Playoff time has snuck up on all of us, Matt Boeding and James Caldwell have broken down their picks for what should be a fun wildcard weekend.
Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams -9
The Los Angeles Rams will make their first appearance in the playoffs since 2005. The new kids on the block will face off with the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons in a match up that looks like the most intriguing of the weekend.
The Rams are rightfully the heavy favorites coming into this matchup, they have the most high powered offense in the league, potentially the best runningback, best defensive player and they are at home…sort of. The Rams are young all over the field, including the sideline, they have not felt the pressure that a playoff game can bring. It will be up to the Rams to set the tempo of the game, McVay will want to score early and often to set the tone for the game. If the Rams jump out early, they can just hand the ball off to Todd Gurley and let him finish the game. Of the Falcons six losses five of them have come when the opposing teams runningback surpasses 100 yards
The Falcons come into this game with less pressure then they have felt all year. No one expects the Falcons to beat the offensive juggarnaut that the Rams have become. Quietly Atlanta has made it into the playoffs with a defense that is ranked in the top ten in yards per game this season. That being said they have still been giving up the big play as they only rank 15th in PPG allowed. The defense will have to find a way to slow down Todd Gurley and force Jared Goff to make the difference. Offensively the Falcons will need Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to be Matt Ryan and Julio Jones of 2016. The Falcons have to put the pressure on the Rams by making plays on 3rd down. Don’t let a young team gain confidence.
James Caldwell: Falcons Matt Boeding: Rams (Bet Falcons +9)
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs -9
The Tennessee Titans enter wildcard weekend as the most perplexing team in recent memory. A preseason pick by many to win their division, they have been underwhelming at times but somehow made the playoffs despite giving up more points then scoring this season. The Titans defense has played the run solid all year only allowing three 100-yard rushers the entire season. Stopping the run against an Andy Reid offense gives the Titans some hope to pull off the upset. The Titans also feature a line that has 4 guys with over 7 sacks. The Titans want to keep this low scoring, if they do they have a chance to pull off the upset at Arrowhead.
The Chiefs come in with a four game win streak. With mid-season struggles behind them the Chiefs have rediscovered how to win. Alex Smith will have his work cut out for him as the Titans stingy run defense will force him to make plays. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill will be a huge factor for the Titans, short dump off passes to these two playmakers will make the difference, they will ned to turn 5 yard routes to 12 yard gains.
The Titans offense doesn’t scare anyone unless your are scared of inconsistency. The Chiefs homefield advantage will also be a huge factor for another young team. While we think the spread is a bit much, this seems like a route.
James Caldwell: Chiefs Matt Boeding: Chiefs (Bet Titans +9)
Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars -9
The 2017 season started about as different as you humanly possible for these two teams. The Jaguars were the up and coming team that was going to make that next big step, while the Bills were “tanking the season”. As the season played out these predictions were right on one end and ridiculous on the other.
The Jaguars enter this game as 9 point favorites and in the eyes of most that may have been to low. The Bills can’t stop the run and the Jaguars would prefer Blake Bortles only throws the ball during warmups . The Jaguars are 6th in the league in rushing at home while the Bills front is ranked at the bottom half of the league run prevention. Play calls will most likely be 2-1 in favor of the run.
LeSean McCoy is a game time decision for the Bills, without McCoy this entire offense has to change itself. McCoy’s ability to not only run but help the passing game with his bootleg ability. Tyrod Taylor’s ability to scramble will be a huge asset against “Sacksonville” but with out the threat of McCoy containing Taylor should become much easier.
James Caldwell: Jaguars Matt Boeding: Jaguars . (Bet Jags -9)
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints -7
The third matchup is suppose to be the difference maker, unless one team has dominated the other both matchups. That’s the case Sunday when the Panthers travel to New Orleans
The Panthers are a team that gives you no confidence, do we give them a chance? Ofcourse, you have to give a guy like Cam Newton a chance, is he shows up on Sunday the Panthers can turn from wild card to Superbowl contender. Problem is when you have to say “if he shows up” you have a problem. Carolina ranks 31st in yards over the last three games in a season where they actually beat the Patriots and the Vikings. This team is to confusing to trust, but then you see they are first in the league against the run you have to wonder ….”What if they can shut down Kamara and Ingram?”.
The Saints have Drew Brees whom is the opposite of Cam Newton, you know he is coming ready to play. The Panthers tend to play alot of zone defenses that I look for Drew Brees to pick apart. If Brees can make plays in the zone it will open up lanes for his two dynamic backs. While I like the Saints offense, the defense will have guys spying Newton all game while rookie Marshon Lattimore will be best friends with only real wide receiver option Devin Funchess all game. Greg Olsen has shown flashes of his pro bowl ability but still seems to logged with rust after missing most of the season with a broken foot. New Orleans just has more weapons then a confusing Carolina team
James Caldwell: Saints Matt Boeding: Saints (Panthers cover +7)