offensive team this year, led by explosive play at the running back position that allows Drew Brees to not be so one-dimensional. Also, the Saints’ defense has gone from consistently being the worst in football to now being a bit above average (and opportunistic when you consider the turnovers).

While I’m gushing over the Saints, the Panthers are a little tough to figure out. They went 11-5 in the NFC, with their defense being vastly improved from a year ago. On offense, they grinded things out, but did not have much of a ground game besides Cam Newton taking it himself as the team’s leading rusher, and he tossed 16 interceptions. This should be the funnest game of the weekend, but I’m locked in to the Saints. Saints 31, Panthers 24

Poll

Who will win?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Carolina Panthers
    (101 votes)
  • 76%
    New Orleans Saints
    (335 votes)
436 votes total Vote Now

Let us know who you think will win in the comments below!