Today marks the first week of the 2018 NFL Playoff kickoff. As four teams sit on their couch (Eagles, Vikings, Patriots, and Steelers) and await their next opponent, eight other teams will be fighting for their lives to keep their season alive.
Here are the date and times of each matchup.
January 6th – 4:30 ET – Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5)
January 6th – 8:15 ET – Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams (-6.5)
January 7th – 1:00 ET – Buffalo Bills vs Jacksonville Jaguars (-8.5)
January 7th – 4:30 ET – Carolina Panthers vs New Orleans Saints (-6.5)
Let’s dive into each individual matchup and which team prevails.
Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5)
The Tennessee Titans limped into the 2018 playoffs after a mediocre statistical season. They have the worst turnover ratio of any team in the playoffs. The Titans finished 23rd in total offensive yards per game, 13th in yards allowed per game, 19th in points per game, and 17th in points against per game.
It seems like the Kansas City Chiefs have a solid offensive attack, but how will the defense matchup against the stagnant Titans offense?
I don’t see the Titans slowing down the Kansas City Chiefs enough to win this game.
Prediction: 24-20 Kansas City Chiefs
Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams (-6.5)
Atlanta is a sleeping juggernaut. Don’t be surprised to see Falcons offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, confuse the Rams defense by throwing new formations at them in a playoff game. He needs to find dynamic ways to get the football to Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu Sr., Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman.
This is the first time in 20 years the Atlanta Falcons have finished top 10 in both scoring defense and yards against per game. Second-year players Deion Jones and Keanu Neal are playing far better than experts expectations. The Falcons finished 8th in yards per game, 9th in defensive yards allowed per game, 13th in points per game, and 8th in points against per game.
On the flip side, the Los Angeles Rams finished 10th in yards per game, 19th in yards allowed per game, 1st in points per game, and 13th in points against per game. I don’t see an answer for the Rams’ front four, especially in the passing game. However, watch Matt Ryan’s pocket presence. It will have a tremendous effect on the outcome of this game.
Prediction: 31-28 Atlanta Falcons
Buffalo Bills vs Jacksonville Jaguars (-8.5)
This game has the best opportunity to be the worst game on this weekend. Neither team is overwhelmingly talented on the offensive side of the football so prepare yourself for many incomplete passes and even a few turnovers.
The Jacksonville Jaguars had a tremendous regular season compared to years past. This is their first time over six wins in nearly six seasons. The Jaguars finished 6th in yards per game, 2nd in yards against per game, 8th in points per game, and 2nd overall in points allowed per game. Seeing as the Jaguars finished top ten in all four categories means they’ve had an extraordinary year. However, I refuse to endorse Blake Bortles as a quarterback.
The Buffalo Bills finished the season 29th in yards per game, 26th in yards against per game, 27th in points per game, and 16th in points against per game. These numbers are by far the worst of any team in the playoffs. I don’t see them making a splash on Sunday and advancing to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jaguars win this game handily.
Prediction: 20-10 Jacksonville Jaguars
Carolina Panthers vs New Orleans Saints (-6.5)
In years past, the New Orleans Saints have relied heavily on the arm talent of Drew Brees. That has not been the case this season as the Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are the first pair of teammates in the history of the league to both finish with 1,500 all-purpose yards.
The Saints played above everyone’s expectations this season. Three NFC South teams in the playoffs? What a dominant division. The Saints finished 2nd in yards per game, 17th in yards against, 4th in points per game, and 10th in points against. The future looks bright for this young cast.
As for the Carolina Panthers, they also played better than anticipated. The defense did a tremendous job all season of not giving up yards to the opposing offense which in turn leads to less scoring. The Panthers finished 19th in yards per game, 7th in yards allowed per game, 11th in points per game, and 14th in points against.
This has the chance to be the most even matchup of the weekend. However, the key to this game is Drew Brees. If he has a big day, so do the Saints.
Prediction: 27-24 New Orleans Saints