The 2017 NFL season will be remembered (at-least by me) as a season where we saw a changing of the guard; only four of the 12 playoff teams from 2016 made the playoffs this year (Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs, and Falcons). We saw young quarterbacks like Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson break on to the scene, and yes even 4th year QB Blake Bortles improved vastly.
Secondly, this year was highlighted by high profile injuries.
Of course guys go down every year, that's just football, but in this season, more than ever it seemed like a former all-pro suffered a season ending injury basically every week. Both Carson Wentz, and Deshaun Watson tore their ACLs.
RIPIP Eagles Super Bowl Chances.
David Johnson, the man who went 1st overall in most fantasy drafts across the country played one game in 2017. JJ Watt for the 2nd straight year missed a majority of the season (breaking down from steroids????). Joe Thomas saw his over 10,000 straight snap streak end after a torn triceps in week 7. The Patriots lost both Julian Edelman and Dont'a Hightower, the two men responsible for their biggest plays in their Super Bowl LI comeback for the season. Odell Beckham Jr, pretty much the entire legion of boom, Aaron Rodgers, the list goes on. Sport Illustrated highlighted the year of carnage with a cover in mid-December.
Oh yeah, and the Cleveland Browns went 0-16 as well.
I think what Cleveland did this year was actually very nice, they adsorbed all the suckiness from other down on their luck teams, they sacrificed their entire season so other loser franchises could succeed. It's really quite honorable. I mean we saw the Jaguars, Rams AND the Bills all end decade plus playoff droughts. Plus the Titans were on the doorstep of a decade long drought as well (2008 was last playoff season in Nashville). There was no way the Browns were also going to succeed. Why go 3-13 when you could go 0-16? At least now the 2017 Browns will always be remembered.
As for the Wild-Card round, while it is nice to see some teams in the hunt that haven't been in the dance for a while, there stays may be rather short.
(5) Tennessee Titans 9-7 @ (4) Kansas City Chiefs 10-6
Going into the year I was really on the Titans, not just because at the time I was a Tennessee resident :/ but also because coming off of their 2016 campaign they looked ready to take the next step. Although they ended up with the same 9-7 record as they did last season, this Titans team is much worse than it's 2016 counterpart. Marcus Mariota's passing touchdowns were cut in half from 26 to 13 and he threw 6 more INT than he did last year. DeMarco Murray was a shell of himself, basically lost his job to Derrick Henry and the Titans limped into the playoffs. From 8-4 to 9-7 if it wasn't for a week 17 win they would've missed the playoffs entirely.
As for Kansas City, it's been a roller-coaster of a season for the Chiefs. The Chiefs started out 2017 by blowing out the Patriots on opening night, and squeaking out a win against the high flying Philadelphia Eagles. Kansas City was 5-0 then in the blink of eye they were 6-6 and it appeared they'd find a way to miss the playoffs. To their credit the Chiefs have won four straight and are back-to-back AFC West Champs for the first time in franchise history.
Last year the Titans went into Kansas City and won 19-17 thanks to a game winning field goal by former Chief Ryan Succop, however this year I think things are different and the Chiefs win somewhere around 27-13 as Alex Smith leads the Chiefs to a playoff win in likely is last home start ever in Kansas City. Historically the Chiefs are a horrible playoff team, they've won 1 playoff game in the last 20 years, but given the match up and how much the Titans have struggled this year I think the Chiefs move on and for at least a week look like the team they were to start the season.
Chiefs win 27-13.
(6) Atlanta Falcons 10-6 @ (3) Los Angeles Rams 11-5
Even though I think the Falcons are frauds, I just have a feeling Matty Ice finds away to win this game. After an embarrassing Super Bowl defeat last year for the psyche of this franchise moving forward I feel like they have to win this game.
The Rams have looked awesome this year, Todd Gurley should be offensive player of the year. Their teenager head coach really turned this team around, probably could be coach of the year. Goff looks like a completely different human, but my gut just tells me the Falcons somehow win this game. It doesn't make sense, I don't believe in Dan Quinn, I'm just going with the experienced team here. Basically every year ever except for 2015 a road team wins during wild card weekend, and I think this year it is the Falcons.
Falcons win 24-20.
(6) Buffalo Bills 9-7 @ (3) Jacksonville Jaguars 10-6
The beautiful thing about this match-up is that one of these teams will be playing in the divisional round. The last time the Jaguars did that was in 2007, and the Bills haven't made it that far since 1995. These two franchises have taken their lumps, and it's great to see them finally get a taste of success. The Bills won the NFL last week with their miracle playoff birth thanks to Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals. It really was an awesome scene.
That was to just make the playoffs, imagine if they actually win a game. As a Patriots fan it really puts shit in perspective (we're the best, and you guys stink, but it's cute to see your little brother finally get in). What was even cooler to see was how Bills fans reacted by donating over 100K to Andy Dalton's Foundation. Now do I know what is foundation does? No. But I mean I'm sure it's a great cause. Maybe like hair-dye for ginger kids so they don't get made fun of.
Sadly for the Bills they'll likely be without Lesean McCoy which essentially ends their chances of success in this game. I like T-Mobile, but this Jags D is legit. I had them in fantasy this season and they single handedly carried me to the final four. I high key think they could win the AFC. I fully expect them to win this game then beat Pittsburgh. Jacksonville is going to be crazy as they host their first playoff game since 1999. Pretty sure they're wearing all black too which is always bad news for the visiting team. With the Jags D, running game, and the improvement of one Blake Bortles I think this game gets rather ugly.
Sacksonville rolls 31-13.
(5) Carolina Panthers 11-5 @ (4) New Orleans Saints 11-5
In what should be the best game of the weekend we have NFC South clash between the Panthers and Saints. It's amazing to see what the Saints have done this year. After starting 0-2 coming off of three straight 7-9 seasons many thought this year would be the end of the Sean Payton-Drew Brees combo in New Orleans. (hand up) Instead of relying on Drew Brees to throw for 900 yards a game the Saints became much more balanced with the two headed monster of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara in the backfield. Oh look the Saints have a defense now too. Although they swept the Panthers in the regular season, in the playoffs you wipe the slates clean. Plus we all know the old cliche it's hard to beat a team three times in a season.
The Panthers went 11-5 just like the Saints and are no slouch themselves. While you never know what you're gonna get week-to-week with Cam Newton, he has shown before in both the pros and in college that he does not shy away from the bright lights, unless of course it's to maintain procession in the Super Bowl.
I do think whoever wins this game has a great chance to move on to the NFC championship game. The Eagles don't scare me with Nick Foles, and I mean the Vikings have been a great story but they're the Vikings, heartbreaking playoff defeat might as well been the team slogan instead of whatever the hell SKOL means. I don't think Case Keenum is going to beat Drew Brees/Cam Newton in the playoffs.
This is the one game where I wouldn't be shocked to see either team win. Like my jaw will drop if the Titans beat KC. However I'm giving the slight edge to the Saints. New Orleans has been waiting a looooong time to host a playoff game (2011) the Dome is going to be fucking rockin. Extra gumbo. Plus Drew Brees needs a nice little playoff run to help cement his legacy IMO. He's a surefire Hall of Famer, but since winning the Super Bowl in 09 the Saints are 2-3. This is only their 4th playoff appear since 2009 which is sort of surprising. If he wants to be considered an all-time great I think he needs another Lombardi, or at the very least another Super Bowl appearance.
Saints go marching in 31-27.