The time is finally upon us. The NFL regular season is over, and now 12 teams will compete to see who will be crowned champions. If you are a football fan, this is one of the best times of the year to be alive. Here are the Wild-Card games and my predictions.
Kansas City Chiefs vs Tennessee Titans
The Chiefs held on to win the AFC West and secured a home game in the playoffs. Rookie sensation Kareem Hunt carried the team on his back, The Chiefs were at one point the top team in the league, even spoiling the New England Patriots celebration of their Super Bowl. However, they trailed off some in November, losing four straight.
The Titans just squeezed into the playoffs. They finished the season second in the AFC South with a 9-7 record. Quarterback Marcus Mariota seems to have taken a step back this year. Many of their wins were low scoring ones, where they seemed to just do enough to get a win. But a win is a win, and 9 of them was good enough to get them into the playoffs.
It would be a miracle if the Titans pulled off the upset. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the hardest places for opposing teams to play in the entire league. The Chiefs are also coming in hot, winning their last four regular-season games.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
Los Angeles Rams vs Atlanta Falcons
I cannot immediately think of a person who predicted the Rams would be in the playoffs. Not only in the playoffs but finish the season 11-5 and win the NFC West. Much of the credit goes to head coach Sean McVay, who has turned quarterback Jared Goff into a potential star. The Rams had one of the best turn-around seasons in recent memory, and they look to continue their success into the playoffs.
If it was a surprise that the Rams did so well this season, then it is also a surprise that the Falcons did not do as well as last year. They finished third in the NFC South with a 10-6 record. Now yes that is a stacked division, considering that the Falcons finished third in the division and are still in the playoffs, but the Falcons dominated the conference last year. They just could not seem to find themselves at some points this season. However, a critical win against the Carolina Panthers secured their return to the playoffs.
Each team has had a major shift in play, be that for the better or the worse. I believe the edge in this game belongs to the home team.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Buffalo Bills
Two Cinderella teams will face off against one another this weekend. The Jags have had an impressive turn-around season. They finished on top the AFC South with a 10-6 record. Though the AFC South is a weak division, the Jags boast some impressive wins over good teams. However, there are some losses that really sting, such as two losses to the rival Tennessee Titans. At some points, they looked fantastic, and at others, they looked like the same old Jags.
The Bills can continue to thank the Cincinnati Bengals for their entry into the playoffs. Everything went right in the final week of the regular season to get them here today. The Bills finished second in the AFC East with a 9-7 record. Though they made it to the playoffs, only their win in Atlanta is the one that sticks out to me. For the other games, their wins whereby small margins. They also suffered two back-to-back blowout losses in the mid part of the season. Their schedule just does not impress me that much.
As previously stated, this is a battle of two Cinderella teams looking to keep their dream alive. In this situation, as I feel how the other games will go this weekend, the slight edge goes with the home team.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
New Orleans Saints vs Carolina Panthers
This is going to be one of the best games of Wild-Card weekend. After starting 0-2, the Saints would win their next 8 games and finish first in the NFC South with an 11-5 record. The Drew Brees we have seen this year is the classic Drew Brees we have become accustomed to seeing. Runningback Mark Ingram has also found his stride this season, rushing for a career-high 1,124 yards. This is his second year in a row to rush for over 1,000 yards, and it has helped the Saints tremendously.
The Panthers battled their way back into the playoffs. They won a lot of close games this year and it helped them to an 11-5 record. They did not win the division because the Panthers lost both meetings with the Saints. Quarterback Cam Newton put the team on his shoulders this season. He did it with both his arm and legs, leading the team in rushing with 754 yards and throwing for over 3,000 yards. This is prime Cam, the kind of quarterback that you cannot help but love to watch.
The edge has to go to the Saints in this game. They won both regular-season meetings and scored over 30 points in both games. The Saints also have the home field advantage in this game. However, an upset could be possible, but unlikely.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
The road ahead of all these teams is a tough one. They may fight for their wins today, but in no way does it get any easier. The teams waiting for Wild-Card winners are the top teams of the AFC and NFC, teams that won a large majority of their games and will have the home field advantage.
If there was to be an upset this week, my bet would be the Falcons beating the Rams. Even though I picked the Rams, it would not surprise me if the Falcons came out with a win. Regardless, these should be some fun games to watch. Let us rejoice that the playoffs are here! Even though the season is near its end, we know we are in for some of the best football of the season.