Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

Hear me out...The most courageous 2018 NFL Wildcard predictions

 

January 6, 2018

COURTESY/ MGN

The NFL playoffs are upon us and while every media outlet is giving boring bold predictions for the Wildcard round, only at the Northern Wyoming Daily News will you find the most courageous playoff picks.

Last year I went 9-2 with my picks, my only two losses were due to Aaron Rodgers going god-mode. To up the ante not only will I pick the winner straight up, I'm also going to include the spread. It will probably end in disaster because that's the only way it could go.

Let's get to it!

TENNESSEE TITANS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-9)

It's the annual "turd in the punchbowl" playoff game. Every year there's at least one game that has very little intrigue and it's played on Saturday afternoon, and usually reserved for the winner of the AFC South and/or Bengals. But since there were two AFC South teams to make the playoffs the NFL took the worst of the two.

The Titans are bad at football and I know they beat my Jags twice this season, I never thought they were better it was more of the Jags shooting themselves in the foot in the Week 2 matchup and having nothing to play for in Week 17.

The Chiefs have finally figured getting the ball into Kareem Hunt's hands is a good thing and their defense has been trending upwards, they've been flying under the radar.

Since their 1-6 midseason slump, the Chiefs have averaged 28 points while holding opponents to 16.25 points per game. You could argue that their opponents weren't up to snuff considering the Raiders, Chargers, Dolphins and Broncos missed the playoffs, and with exception of the Chargers, missed by a wide margin.

But the Chiefs took care of business and left little doubt who was the better team in those games, which is what you want. They'll do the same to the Titans who are easily the worst team in the playoffs.

Pick: Chiefs 31, Titans 13

ATLANTA FALCONS AT L.A. RAMS (-6.5)

For football viewing purposes this is my favorite game of the Wildcard slate. Two teams with fun offenses and fast defenses.

The Rams are everyone's sexy pick to make the Super Bowl and deservedly so. First year and wizard head coach Sean McVay turned Jared Goff into a legit NFL QB and the Rams offense into a juggernaut by unleashing RB Todd Gurley.

Former Rams coach Jeff Fisher gets kicked around a lot for being the definition of mediocre, but if there was ever an indictment of his coaching it's that McVay took essentially the same group of guys and turned them into Super Bowl contenders.

For all the love surrounding the Rams I am shockingly, and possibly foolishly, rolling with the Falcons to win Saturday night.

I know the Falcons have looked off all season long and have found creative ways to lose games, yet, I can't shake this feeling that they have a playoff run in them.

Here is why.

My senior year in high school I was part of the 2006 Greybull boys basketball championship team. Throughout the regular season we never could seem to get going, we won plenty of games but couldn't pick up wins against other state contenders. And in the final leg of the season we ended with a dud during which we were blown out by Rocky Mountain.

Outside our locker room, hope wasn't too high for us making it through regionals.

As a team though everyone was locked in because the previous season ended by going two-and-out at regionals after cruising through the regular season and going undefeated in conference play. Not wanting to repeat that, guys were focused and ready to go, there were voluntary, early morning shootarounds to which most of the team showed up for and everyone knew their roles.

By no means did we roll through regionals and state, we did lose once to Lyman during the regional championship, each game was tough and hard fought. But even when we were trailing in some games there was never a sense of panic, everyone was calm and knew they had to do their jobs to regain the lead.

That's the feeling I'm getting with the Falcons, they slogged through the regular season and now when it matters most they know what they have to do to redeem themselves from their Super Bowl LI catastrophe.

Pick: Falcons 34, Rams 31 - (If the Falcons lose they are forever dead to me.)

BUFFALO BILLS AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (-9)

The Jags did not end the season well with back-to-back losses against below average teams, the Titans and San Francisco 49ers. Making it worse, since I went all in on Blake Bortles two weeks ago he's turned in his two worst games of the season.

Yet, for all the shakiness surrounding Bortles and the Jags there has been encouraging signs, even though they played poorly they were still in those games. I know it's weird and sounds like a rattled fan grasping at air, but if your bad game means you're down a score I'll take it. Because all it takes is one play to flip a game, just ask Baltimore.

The Bills won't win the Super Bowl but they should be invited to the White House nonetheless. They battled adversity all season long, not only from their opponents but also their front office who actively tried to tank. They're the NFL version of the Cleveland Indians in "Major League," odds stacked against them and yet they go and make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

On a side note, the videos of Bills players and fans celebrating when the Bengals beat the Ravens will never get old and reasons #85, #133-222 and #482 why sports are the best.

The Bills making the playoffs in such dramatic fashion will be one of this NFL season's highlights. That being said making the postseason is the Bills "Super Bowl." As bad as the Jags have been the last two weeks the Bills are the perfect team to right the ship against.

The Bills are essentially a cure-all for the Jags.

The Jags run game has been inconsistent the past two months and along come the Bills who are one of the worst rush defenses in the league, ranking 29th.

The Bills lifeblood and best player, running back LeSean McCoy, is nursing an ankle injury and questionable for the game, giving Jacksonville's defense a chance to regain that edge they had for most the season.

The Jags will roll the Bills (Sorry mom!) and head to Pittsburgh to take on Big Ben and the Steelers in a rematch of Week 5

Pick: Jags 25, Bills 13

CAROLINA PANTHERS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-6.5)

Both teams are good, have beaten top-tiered opponents and have the potential to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Yet, I'm not confident that either will make it past the Divisional round and, oddly enough, I'm down on both because of their quarterbacks.

Cam Newton is among my favorite players to watch, watching a guy his size play quarterback is a lot of fun and the cannon he has for an arm is incredible. But, he's been up and down all season long, just when you think he's getting on a role he puts up a clunker.

The good thing about Cam is you know what Cam performance you're going to see within the Panthers first three possessions. Good Cam is relaxed in the pocket, has the defense on skates not knowing if he's going to throw or run and is rifling in pinpoint passes. Bad Cam holds the ball for too long, puts a little too much mustard on short throws and tries to make a 14-point play.

Cam's counterpart, Drew Brees has looked like Father Time caught up with him. Don't get me wrong Brees is still a top 5 QB in the league, but he's missed a few more throws than in year's past. His deep ball accuracy has dipped and some passes have hung in the air longer than you'd like. If the Saints are trailing by 10-plus points in the fourth I'm not as confident Brees can work his magic.

But this season the Saints haven't had to rely on Brees as much, their dynamic backfield of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have allowed them to run the ball a lot and rely on their defense.

If the Saints rely on their strengths of running the ball and playing stout defense they're going to beat the Panthers with ease like they did twice in the regular season.

Pick: Saints 35, Panthers 26

 
 

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