This afternoon, the 2017-18 NFL Wild Card weekend kicks off with Tennessee visiting Arrowhead Stadium to take on the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Saturday slate will be capped with the Falcons visiting the L.A. Rams at 8:15 p.m.
Here’s the All-Out Blitz staff writers Ben Heck and Jordan Foote’s outlook on this weekend’s Wild Card match-ups:
No. 5 Tennessee Titans at No. 4 Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday, 4:20 PM ET)
Ben’s pick: Chiefs 28, Titans 14
Tennessee’s offense will have trouble keeping up with Kansas City’s top 10 offensive attack, especially given DeMarco Murray has been ruled out for the WC showdown. Over the past three home Kansas City games, rookie running back Kareem Hunt has racked up 362 rushing yards (120.7 yards/game) and four total touchdowns. I expect to see Hunt’s seventh career 100-yard game and a pair of passing touchdowns from quarterback Alex Smith in KC’s Wild Card win.
Jordan’s pick: Chiefs 31, Titans 20
I’ve got Kansas City in this one for a few reasons. First, DeMarco Murray’s absence is going to be felt on the field for Tennessee. Derrick Henry is going to be heavily relied upon to anchor an offense that isn’t too scary, especially given Murray’s absence and Marcus Mariota’s poor play this season. This Chiefs have big play potential and although the Titans are great against the run, Alex Smith should be able to make some plays with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce at his disposal. This one could be close, but I’m not holding my breath.
No. 6 Atlanta Falcons at No. 3 Los Angeles Rams (Saturday, 8:15 PM ET)
Ben’s pick: Rams 24, Falcons 17
The last time the Rams played a playoff game? A 47-17 loss to, yes, the Atlanta Falcons in 2004-05. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff has had an impressive breakout season for the Rams, but it’s obviously running back Todd Gurley who keeps this offense together as both the leading rusher (1,305 yards, 13 TD) and second-best receiver (64 catches, 788 yards, 6 TD). The league’s top-scoring offense will pick up its first postseason win in 13 seasons.
Jordan’s pick: Rams 28, Falcons 27
Jared Goff. Todd Gurley. Aaron Donald. Sean McVay. The Rams have some of the best in the league at quarterback, running back, defensive tackle and head coach. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are a deadly combo when running at full capacity, but something about Atlanta has been off this year. The offense is no longer the frightening force it once was and this year, the Rams’ unit is. Part of me wants to pick Atlanta but with now consistently good the Rams have been this year, I’ve got to pick them in this matchup.
No. 6 Buffalo Bills at No. 3 Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday, 1:05 PM ET)
Ben’s pick: Jaguars 34, Bills 21
The Bills are the biggest feel-good story of the NFL postseason this year, finally putting an end to the franchise’s playoff drought dating back to 1999. However, I have a gut feeling that the joy in Buffalo will be short-lived as they travel down south to Sacksonville. This season, Jacksonville has fielded both a top five offense and top five defense, and veteran quarterback Blake Bortles has thrown a career-low 13 interceptions. All Jacksonville needs to do is limit turnovers on offense and the league’s second-best scoring defense should be able to handle the rest against a Bills team that went 3-5 on the road this season.
Jordan’s pick: Bills 24, Jaguars 20
The X-factor in this game is Blake Bortles. This season, Jacksonville is 8-0 when Bortles doesn’t throw a pick. This team is downright scary when Bortles is on his game. This same team is also 2-6 when Bortles does throw an interception. Bortles has thrown five interceptions in his past two games. The strength of Jacksonville is its ball-hawking defense but against a very cautious QB in Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo may not turn the ball over. On the other hand, if Blake Bortles makes some bad decisions, Buffalo’s defense could be in for a field day. The unit ranks 9th in the league in takeaways. Jacksonville is the better team and if Bortles shows up, it won’t be close. I don’t see that happening: Bills Mafia lives on to see another week.
No. 5 Carolina Panthers at No. 4 New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 4:40 PM ET)
Ben’s pick: Saints 35, Panthers 17
If, at the beginning of the season, you sat here and told me New Orleans would have the most lethal running back duo in all of football by season’s end, I’d call you crazy. The 38-year old Drew Brees is still slinging it (4,334 yards, 23 TD, 8 INT, 103.9 QB rating) and Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara combined for 1,852 rushing yards and 25 total touchdowns. I know its tough to beat the same team three times in the same season, but I can’t see the Panthers defense slowing down the Ingram/Kamara duo, especially considering the Saints are 7-1 at home this season.
Jordan’s pick: Saints 34, Panthers 24
A good, old-fashioned NFC South matchup is on the books for Sunday evening. Drew Brees, the model of consistency, versus Cam Newton, the model of wild inconsistency. Carolina has the potential to be an elite team in this league but until Newton can play at a high level for more than two consecutive weeks, the Panthers aren’t to be taken seriously. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram and the rest of the Saints are going to take this one. New Orleans’ downfall has always been its defense but this year, things are different. The Saints are clicking on all cylinders and with Brees still playing at a high level, this game is the Saints’ to lose.
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