The playoffs are here and it’s HIGHLY likely that your team’s season is over. BUT there are still a lot of great games and great matchups to look forward to for the next month.
Your best drinking buddies at The Bench Wire are here to give you our amazingly insightful look into the playoffs so that you actually sound like you know what the hell you’re talking about at your friend’s BBQ this weekend.
Here is our preview of the Wildcard matchups:
#4 Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) vs #5 Tennessee Titans (9-7)
I strongly believe that some dark entity has cursed the Kansas City Chiefs into a harrowing “Groundhog’s Day” season every year, forever stuck in the same story where at mid-season, we all honestly believe that they are the best team in the NFL and then they let it all fall apart right before the playoffs. Surprisingly, this season’s edition has found a way to turn things around and win four straight heading into the post-season.
The Titans are heading into the game on a 1-3 slide, however, 2 of those losses were to a, suddenly, competent 49er’s squad and the playoff-bound LA Rams respectively.
As the seeds and their records would indicate, this game is going to be fairly close as the Chiefs will have to rely heavily on Smith and the passing game to get past Tennessee’s strong rush defense, and Marcos Mariotta will have to take care of the football to not give the Chiefs, who own the 2nd best turnover ratio, any more of an advantage.
The Chief’s momentum will push them past the Titans.
Kansas City Chiefs over Tennessee Titans.
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) vs #6 Buffalo Bills (9-7)
Who would have thought that this would EVER be a playoff matchup? The Jags, who were so bad that ownership flirted with booting the team across the pond, and the Bills who ended the longest playoff drought in pro sports.
Last year, the Jaguars defense quietly rose from 24th in 2015 to 6th and nobody noticed because the Jags were 3-13. Now, the Jaguars rank 2nd behind Minnesota with arguably the best secondary and pass rush in the league. Jacksonville is, oddly, better than their record indicates with Blake Bortles’ turnovers having to do with much of their losses.
The Bills will be without star running back LeSean McCoy and are just glad to be in the playoffs.
I’m picking the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Buffalo Bills not only because they’re the better team, but because I want nothing but happiness for Jaguars Lady who, herself, just wants to see her Jags “take it to the limit” one more time.
#3 Los Angeles Rams (11-5) vs #6 Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
Ok, so everybody was wrong about Jared Goff. Sean McVea has both resurrected Goff’s young career and effectively exorcized Jeff Fisher now and forever from ever being given the keys to another NFL team ever again.
The Rams, next to the Jaguars and the Vikings, are the best story in the NFL. Given their lackluster return back to Los Angeles, the NFL is markedly better when the big market or historical teams are winning. After the kneeling and the Trump and their ratings dip, the silver lining the NFL can take away from this year is the Rams resurgence that ACTUALLY has legs and can potentially sustain their success.
What concerns me about the Falcons is they haven’t played a team outside of their own division since their Week 13 loss to the Vikings; 5 of their last 6 games were against teams in the NFC South. It’s concerning because your record within your division isn’t necessarily the best barometer as to how good of a team you actually are. Granted, the Falcons went 4-1 in their division during that stretch, but those games are usually toss-ups since they play each other so much; that’s just how professional sports works.
Gurley is a monster, but Atlanta’s run defense has shored up in their last 5 games only giving up 91.2 ypg. The game will come down to Goff vs Matt Ryan. I’ll take Ryan.
Atlanta Falcons over Los Angeles Rams
#4 New Orleans Saints (11-5) vs #5 Carolina Panthers (11-5)
I keep hearing analysts gushing over New Orleans finally having a defense and I just don’t see it. They currently rank 15th or below in every major defensive stat except interceptions, where they rank 3rd. Marshon Lattimore has been a revelation but I’m not buying that the Saints’ defense is as good as marketed. On offense, however, the Saints are in the midst of legitimately revolutionizing the two-back system. Alvin Kamara, had it not been for Kareem Hunt’s breakout season, would have been the top candidate for rookie of the year.
Cam Newton is coming off of one of the worst games of his career and has fallen into this boom-bust coin flip of a player in the middle stage of his career where he should be taking off. The Panthers defense, however, has seemingly returned to pre-Josh Norman exit level of play which could help buoy them if Cam turns the ball over multiple times.
Both of these teams are seriously flawed in ways that won’t get either past the next round, but the Saints’ two-back system is seriously a joy to watch.
New Orleans Saints over Carolina Panthers