Baylor and I weigh in on our predictions for this weekend’s games.
TEN @ KC ESPN 4:35
Jules: Arrowhead Stadium is loud and cold, not a great place to be in when you’re a team without experience in a play off. Plus, this is a Saturday game and they’re traveling. A lot of strikes against them. What TN does have is a run game and a scrambling QB two things the Chiefs struggle against.
Whe TN faced the Jags, they had two things that sealed their win: Bortles’ turnovers, ST turnover and they allowed two big run plays. Overall, Alex Smith has been one of the least turnover QBs to play in he league. They also have a ST teams unit that’s pretty good.
Mariotta”s passing game, well, that’s been inconsistent, to be kind. Good thing the Chiefs defense, especially without Eric Berry has been, too. This will be about match-ups. Alex Smith is a better QB than Marcus. Tyrek Hill is better than Eric Decker, Kareem Hunt is slightly better than Derrick Henry, same with Travis Kelce and Delanie Walker.
Andy Reid is a better coach than Mularkey, as long as he doesn’t get cute or is faced with a clock management question. TN’s defense isn’t a good match-up up against Smith who will be able to dissect and pick them apart. Minus some epic mistakes or some flukes, KC should win. Better team, QB, roster and it’s at home. In addition, first time QBs in the POs are 1-10 since 2013.
Baylor: Kansas City: While KC had it’s down point in the year, they do have a relatively healthy team coming into this game. Home field advantage paired with playing a team that struggles on the road should lead to a win for the Chiefs. While I don’t expect it to be a blowout, I cannot see the Titans hanging with the KC offense much more than a half.
Kansas City’s offensive weapons should prove to me more than an average Tennessee defense can handle.
ATL @ LA NBC 8:15
Jules: another east coast team traveling west; however, no cold for Atlanta. Obviously, Matt Ryan and Dan Quinn have all the experience in playing in the post season, whereas Jared Goff and Sean McCoy don’t. Luckily for them, Wade Phillips does.
The Rams have five All-Pros. Gurley on Offense, Donald on Defense and three on ST, their kicker, punter and kick returner. That’s a lot of fire power. Atlanta will have one job to do and that’s stop Gurley. Make Jared Goff throw. They may have the highest scoring offense; however, it’s wrspped around their run game. Remove it and it’s not great.
For LA, they need to Donald to do his thing and if he can’t get Ryan, at least throw off his rhythm so the rest of that defense can get to work. Atlanta’s Offense isn’t one dime signal which LA will have it’s hands full. And while Ryan isn’t Mr Scrambler, he can and will run if the pocket breaks down.
The more experienced team should win. I’m not so sure. Atlanta didn’t get in the POs by outstanding ding play, they kind of backed into it. They’re losing a day of practice and traveling. I think this evens the playing field.
It’ll boil down to who turns the ball over least because I think these two teams are evenly matched when you break it down. I’m picking Wade Phillips to have the better evening.
Baylor: Los Angles: Despite the lack of experience on this team, the Rams have continued to impress throughout the year. Facing a hot and cold team, Jared Goff needs to bring his A-game if he wants to beat an experienced post season Atlanta looking for redemption.
If not he teams show up and play their best, LA’s high-powered offense should overrun a question Falcons defense. The key for Atlanta is to minimize the damage done to give Matt Ryan an opportunity to find Julio. Both teams have star running backs that need to get going to give their QBs breathing room.
This should be a pretty close game, but as we all know, Atlanta has an issue closing out games. If the game is close in the last 5 minutes, LA should be able to close the game out. The only chance I’m really giving Atlanta is if they jump out to large first half lead. Even then, I still don’t trust their defense to hold firm.
BUF @ JAX 1:05 CBS
Jules: Doug Marrone coaching his old team. Rubs hands together. That should make a difference, but teams change a lot in a couple of years, so not sure it will matter. What will is McCoy being far from 100%. That hurts not only their run game, but their passing because I believe he’s also their leading receiver. Yikes. Plus, they’re losing a day of practice and Jags don’t have to change a thing. 6-2 at home and all but one game at 1:00.
Their second rusher is Tyrod, so not exactly a typical team. Reduce McCoh’s role and it has to go somewhere and that’ll be on Tyrod. Not just to throw, but scramble as well. Jags have struggled against QBs who can do this. See Tennessee Titans. Mariota gained 60 yards against them and it was the difference.
Sure Sacksonville has Campbell and Jackson to strike terror; but, it’ll be up to Darius to earn his keep and stop the run.
Both QBs are in their first PO game and on teams who forgot what one looks like, this levels things. I like Jags coaching staff better, their defense better and their special teams better. How Marrone and Heckert call this game for Bortles will be the game winner or breaker. Blake isn’t known as Mr Reliable, but get him in the RZ and he’s money.
Jags need to use Fournette, Grant and Ivory as much as possible, so the play action can work. That’s where they can beat a pretty good Bills defense. Mercedes Lewis should be used often, he’ll help sell it, plus he and B.B. have a connection. While Lee will be back, it’s Westbrook who’s the real threat.
This game is on Bortles. He has every tool he needs to win. It’s also a lot of pressure on him because he’s playing for his job. If Jax decides to move on, there’s not a single FA QB who wouldn’t kill for this team and the price, literally, is right. Plus, with a team so loaded with talent and now a destination, they could move up in the draft and grab a QB. You can bet their agents will be working their phones.
Tyrod is sort of in the same boat. His job is also on the line, but Buffalo isn’t a top destination for any QB. How he plays will determine his future, too. Starter in Buff going forward or back-up elsewhere. I foresee both guys making mistakes, but Jags defense makes up for their QB.
Baylor: Jacksonville: While Buffalo has a habit of play teams better than them close, but without home field I don’t give the Bills too much of a chance. While this game will be a battle of defenses, I think it’s clear the Jags D is superior, and the Bills offense is not that much better than the Jags to make up for that gap. Clear winner in this one.
CAR @ NO
Jules: New Orleans. This is the lone division game all weekend, which gives NO the leg up because they know this team well and they’re at home. The Panthers will have to change their game plan up. Ron Rivera is in the middle of contract negotiations, is that distraction from dialing up something new?
Carolina’s biggest weapon and biggest bomb is Newton. When he gets cocky with the ball, he loses it and the team bombs. When he’s careful, he’s tough to beat. He’s still not and probably will never be great in the pocket, so that’s where to attack him. And where Lattimore can feast. Contain Cam, make him throw and use the secondary to defeat him.
This will only work though if he can’t throw deep. We see time and time again on 50/50 jump balls, CBs rarely come away with it. They may knock it down, but an interception? Not so much. NO will need to swarm him.
As far as Carolina stopping the Saints rush, good luck with that. Brees and a run game, at home? Going to be a tough day for the guys in that blue.
Baylor: New Orleans: I have a strong feeling that this game will be a shootout. Two pro bowl running backs, a HOF quarterback, and special fire for their signal caller leaves the Saints as a favorite. While the Panthers are only a year removed from a Super Bowl, I can’t see the Carolina Secondary stopping Drew Breeze backed by two of the NFC’s premier backs.
Following a surprisingly successful season, the Saints are playing to bring their beloved quarterback another ring before retirement. Carolina has not impressed me this year, and have barely gotten away with a few wins that lead to them landing a wild card. Also based on previous match ups in the regular season, the Panthers have no business winning this game.