Howdy, ya’ll! I am rising from my Turf writing grave to give you my NFL Wild Card playoff predictions! And I am going real deep in thought with these picks. Why?
I LOVE THIS
First off, I talk way too much about the NFL to only give you half-assed picks for the playoffs. Just ask the rest of the Turf writers how much I talk about football. I probably drive them f***ing nuts. Secondly, I haven’t written a Turf article in about… forever. Actually, as a matter of fact, let’s take a look back at what was going on in the league the last time I wrote a Turf article giving my weekly picks:
- Patriots and 49ers were still undefeated.
- Bengals and Dolphins were still winless.
- Colts were at the top of the AFC South Division.
- Titans were in last place of the AFC South Division.
- Matthew Stafford was playing football.
- Patrick Mahomes wasn’t playing football.
- Eagles scored 31 points on a very good Buffalo defense.
- Vikings scored 19 points on a very bad Washington defense.
- Cooper Kupp had 220 receiving yards during a weekend in London
- Odell Beckham Jr. had 52 receiving yards during a weekend in New England (not gonna lie, Weekend in New England by Barry Manilow immediately popped in my head after I wrote this sentence. I don’t even like Barry Manilow…what the hell is happening to me?).
- Drew Brees had just returned from his thumb injury.
- Deshaun Watson took a foot to the face on his game-winning touchdown pass to beat the Raiders.
- Bill Belichick notched his 300th career win as a head coach.
- Adam Gase notched his first win as a head coach since Week 14 of last season on December 9th, 2018. Yikes.
Wow, a lot has happened since then. But it’s great to be back! Let’s get right to it. I’ll tell you who will win this Wild Card Weekend, and I’ll give you my playoff picks every week right up until the Super Bowl. Before the season started, my preseason Super Bowl pick was the Saints over the Patriots 28-21. But have my thoughts changed? We’ll find out!
Ok, LET’S GO!
Bills at Texans
A lot of people like this upset, and I am not one of them. The Bills have a very good defense – there is no debate there. But don’t necessarily sleep on Houston’s defense.
First of all, J.J. Watt is coming back on that defensive line, and I honestly think that changes things. Texans are at home…Watt is coming back (bold prediction by the way: Watt will force a fumble and a turnover)…Houston is already not an easy place to play… and I think NRG Stadium will be rocking.
But let’s talk about the defense for a second. Buffalo is the 3rd ranked overall defense in football. Houston? They are 28th ranked in the league. Not good, right? And have you all heard the narrative that the Texans defense has been “very bad lately”? Don’t take that too seriously.
Which Texans Defense Will Show Up? The Not So Bad One.
Forget Houston’s last game against the Titans. They were playing a practice squad, and Tennessee was urgently trying to notch a playoff spot. Look at the previous two games…the Texans defense only allowed 20 points in their win against a potent Tampa Bay offense. Then they allow just 21 points to a hot Titans team and Ryan Tannehill, who is playing the best football of his life right now. Texans won.
Sure, then Houston laid an egg against Denver, and certainly looked like the 28th-ranked defense giving up 38 points to the Broncos. Woof. That was the bad Texans defense that showed up. But they also have only allowed 22 points to the Patriots, 17 to the Colts, 3 and 12 in two games to the Jaguars, 24 to the Chiefs, and 20 to the Chargers. Oh, and by the way, Houston won all of those games.
They kept Brady and the Patriots to 22 points and kept the mighty Chiefs offense to 24 points. Yes, Houston allowed Baltimore to scorch them and score 41 points, but I mean…Baltimore is pretty damn good if you ask me.
Houston’s Defense Is Better At Home
Interestingly, if you throw out their Week 17 game, Houston only allowed 20.5 points per game at home. On the road, they allowed 25.2 points per game. So, their defense clearly plays better at home.
And you want to know something else? We talk about how good the Bills defense is. But did you know the Texans have 12 interceptions on the year, which is only two shy of Buffalo? And did you also know that the Texans have forced more fumbles than Buffalo this season? This Houston defense can make plays…if they want to. And Zach Cunningham may be the best linebacker in the league no one ever talks about.
Buffalo’s Defense is Great, But Will Josh Allen and The Offense Show Up?
This is Josh Allen’s first playoff game of his career. Do you know how quarterbacks have performed when playing their first career playoff game? Since 2002, quarterbacks playing in their first playoff game have a record of 14-30. Yikes.
This will be his first playoff game, but Josh Allen has been playing very well recently. He uses his size and mobility very well and has improved as a passer. But you know what this reminds me of? Remember Lamar Jackson around this time last year?
Playing in Your First Playoff Game Is Hard…Just Ask Lamar Jackson.
Jackson was playing very well and was much improved as the season had progressed. He was 6-1 as a starter for the Ravens before heading into the playoffs. He shows up in the playoffs against the Chargers and lays a huge egg. Jackson completed 48% of his passes, throwing for 194 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. But Jackson was sacked seven times and was 2 of 8 passing for 17 yards and an interception at halftime. Ravens fans were actually calling for Harbaugh to put in Joe Flacco.
My point is that it’s hard, ya’ll… it’s not easy quarterbacking in your first career playoff game. And so for someone like Allen, who is not the most accurate passer in the world, I could see him having a tough time on the road.
Is Buffalo Battle-Tested?
Yes, they are, but they didn’t pass many of the tests. Go look at Buffalo’s schedule. They probably had one, maybe two, quality wins all year. They beat the Titans (barely), and I guess if you think Dallas is a quality win, then be my guest. But Houston beat the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes on the road, the Patriots, the Titans, and they poured 53 points on the Falcons, ya’ll! Falcons weren’t THAT bad of a team, but you score 53 points and I can’t not take your team seriously.
Alright Matt, So Who Wins?
I like Houston. I like them at home…I think Buffalo has a very good defense, but is limited offensively…Watt comes back…and I think Watson will have just enough magic to pull off a close victory. Also, I will roll the dice on Houston’s defense and say that their “not so bad” defense will show up. I believe Allen will struggle in his playoff debut, but do not fear Bills fans…I think he has a bright future in Buffalo. Perhaps his time will come…just not this time. Texans win 23-20.
Titans at Patriots
Let’s face it, the Patriots blew it. They blew their chance to get at least a bye in the playoffs. All they had to do was beat the Dolphins at home.
And they lost.
Now they have to settle for the 3-seed, and they draw a very tough matchup with Tennessee. Do not sleep on the Titans. They are a well-coached team…tough…with a talented secondary…a good running game…and a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill who is piping hot and may have finally found a home in Nashville, Tennessee.
Tough Draw For The Patriots
Colts, Steelers, and Raiders. If it had been any of those three teams, I wouldn’t even hesitate, I’d pick the Patriots. I wouldn’t even have to think about it. But the Titans…they give me cause to pause.
Sometimes in this game of football, the best team does not always win. Go ask the 2007 New England Patriots. And sometimes, it is the team who is really hot coming into the playoffs who end up winning the Super Bowl. Go ask the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers and a 23-year old Ben Roethlisberger. Am I saying the Titans are going to win the Super Bowl? You’ll find out eventually (hehe). But what I’m really saying is that the Titans are hot. They’ve won 5 of their last 7 games, and I’m pretty sure moving off of Marcus Mariota and starting Ryan Tannehill is one of the best moves by any team this season.
Seriously though, I even ended up adding Tannehill to two of my three fantasy teams this year. If you had told me before the season that I would eventually add Tannehill to two of my fantasy teams in the middle of the season, I would have told you that you’re nuts.
Remember What I Was Just Saying About Quarterbacks Who Play In Their First Playoff Game?
Yeaaaaah, well, I am already being hypocritical, because I actually think Tennessee is going to shock us all and win this game.
Brady is the GOAT. There is no denying that. But I could list out for you a handful of quarterbacks in the league who are currently – and I repeat, CURRENTLY – better than Brady. But don’t worry Patriots fans, I will spare you the humiliation.
Brady has not looked himself lately and, I don’t know, maybe it’s because he’s 42 years old? But since Week 11, Brady has only completed 55.8% of his passes. That’s not good. Not to mention, Tennessee has talent in their secondary. You can’t really find a better safety duo than Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro. And then you have Logan Ryan at corner, who knows a thing or two on how Brady operates, being a former Patriot himself.
Tannehill’s Legs Could Come Up Big
He ain’t no Lamar Jackson, but Tannehill can actually move when he has to. I think one of the things that gets overlooked with Tannehill is his mobility and being able to run with the ball if he has to. Tannehill is 15th in the league among quarterbacks in rushing yards this season with 185 and is tied for 3rd in rushing TDs. It may not seem like a big accomplishment, but remember, he’s only started 10 games this season.
Can The Patriots Defense Rebound From Week 17?
The Patriots have a very good defense. But one thing that has kept them off-balance is mobile quarterbacks. And that doesn’t necessarily mean downhill running. Quarterbacks who can scramble, maneuver in the pocket, and extend plays, can keep this Patriots defense on its toes. Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson are all mobile quarterbacks who move very well under center and they all bested the Patriots defense this season.
The Truth About Dynasties
The New England Patriots are a dynasty, and have been really for about two decades now. But I believe their time as a dynasty is about to come to an end. I know…it sounds crazy. How can I go against Tom Brady in the playoffs? Or Bill Belichick? This defense? Or the Patriots at home? You want to know how you can tell when dynasties are about to end…
When they are still respected, but no longer feared.
When I think about the Patriots dynasty, I actually think of another team that is not even an NFL team: The San Antonio Spurs.
Think about it. The Patriots are very similar to the Spurs in many ways. They were both dynasties that were very boring. Not really any drama…not very flashy…both had excellent coaches who are the best in their business…a handful of championships of course…systematic…disciplined…a “do your job” mentality…Tom Brady and Tim Duncan… Julian Edelman and Tony Parker…Teddy Bruschi and Bruce Bowen. All these things compose a dynasty that was very well respected and feared, but yet…bland.
The Problem Is However…No One Fears The Patriots Anymore.
I just watched Ryan Fitzpatrick and a rookie head coach march into Gillette Stadium and play like they owned the joint and were season ticket holders. Brady did not look good, the offensive line is banged up, and because the offensive line is banged up, Brady and the run game are not going to perform as expected. This sounds crazy, but this is actually the worst Patriots offensive line I’ve seen in years.
The Bills were competitive against New England this year for the first time in about forever, the Texans finally defeated the Patriots, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens ran a train through them, and if it wasn’t for an absolute shitstorm and a couple gifts from the football Gods, the Patriots probably would have lost to the Cowboys. And these are YOUNG quarterbacks who are taking some major swings at this Patriots team. Folks…teams don’t fear the Patriots anymore like they used to, and I don’t think this Titans team will have any fear on Saturday night.
A Game of Inches
Remember this as well…if Dee Ford is just a couple of inches back off the line of scrimmage, the Chiefs win last season’s AFC Championship and, who knows, maybe even the Super Bowl. Brady threw what would have been his third interception of the game, but it was Dee Ford’s neutral zone infraction that gave the Patriots another shot.
It would be a completely different narrative surrounding the Patriots if they had lost to the Chiefs last season. Because the season before that, the Patriots lost to the Eagles in the Super Bowl. The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Has the Patriots dynasty come to an end already and we just haven’t even noticed yet?
Alright, Matt, Jesus Can You Tell Us Who Wins the Game?
Yes, I am on an island here. I am going against the world and picking the Titans to win this game. Belichick may look to take away Derrick Henry‘s rushing attack and force Tannehill to throw into a great secondary. But I think the story will actually be Tennessee’s secondary. They will keep New England’s receivers in check, and guys like Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead are going to have to have big games. Another story will be Tannehill’s legs that will do just enough to nip the Patriots and send them home early. And AJ Brown is a special young player (NAILED IT! I said before the season that Brown would be the best receiver to come out of his draft class).
I know I picked the Patriots to go to the Super Bowl before the season started. But they are just not the same team anymore and, additionally, I didn’t think they would be as low as a 3-seed. Give me the big upset. Titans win 26-23.
Vikings at Saints
Ladies and gentlemen…this is the year of the Saints.
Drew Brees breaking records…. Michael Thomas breaking records…hell, even LSU is going to be in the College Football National Championship. Pelicans got the first pick in the NBA draft and took Zion Williamson, and the city of New Orleans basically threw an additional Mardi Gras party. What a year for the state of Louisiana.
Vikings Health…Should I Be Concerned?
Here’s a question I have: Are the Vikings going to be healthy enough? Like…are they going to be ready for this thing? Adam Thielen was on two of my fantasy teams this season and he was clearly the most disappointing player I had. He was injured for a good chunk of the season having problems with his hammy. And when he came back, he still looked…hurt. Or at least uncomfortable.
Dalvin Cook Is The Key To Minnesota’s Success
In addition, Dalvin Cook – who has had a sensational year by the way – is battling a shoulder injury. Let me be very clear…if Dalvin Cook does not play in this game, or he is not healthy, the Vikings have no chance. None. It’s bad enough that they have to go on the road and into the loudest stadium in the NFL. I mean seriously, it’s like going to Ned Devines in Boston on a Saturday night at 11pm. Except… amplify that by 20. By the way, I hope at least some of you who read this get that Ned Devines joke. If you have lived in Boston – like I did for five years – there’s a chance you know what I’m talking about.
Trust… Who Do Ya… TRUST?!
Please tell me you got that Prince reference. If you didn’t get the Ned Devines joke, at least tell me you got the Prince reference. And I feel this is quite fitting anyway as we are in fact talking about Minnesota here.
Anyway, I don’t know if I trust that the Vikings are going to be healthy enough to pull this off. I also don’t trust the Vikings to win this game even if they are healthy enough. You wanna talk about a team who hasn’t really beaten anyone good this season, go look at the Vikings schedule. I didn’t trust Thielen for the majority of the season, and so why would I trust him now? And finally, as much as I have defended him in the past, I don’t trust Kirk Cousins to go into the loudest sports stadium on planet Earth and beat arguably the best team in the NFC. A lot of mistrust here, and so I think you know who I am taking in this game.
No Matt…No We Don’t. Can You Please Tell Us Who Is Going to Win This Game?!
Yes, I will, and I’m rolling with the Saints; who I think could be the most complete team in the NFL. Despite not having beaten any great teams this year, I do genuinely believe that the Vikings are in fact a very good team. But boy, they got a rough draw. They would have been better off playing the Packers, Eagles, or even the 49ers. But the Saints? Yuck.
Man On Fire
This is a bad draw for the Vikings, and this might be the “blowout” of the weekend, even though I think Minnesota will compete. But I’m thinking the Saints will win this thing by double digits. Drew Brees has been sensational and the Saints offense might be too much. In the past month, Brees threw for 15 touchdowns and ZERO interceptions. He’s a man on fire, and I don’t expect Cousins to keep up with him in this shootout. And I also wouldn’t underestimate New Orleans’ defense. Saints win 33-20.
Seahawks at Eagles
Honestly…this could be the game of the weekend.
Everybody is sold on the Seahawks and it seems like no one is really giving the Eagles a shot.
Are we sure the Seahawks have this in the bag? I’m not so sure. Here is why I (strangely, I suppose) like the Eagles…
Run, Run, Run
RUDOLPH! Just kidding. Oh come on, you have to get that reference!
I like Philly because I like their ability to run the ball with an attack that includes talented rookie Miles Sanders, and Jordan Howard who is now cleared to play in this game. Boston Scott is another piece and the funny thing about him is there really isn’t much film on him and he can play all over the field. He has sort of been Philly’s secret weapon lately, and could be key in this matchup with Seattle.
As a matter of fact, I don’t think there’s much film on a lot of these guys on the Eagles to be honest. Guys like Boston Scott, Greg Ward, Josh Perkins – there really isn’t much material on them, and that could (funny enough) play as an advantage for the Eagles.
Beast Mode Reactivated
Meanwhile, the Seahawks basically picked up Marshawn Lynch off of his couch and away from his Xbox to suit up just in time for the playoffs because Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and C.J. Prosise are all on the IR. Now they do also have Travis Homer, but I am not sure if I am going to peg Seattle’s playoff hopes to a first-year running back on the road in a tough Philly environment.
Seattle is a much different team without Chris Carson in the backfield. You could tell in Week 17 in their game against the 49ers.
Philly’s Defense Comes Alive
Another reason why I like the Eagles in this game is their defense. It has played better recently; especially upfront with the pass rush. And not to mention, Russell Wilson spent most of this season running for his life…again. I look for Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham to be a disruption duo who can get after Wilson.
That Secondary Though…
The only concern I have with Philly’s defense is their awful, pitiful, putrid secondary. Good lord, it sucks. I hate to break it to you, but it does. So if Wilson can get the ball out quickly and strike early with Tyler Lockett and the receiving crew attacking that secondary, the Eagles could find themselves in deep trouble early.
So You Think Carson Wentz Has Been Playing Poorly?
Think again. This season, Wentz has completed 64% of his passes and has thrown 27 TDs and 7 INTs. He’s also thrown for over 4,000 yards this season. And this is with a very depleted offense for the majority of the season. Wentz is actually tied for 5th in the NFL in pass TDs, 9th in passing yards, and 13th in passer rating. Say what you want about Wentz (just don’t say Nick Foles is better – that ship has sailed), but he has had a pretty damn good season considering all of the injuries on the offense.
And that is why this game is so intriguing to me. You have two quarterbacks who are so good at working with so little. Russell Wilson is probably one of the best at doing it. Two teams face each other who have faced a lot of adversity this season. It should be a fun one.
Ok Matt, Enough Already, We Know You Like The Eagles – Are You Sure You’re Making The Right Pick Here?!
Yes, believe it or not, I like them to win this game and upset (I guess?) the Seahawks. The key for the Eagles will be their pass rush and their ability to effectively run the ball and use the “Keep Russell Wilson Off The Field Strategy.” I expect Doug Pederson to get a little creative with the offense and blitz on the defensive side…a lot.
Also, I don’t really like how Seattle has been playing lately. They’ve lost three of their last four games going into these playoffs. They lost to the 49ers and had a little difficult time getting the offense going against the 49ers. But not really a big deal there, San Francisco has a great defense. However, Seattle’s losses to the Cardinals and Rams in Weeks 16 and 14, respectively, do not look good at all to me.
That loss to the Cardinals was pitiful, and only scoring 12 points against the Rams is really abysmal. In both those games, the Seattle run defense was awful, and that is one of the big reasons why I like Philly in this game. Boston Scott will be a tough assignment, and while Zach Ertz will most likely be out with a rib injury, I really like Dallas Goedert to step up and make some big plays. He’s capable.
While Seattle has not looked good lately, the Eagles have won their last four straight games going into these playoffs. Remember what I said about the hot team (hehe). Anyway, I am on an island for this game too, and I like the Eagles to win in a thriller. Eagles win 24-23.
Good to be back. Enjoy the games!
- / 1 year ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.