The Titans, Rams, Bills, and Jaguars are playing this weekend. Are we sure it’s the playoffs, or is it January 2000? I can’t help but feel that something strange is going to happen this postseason, but here we go.
Titans at Chiefs
I already did my big preview on this one at FO, so check that out. I just think the Chiefs are on a good run going into the playoffs and they should be able to get this win without too much trouble. Too much offense for the Titans to overcome on the road. Good offenses all put up 25+ on the Titans this year. This could be the start to an incredible playoff run by the Chiefs a la the 2011 Giants/2012 Ravens.
Final: Chiefs 27, Titans 17
Falcons at Rams
I think this game has the widest range of outcomes this weekend. The Falcons should have won the Super Bowl last year, and are lucky to be in the tournament this year. Don’t forget the dropped game-winning touchdown by the Bears in Week 1, the Golden Tate GW TD coming up inches short in Detroit, the way Seattle and Tampa Bay missed game-tying field goals at the end, or Drew Brees’ unthinkable pick in the red zone in a 3-point game. The Falcons can be 4-12 just as easily as 13-3 right now. It’s just been that kind of year.
Meanwhile, the Rams bring inexperience and unpredictability to the tournament. They rested starters last week, and this is all new for Sean McVay, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Buffalo’s wide receivers, and Aaron Donald. The Rams had the highest weekly DVOA variance this season while the Falcons had the lowest. The Rams really stomped some teams, including Seattle in Seattle, and they play great special teams and give Goff incredible field position. They also struggled to get the offense going against some better defenses like the Vikings and Seahawks (first time when they were healthy).
The matchup seems to favor the Rams in that the Falcons were 25th in QBR against play-action passes, and Goff uses play-action more than anyone. He also loves throwing to Gurley, who is on a tear, and no defense gives up more catches to running backs than the Falcons. However, Goff still worries me. He had the third-highest rate of off-target passes this year according to ESPN Stats & Info. So you’re talking about a quarterback who relies heavily on YAC and play-action in a QB-friendly system. When it comes to making big throws in big moments, the Falcons have a big edge there with Matt Ryan, who’s had a stellar run in the postseason going back to 2012 even. Sure, this season wasn’t what we thought he could do, but he really did have an epic amount of tipped interceptions and some egregious touchdown drops. He’s clearly not leading an offense as great as 2016’s, but this is still a talented bunch who can score on this defense and won’t be afraid of the big stage. It also doesn’t sound like a strong home-field advantage is going to be there for the Rams yet, but win this game and that will change too in the future.
Atlanta’s only allowed more than 26 points once this season (31 to Seattle), so I think the game can remain close. This is the smallest spread this week at 6 points, and I really think Atlanta might be the underdog to back on that front.
Final: Falcons 26, Rams 23
Bills at Jaguars
Not only are the Bills and Jaguars in the playoffs, but one of these teams is guaranteed to advance to the next round. It’s too bad LeSean McCoy isn’t 100 percent, because he’s sorely needed in this matchup. Buffalo is a low-volume passing offense to begin with, but you don’t want to throw much against the top pass defense in football when you are so limited in receiving weapons. Not only could McCoy be a threat on the ground, but he can catch a lot of passes too. He led the Bills with 59 catches, 10 more than any other teammate. I’m sure McCoy is going to suit up to give it a go, but I can’t see him being too effective after his ankle injury. Tyrod Taylor gets pressured enough as is, but throwing him against the wolves of Sacksonville? It can’t be a pretty day for this offense.
So I think the only way for Jacksonville to blow this at home is for Blake Bortles to turn the ball over multiple times (or once for a touchdown). We have called Buffalo an opportunistic defense all season long with takeaways. Tre’Davious White is not just a guy who Gronkowski delivered a cheapshot to, but the rookie was involved in a lot of takeaways this year. The Bills were actually a subpar defense (26th in yards per drive, 23rd in points), but eighth in takeaways per drive, which really helped this team win nine games to sneak into the playoffs.
Look, the Jaguars held eight teams to 0-10 points this year. That’s impressive stuff. I think they’ll hide Bortles enough this week, lean on the running game and defense, and the Jaguars will go to Pittsburgh next week for a rematch.
Final: Jaguars 24, Bills 13
Panthers at Saints
Again, I think the AFC games are pretty one-sided this week, but the NFC ones could easily go either way. The Saints got the best of Carolina in both games this year, and neither was really that close. You always hear how it’s hard to beat a team three times in one year, but it’s not so hard if you’re already 2-0. In fact, it’s the expected result as it’s happened 65% of the time in this scenario. Part of what helps there is that usually the 2-0 team gets the third game at home in the playoffs. If this game wasn’t in the Superdome, then I could see trusting Carolina a lot more. But that’s not the case since the Panthers bombed in Atlanta last week when winning the division was possible.
Neither of these teams are charging ahead into the playoffs on a good note. Both lost in Week 17. The Panthers also nearly lost to Tampa Bay in Week 16. This is a real Jekyll and Hyde team, and it starts with the erratic Cam Newton. I think he’s had some downright incredible games this year (NE, DET, MIA, GB), but then you remember the 4 losses to CHI/NO/ATL/PHI where he threw 2 TD, 11 INT. Cam actually had a career-high in rushing yards (754), but I don’t think you can really trust him to deliver in this matchup. He’s also failed to pass for 200 yards in his last three games against this defense, and he’s only topped 260 passing yards three times in 14 career matchups with the Saints. Remember, there were a lot of terrible defensive seasons from the Saints in that span. Things have certainly improved this year, but like I said before, the Saints have looked like a .500 ball club ever since that dominant 7-game winning streak where none of the games were too close.
Mix in the familiarity these teams have with each other, and I think you could see Carolina find a way to pull this one out if Newton brings his A game. He needs to get Greg Olsen involved heavily again, who hasn’t been much of a factor in an injury-plagued season.
All I know is I’m just glad to see Drew Brees in another playoff game. It’s been a while, and he’s been one of the most prolific postseason passers ever (see below). I think he’ll get the job done at home.
Final: Saints 27, Panthers 21
(That means my spread picks are KC, ATL, JAX, CAR)
2017 NFL Full Playoff Predictions
This is where I pick the whole tournament. I came pretty close last year, only missing on KC beating Pittsburgh in the divisional round, and Atlanta beating New England in the Super Bowl (d’oh). You don’t know how badly I want to pick the Chiefs to get some revenge this year by knocking off the Patriots and Steelers, two teams who eliminated them the last two years.
- Titans at Chiefs
- Falcons at Rams
- Bills at Jaguars
- Panthers at Saints
- Falcons at Eagles
- Chiefs at Patriots
- Jaguars at Steelers
- Saints at Vikings
- Steelers at Patriots
- Falcons at Vikings
Super Bowl LII:
Patriots vs. VIKINGS
Super Bowl MVP: The home crowd in Minnesota
- Week 1: 8-7
- Week 2: 11-5
- Week 3: 9-7
- Week 4: 8-8
- Week 5: 6-8
- Week 6: 6-8
- Week 7: 11-4
- Week 8: 12-1
- Week 9: 6-7
- Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
- Week 11: 8-6 (Spread: 8-5-1)
- Week 12: 12-4 (Spread: 7-9)
- Week 13: 11-5 (Spread: 10-6)
- Week 14: 6-10 (Spread: 7-9)
- Week 15: 14-2 (Spread: 7-6-3)
- Week 16: 12-4 (Spread: 7-8-1)
- Week 17: 10-6 (Spread: 8-8)
- Season: 162-94 (Spread: 60-59-5)