April 25, 2018

The TGS NFL Playoff Pool: Wild Card Round

The calendar has changed to 2018, and with it, the NFL season has changed to the playoffs. 32 teams have been whittled down to 12, each with the dream of playing in Super Bowl LII at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Who will it be? The finest minds of TGS have gathered to make our picks.

We’ll be doing a confidence points system throughout the playoffs. Each writer has assigned anywhere from one to four points per game. If they get the pick right, they get the points. Whoever has the most points after the Super Bowl wins. What do they win? (Maybe a fantastic Deadeye prize package?) We’ll figure it out.

In the meantime, here’s who we got. How about you? Let us know here or on Twitter. We’ll be back next week with divisional round picks – and a scoreboard to keep us honest about how we’re doing.

Austin Narber

4 points: Jacksonville over Buffalo

We all know about shutdown corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. They’re the best duo in the league. But Jacksonville’s run defense isn’t very good. I think that allows Buffalo to keep this close most of the game. LeSean McCoy won’t be at 100% though, so look for Rick Dennison to get extra creative with Tyrod Taylor. Fortunately for the Jaguars, the Bills run defense is also bad. Leonard Fournette should be able to get what he wants. I think he ices this game with a late touchdown.

3 points: Kansas City over Tennessee

According to Football Outsiders, Kansas City has the league’s worst run defense. That’s not what you want to hear after Tennessee ran for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns last week against Jacksonville. But the Titans have turned out to be pretty one-dimensional, and I trust Andy Reid to figure things out at home, where the Chiefs allowed 16.9 points per game this season. Look for a big day from Kareem Hunt — Tennessee allows a league-worst 58.3 receiving yards per game to running backs.

2 points: New Orleans over Carolina

On paper, there’s not a lot that gives either team a major advantage in this one. But the Saints offense was utterly dominent against Carolina this season, scoring 32.5 points per game and winning both times. It’s also worth mentioning Drew Brees outperforms his career average QBR in both home games and playoff games. But there’s something about Cam Newton that tells me he won’t go quietly, especially when he’s on the verge of being beaten for a third time by a bitter division rival. I think the Panthers will charge late.

1 point: Los Angeles over Atlanta

First I picked the Rams. Then I picked the Falcons. Then I picked the Rams again. This is a tossup for me, and I think being in Los Angeles gives the Rams a razor thin advantage. Throwing out the season finale in which their starters rested, L.A. has scored 35, 26, 33 and 33 in their past 4 home games. And frankly, this is a below average Atlanta defense. But this is almost the exact same offense that got the Falcons to the Super Bowl last year, and the Rams are 22nd against the run. If Atlanta can establish Devonta Freeman enough to free up Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, they will almost certainly capitalize on it.

Spencer Hughes

4 points: Jacksonville over Buffalo

Everyone in northeast Florida, say it with me now… Duuuuuuuuuu-vaaaaaaal! The city of Jacksonville is hyped for this one. The best defense in the AFC will be, too. While the Bills are a great story after making the playoffs for the first time this millennium, the Jags are going to prove to simply be too much. Give us that big Jaguars-Steelers rematch next week with the winner getting to play for a conference title.

3 points: Kansas City over Tennessee

Who can figure out the Chiefs? Early this year, they looked dominant. But in the middle part of the season? Awful. And lately, they’ve been pretty good. But with Kareem Hunt and the loudest stadium in the league, they’ll manage to find a W this weekend. As for the Titans, I don’t know what to say. It’s a roster good enough to sneak into the playoffs but not good enough to do any damage. In the NFL, that’s maybe the worst place to be.

2 points: Los Angeles over Atlanta

The Falcons seem to be the trendy upset pick this weekend. Fresh off a Super Bowl collapse, they’re back for round two. But the Rams are the story of the 2017 season, and Todd Gurley will show why he deserves the MVP award. I believe that Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will score points, but I just think the Rams will score more. It will be close, but Los Angeles advances.

1 point: Carolina over New Orleans

Toughest pick of the week for me. The Saints are a very good football team, and they have beaten Carolina convincingly twice already this year. But the Panthers seem to have an edge to them that tells me they won’t go down easy for the third time in one season to the same team. And Cam Newton, as always, will give them a chance. This one goes down to the wire – maybe to overtime – and the Panthers just barely move on.

Lindsey Schoon

4 points: New Orleans over Carolina

The Saints rank 6th in the league in passing yards. Panthers? 28th. Give me Brees in a big spot any day.

3 points: Atlanta over Los Angeles

Both teams have sour tastes in their mouths. The Rams lost to a bad 49ers team last week, and the Falcons are still trying to forget about the Patriots. When in doubt, take the team with more to prove.

2 points: Jacksonville over Buffalo

Of the Bills’ nine wins, only two were against teams with a record over .500. Fournette goes for 200 yards.

1 point: Tennessee over Kansas City

As a lifelong Raiders fan, I can’t possibly pick the Chiefs. Even in Arrowhead. This is a completely emotional pick.

Jake Ohlde

4 points: Jacksonville over Buffalo

The Bills making the playoffs in the fashion they did is an amazing story, but unfortunately the road stops here. Tyrod Taylor may be the most under-appreciated QB in the league but he doesn’t have much help around him, especially with Shady McCoy likely out. The Jags’ pass rush and secondary are arguably the most ferocious in the NFL, so it could get ugly quickly for Buffalo.

3 points: New Orleans over Carolina

The Saints tote a top 2 offense in terms of efficiency by most measures, and while the Panthers defense has had a late-season surge (which seems correlated to an unsustainable spike in takeaways) I don’t see them doing enough to stop Brees, Kamara and Co. Cam Newton has been up and down most of the year but he’ll have to be virtually flawless against an underrated Saints defense that ranks 3rd in INTs if the Panthers have any shot of keeping up. The Saints won both regular season matchups by double digits, so consider me skeptical.

2 points: Kansas City over Tennessee

On paper, the Chiefs look like fairly convincing favorites. But anyway familiar with their playoff history will tell you that’s anything but the case. The Titans aren’t a great matchup defensively as their run defense is really good, so Alex Smith will have to take some chances against their secondary with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill at his disposal. KC’s defense hasn’t been good at all the 2nd half of the year but they’re extremely opportunistic and should be licking their chops against Marcus Mariota, who’s had trouble taking care of the ball. I expect a tight game throughout, but without a true difference maker at RB – I don’t think the Titans will have enough to get it done at Arrowhead.

1 point: Atlanta over Los Angeles

I expect this to be the most exciting game of the weekend. Both teams look pretty evenly matched and are capable of putting up plenty of points. The Falcons have struck me all season long like a team that has the talent but has yet to fully put it together, so maybe this is the weekend it finally happens. On the other side, the Rams have looked like a completely different team from a year ago, routinely accumulating explosive offensive numbers and having all kinds of fun in the process. I do wonder whether nerves may come into play in this one, with LA making their first playoff appearance since 2004 and the Falcons determined to make it back to the Super Bowl after blowing that 28-3 lead. I keep going back and forth, but I think Atlanta ultimately squeaks one out after Matt Ryan finds Julio Jones for a late TD.

Matthias Schwartzkopf

4 points: New Orleans over Carolina

This one will be a tough battle for all four quarters. Ultimately the high power offense from the Saints will take over. The two headed monster of Kamara and Ingram will be too much.

3 points: Kansas City over Tennessee

Early on in the season the Chiefs showed the type of damage they can inflict. They slowed down but are still a dangerous team. The Titans were too inconsistent this season and that typically don’t fare well come playoff time.

2 points: Jacksonville over Buffalo

Both teams are due for a playoff win. The Jaguars defense will be too much for the Bills offense to handle. Fingers crossed Blake Bortles doesn’t mess it up.

1 point: Los Angeles over Atlanta

The Falcons have weapons but have been up and down for most of the year. I think the Rams are the overall better team but the Falcons arsenal and ability to strike makes this #4 in my confidence.

Jacqueline Cordova

4 points: Kansas City over Tennessee

3 points: Los Angeles over Atlanta

2 points: New Orleans over Carolina

1 point: Buffalo over Jacksonville

Shaun Curran

4 points: Los Angeles over Atlanta

Gurley runs away with this victory (pun intended) as the Falcons secondary cant keep a lead to save their soul – and Matty Ice is going to have a nice cold glass of Choke against that Rams D.

3 points: Jacksonville over Buffalo

Stupid question, Sacksonville all the way. Poor Tyrod aint gonna know what hit him, and no McCoy to fall back on (well he could play, but I still take my Jags to win at home).

2 points: Kansas City over Tennessee

Kelce, Hunt & Hill are going to destroy that Tennessee D. No way Titans make it out of Arrowhead with a W.

1 point: New Orleans over Carolina

It’s a rule of mine never to bet against Brees. The guy is a god amongst men. Add that to the fact that Kamara exists in this world, and New Orleans is going to take this one. Cam may have swagger, but he won’t have the win.

Spencer Hughes
Spencer Hughes 14 Articles
Staff Writer

Spencer is a Cedar Rapids, Iowa native currently located in Jacksonville, Florida. He holds degrees from Iowa State University (B.A., 2014) and Duke University (J.D., 2017) where he learned that you can't choose which is better between Hilton Coliseum and Cameron Indoor Stadium; they're just different. Spencer is a lifelong fan of the Iowa State Cyclones, Minnesota Vikings, Scott's Tots, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Oxford comma. He will discuss college football playoff scenarios or health care legislation with you whenever you want.

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