Saturday, January 06, 2018

2017 NFL Playoffs: Wildcard

Tennessee Titans (+8-1/2) at Kansas City Chiefs: The Titans have a feeble offense (23rd in the NFL in total yardage). The Chiefs have a sieve-like defense (28th in the NFL). Something's gotta give, I guess.

The Chiefs are perhaps the streakiest team in the league having started 5-0, went 1-6 over the next seven games but won their final four contests. Meanwhile, after an 8-4 start, the Titans lost three straight but managed to limp to a 15-10 win over Jacksonville in the season finale in order to get in the postseason.

Yeesh. What a dog of a matchup this is.
Kansas City 24 Tennessee 17

Atlanta Falcons (+6) at Los Angeles Rams: If it's possible for a reigning NFC champion to enter the postseason quietly, the 10-6 Falcons have done so. Yet the odds are not in their favor to return to the big game as the past 23 Super Bowl runners-up have failed to return the following season.

The Rams have made an incredible resurgence from 2016 to 2017, going from dead last in points scored to the top spot. The emergence of 2nd year QB Jared Goff combined with RB Todd Gurley's 2,000+ total yards of offense resulted in 11 wins this season. And if the Rams win this game, head coach Sean McVay would be the first coach in NFL history to win a playoff game before his 32nd birthday.

All that said, I just have a hunch that the defending NFC champs will live to fight another week.
Atlanta 20 Los Angeles Rams 17

Buffalo Bills (+8-1/2) at Jacksonville Jaguars: The Bills have statistically one of the worst offenses in the NFL (29th in total yardage). Literally the only thing they have going for them on offense is stud RB LeSean McCoy, who compiled nearly 1,600 all purpose yards in 2017. Unfortunately for Buffalo, McCoy suffered a bad ankle sprain in the regular season finale. Even if he plays this week his effectiveness will be limited, especially against a Jags defense ranked #2 overall.

Since Jacksonville likely doesn't trust QB Blake Bortles (5 INTs in the final two regular season games; both losses), expect a heavy dose of rush offense with RB Leonard Fournette et al, who guided the Jags to the top rushing attack (2,262 rush yards as a team in 2017) in the NFL.
Jacksonville 28 Buffalo 10

Carolina Panthers (+7) at New Orleans Saints: The Saints defeated the Panthers in both 2017 regular season meetings. Naturally we've been subjected to the nonsensical chanting point on how difficult it is to defeat a team 3 times in one year.

To me, the difference will be how Carolina handles the Saints RB duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, both of whom amassed more than 1,500 yards of total offense in the regular season. The duo combined for 248 yards and 3 TDs in the Saints' week 13 win over the Panthers.

On the Carolina side, RB Jonathan Stewart will need to run effectively to take some heat off QB Cam Newton. But Stewart is battling a back ailment, so it's up in the air how productive he can be. Another X-factor for Carolina is the play of Newton. He has the ability to be the most dominant player on the field but occasionally flings the ball recklessly.
New Orleans 24 Carolina 23


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