To hardcore sports fanatics, the month of January signifies playoff football. Some may argue, that the wild card round offers up the most exciting playoff moments. Who can forget the “Music City Miracle” in 1999 ?, the 2003 playoff collapse of the NY Giants against the San Francisco 49ers ?, the birth of “Beast Mode” against the New Orleans Saints in 2010 ?, and WHO CAN FORGET the 2016 Wildcard matchup between the Seahawks and Vikings in which Blair Walsh missed a potential game-winning 27 yd field goal that would have knocked the reigning NFC champions, Seattle Seahawks, out of the first round.
The Wildcard round delivers thrilling moments and this year’s slate of matchups are sure to deliver some iconic moments. Here’s our preview of Wildcard Weekend.
Game 1. Saturday, January 6, 2018, at 4:35 pm ET on ABC
The Tennessee Titans are making their first playoff appearance since 2008 and the Kansas City Chiefs come into this matchup as the reigning AFC West champions for the second consecutive year. This is a game that has a lot riding on the outcome. According to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, if the Titans lose this game, head coach Mike Mularkey could be fired due to lack of development in star Quarterback, Marcus Mariota. However, current Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback, Alex Smith, future with the Chiefs could be decided based on this game. Smith is slated to be a free agent at the end of the season and the team already has Patrick Mahomes as their Quarterback of the future. Smith’s performance during this playoff run could decide his market value come free agency.
Prediction: Titans 14 Chiefs 27
Game 2. Saturday, January 6, 2018, at 8:15 pm ET on NBC
The Atlanta Falcons are looking for redemption after their meltdown in this past season’s Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. History has shown us that it is hard to overcome meltdowns such as the one the Falcons experienced last season. Their road to redemption begins tonight when they face the league’s youngest team, the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams feature all-pro running back and potential league MVP, Todd Gurley and all-pro Defensive End and potential Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald. The Rams also have a young and innovative offensive-minded head coach in the 31-year-old, Sean McVay. Are the Rams just happy to be in the playoff after a 14-year drought when they were then known as the St.Louis Rams or will they be looking to end the championship window of the Atlanta Falcons?
Prediction: Falcons 28 Rams 31
Game 3. Sunday, January 7 at 1:05 ET on CBS
This is the Buffalo Bills first playoff appearance since they fell victim to the “Music City Miracle” in 1999 and this is the Jacksonville Jaguars first appearance since 2007 when they had a whos who of key contributors that would someday make for a great Jeopardy question. The Buffalo Bills are in the playoffs due to another last-minute defensive mishap by the Baltimore Ravens; while, the Jags are in as the AFC South division champions, which is their first division title since 1999. However, only one team will be partying like it’s 1999 after this matchup is over.
Prediction: Bills 13 Jaguars 17
Game 4: Sunday, January 7, 2018, at 4:40 pm ET on Fox
The head to head quarterback matchup between Cam Newton and Drew Brees is the marquee matchup of the weekend. This will be the third meeting of the season between the Saints and the Panthers. The first two matchups were decided by ten points or more. However, this is playoff football which means that every team has a record of 0-0. Unfortunately, it might not make much of a difference as the Saints feature the most dynamic running back tandem in the league with Mark Ingram and rookie, Alvin Kamara. The Saints also now have a top defense to go along with their potent offense. My prediction is that we would see more of the same from the regular season.
Prediction: Panthers 17 Saints 31
Sound off in the comments with your thoughts and predictions on Wildcard weekend 2018.