Wildcard Weekend: Saturday Preview

Written by Cody Manning

Tennessee Titans vs Kansas City Chiefs:

Start Time: 4:35 PM EST Standard Time

Offense: The Kansas City Chiefs will be entering with a Top 5 offense averaging 375.4 YPG and 25.9 PPG. The Tennessee Titans finished in the bottom ten of the league in offense averaging only 314 YPG and 20.9 PPG. Just based on those numbers alone, if this game turns into a shootout it would favor the Chiefs. If we look at the Quarterback position, then I would also say the Chiefs have that advantage with Alex Smith over Marcus Mariota. Smith has prior playoff experience plus he is coming off one of his best years in his career while Mariota has shown some regression this season.

While looking at the skill positions I would also lean towards the Chiefs as well. Their rookie running back Kareem Hunt lead the NFL with 1,327 yards. The Titans will be without Demarco Murray but have a young stud in Derrick Henry which they will be leaning on during a tough game in Arrowhead. I expect the Chiefs to heavily rely on Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in the passing game. Mariota will be looking a lot towards Delanie Walker’s way since there hasn’t been a receiver yet to go grab their #1 spot in Tennessee.

Advantage: Chiefs

Defense: The Titans will be entering in a better defensive state than the Chiefs this weekend. The Titans find themselves ranked in the top half of the league giving up 328 YPG and 22.3 PPG. The Chiefs defense is quite opposite of their offense. They find themselves in the bottom five for defenses in 2017 giving up 366 YPG and 18.5 PPG. The Chiefs still have play makers on their defense between Marcus Peters, Justin Houston, and Reggie Ragland so they will depend on them to force turnovers.

The Titans have playmakers at all levels on their defense with players like Jurrell Casey, Brian Orakpo, Adoree Jackson, and Kevin Byard. The Titans defense is what kept them in games and helped lead the team to the playoffs when the offense was still trying to find their identity throughout the season. It will be up to them if the Titans want to leave Arrowhead with a win.

Advantage: Titans

Special Teams: The Chiefs behind the leg of Harrison Butker lead the league with most field goals made this season with 41. Butker also didn’t miss an extra point this season. The Titans came in fifth with 35 field goals made. The Titans had the best punting net average with 45.9 YDS and Chiefs came in ninth with 42.6 YDS. Both teams have a legitimate threat in the returning game between Tyreek Hill and Adoree Jackson. They are even when it comes to this side of the ball, but I slightly give the Chiefs the advantage because of Harrison Butker’s performance this season.

Advantage: Chiefs

Coaching: I honestly feel like I don’t need to spend much time on this because I feel like any football fan knows who has the advantage on this. We have a proven winner in Andy Reid who had plenty of playoff experience versus a coach in Mike Mularkey who will be coaching his first playoff game, and based on reports he could be on his way out of Tennessee if the team doesn’t perform well Saturday.

Advantage: Chiefs

Prediction: I feel like this game will be a defensive battle throughout the first half while the teams figure each other out. Arrowhead is a very tough place to play in and it will be very cold so both teams will be relying on their running games. The Chiefs win games when they give the ball to Hunt so I expect Hunt to have a big game on the ground leading to a victory for the Chiefs. I see Mariota struggling in Arrowhead in his first playoff game and the Chiefs force some turnovers to run away with the win. Side prediction: Darrelle Revis gets his first interception as a Chief.

Chiefs win 31–17

Atlanta Falcons vs Los Angeles Rams:

Start time: 8:15 PM EST Standard Time

Offense: We could be in store for a very entertaining game on this side of the ball from both teams. We find them in the top ten in total YPG with the Falcons averaging 364.8 and the Rams averaging 361.5. The biggest difference is that the Rams find ways to put points on the board as they led the league in 2017 averaging 29.9 PPG. Even though the Rams average over seven more points then the Falcons did, the great thing for the Falcons is that they have the weapons to get into a shootout if that happens.

The Falcons have one of the best groups of skill players in the league that includes Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, and Mohamed Sanu. The Falcons biggest problem this season has been inconsistency on this side of the ball since the departure of Kyle Shanahan. Matt Ryan will need play at the level that he did during last year’s playoffs as he had some ups and downs in the 2017 season. The Rams will depend heavily on MVP candidate Todd Gurley like they did all season. The Rams enter the playoffs with one of the best trios of wide receivers with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Sammy Watkins. Jared Goff proved doubters which included myself wrong this season with his progression in 2017. Consistency wins this one.

Advantage: Rams

Defense: The Falcons enter the game with a top ten defense in total YPG allowed with only giving up 318.4 and held teams to 19.7 PPG. The Rams found themselves on the bottom half of the league giving up 339.6 YPG and 20.6 PPG. Even though they may give up more yards the Rams hold their own when it comes to defense. They have arguably one of the best players in the NFL in Aaron Donald.

He alone can change a game and disrupt a team’s game plan. They also have playmakers on that side of the ball from Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn, and Trumaine Johnson. The Falcons have a fast defense and they have them at all levels. At any point of the game they have players like Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, and Desmond Trufant that can change momentum to the Falcons. I feel like these defenses are even but if I must choose I would lean towards the Rams because of Aaron Donald.

Advantage: Rams

Special Teams: While Rams finished the season with the second most field goals made, they didn’t finish the season with Greg Zuerlein who is one of the best kickers in the league. The Falcons already have an advantage with veteran kicker Matt Bryant. The Rams still have one of the best punters in the league if somehow ends up being a defensive matchup. The Rams do have a better threat in the return game with Pharoh Cooper. In the end I give the Falcons the advantage due to the loss of Zuerlein if the game came down to a field goal.

Advantage: Falcons

Coaching: We have two sides to the coin when it comes to coaching. We have a coach in Dan Quinn who has playoff coaching experience that includes a Super Bowl run last year. While he could be remembered for blowing the infamous 28–3 lead, he still has more experience in the playoff football then Sean McVay. Now that is no knock against McVay who is the youngest coach in history who helped re-surge the Rams and end their long playoff drought. McVay may not have the experience but he’s got the right things going his team’s way entering the playoffs.

Advantage: Rams

Prediction: This game has all the makings to be an exciting shootout with the offenses that will be stepping on the field Saturday night. I expect Todd Gurley to shine under the lights in LA as he puts on a show to prove why he is this year’s MVP. I see the Falcons keeping up with the Rams for most of the game, but based on their season I see them stalling at some point of the game. This will lead to the most consistent offense of the league to taking momentum and the lead for good.

Rams win 30–23


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