It has been a wild NFL season, and now that the regular season has to come to an end, it’s time to get into the pivotal games. Getting to the playoffs is an accomplishment in itself but January football separates the elite from the pack.
Which teams hang for another week and which teams will be the first ones eliminated from the playoffs?
Who’s in and out? NFL Wild Card weekend
Saturday, January 6th
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs 4:35 pm EST
The Chiefs finished the regular season 10-6, enough to win the AFC West, and will face the Wild Card Titans to move on to the divisional round. They started off the season flaming hot before going 1-6 through October and November. Luckily for them, they played in an inconsistent division that helped them stay at the top.
The Titans were in an ugly win-and-in situation with the Jaguars that landed them the second Wild Card spot during a season where most would say it has been disappointing for their quarterback, Marcus Mariota. He redeems himself if he can’t get a win against the Chiefs on Saturday. But does it happen? No.
At the end of the day, the Titans won’t have enough offense to exploit the Chiefs D and their Super Bowl run ends abruptly.
Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams 8:15 pm EST
It has been 13 years since the Los Angeles Rams have been to the playoffs and 14 since they won their division. With so much talent on both sides of the ball and the Philadelphia Eagles not posing as big a threat since Carson Wentz went down, the NFC is theirs for the taking. But first, they have to beat the last years NFC Champion Falcons.
Here’s the thing about Atlanta: they beat themselves more than other teams beat them. In eight playoff appearances, Matt Ryan is 3-5. Everyone remembers last year’s championship game when they gave up a 28-3 lead to lose to the Patriots. If Ryan and his team want to forget that hangover, they’re going to have to get out of their own heads and beat this stout Rams team.
The Falcons have a major task ahead of them and even though Jared Goff is a baby in terms of experience. He outperforms Ryan on Saturday.
Sunday, January 7th
Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars 1:05 pm EST
The Bills are one of those teams I thought would make it to the playoffs at the beginning. They had so much promise, and then they benched Tyrod Taylor. Add to that the fact that LeSean McCoy is a game-time decision for Sunday’s game, and it looks like the odds are stacked up against the 9-7 team.
Jacksonville has been lying in wait for the past few seasons. We seem to want to discount Blake Bortles’ abilities as a starter. Yet he, much like Case Keenum for the Minnesota Vikings, has found himself at the top of his division. Keenum doesn’t take all the credit though. The Jaguars’ defense has been the foundation of their success, much like the Bills.
The Bills are in desperate need of someone to step up which they get from Kelvin Benjamin whose former team is playing the same day. This will be a defensive match that ends in Buffalo moving on.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints 4:40 pm EST
This game is the biggest matchup of the weekend. Two of the three NFC South representatives are going head to head for the third time this season. New Orleans swept Carolina the first two games which gave them sole possession of the division that they won Week 17. They are obviously dangerous offensively and have made some noise on defense as well. Through two games the Saints outscored the Panthers 65-14, sacked Cam Newton four times, and simply dominated them.
The Panthers are in the playoffs for the fourth time under head coach, Ron Rivera. The team has struggled with injury the entire season losing Greg Olsen among other key players. Newton had his career-worst performance last week against the Falcons, the third representative. Can they gel together in enough time to beat the poised Saints?
Both teams are coming off a loss last week, both teams losing to division rivals. I expect this game to be physical and competitive. In the end, NOLA doesn’t get the third one.
There should be great games this weekend. Who makes it out of Wild Card weekend?
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