The NFL wild card weekend is finally here! With college football winding down, the NFL playoffs will take center stage once again. This years playoffs feature a lot of teams that have been absent from the playoffs the past few years. Of the 8 teams playing this weekend in the Wild Card round, 5 of them have gone at least 4 years since their last playoff appearance including the Buffalo Bills who haven't played in a post season game in 18 years. With 4 games this weekend including 2 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday there is sure to be a lot of excitement from the NFL. Each game is sure to be exciting as the playoffs usually are and below is a breakdown of each game.
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday 4:20 EST)
The first game of the weekend in my opinion is the one I am least interested in, not because I think the game is boring but if I had to pick a wild card where I think neither team has a shot at making the super bowl it's this game. Both teams have struggled down the stretch and sort of fell in the playoffs due to the help that other teams they were fighting against also struggled. The Titans started 8-4 and looked to be a lock for the playoffs but finished just 1-3 to finish the regular season and limped into the playoffs. The chiefs similarly started off 6-2 and were looking like a team that would compete for the #1 seed in the AFC but a 4-4 finish to the regular season has a lot of people wondering how good this Chiefs team really is. Each team has showed great inconsistency but each team has also showed that they can be very good when they are playing at their best. Both teams have a lot of young talent on their offenses with solid defenses. I think I give the edge her to the chiefs since they have a more experienced quarterback, a coach with more playoff experience and they will be playing at home. I also wrote one of my first blogs a few months ago about how I want to see the Chiefs in the playoffs which you can read here if you want to. I think this game will be close and low scoring for the first half but the Chiefs will pull it out 23-13...sorry Scott Baldwin.
Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams (Saturday 8:15 EST)
This matchup features two of the more surprising teams in the league this year, but for different reasons. The Falcons were a team that pretty much everyone had a lock to win the NFC south to start the year and win 12+ games. While they are in the playoffs and do have 10 wins, a lot of people have been disappointed in the Falcons performance this year and don't see them as a very good team. The Rams on the other hand were looked at as a team that would have a good year if they won 6 games. Not only did they nearly double that but they have had one of the best offenses in the league this year under first year and 31 year old head coach Sean McVay. The Rams are led by 2nd year quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley who lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns and finished 22 yards behind Kareem Hunt for the most rushing yards in the league. With these offensive weapons as well as others combined with a strong defense, the Rams are looking like a team that could make a strong run deep into the playoffs. However, just like the first game of the weekend the Falcons have quite a bit more experienced from their star players and experience in the playoffs. The home field advantage for the Rams is not as strong as some other teams so I'm not sure it will play as big of a factor and it will be interesting to see what the crowd and energy is like in L.A. this weekend. I think the Falcons have just about as much talent as any team in the playoffs and can beat anyone on any given day. That being said, the Falcons have also been fairly inconsistent and can lose to anyone on any given day. I think the experience will ultimately play a factor in this game and I think that the Falcons led by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will pull of a close one 31-28.
Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday 1:05 PM)
This game is the battle of two teams who have been missing from the playoffs for quite a while. The Jaguars have not been in the playoffs since the 2007 season and have gotten back behind their suffocating defense. The Bills' are back for the first time since 1999, thanks to Andy Dalton's late-game heroics in Baltimore. Both teams have average offenses and strong defenses and like to rely on running the football behind Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy respectively. The key for Jacksonville is running the ball on offense and relying on their defense to stifle the run and make Tyrod Taylor beat them. Taylor does not have the ability to beat the Jaguars' defense without a running game to rely on. For the Bills to win, they need to do the same thing, make Blake Bortles beat them. The game should be low-scoring with both running backs having a large number of caries, but low yardage. Coming off of a week full of emotion, the Bills will come into the game with a chip on their shoulder. Bills will win 21-13 in "Sacksonville".
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (Sunday 4:40 PM)
This is the game that I am looking forward to the most this weekend, and yea part of that is because I have sort of adopted the Saints as the team I am pulling for this year since my Bears have been really bad, but also because it features the best quarterback matchup in my opinion of all of the wild card games. Cam Newton vs Drew Brees. Brees is a seasoned veteran who always seems to get better then he was before somehow and Cam is one of the most exciting players in the game and at his best is an unstoppable force. Both teams have been fairly good all year and their 11-5 records prove that. This will be the third time these teams face off this year with the Saints winning both matchups previously. The Saints went to Carolina and beat the panthers 34-13 in September in a game where Cam Newton threw for just 167 yards and 3 interceptions. In December the Saints hosted the Panthers and won that game by a score of 31-21. Newton played a lot better that game but got little help around him accounting for nearly half of the Panthers yards on the ground. Both games Drew Brees has had a lot of success throwing on the Panthers defense and playing in the Super Dome will have a big impact. I would give the edge in playoff experience to the Panthers, but the Saints have a lot of veterans on their team and a Super Bowl winning coach and Quarterback so I don't see that playing a huge factor in this game. The Saints are 7-1 at home this year with their only loss coming week 2 to New England. I expect a very good game but I think the Saints will pull away in the second half with one of the best offenses in the league and win this game 34-24