Potential Wild Card Weekend
Despite many NFL Sundays still ahead, it’s intriguing to ponder the potential matchups for the 2017-18 NFL Playoffs. With many surprises in the playoff picture, wild card weekend could in fact “be wild.” At the start of the season I did not anticipate Jacksonville to ever hold the AFC wild card lead. Yet here we are, just past the halfway point of the season, and the 5-3 Jags are even threatening for first in their division. With that said, if the playoffs started today, here’s what we would have to look forward to wild card weekend.
(5)Jacksonville @ (4)Tennessee
This inner divisional matchup would be a great way to kick off the NFL playoffs. Having two teams play each other three times in one season presents so much drama. Especially when considering these two close out the regular season against each other in Tennessee. If these two squared up in back to back weeks, the tension would be hot, leading to a brutal battle on the gridiron. The Jacksonville defense gave up a horrifying 37 points to the Titans in week two of the season. Since then, however, their defense has been rock solid, leading the league in opponent points per game average at just 14.6 (TeamRankings.com). The Jaguars are clawing for a rematch with Tennessee, and getting that chance twice in two weeks presents a fun watch for all football fans.
(6)Buffalo @ (3)Kansas City
The Chiefs came out the gate this season with a dominating first five weeks. It wasn’t until hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers, that things went south in Kansas City. The Chiefs have dropped three of their last four games, as they head into a desperately needed bye week. The Buffalo Bills have had some impressive wins of their own, but have a tough schedule up ahead. One of those games happens to be in Kansas City. What makes this such an exciting matchup, is Buffalo leads the league in turnover differential, and Kansas City falls one spot behind them at number two (ESPN.com). Because both teams protect the ball and like to cause turnovers, this game could come down to a single fault. Every play will matter, and everyone will have to play to perfection. Luckily, we don’t have to wait long to see this potential wildcard matchup. Buffalo’s regular season trip to Kansas City is just three weeks away.
(5)Carolina @ (4)Los Angeles (Rams)
Perhaps the most entertaining team to watch, the Rams, bring to the table a dominating offensive scheme. Los Angeles has put up absurd numbers this season, while Carolina’s strong defensive efforts have kept scores low. Carolina has definitely had the tougher schedule through this point of the season, having played New England, Philadelphia and Buffalo. Los Angeles, on the other hand, has faced an easier group of teams including Indianapolis, San Francisco and the New York Giants. Their win in Dallas was definitely impressive, but the game was a shootout, and that simply won’t happen against the Panthers. In order for the Rams to advance past wildcard weekend, they will need to wear down Carolina’s defense early and often. If the Rams are going to fall to Carolina, it will be because the Panthers control the tempo throughout the game, and that tempo will be very slow.
(6)Dallas @ (3)Minnesota
The funny thing about this matchup is it’s almost exactly like the Carolina-Los Angeles matchup. At this point in the season, Dallas is fourth in the NFL in points per game (TeamRankings.com). Minnesota, on the other hand, is third in the NFL in opponent points per game (Team Rankings.com). Both teams have won some games in impressive fashion, but the upper-hand definitely goes to the Vikings. Despite losing their starting quarterback at the start of the season, the Vikings have been able to craft a solid string of wins over the past few weeks. In two weeks Minnesota will host the Rams, which will be a strong indicator of how this potential matchup could unfold. Similarly, the Cowboys will host Seattle, who is a defensive powerhouse, thus allowing a “scrimmage” for what they could see against the Vikings. A final factor to ponder, who will be under center for the Vikings come January…?
Much will change in the playoff race between now and January. Some teams will drop the ball, while others will snag a spot in the playoffs. When I first heard these were the eight teams currently slated for wild card weekend, I was a bit shocked. After breaking down the matchups, I think wild card weekend will set the stage for an extremely entertaining playoffs.