On Saturday, I mentioned that last year’s Wild Card round was dominated by home favorites. That pattern did not carry into 2018, as both home teams fell on the first day of the NFL Playoffs.
The Chiefs looked dominant in the first game right up until halftime, shortly after Travis Kelce went down with a concussion. Derrick Henry and the Titans owned the second half, converting all eight of their third down opportunities and scoring Marcus Mariota’s first career playoff win. It’s a tough break for the Chiefs, but it’s hard to feel bad for a team that blew a 21-3 halftime lead. The Chiefs now head to the offseason, where they will face questions regarding the future of QB Alex Smith.
In the evening tilt, playoff football in Los Angeles turned out to be a short-lived experience. The Rams weren’t terrible, but fumbled twice early on special teams to concede points and momentum to the experienced Falcons. Atlanta took the air out in the second half, putting together two impressive drives that lasted over 13 combined minutes in the third quarter. The Falcons are once again NFC contenders, and will now be the favorites heading to Philadelphia to face Nick Foles and the Eagles.
Bills-Jaguars has the look of a defensive affair, with the offense reserved for the night slate.
For the waiting Titans, it would seem a tough matchup regardless. Nobody wants to travel to New England and face the Patriots, and the Titans were stomped in Pittsburgh earlier this season. But things didn’t go perfectly in Kansas City, and Titans showed toughness and resilience in the second half. That physical style of football can hang with anybody, but it wouldn’t be wise to bank on a Mariota receiving touchdown every time you take the field.
With the Rams eliminated, one major NFC contender has fallen. If, like me, you think Philadelphia doesn’t have a chance without Carson Wentz, than there are just a few teams remaining in the conference. We could be headed for a rematch of the 1998 NFC Championship game in Minnesota, which might inspire nightmares in Vikings fans.
Here’s how the 2018 bracket looks on Sunday:
Bracket re-seeded after Wild Card round
Upcoming Playoff Schedule
WILD CARD WEEKEND: JANUARY 6/7
January 7th, 1:05 p.m. Eastern – Bills at Jaguars on CBS
January 7th, 4:40 p.m. Eastern – Panthers at Saints on FOX
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS: JANUARY 13/14
January 13th, 4:35 p.m. Eastern – Atlanta at Philadelphia on NBC
January 13th, 8:15 p.m. Eastern – Titans at New England on CBS
January 14th, 1:05 p.m. Eastern – Jaguars at Pittsburgh on CBS
January 14th, 4:40 p.m. Eastern – New Orleans at Minnesota on FOX
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS: SUNDAY, JAN. 21
Conf. Championship 1- 3:05 p.m. Eastern
Conf. Championship 2- 6:40 p.m. Eastern
SUPER BOWL LII: FEB. 4, U.S. BANK STADIUM (MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA)
6:30 p.m. Eastern on NBC