Saturday, January 06, 2018

2017-2018 NFL Playoffs - Wild Card Weekend

I lost my shot at a 2017 TransGriot NFL prognostication threepeat title due to some unforced efforts and a disastrous sub. 500 last week of the regular season that added up to me losing by one game after the regular season was completed, but that's over now. 

Mr. Watts earned it.   Here are his picks for Wild Card Weekend.

It's NFL playoff time, and specifically NFL Wild Card Weekend   So time to get some practice in for when the 2018 regular season resumes and I go for three titles in the last four years starting in September.

NFL Wild Card Weekend 

NFL Saturday Playoff Games
#5 Tennessee (9-7) at #4 Kansas City (10-6)  on ABC/ESPN 

Image result for Tennessee vs Kansas City
Ugh.  It was bad enough my hometown  team not only failed to make the playoffs, but the Tennessee Traitors did for the first time since 2008   This early Saturday game is one in which I see the team formerly known as the Oilers travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Chiefs

The Titans have lost three of the last four games down the stretch, but the one game they won was the divisional one against AFC South champ Jacksonville in the last week of the season that punched their playoff ticket. 

The Titans are a throwback team in that they love to run the ball, and stopping the run is the Chiefs Achilles heel.  The Traitors Titans finished the season with the number 13 ranked defense in the NFL, but has a secondary ranked a pathetic 31st out of 32 teams. 

That Titans secondary will have to confront a Chiefs squad that boasts the number 5 offense in the league even though they don't throw the ball deep that much.

Image result for Tennessee vs Kansas City

However, AFC West champ Kansas City is on a roll again.   They started the season 5-0, went through a midseason 1-6 slump, and won their last four games going into this playoff game.
And yes, one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL will live up to its rep

Let's just call this one now,  Kansas City to win this game to my delight and move on to the divisional round. 

Yeah, never gonna forgive Bud Adams for moving them to Nashville.

#6 Atlanta (10-6)  at #3 Los Angeles Rams on NBC
Image result for falcons vs la rams playoffs 2017
The Saturday night game features the defending NFC champion Falcons taking on the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams/   They are hosting their first playoff game at the Coliseum in nearly 40 years and in only its second season back in LA after spending 22 years in St. Louis.

The Rams are gunning for their first playoff win since 2004, when they called St Louis home 

While the Rams were only 2-2 in their last four contests, they were 6-3 after their bye week   They are also a 2017 season worst to first story.  They were 4-12 last year but are a playoff club thanks to first year head coach Sean McVay's offense and their rapidly improving defense under Wade Phillips

Image result for atlanta falcons
Meanwhile the Falcons struggled through several must win games in the competitive NFC South just to qualify for this game,  going 3-1.   But they haven't looked like that offense juggernaut that was 11 minutes from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at NRG Stadium last year and their defense is still questionable.

Image result for LA Coliseum Rams 2017-18 playoffsThe biggest question going into this game is more about the LA fans. Will they show up to fill the cavernous Coliseum for this playoff game, and if they do, how loud will it get?

They definitely have plenty to cheer about with a high flying offense ranked sixth in the league that averaged a league best 29.9 points per game . 
But the Rams were a pedestrian 4-4 at home vs 7-1 on the road.

This is going to be a close one, but I'm going to go with the Rams in this one.

NFL Sunday Playoff Games

#6 Buffalo Bills (9-7) at #3 Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) on CBS
This is an intriguing matchup of two squads that haven't seen any parts of the NFL playoffs for a while.  The Bills last made the playoffs in 1999, only to be ousted by the Music City Miracle vs Tennessee that propelled the Titans to the Super Bowl.

The AFC South champion Jaguars aftes sucking for the entire Obama Administration, captured their first playoff berth since 2007 and their first division title since 1999 when they topped the AFC Central Division.  They get to reward their fans for their patience with a playoff game at EverBank Stadium

Jacksonville and their defense has annoyed and pissed people off in the NFL all season.  Their defense trailed only Pittsburgh in terms of sacking the quarterback, excels at creating turnovers, is the number one ranked pass defense in the league and goading opposing players into fights.

They are legit. I witnessed them beat down my Texans twice and clinch the AFC South title with a 45-7 blowout win in Jacksonville over my fave NFL squad.

Their big question mark in terms of whether they will make a long playoff run of bow out is how will Blake Bortles play?   Will we see good Blake Bortles or bad Blake Bortles?  The other problem with the Jage is them loving to play on the edge to the point they go over it and take stupid personal foul penalties.

Buffalo is only in the postseason because Andy Dalton connected on a 4th and 12 pass play for a TD to stun the Ravens.   They have the number 29th ranked run defense in the NFL, which probably is making  Leonard Fournette salivate just thinking about it 

Image result for Buffalo Lesean McCoy
And after Lesean McCoy sprained his ankle in their game against the Dolphins, if he can't play Sunday, their chances of pulling an upset on the Jags are as likely as me walking the Victoria's Secret fashion show   The  Bills love to run the ball, and stopping the run has been the one thing the Jags defense hasn't done well for much of the season

The Bills also have a -57 point differential they are carrying into this game, and 'Saxonville' is poised to have a wonderful day making Tyrod Taylor's playoff debut and the Bills first playoff game in the 21st Century a miserable one.

On paper, this looks like it's going to be a lopsided game, and we'll see if that plays out after the whistle blows.  I think it will     The Jaguars to move on to the divisional round   

 #5 Carolina Panthers (11-5)  at #4 New Orleans Saints (11-5) on FOX 

Image result for cam newton and drew brees
This is the only Wild Card weekend game that is a rematch of a regular season game, and it features two NFC South teams playing each other for the third time. 

The NFC South champion Saints have already beaten their NFC South division rivals twice in the 2017 season, smacking them in Charlotte in Week 3 of the season 34-13 and beating the Panthers in the Mercedes Benz Superdome 31-21 back on December 3.

Image result for Carolina vs New Orleans 2017
The Saints even with a future Hall of Fame QB in Drew Brees at the helm, have reinvented themselves and developed a devastating rushing attack with tow versatile backs in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to complement their passing attack. 

The Saints defense has also stepped it up big time and become adept at taking the ball away.  They forced six turnovers in the two NFC South games against the Panthers alone.

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers runs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
The Panthers are also feeling salty because they are 6.5 point underdogs going into this game and have been an afterthought in the playoff conversation despite being two years removed from their Super Bowl 50 appearance. .  Carolina's inconsistency has also factored into why many pundits think their season will be over on Monday.

Yes, it is hard to beat an NFL team, and especially your divisional rival  three times.  This game is being played in NOLA and the Saints have a team that is quite capable of going all the way to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LI.   Carolina will put up some resistance, but the Saints will definitely want to prove it to themselves, their home crowd and a national TV audience they are a Super Bowl caliber team. ..

Saints to beat Carolina for the third time and move on to the Divisional round.

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