NFL Playoff Schedule 2018: Wild Card Weekend & Prediction

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.

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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:

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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

NFL playoff standings: Clinching scenarios for Week 15

Five teams had the opportunity to punch their playoff tickets last week, but only the Steelers and Eagles did. Four more teams can join the state of Pennsylvania in the postseason by clinching a spot in Week 15.

The Vikings, Rams, and Jaguars can end postseason droughts, long and short, with victories Sunday — and in Los Angeles’ case, a little outside help. For the Patriots, a win against the Steelers would not only secure a ninth straight AFC East title but put the club back in the driver’s seat in the race for home-field advantage in the conference.

Other winning teams like the Panthers, Saints, Falcons, and Seahawks will have to wait at least one more week before making January travel plans. Here’s how six teams can either qualify for the playoffs or improve their postseason standings this weekend.

Who’s in the NFL playoffs 2018 right now, and how did they get there?

The Eagles completed a worst-to-first story by clinching the NFC East title with last week’s victory over the Rams, but it came at a price. Philadelphia lost MVP candidate Carson Wentz to a torn ACL and now will have to turn to Nick Foles at quarterback through the rest of the season and the playoffs. For what it’s worth, Foles is 3-0 over the past two seasons in games where he’s thrown at least 10 passes.

Philly is joined in the clinch club by its in-state, cross-league rival. The Steelers earned the AFC North crown by virtue of a come-from-behind win last Sunday night over the Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in league history to throw for 500-plus yards in three different games, and Antonio Brown kept his MVP pace on target as Pittsburgh came back from a 38-29 deficit with 3:30 to play and stun its biggest rival. That marked the Steelers’ third division title in the past four seasons.

What’s next for the teams that are already in?

Even though the Steelers and Eagles are already playoff-bound, they’ve still got plenty to play for. Each team has the higher ground is in its conference’s battle for home-field advantage — and each can ensure the road to the Super Bowl runs through its city this weekend.

Pittsburgh Steelers clinch homefield advantage with:

  • a win over the Patriots AND a Jaguars loss/tie vs. the Texans

Pittsburgh Steelers clinch a first-round bye with:

  • a win over the Patriots OR
  • a tie against the Patriots AND a Jaguars loss to the Texans

Philadelphia Eagles clinch homefield advantage with:

  • a win over the Giants AND a Vikings loss to the Bengals

Philadelphia Eagles clinch a first-round bye with:

  • a win over the Giants OR
  • a tie against the Giants AND a Rams loss/tie against the Seahawks AND a Saints loss/tie against the Jets AND a Panthers loss/tie against the Packers

OK, so who can get in with a win this week?

Three teams control their own destiny when it comes to locking down a playoff spot Sunday. The Patriots wasted last week’s opportunity to clinch when they lost to the Dolphins on Monday night. But they can still lock down the AFC East title with a win — any win. The Vikings are in a similar position; one victory (or tie) makes them NFC North champs for the second time in three years.

The Jaguars can’t clinch a division title yet, but beating the punchless Texans would end a 10-year playoff drought in Jacksonville. Here are all the ways those three teams can punch their postseason dance tickets this weekend.

New England Patriots clinch the AFC East title with:

  • a win/tie against the Steelers OR
  • a Bills loss/tie against the Dolphins

New England Patriots clinch a playoff spot with:

  • a Ravens loss/tie against the Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars clinch a playoff spot with:

  • a win over the Texans OR
  • a tie against the Texans AND a Bills loss/tie against the Dolphins OR
  • a tie against the Texans AND a Ravens loss/tie against the Browns OR
  • a Bills loss to the Dolphins AND a Ravens loss to the Browns OR
  • a Ravens loss to the Browns AND the Chiefs-Chargers game doesn’t end in a tie (Update: No tie. The Chiefs won, 30-13.)

Minnesota Vikings clinch the NFC North title with:

  • a win/tie against the Bengals OR
  • a Lions loss/tie against the Bears AND a Packers loss/tie against the Panthers

Minnesota Vikings clinch a playoff spot with:

  • a Seahawks loss to the Rams AND a Falcons loss to the Buccaneers AND a Saints loss to the Jets OR
  • a Seahawks loss to the Rams AND a Falcons loss to the Buccaneers AND a Panthers loss to the Packers OR
  • a Seahawks loss to the Rams AND a Falcons loss to the Buccaneers AND a Lions loss/tie against the Bears OR
  • a Seahawks loss to the Rams AND a Falcons tie against the Buccaneers AND a Saints loss to the Jets AND a Lions loss/tie against the Bears OR
  • a Seahawks loss to the Rams AND a Falcons tie against the Buccaneers AND a Saints loss to the Jets AND Panthers loss to the Packers

Who can get in but needs more help?

The Rams can end a 13-year playoff drought in Week 15, but hoooo boy they’re gonna need some help.

Update: Thanks to the Lions’ 20-10 win over the Bears, the Rams can’t clinch this week.

Los Angeles Rams clinch a playoff spot with:

  • a win over the Seahawks AND a Lions loss/tie against the Bears AND a Packers loss/tie against the Panthers AND a Saints loss to the Jets AND a Falcons loss to the Buccaneers

Who’s in if the season ended today?

Here’s what the standings look like heading into Week 15:

AFC:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. New England Patriots
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Kansas City Chiefs
  5. Tennessee Titans
  6. Buffalo Bills

NFC:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Minnesota Vikings
  3. Los Angeles Rams
  4. New Orleans Saints
  5. Carolina Panthers
  6. Atlanta Falcons

Source : SBNation.com