It’s hard to believe, but the NFL playoffs are here.
After 17 grueling weeks, the 2017 regular season came to a close and 12 teams were left standing. In the AFC, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers secured the top two seeds in the conference to secure a bye week, while the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings secured a bye in the NFC.
But while those four teams are sitting pretty until the Divisional round, there is still a lot of football that needs to be play—and it all starts this Saturday during the Wild Card Round.
Here’s a quick look at the AFC and NFC playoff standings and wild-card NFL playoff picture going into the weekend:
AFC Playoff Standings
1. New England Patriots (13-3)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
5. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
6. Buffalo Bills (9-7)
AFC Wild-Card Matchups
No. 6 Bills at No. 3 Jaguars: Sunday, Jan. 7, at 1:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
No. 5 Titans at No. 4 Chiefs: Saturday, Jan. 6, at 4:35 p.m. ET (ESPN/ABC)
NFC Playoff Standings
1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
2. Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
3. Los Angeles Rams (11-5)
4. New Orleans Saints (11-5)
5. Carolina Panthers (11-5)
6. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
NFC Wild-Card Matchups
No. 6 Falcons at No. 3 Rams: Saturday, Jan. 6, at 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)
No. 5 Panthers at No. 4 Saints: Sunday, Jan. 7, at 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
Buffalo Bills vs Jacksonville Jaguars
For both teams, reaching the postseason has to be seen as a success in itself.
The Jaguars had been a laughing stock of the AFC—with the exception of the Cleveland Browns, of course—while the Bills just ended an 18-year playoff drought this season, thanks in part to a victory by the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.
Jacksonville is eerily similar to the Seattle Seahawks from a few years back: loaded with youth and talent on the defensive end and some question marks on offense, although Blake Bortles is no Russell Wilson.
The Bills have a slight edge at the quarterback position with Tyrod Taylor, but the Jaguars don’t need Bortles to win them a game just yet. Jacksonville’s defense and ability to run the ball with Leonard Fournette should be enough to keep the Bills at bay en route to a comfortable win.
Prediction: Jaguars defeat Bills, 24-14
Kansas City Chiefs vs Tennessee Titans
Will the real Marcus Mariota please stand up?
By setting social media on fire in Week 17 with an awe-inspiring stiff arm against the Jaguars defense on a third-down run for a first down, Mariota showed a bit of his dark, competitive side for the first time in his young NFL career.
As fun as it was to see the usually calm, cool and collected quarterback show some grit during a game, he’ll need a lot more than just a tough demeanor to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday.
The Chiefs are a generous team, as they’ve shown at times this season. After all, this is a team that has the league’s leading rusher in Kareem Hunt, an experienced playoff quarterback in Alex Smith, a stout defense and an electrifying wideout in Tyreek Hill.
The Titans might be able to hang out early on, but the Chiefs offense will be too much for the Titans to handle.
Prediction: Chiefs defeat Titans, 31-17
Los Angeles Rams vs Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons may be the Super Bowl runner-ups from last season, but they aren’t playing like that team did by any stretch of the imagination.
Atlanta was the most dynamic and explosive offense in the league last season. But for some reason, that magic is gone.
Blame it on nagging injuries or a change in play-calling with Kyle Shanahan now with the San Francisco 49ers, but it’s been a disappointing season for Falcons fans even though they’re in the playoffs.
The Falcons are running into a buzzsaw in the wild card as they take on a young, explosive team in the Los Angeles Rams. Sound familiar?
The Rams went from the league’s basement last season under Jeff Fisher to the league’s highest-scoring offense under first-year head coach Sean McVay. The Rams, loaded with playmakers such as Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, should be able to blow the Falcons out in what could be a shootout.
Prediction: Rams defeat Falcons, 28-21
New Orleans Saints vs Carolina Panthers
On paper, this looks to be one of the more intriguing games of Wild Card Weekend.
But under closer inspection, this game might not be as close as one might think. After all, the Saints have already beaten their NFC South rivals twice during the regular season.
In addition, the Saints are playing at home and will have the services of a healthy Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram at their disposable.
It’s difficult to completely rule out the Panthers’ chances, especially if Cam Newton can recapture his MVP form this postseason, but the Saints are a more complete football team that can run the ball at will and can still look to pass the ball 30-plus times a game with Drew Brees under center.
The combination of Kamara and Ingram will run wild on Carolina’s defense all game long in what looks to be a comfortable, double-digit victory for the home side.
Prediction: Saints defeat Panthers, 27-17
Source : Bleacher Report