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After one of the wildest Week 17's in recent memory and what felt like an extremely short season, we've finally made it to the playoffs. The AFC is very weak. The wild card teams have no shot at reaching the Super Bowl. The four division champs do. Over to the NFC, all six teams can make the Super Bowl.

Nothing will surprise me there. Even a rematch of last year's Super Bowl. We've seen three Cavs-Warriors finals in a row, two consecutive Alabama-Clemson championships, North Carolina basketball reach the championship two years in a row, and the Penguins win back-to-back Cups. Is it so out fo the realm to get a Falcons Patriots rematch.

I will be attempting to seek perfection in the impossible playoff challenge; the immaculate 11-0 against the spread perfect postseason.

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CHIEFS -9 vs. Titans

Saturday 4:30

All season long, I've consistently said the Titans are so overrated with an anemic offense straight from the 90's. Their offense is run, run, then a 5-yard pass way short of the sticks. That's partly due to them being 18th in yards per play. Marcus Mariota took a giant step back this year. His yards per attempt dipped from 7.6 to 7.1, and his passer rating fell from 95 to 79. More shocking was the fact that Deshaun Watson, who played in SIX games, threw for 19 touchdowns, while Mariota threw for 13 in 15 games. That wasn't a typo. You read that correctly. It's even more scary that Mariota's threw 13 touchdowns to 15 picks. Additionally (from The Action Network), he "has performed substantially worse on the road this season (8 TDs/4 INTs at home vs. 5 TDs/11 INTs on the road)."

Now the Chiefs defense has struggled at times, but they step up when it counts. They've played exceptional in primetime, not including the Thursday night road game in Oakland where they had four days rest; they held Tom Brady, Kirk Cousins, and Phillip Rivers to under 300 passing yards and a combined 7.20 opponent Y/A. That was also Brady's second-worst passer rating all year and Rivers's two worst games. The've created multiple turnovers in their past four games, are second in turnover differential, and seventh in takeaways. That doesn't bode well for a Titans team who's given the ball away an average of twice on the road (29th).

Worried about the Chiefs offense? Don't be. They've turned the ball over the least amount of times in the entire league. That's in part because Alex Smith had a career year. He threw for 4,000 yards for the first time ever, set career highs in touchdowns, 26, passer rating, 104.7, and Y/A, eight, with five interceptions. It wasn't like he was throwing dinks and dunks like Mariota was. The Chiefs were second in yards per play, fifth in points per game, 26, and tied for third in 40+ yard plays (the Titans had six such all year).  The Titans have a defense ranked 21st in DVOA, and as much as they've taken care of their cake schedule, they will struggle to slow down Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Kareem Hunt.

Andy Reid gets a bad knack for the playoffs, and rightly so. His postseason record is 11-12, and he'll do something stupid with the clock. That you can count on. However, Reid has made the playoffs 12 times in his career, and only four of those times has he lost in the team's playoff opener.

The Chiefs may struggle to stop the run, but I don't see how the Titans can keep pace with the Chiefs in Arrowhead. I'll lay the points.

Prediction: Chiefs 30 - Titans 13

 

Falcons +6.5 @ RAMS

Saturday 8:00

Doesn't the line seem two points too high? Is Vegas begging us to bet the Falcons or are they completely miscalculating this game?

The Falcons have struggled on offense this year and something is off. For a team that scored 30 points in 12 games last season, excluding the playoffs, they've broken 30 just four times. How are they only ranked 15th in points scored, one season after scoring a league leading 34.1 points, the most since the Broncos averaged 36.4 in 2013. The next best team last was second with 29.3 points. To compare that to this year, the Rams led the league with 29.9 and the Pats were second with 28.6.

Since 2015, the Falcons are 4-2 on the road on the West Coast. The two losses have been by a combined three points. One of those games was the non pass-interference on Julio Jones in Seattle. They are a dome team so playing in a warm stadium is enormously beneficial. Their entire offense relies on Matt Ryan's playmaking ability. Last year was an anomaly. Just check his career stats. He will need to play as well as he did last season for them to compete. Atlanta has the players, talent and experience. Can they execute against a top-10 defense coached by Wade Phillips?

The Rams offense reliably heavily on Todd Gurley. He accounted for 36% of the Rams offense. Atlanta's head coach, Dan Quinn, was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks in 2013 and 2014 when they went to back-to-back Super Bowls. He knows how to coach a defense and will have a game plan to slow down Gurley. The Rams also love throwing the deep ball and are extremely effective doing it. They rank seventh in 20+ yard pass plays and fifth in 40+ yard plays. However, the Falcons have allowed the eighth least 20+ yard plays, and only four 40+ yard plays, ranking fourth. The Rams are the young fun team that kind of reminds me of the Eagles under Chip Kelly in 2013 when they won the NFC East. LeSean McCoy had a great season like Gurley. Nick Foles had an incredible year like Goff. Kelly was the young hot coach of the NFL, like McCoy. And, they ended up losing in the first round to the Saints at home.

This could come down to a field goal and the Rams lost their stud kicker Greg Zuerlein a couple weeks ago. I think the Falcons win this one a really tight battle.

Prediction: Falcons 30 - Rams 27

 

JAGUARS -9 vs. Bills

Sunday 1:00

This game will be determined if LeSean McCoy plays or not. He's "accounted for more than 32% of the Bills' yards this season (3rd highest percentage in the NFL).

The Bills are the worst ranked playoff team per DVOA with a total DVOA rank of 21, offensive, 26, and defensive, 15.

What makes me nervous is the Bills are celebrating like they've made it to the Super Bowl. It's their first trip to the playoffs in 18 seasons, first this millennium, so naturally the fans and players are going to be hyped. But will they head into Sunday with the mindset of happy to be there, or wanting to prove they were a deserving playoff team?

The Jags number one ranked pass defense will feast on Tyrod Taylor. They were second in sacks and Taylor takes 3.01 seconds to get rid of the pass, bottom three in the league. Simply put, they have the best defense in the league. We all know that. But did you know they were the number one rushing team in the league averaging 141 yards per game. That's not good news for a Buffalo defense that was bottom five against the run allowing 124 yards per game. They will also struggle to get pressure on Blake Bortles. The Bills had 27 sacks, bottom five in the league. Even after all those stats, I still believe the defensive minded Sean McDermott will load up to stop the run, and make Bortles beat them.

Earlier in the week I liked the Bills to cover, but this stat was the telltale sign. The Jags are fifth in first quarter points while Buffalo is 31st.  The Jags will get off to an early lead, and let the defense take control.

And, if for somehow, it's a close game, maybe we'll get a Music City Miracle repeat. Too soon?

Prediction: Jaguars 23 - Bills 10

 

SAINTS -7 vs. Panthers

Sunday 4:30

This will be the third time these teams will meet this season. The Saints defeated the Panthers in Week 3, 34-13, and in Week 13, 31-21. New Orleans is a top-five offense predicated on outside runs and 5-yard screens to Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. The major factor of this game will rely on Carolina setting the edge? Can they contain Ingram and Kamara and force the Saints to play a different game than they're used to? The Panthers are 27th in open-field tackling and that's not good news for them. However, they were eighth against the run this year. Carolina is not good against the pass. Since their bye in week 11, they've allowed Robbie Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Adam Thielen, and Mike Evans to go over 100 receiving yards. They are simply awful in the secondary. If they can't stop the run, they will have no chance to slow down Michael Thomas.

Will the real Cam Newton please stand up? This is the main other factor for this game. He's thrown for over 300 yards twice all year and that was in Week 5 and 6. He's thrown the most interceptions since his rookie year and had his lowest Y/A, 6.7, in his career. But if there's one player who can be all of a sudden play like a star, it's him. He is so mercurial. You just never know which Newton you will get.

Eight of the Saints wins have been by double-digits, the other three were by nine, eight and three. It's terrifying to go against Newton in the playoffs, but the Saints will get out to an early lead. They've scored the second-most first quarter points, 6.7, and nine over their last three, while Carolina was 18th with with 3.7. The Saints will get out to an early lead, Newton will get off to a slow start and never recover in a raucous environment.

Preditciton: Saints 34 - Panthers 24

Best of luck!