NFL Wildcard Weekend, home to one of my favorite weeks of the year. Some of the craziest moments in NFL history have happened during the Wildcard weekend. You have the Tim Tebow walk-off touchdown in overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, to the Beastquake in Seattle when Marshawn Lynch broke around 9 tackles and Centurylink Stadium got so loud it appeared on the Richter Scale, or you can even go back to the Music City Miracle where they returned a touchdown on a kickoff with no time left to win. I expect there to be a moment like this in at least one of the games this weekend. There are some great matchups, so I will break down the games by conference. Today I will go with the NFC games.
Atlanta Falcon at LA Rams
Time: January 6, Saturday at 7:15 pm
Atlanta Falcons at the Los Angeles Rams, the NFL could now have asked for a better game. Los Angeles, one of the biggest markets in the country is hosting an NFL playoff game. This will be massive for the league as far as TV ratings, revenue, and ticket sales are concerned. The matchup between two of the NFL’s star quarterbacks in Jared Goff and Matt Ryan will face off Saturday night. After losing last years’ Superbowl and looking to shed the stigma of blowing a 28-3 game to the Patriots last year, want nothing more than to go back to the Super Bowl to get revenge.
The L.A. Rams boast the leagues’ number one ranked scoring offense. With the help of Todd Gurley’s MVPesque season, teams around the league have been trying to figure out how to stop this high powered offense. Catching passes out of the backfield has many Rams fans reminiscing about Marshall Faulk. Todd Gurley is that good. Ranking in the top-10 in both receiving and rush yards, this Rams offense are about as balanced as you would want in a team. The Rams also have a solid defense, Aaron Donald has been an absolute force this year. His stats won’t blow you away but seems to make the big plays when they matter.
I don’t know who this Falcons team is. Matt Ryan has been good this year, not great. Every time I have watched this team I don’t really know what their identity is. Julio Jones is an absolute monster to cover, but other than that, this team shouldn’t scare anyone. They don’t score a lot of points. The defense is pretty solid. They are a lot like the Rams defense, good pass rush, and decent secondary. For Atlanta to win the game, they are going to have to force turnovers and sack Jared Goff often.
When it comes to picking the winner of the game, the Rams are better than the Falcons in almost every aspect of the game. One edge the Falcon’s have is experience. Most of this team have played in few playoff games and a Superbowl. I don’t think that will be enough, the Rams look like they are going to make a deep run in the playoffs this year. Jared Goff will throw for 250-plus and Gurley will have two touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air. Rams 27 Falcons 23
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Time: January 7, Sunday 3:40 pm
Despite losing on Sunday, the Saints were able to still win the NFC South because of the Panthers losing to the Atlanta Falcons. That can prove to be fatal for a team like the Panthers who now have to win on the road for the rest of the playoffs. The Superdome in New Orleans is going to be loud. Can the Saints beat the Panthers three times this year? That is always a challenge.
Luke Kuechly is going to have his hands full with the rookie sensation Alvin Kamara. Kamara has been remarkable for the Saints out of the backfield. Already, he is the best pass-catching running back in the NFL averaging 10 yards per reception and 5 touchdowns. Drew Brees does not have to shoulder the load this year with the talented rookie relieving much of the stress for the future hall-of-fame quarterback.
The Panthers are going to need Cam Newton to play a mistake-free game. Newton is having a very average season throwing 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with a passer rating of 80 percent. Newton was horrendous last week against an average defense in Atlanta with the division title on the line. The Carolina defense is going to have to make big plays in order to win this game.
The X-factor in this game will be Alvin Kamara. If Carolina cannot contain the young running back then this game is going to be a rout. I think this game is going to be lopsided. The Superdome is going to hostile, the Saints will have the momentum, Cam Newton is just not a great quarterback, Luke Kuechly can only cover so much space on the field. I will take the Saints 28 Panthers 13