The real season has arrived. After 17 weeks of football the cream has risen to the top. One key piece of advice from picking Wild Card weekend last year is this–don’t overthink the pick. Last season the favorites were a perfect 4-0 against the spread. This year we see some wacky spreads out there but remember there is a reason for that.
Let’s dive into the weekend’s slate and see if the favorites are in good shape once again.
CHIEFS (-9) over Titans
The Titans continue a trend of garbage six seeds in the AFC. To say this team stinks is an understatement. They’re a mirage of a team. On paper it looks like a solid team with stable quarterback situation and average defense. In real life is where everything becomes so mundane. Sure Marcus Mariota is okay. What else on this team is even worth mentioning? Derrick Henry? I’ll pass.
Give me Kareem Hunt. Give me Tyreek Hill. Give me Travis Kelce. Give me that Chiefs defense at home, where they have given up an average of 13.7 points over their last three games. This is a similar matchup to last year’s Steelers and Dolphins matchup. Talent wins out.
Prediction: Titans 16, Chiefs 27
RAMS (-6) over Falcons
This is my darkhorse for game of the week. The Rams sat their key guys in Week 17 to make sure they were at full strength this weekend. (They also wanted to fall to the fourth seed and avoid the Vikings in the next round.) If played properly this should be an offensive masterpiece. We know the Rams will be coming out with Todd Gurley early and often. We know the Rams defense is going to be swarming.
What we don’t know is what Falcons team we’re getting. They have the parts to throw up 30-plus in their sleep. Matt Ryan hasn’t been the same with Steve Sarkissian calling the plays. Still, it’s Ryan, Julio and two-headed backfield of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Mo Sanu is legit. The defense is no slouch either when locked in. Consistency has been the issue. Ryan and Sarkissian specifically have given no reason they should be trusted.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Rams 34
JAGUARS (-8.5) over Bills
This is one game I would not be mad I missed. Placed in the wackest timeslot one can draw during the playoffs, it deserves the distinction. The key to this game is extremely simple. Blake Bortles plays average to good, the Jaguars roll to a win. He can simply just exist in the three seconds between hike and getting Leonard Fournette the ball. Sprinkle in some passes and call it a day.
The other is Bortles completely shits the bed, allows a Bills team that will be with a wounded LeSean McCoy to hang around. Luckily the Jags defense is good enough to win this game. They have been the best unit all season and have proven to be the best form of offense at times. I trust Jalen Ramsey to lock up Kelvin Benjamin and the front (which includes former Bill Marcell Dareus) to contain McCoy. If the Bills win then this shit is rigged.
Prediction: Bills 7, Jaguars 20
SAINTS (-7) over Panthers
Can you really beat the same team three times in one season? Of course. Each game is its own separate event. In each matchup between the Saints and Panthers it has been the Saints with the superior team. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are a defensive nightmare. Michael Thomas is sure-handed and Drew Brees is a czar. There is no magic behind them putting up 30 points in both games, they’re better.
While all that is true, Cam Newton should still be feared a little bit…right? Not exactly. Cam’s signature games this year have come against the Dolphins, Packers and Lions. You see a trend? Those defense all stunk. Against playoff teams he went 4-4 this season but threw eight touchdowns to eleven interceptions. I have thought this team was a fraud all season but they hung around. I think this is the weekend they get exposed.
Prediction: Panthers 20, Saints 34
Last Week: 7-9