January 04, 2018

Wild-card round NFL picks (and playoff bracket predictions)

Eagles NFL
010318MattRyan Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

"Jared, on the count of three, let's both stare at each other and open our mouths half way. Ready... 1-2-3..."

For the gambling degenerates, here are my NFL wild-card round picks. Oh, and my playoff bracket predictions. To note, the helmets indicate who I think will win the game, not cover the spread. At the end of the picks, I'll note a few teams that I like based on the spread.

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Titans at Chiefs (-9): The Titans got into the playoffs with a -22 point differential. In my view, there are at least five teams on the outside looking in that are better than Tennessee. I expect the Titans to be a quick exit in the first round to an experienced playoff team in the Chiefs.
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Falcons at Rams (-7): The Rams have a better roster, however, as we noted in our Hierarchy/Obituary earlier this week, in 2016 the Falcons played the Rams in LA, and blew them out, 42-14. Matt Ryan did whatever he wanted to the Rams defense, and Jared Goff had two turnovers returned for touchdowns against him. 

Over his career, Ryan is 4-0 against the Rams. Obviously, over the last decade-plus, the Rams have been trash, and looked nothing at all like the potent scoring machine they were in 2017. Still though, I wonder if the Falcons are to the Rams what the Seahawks are to the Eagles.

OK, I don't really buy what I'm selling there. Take the Rams to win, but I do like getting 7 points with the Falcons.

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Bills at Jaguars (-9): The Bills' locker room celebration was pretty cool last week when they watched the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens, allowing them to break a playoff appearance drought going all the way back to 1999. 


The Jaguars are a talented, but stupid team at times, though I think they'll hold it together enough to narrowly beat the over-matched Bills.

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Panthers at Saints (-7): Again, as noted in our Hierarchy this week, the Panthers were swept by the Saints in the regular season, and they were beaten handily in both games:

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According to David Newton and Mike Triplett of ESPN, 13 of the 20 times since the league merger in 1970 the team that won two regular-season games went on to win the playoff game in the third matchup. The last team to win in the playoffs over a team that swept them during the regular season was when the New York Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys during the 2007 season.

To get to the Super Bowl, the Panthers are going to have to win three straight road games, assuming the Falcons don't also advance to the NFC Championship Game. That is going to be an incredibly tough road, and it starts with a team that owned them this season. Their difficult run won't even get off the ground.


Aaaaaand, my official playoff bracket:

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• Picks against the spread: Falcons (+6.5), Bills (+9).

• Eagles picks: 13-3
• 2017 season, straight up: 175-81 (0.684)
• 2017 season, ATS: 31-30-2 (0.508)
• 2016 season, straight up: 171-94-2 (0.644)
• 2016 season, ATS:  41-34 (0.547)
• 2015 season, straight up: 163-93 (0.637)
• 2015 season, ATS: 46-30-2 (0.605)


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