The Opinionated Spectator
Once again, it’s the NFL playoffs. This year, I’m not as excited about the wildcard weekend. I’m just not. Do I really care about the Tennessee Titans? Or Blake Bortles? Do I really want an Andy Reid team to win? Do I want to have to pick between Cam Newton and Drew Brees already? No, not at all. Plus, I still have a deep resentment towards the NFL for way they have treated Colin Kaepernick. There are several teams in the playoffs who would be substantially better if they had Colin Kaepernick as quarterback. (Cough)* Eagles* (Cough)* Jaguars *(Cough). But putting all that aside, you want to know what I love more than anything? Being right. Seriously, being able to lord my predictions over my colleague’s heads is really what drives me. So, here we go!!!
Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs
This game seems like it is relatively simple for me. The Kansas City Chiefs haven’t won a home game in the postseason since 1994. This will be the year that streak is broken. If the Chiefs are balanced, this game should not be close. Whenever Kareem Hunt runs for over 100 yards, the Chiefs are undefeated. Look for a healthy dose of the running game. Also, Alex Smith has been making good decisions all year. He only has 5 interceptions and 26 touchdowns. Meanwhile, in a four game span during the season, Marcus Mariota threw 8 interceptions. In fact, he has thrown 15 interceptions this year. You know how many touchdowns Mariota has thrown? 13. Am I willing to pick a team whose quarterback is new to the playoffs and has been playing poorly all year? Absolutely not. Don’t get me wrong. Alex Smith could revert to his trademark poor play and Andy Reid is fully capable of taking a promising team and mismanaging them in the playoffs. That’s kind of Andy’s thing. I’m not suggesting it won’t happen this year. I’m just saying this week the Kansas City Chiefs are going to dispose of the Tennessee Titans with relative ease.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams
Everyone that I know is in love with the Los Angeles Rams. Everyone. You say the name Todd Gurley and guys are melting. I get it. The Rams are dominant. Sean McVay has them running on all cylinders right now. But this is what I know. Atlanta was embarrassed last year. Every single player from the Atlanta Falcons remembers last year’s playoff loss. You think they are coming to Los Angeles to lose? Did you see the defense play last week? They had Cam Newton and his receivers looking like they wanted a blankie and some milk and cookies. Now, this game is not going to be easy. The Rams are talented and they know how to bring pressure to the quarterback. Additionally, Matt Ryan has been less than stellar this year. I am intimately familiar with Matt Ryan unenthused and listless play because he was on my fantasy football team. Yes, it was abysmal. But the Atlanta defense is underrated. They are fully prepared for this moment. Look for them to frustrate Jared Goff. I know the Rams are heavily favored to win. But, my gut says Atlanta has just enough to withstand a strong Rams team. While the Rams have weapons and intensity, Atlanta will find a way to come in and disrupt their offense. They are an experienced playoff team and they want to erase a still sour taste in their mouths from last year’s playoffs. I have the Atlanta Falcons winning this game.
Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
I was excited when the Buffalo Bills first made the playoffs. They ended a 17 year drought. I thought, wow, they could play hard and rely on Bortles to make Bortles decisions and sneak into the second round. Then, I looked at the numbers. This Buffalo team is just not good on paper. And LeSean McCoy is a game time decision. Red flag. Buffalo is the ranked 29 for run defense. Red Flag. Buffalo Bills also ranked 31 in the NFL in passing, average just 176.6 yards per game. Red Flag. Meanwhile Jacksonville ranked #1 in pass defense allowing just 169.9 yards per game. The Jacksonville Jaguars defense can create turnovers, lead the league in sacks and can generally create havoc. Granted, Blake Bortles has the potential to throw a pick at any given second. He had 13 interceptions this year. I like Tyrod Taylor. He is feisty and talented and I want him to succeed. Part of me really wants to pick Buffalo because that would just be a really good story. But unfortunately, I think Jacksonville’s defense is going to overwhelm the Buffalo Bills. Listen, I wouldn’t trust Blake Bortles to walk across the street and hand me a glass of water. But I don’t know how healthy LeSean McCoy is and that scares me. There are just too many red flags. I want Tyrod Taylor to win but I just don’t think he will be able to pull it out without a healthy LeSean McCoy. And that’s the x-factor for me. Without a healthy running game, Buffalo Bills will have to be content with simply ending the playoff drought. Because of Jacksonville’s defense and home field advantage, I regretfully pick the Jacksonville Jaguars to win.
Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints
This is the most difficult game to predict this weekend. I know how Cam Newton is capable of playing. I know that he can change the entire game on just his championship spirited play alone. But I can’t shake the feeling that Drew Brees has too much going for him this year. He is looking at the rest of the NFC and seeing that all the usual suspects are at home. New Orleans has a strong two headed monster running game and they don’t rely on Drew Brees to win games. Meanwhile, I watched Cam’s receivers and they don’t make the extra effort. They don’t catch the 50/50 balls. Maybe it will be different in the playoffs but I was unimpressed by what I saw. The Panthers are fully capable of pulling it together and beating the Saints handily but I don’t think they will. They simply do not match up well with the Saints and will likely lose for the third time on Sunday. I like Cam Newton but I don’t like his team’s effort. It is with a heavy heart that I have to pick the New Orleans Saints to advance to the next round.
So, there you have it folks, I have picked Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars and the New Orleans Saints. In other words, I have picked an Andy Reid team, Matt Ryan, Blake Bortles and Grandpa Drew Brees.
Dear God, what have I done?
(Source for this story was ESPN.com, Associated Press)
Alexis Sara Cobb may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (724) 561-8082 Follow her on Twitter: @alexissara