Previewing the Wildcard Weekend Games
The Tennessee Titans vs. The Kansas City Chiefs
The first game of the wildcard weekend has two seemingly well-matched teams. The Chiefs started the season like a house of fire. They had people talking about if they could go undefeated the whole season. Then they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their own stadium. Then subsequently lost five of the next six games leaving their season in question. However, a strong four-game winning streak gave them the wildcard spot and home-field advantage.
The Titans have had a more balanced season to end just one win less than the Chiefs. Most notable in their losses were two losses away from home that was blowouts. If the Titans defence cannot keep the game close early, they seem to tire quickly hence giving up many points. This will be another road game for them so they will need to stay focused. Overall this game will go to the team that keeps their defence off the field the most and keeps them rested.
The Atlanta Falcons vs. The Los Angeles Rams
This is another very even match, the Rams and the Falcons have steadily made their way to the wildcard slots. Again, home-field advantage can be a huge factor, especially since the Rams just moved back to Los Angeles after twenty years away. Hardcore fans will be loud and revel in seeing them in the playoffs.
Though for the Falcons, their advantage will be experienced in the quarterback position. Matt Ryan is in his tenth season. He has played in high-pressure games before, this can keep his mind in the game no matter that he isn’t on his home turf. Look for a lot of downfield passes from Ryan to try to pull away in this one.
The Buffalo Bills vs. The Jacksonville Jaguars
The Bills are the real Cinderella story of the wildcard weekend. Ending the longest drought in sports by finally returning to the playoffs since 1999. Even if you aren’t a fan of theirs, who didn’t feel the emotion while watching the footage of them in the locker room. Watching the end of the Bengals/Ravens game. Knowing that they did all they could to be in and now they needed the help of the Bengals to get the last spot.
When Andy Dalton missed on third and twelve you could see the heartbreak, the slumped shoulders, there was one last chance and it was a longshot. Then, not only did he make the first down but it was run in for the touchdown and the locker room exploded. Now they have a lot to prove, a relatively young, rebuilding team wanting to show they are just as good as anyone else in the league.
The Jaguars look just slightly better on paper. A little more throwing yards, a little more rushing yards, one more win. They have very few close games, win or lose,, most scores are heavy on one side or the other. If they want to win, they are going to have to come out of the gate swinging. Come from behind isn’t their forte, they are much better at protecting their lead.
The Carolina Panthers vs. The New Orleans Saints
This matchup may well be the most exciting and of course has been placed as the end game of the wildcard weekend. The excitement should come from the two quarterbacks. Cam Newton for the Panthers and Drew Brees for the Saints. Both of these men have been in this position before, they have game experience in leading their team in high-pressure games, and also having experience of being in the super bowl. Brees has won, Newton has not, so you now ask, who wants it more? The man who knows what it feels like to lift the Lombardi trophy? Or the man who got close and had to watch his opponent lift it?
Either way, this should be a fast paced air game. Both sides will need to cover the receivers carefully. Either quarterback has an arm that can easily hit a target forty or fifty yards away if their men get open.
The four division winners will be watching with interest. As Levon Bell said, most players will be self-scouting to see what they need to prepare for next week.
This is what we have been waiting for all year, Enjoy.