With the first weekend of postseason football kicking off this weekend, staff writers Blake Pace and Connor McCarthy share their break down of each game and give a final score prediction.
Titans vs. Chiefs (Saturday Jan. 6, 4:35 p.m.)
Blake: I fully didn’t expect the Titans to make the playoffs and am upset that a team with so many issues around the organization actually squeaked their way in. Head coach Mike Mularky is in hot water and is on the verge of unemployment, even after making the playoffs. Marcus Mariota has struggled in his third season and continues to have issues taking care of the ball. Despite Kansas City’s whirlwind of a season, I like their talent on the offensive side of the ball and their roster just holds more playoffs experience than Tennessee.
Chiefs 24, Titans 13
Connor: These are two of the weakest playoff teams in the field, and they are lucky to be playing each other in the first round. I have to give the Chiefs an edge however, because Alex Smith has had a much better season then Marcus Mariota, and I’ll take the Justin Houston led Chiefs defense over the Titans defense. Whichever team wins this game, however, I don’t expect to get any further.
Chiefs 27, Titans 17
Falcons vs. Rams (Saturday Jan. 6, 8:15 p.m.)
Blake: While the Falcons’ path to the postseason was a hard-fought and well-earned travel, their playoff welcome is against a team that should remind themselves of their own team last season, the red hot Los Angeles Rams. The Rams offense is hitting on all cylinders and has, to me, the MVP of this NFL season in running back Todd Gurley. While Jared Goff in the postseason for the first time is a scary thought to me, the play-calling in L.A. is far more superior than what Steve Sarkisian has been able to muster in his first season as offensive coordinator. Despite the playoff experience of the Falcons being far greater than the Rams, I don’t see Atlanta being able to stop Los Angeles from putting up big numbers on its defense.
Rams 31, Falcons 24
Connor: Despite the Rams clearly having a better regular season then the Falcons, this is a very interesting matchup. The Falcons have consistently played below their ability all season long, but if they are able to get it together on offense they can be a very dangerous playoff team. The Rams are an inexperienced team, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the pressure of this game. I believe the Rams will win behind possible MVP Todd Gurley and defensive freak Aaron Donald, but its going to be a close one.
Rams 34, Falcons 31
Bills vs. Jaguars (Sunday Jan. 7, 1:00 p.m.)
Blake: As a New York native, I’m thrilled for Bills Mafia and the town of Buffalo for making it into the playoffs this season. I only wish their team was better. Thanks to some Andy Dalton heroics in Cincinnati, the Bills made it in by the skin of their teeth and travel to Jacksonville to take on their former head coach Doug Marrone. As I’ve said several times before, this Jags defense is one of the greatest defenses of all time and should have no problem eating away at the Bills’ offense, especially if Shady McCoy is not at 100%.
Jaguars 17, Bills 10
Connor: Nice to see the Bills make the playoffs but I believe it will be a quick exit. The Jaguars defense will be to much for a weak Bills offense, especially with running back Lesean McCoy less then 100%. If the Jaguars play their normal game and make sure quarterback Blake Bortles doesn’t have to throw the ball to much they should win this one with ease.
Jaguars 24, Bills 6
Panters vs. Saints (Sunday Jan. 7, 4:40 p.m.)
Blake: For me, this is the most intriguing matchup in this opening weekend. While the Panthers have been one of the most inconsistent teams in all of football this year, their toughness and ability to pull out tough games speaks volumes to the character within the locker room. And with Cam Newton back in the postseason, he’ll be looking to make up for his woes in Super Bowl 50. For the Saints, Drew Brees is back in the playoffs and finally has some help on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore has not only been one of the best rookies this season, but one of the best cornerbacks in all of football. Carolina is going to need too much from their rookie offensive weapons and unfortunately their defense will struggle mightily in stopping the prolific duo of running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.
Saints 27, Panthers 17
Connor: Its bitter sweet that these two teams will meet in the first round, because I believe they’re both better then every other team playing on Wild Card Weekend. The Panthers have won with quarterback Cam Newton’s legs and a stingy defense, while the Saints have won with two incredible running backs and a much improved defensive secondary. Newton will certainly be out for revenge this post season after his last playoff run was cut down in Super Bowl 50. I believe the Saints run game paired with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees will end up being to much for the Panther’s, but this will be a matchup that can truly go either way.
Saints 24 , Panthers 21