NFL Playoffs Week 1
The stage is set for the 2017 NFL Wild Card weekend, which features the Buffalo Bills sneaking into the postseason picture for the first time since 1999 thanks to a 49-yard touchdown from Tyler Boyd to eliminate the Ravens.
Eight of the twelve playoff teams competing for Super Bowl 52 didn’t make the postseason last year.
The Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, and Vikings will all await their opponent in the Divisional rounds after these matchups:
TENNESSEE TITANS @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Saturday – January 6th, 4:35 PM
Both teams came scorching out the gates, hit a wall and then gained momentum back just in time for the playoffs.
The Chiefs started their season 5-0, including an opening day win against the defending champion Patriots.
Kareem Hunt exploded as one of the best running backs in the league as a rookie and Alex Smith was on fire with 12 touchdowns (1 rushing) and no interceptions.
They’d go onto lost 6 of their next 7, including losses to both the Giants and Jets but finish their season riding a 4-game win streak highlighted by a 30-13 blowout of the Los Angeles Chargers capturing back-to-back AFC West division titles.
As for the the Titans, it was Week 13; tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars atop the AFC South at 8-4. Three straight losses later, they had catapulted to 8-7 with their playoff hopes looming free in the air.
It would come down to the regular-season finale against the Jaguars and defense stepped up big time in a “win-and-in” situation, limiting Leonard Fournette to less than 70 yards and picking off Blake Bortles twice.
With the 15-10 victory, the Titans found themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
But it’s all about one game – and it will come down to the quarterbacks, which is why Kansas City will win.
Mariota set career lows in touchdowns (13) and passer rating (79.3) and a career high in interceptions (15).
He did rush for 312 yards and five touchdowns but his 5.2 yards per carry were also a career low.
He’ll have trouble in his postseason debut on the road at Arrowhead Stadium.
Alex Smith on the other hand has played exceptionally well and was even in MVP conversation to start the season.
He racked up over 4,000 yards and threw a 26:5 touchdown to interception ratio. He also set a career high in quarterback rating with 104.7.
In the end, Smith won’t let his home fans down.
FINAL SCORE: CHIEFS 24, TITANS 13
ATLANTA FALCONS @ LOS ANGELES RAMS: Saturday – January 6th, 8:15 PM
The Rams had an unforgettable season while the Falcons are defending NFC champions.
Todd Gurley has a shot at MVP, while head coach Sean McVay could very well get his own Coach of the Year Award.
Put that success aside for a second, because Jared Goff is also the most improved played from a year ago.
Just look at the difference in his stats from this year to last year:
(2017) vs (2016)
TDs: 28 vs 5
INT percentage: 1.5 vs 3.4
Sacks: 25 vs 26
YPG: 253.6 vs 155.6
Rating: 100.5 vs 63.6
The Rams are heavily favored to win this game mainly because their offense is the best in football and the Falcons offense hasn’t been nearly as explosive this season — in part because offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left for San Francisco.
Matt Ryan will need to perform at his 2016 MVP level to put down Los Angeles.
But one thing Matt Ryan and the Falcons have that the Rams font is playoff experience. Atlanta got as close as you could get to a Super Bowl victory and while they are mainly focused on LA, the memories of Tom Brady still haunt them, and they’re hungry for revenge.
The Rams haven’t been to the playoffs since 2004.
Atlanta still has its weapons and an offense that could still compete. They ranked eighth in yards (364.8 per game), eighth in passing (249.5) and 13th in rushing (115.4).
Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will all contribute in the biggest upset of the postseason.
FINAL SCORE: FALCONS 21, RAMS 17:
BUFFALO BULLS @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: SUNDAY – JANUARY 7TH, 1:05 PM
The Bills are partying like it’s 1999, even though LeSean McCoy is listed as a game time decision.
Thanks to the Bengals touchdown on 4th-and-12 with 44 seconds left, Buffalo captured a playoff berth this millenium.
While this game may seem like the most lopsided matchup, it’ll be a lot closer than anticipated.
Ultimately, this game comes down to three main factors:
Quarterbacks, run game, defense:
Blake Bortles is not a good quarterback, even though he’s having a career year for himself. He’s a turnover machine and Jacksonville’s defense has held them up in check all year.
Even Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey stated “As long as Bortles is back there, if the ball game is in his hands, he’s going to choke,” Casey said on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville.
Tyrod Taylor has thrown 10 interceptions in just 2 seasons.
According to Michael DiRocco of ESPN, “The Jaguars entered Week 17 ranked first in rush offense (145.3 yards per game) but weren’t as effective in the final six games of the season, when they averaged just 114.6 yards per game. They’ve rushed for fewer than 100 yards five times this season and four have come in the past six weeks, including Sunday’s 83-yard performance in a 15-10 loss at Tennessee.
Leonard Fournette has had three of his five worst rushing totals in the past six games, as well, including 25 yards in a Week 12 loss in Arizona.”
The Jaguars finished the regular season ranked 21st in run defense (116.2 YPC) … Buffalo’s strength on offense is the run game.
Fournette will need to step up big-time, especially if he has to match up against McCoy.
While Buffalo has nothing to lose and will give the Jags a run for their money, the defense will step up once again and help them advance.
FINAL SCORE: JAGUARS 17, BILLS 10
CAROLINA PANTHERS @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: SUNDAY – JANUARY 7TH, 4:40 PM
Is it actually that hard to defeat a single team three times in one season? Drew Brees and Saints definitely don’t think so, as that’s exactly what they’ll try to do against Cam Newton and the Panthers.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, 13 out of 20 times since the league merger in 1970 the team that won two regular-season games went on to win the playoff game.
This is another evenly matched game. The Panthers defense is 7th in NFL in total defense. New Orleans is 2nd in NFL in total offense; something has to give.
New Orleans clobbered Carolina 34-13 in Charlotte in September, then beat them again 31-21 on Dec. 3 at the Superdome to take control of the NFC South.
Realistically, those first two games don’t matter, but the Saints still get the advantage.
FINAL SCORE: SAINTS 28, PANTHERS 17
*All games are in Eastern Time*