The NFL Playoffs have arrived, and while that does make me a little sad, it has also presented us with a full slate of intriguing playoff matchups. Last year all home favorites advanced on Wild Card weekend, and all four home teams are similarly favored this weekend. But there is familiarity among these teams heading into the postseason, and that can prove dangerous for bettors leaning on Vegas expectations.
Let’s take a look at all four games, and see who football-minded Heavy contributors picked to advance:
Titans vs. Chiefs
The Scoop: The Chiefs, who looked like Super Bowl favorites three weeks into the regular season, awoke from their midseason slump and won their final four regular season games to capture the AFC West. They’re the home favorite over the Titans, who sneaked into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. It’s a battle of star running backs, as Derrick Henry gets the solo work against rushing title winner and OROY candidate Kareem Hunt.
The Spread: Chiefs favored by 8, total is 44.5
The Picks: Everyone here is on the Chiefs except for me and Jon Adams. Tennessee actually beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead last year, and they did it in the least likely way. The Titans were down 14-0 early before rallying in the final quarter to win on a 53-yard field goal by former Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop. A similar script could easily play out on Saturday.
Falcons vs. Rams
The Scoop: The Rams have achieved a full franchise 180, and now host their first playoff game since relocating to Los Angeles. They draw the defending NFC Champion Falcons, who didn’t live up to the title this season but earned their way in nonetheless. The Rams are battle-tested, faced four other playoff teams (2-2) since week 11. The Falcons, who entered the playoffs last year as an offensive juggernaut, have not scored more than 30 points in five straight weeks.
The Spread: Rams -5.5, total is 48
The Picks: We’re split 5-3 on this one, with the majority including myself taking the Rams. One cause for concern could be the perceived home-field advantage, as the Rams have struggled to sell out the stadium before Saturday.
Bills vs. Jaguars
The Scoop: Two teams that finished a combined 10-22 last year are meeting in the postseason, with the Bills reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1999. The question here is Shady McCoy’s ankle, as the star running back represents the majority of Buffalo’s offense. His absence could equal a long day for the Tyrod Taylor against this Jaguars defense, which recently had four starters named to the Pro Bowl.
The Spread: Jags -8.5, total is 39.5
The Picks: We’re all on the Jaguars except for Craig Bennett, and his logic was simple: “I don’t really trust the Jags.” Fair enough. Blake Bortles somewhat regressed to end the regular season, throwing five interceptions in the final two weeks.
Panthers vs. Saints
The Scoop: The weekend closes in the Superdome, where the Saints and Panthers meet for the third time this season. The Saints swept the series and scored over 30 points in each matchup, but the Panthers have been one of the league’s best teams in the second half of the season. Cam Newton remains the focal point of the Panthers offense, and the mobile QB has scored a TD in nine straight games.
The Spread: Saints -7, total is 47.5
The Picks: We’re all on the Saints to win a third straight over the Panthers except for Effie, but she’s a Patriots fan so she really doesn’t care until next week.
Final Pick Grid: