I’m sorry folks, but I feel really weird right now. It’s no secret I cover (and openly root for) the Green Bay Packers very closely. I’m a national guy, but when you’re born and bred in the green and gold, it bleeds into your work. Anyhow, I feel really weird. It’s the first time in nine years I’m going to make playoff predictions and the Packers aren’t going to be a part of any of it. (How this happened is another story for another day.) Nonetheless I am a professional and will move forward with my predictions. (While silently weeping inside.)
Tennessee vs. Kansas City
Kansas City started hot and (More or less) backed their way into postseason and a division title. Tennessee was up down (amidst injuries and a Mularkey handcuffed Marcus Mariota) and did just enough to make it to postseason. For me, there is nothing that sets the Titans apart from the Chiefs. Tennessee will be without DeMarco Murray which leaves Derrick Henry to carry the mail. (Should have been this way all season.) As I mentioned before, Mariota continues to be handcuffed by Mike Mularkey’s vanilla offense that doesn’t take advantage of how dynamic he is. The Chiefs come in with all hands on deck offensively, including the NFL’s Rushing Champion, Kareem Hunt. Couple that with the loudest crowd in all of the NFL in Arrowhead Stadium, and you can chalk this up as a win for Kansas City.
Winner: Kansas City
Atlanta versus Los Angelos Rams
This one is tough. The Rams are back in the playoffs since the early 2000s (and relocation, and surviving a Jeff Fisher tenure.) Sean McVay (who is younger than I am) has engineered quite the turnaround offensively, as the Rams went from worst to first. Todd Gurley is a legitimate MVP candidate and Jared Goff has shown why he is one of good young quarterbacks in the game. Folks often forget these Rams also bring a defense. They get it done on both sides of the football. Thing is, they’re facing a battle tested (and scarred) Atlanta Falcons squad that’s trying to erase the pain of an epic collapse in Super Bowl LI. Atlanta may be the team that’s playing the best going into postseason, especially defensively. Dan Quinn’s vision for their defense is coming together at the right time and will pose a major threat to the Rams. Los Angelos has enjoyed being faster than a majority of their opponents. That won’t be the case Saturday night as Atlanta’s defense is just as speedy. This is tough for me because I’m picking with my heart as opposed to my head.
Winner: Los Angelos Rams (Head says Falcons)
Buffalo versus Jacksonville
Yes folks, you’re reading that right. The Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars are back in the playoffs. I’m happy for both teams, but more so happy for Buffalo. Seventeen years of suffering is over. Now comes the really hard part; winning in postseason, on the road. The Bills nearly sabotaged themselves this season. Okay, okay, head coach Sean McDermott nearly sabotaged the season with his inexplicable decision to start Nathaniel Peterman over Tyrod Taylor. (Peterman promptly threw 6 picks in that start. More than Tyrod Taylor had ALL season.) Buffalo won’t be at full strength offensively as LeSean McCoy is nursing an ankle injury and won’t be 100 percent. Bad news when you’re going up against a stout Jaguars defense that prides itself on stopping the pass and getting after the quarterback. (They don’t call them Sacksonville for nothing.) Jacksonville has the second ranked defense overall, and number one against the pass. They are ranked 21st against the run, so you see why running the football is imperative for the Bills. Jaguars can run the football with strong rookie Leonard Fournette, but what Blake Bortles will the Jags get? If they get the steady handed Bortles, with a heavy dose of Fournette, and their nearly automatic defense, the Bills will be hard pressed to overcome.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
Carolina Panthers versus New Orleans Saints
This may very well be the game of the weekend. An NFC South battle in postseason. The Panthers and Saints battled to the final day of the regular season for the division crown. (Which went to the Saints.) These two squads know each other well. There isn’t a whole lot either team can do, the other hasn’t seen or prepared for. This makes for an interesting chess game of adjustments. The deciding factor for me is, location. The Saints are at home in the dome. One of the more difficult places to win. This is the difference in what I feel will be a great game.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
No matter who wins, it’s postseason football. Enjoy the weekend of action and remember, we’re only a few weeks away from the Super Bowl. (Still weeping)