With another NFL regular season in the books, we now turn our attention to the other season that gets us football fans excited: PLAYOFFS! This year we have several newcomers who haven't been to the playoffs in this current decade until now. Those teams, with the year they last made the postseason in parentheses, include the Tennessee Titans (2008), Jacksonville Jaguars (2007), LA Rams (2004), and Buffalo Bills (1999). Speaking of the Bills, check out this recent video from NFL Films if you haven't yet.
After the 4 minute mark, it's really cool to see how happy the Bills were when they saw the Bengals beat the Ravens which enabled the Bills to finally end their 17 year postseason drought. Buffalo is one of those towns that really loves its football team but sadly the Bills have not had good fortunes during their franchise history. They are most notoriously known for their 4 year Super Bowl losing streak from 1990 - 1993. Congratulations to them for getting to the playoffs. They have a daunting task, however, as they take one of the best defenses in the NFL in the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With the usual playoff teams now sitting at home pondering what went wrong (Seahawks, Packers, Cowboys, Broncos, and of course the Ravens), we welcome a few fresh faces to the postseason landscape. The old timers can't play forever so it is time to turn a new leaf. Without further ado, let's break down the games this weekend.
- Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday, January 6 at 1:20 PM PT on ESPN)
Vegas Line (Westgate Casino & Sportsbook): Kansas City -9, O/U 44.5
GE Line: Kansas City -5.64, O/U 50.22
This is a classic battle between old and new. The Chiefs are familiar with the postseason while the Titans are one of the new kids on the block. In fact, the Chiefs played in the first Super Bowl over 50 years ago whereas football in Tennessee doesn't have quite an elaborate history. We find it hard to see an upset here even though we feel the Titans can make this a decent game given the young talent on offense and the Chiefs porous secondary. The Chiefs experienced a slump midway this season but have snapped out of their funk. There are simply way too many weapons for Kansas City that the Titans will find themselves in mismatches throughout the game. You can put all the attention you want on All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce but then you will have Tyreke Hill who will burn you with his blazing speed if you cover him man-on-man and he happens to get a step ahead of his defender. Kareem Hunt is another one to worry about in the backfield. It seems his on-field performance has correlated strongly to the Chief's success this season which makes sense given that Chiefs head coach Andy Reid loves to run the ball. Hunt is back to being a home run hitter and given how LA Rams running back Todd Gurley tore apart the Titans not that long ago and that the Titans are limping into the postseason having lost 3 of their last 4 games, the upset is not happening.
Prediction: Kansas City 28 - Tennesse 22.
- Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams (Saturday, January 6 at 5:15 PM PT on NBC)
Vegas Line (Westgate Casino & Sportsbook): Los Angeles -6, O/U 48.5
GE Line: Los Angeles -2.61, O/U 49.21
This is going to be a fun game and we say thank you to the NFL scheduling committee by giving us a game on Saturday night that is fitting for Hollywood! NFL playoff football hasn't happened in LA for over 20 years but of course LA has been without NFL football for that long as well. Just like the earlier wild card game on Saturday, this game is also a battle between youth and experience. We have the defending NFC Champions Atlanta Falcons traveling cross county to take on the up and coming LA Rams at the LA Coliseum. Let's hope LA fans fill up the Coliseum this time. They are blessed to have such an exciting team to watch and as I have been saying for a while, there is a good reason why NFL football left LA. If the fans don't come out to support the team, especially when they are playing great football and have one of those most dynamic players in the game in Tood Gurley, then the Rams should go back to St. Louis!
As for what happens in this game, it will be close. The Rams have Aaron Donald on the defensive line who is one of the league's best defenders. Still the Rams can get caught up in shootouts and the Falcons have the tools on offense to make this a very fun game that comes down to the wire. We will go with the young team here given that Matt Ryan has struggled this season. As long as the Rams shadow Julio Jones often, Ryan will have to lean more on his run game which will do well but will also make the Falcons more predictable on offense. Gurley is an absolute beast and is pretty much matchup proof. The Falcons defense is decent but not good enough to stop Gurley. The Falcons are also at a disadvantage by having to travel cross country and playing a late West Coast game. Last week was kind of a bye week for the Rams as they rested key players with not having much to play for in Week 17 whereas last week was a pseudo-playoff game for the Falcons.
Prediction: Los Angeles 26 - Atlanta 23.
- Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, January 7 at 10:05 AM PT on CBS)
Vegas Line (Westgate Casino & Sportsbook): Jacksonville -9, O/U 39.5
GE Line: Jacksonville -11.97, O/U 37.94
We missed you Buffalo! Very proud that you are back in the postseason. As a kid, I have fond memories of watching the Bills pull off miraculous victories in the postseason such as the 35-3 comeback against the Houston Oilers in 1993. I had always hoped Chris Berman's annual prediction of a 49ers - Bills Super Bowl would come true given how great both teams were. There was a 7 year stretch when either team was in the Super Bowl and the other team was awfully close to making Berman's prediction come true. Well I digress ... that was many years ago and now we have this current Bills team to analyze.
As much as we like a Cinderalla story, it's going to be really hard for Buffalo to get past Jacksonville. You hope that they can win their 1-on-1 assignments but when you have two really good corners such as A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey and inexperienced wide receivers on the other side, that doesn't help. It also doesn't help when your best offensive weapon (running back LeSean McCoy) is hobbled with an ankle injury. Your second best weapoon (tight end Charles Clay) is also dealing with an injury. The Jaguars can give up points like they did to the 49ers two weeks ago but with a home game and long travel for Buffalo, we can't see how Buffalo pulls off the upset. Even more reasons to believe that Jacksonville dominates this game: (1) Bills run defense is awful and ranks dead last which makes Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette a great play for fantasy playoff leagues and (2) Bill pass protection is also awful with quarterback Tyrod Taylor ranking third in most QB sacks at 46 while the Jaguars defense is #2 in sacking the QB with 55. Those two reason alone convince us that this game won't be close.
Prediction: Jacksonville 25 - Buffalo 13.
- Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (Sunday, January 7 at 1:40 PM PT on FOX)
Vegas Line (Westgate Casino & Sportsbook): New Orleans -7, O/U 48.5
GE Line: New Orleans -7.62, O/U 46.35
Again, we are very grateful for the awesome NFL playoff schedule! We get another great game on the late end! Two division rivals that know each other well and can light up the score board. We are also grateful that the playoff games won't be impacted by the polar vortex hitting the east coast as this game will be played indoors while two of the other games are in warm weather states. The Superdome plays well to offense and speed and that is what will be on display Sunday afternoon. While we know its hard for one team to beat another team three times in one year, there is good reason why the Saints have been able to put up 30+ points each time they faced the Panthers: the Saints have an amazing run game! They two-head monster of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara present match-up nightmares for most teams. This is a team poised for a Super Bowl run with an underrated defense and a very experienced QB. Drew Brees also has some nice passing options with Michael Thomas and former Panther Ted Ginn. If this game were taking place in Charlotte with the weather elements, we might feel differently about the outcome but with this being played indoors, it's hard to bet against the uber talented speed and shiftiness of Kamara and company.
Prediction: New Orleans 27 - Carolina 19.
OK, there you have it! Let us know what you think in your social media outlets! Enjoy the games and stay warm!