Not So Wild Cards
Does anyone playing this weekend have a chance at winning Super Bowl LII?
Eight teams will take the field this weekend as the playoffs begin on the road to Minneapolis, but if history is any indicator, none of these combatants will take home the Lombardi Trophy in four weeks.
No NFL Wild Card team was won a title since 2010 when Green Bay ran through the NFC Playoffs, winning three road games, capping off the run defeating Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV. Seven years later, there are a couple of teams playing that have been playing fantastic football in stretches this season, but some of them may have peaked too early or have debilitating injuries at the worst possible time.
Here is our breakdown of the Wild Card Weekend teams chances to hoist the trophy the first weekend in February. Odds courtesy of Bovada.
Buffalo Bills – 9-7 record – #6 Seed in AFC – Odds to win SB LII +7500
The multitude of videoed celebrations from sports bars in upstate New York, fans watching on the concourses at Hard Rock Stadium, and even inside the Bills locker room of jubilation stemming from the the conclusion of the Bengals last second victory that opened the door for Buffalo to get into the playoffs was one of those moments that make sports special. Buffalo hasn’t been in the NFL’s postseason since the final days of the Clinton administration, and the joy shown on those videos intoxicating. I swear I watched them 20 times.
As for the game (Sunday 1:05pm on CBS) the Bills may be without the services of star running back LeSean McCoy, who left Week 17’s matchup against Miami with an ankle injury. As the week has progressed McCoy has improved, but is still a game-time decision. For Buffalo to advance, McCoy has to be special. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor can only take this limited passing game so far, but in a contest with a pair of signal callers making their first playoff starts, I trust Taylor more than the Jaguars Blake Bortles. However, the Jags defense is legitimate, and will most likely carry them onto the next round.
Buffalo will give Jacksonville everything they want, and I actually expect this to be the most entertaining game of the weekend, but its going to be boom or bust. Buffalo either wins late or gets run out of the gym.
Chances of making the Super Bowl: 5%
Tennessee Titans – 9-7 record – #5 Seed in AFC – Odds to win SB LII +7500
An enigma most of the season, the Titans were the sexy pick coming into 2017, but the Jaguars ended up being the story this year, not Tennessee. Marcus Mariota has been “off” all year, capable yet wildly erratic and inefficient, the running attack of Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry has suffered behind an underperforming offensive line, and the no-name defense has been average at best. Tennessee didn’t secure their playoff lives until the final quarter of the final game of the season, but in that game where they defeated Jacksonville at home showed that maybe the Titans are putting it all together at the right time.
That said, I don’t trust that Mariota is 100% healthy, and with a now injured Murray slated to miss Saturdays (4:25pm on ESPN/ABC) game with a knee injury, a lot more pressure is now on Mariota and Henry.
Tennessee has lacked big play ability all year, and they will need a hell of a performance out of their defense to shut down Kansas City.
Chances of making the Super Bowl: 8%
Kansas City Chiefs – 10-6 record – #4 Seed in AFC – Odds to win SB LII +1800
KC has been soaring or crash landing all season long. Hot start, stubbed their toes for two months, and now back to being good. Hardest team to predict because their only consistency all season has been their inconsistency.
Rookie Kareem Hunt boosted the offense early in the season, but once he hit his rookie wall and Andy Reid got too cute with play calling, the Chiefs stumbled. Now that Hunt has regrouped and Reid is dressing like Santa Clause in post game, KC has some swagger back.
I don’t know if I can trust them past this weekend, but they are better than Tennessee.
Chances of making the Super Bowl: 20%
Jacksonville Jaguars – 10-6 record – #3 Seed in AFC – Odds to win SB LII +2200
Winners of free agency the last couple offseasons, the product on the field finally saw that money being well spent. The emergence of the defense has been a long time coming, and team being ran by former Giants (and Jaguars) coach Tom Coughlin had better be tough. #Sacksonville ran thru a handful of impressive wins over Pittsburgh, Houston, and Seattle propelled the Jags to their first division in over a decade.
I can’t believe I am willing to believe in a team quarterbacked by Blake Bortles, but with that defense and the running game bolstered by rookie Leonard Fournette, there are worse places to put your money on. Buffalo getting to the post season is a great story, but the Bills defense gives up yards and first downs in bunches. Jacksonville should be able to control both lines of scrimmage and move on to a rematch against Pittsburgh next weekend.
Chances of making the Super Bowl: 40%
Atlanta Falcons – 10-6 record – #6 Seed in NFC – Odds to win SB LII +2500
The hangover of the 28-3 collapse in Super Bowl LI seemed to last about 12 months, new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian never really got traction, and the four headed monster of Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman could never get all of their cylinders firing at the same time.
Atlanta punched their ticket into the post season by defeating Carolina on the final day of the year, and are rewarded by getting an invigorated Los Angeles Rams team who set the NFL on fire this year. Only way the Falcons can win this game is to get into a shootout with the most potent offense in the league, both teams will try to run the ball to limit the other teams chances to put points on the board, but the Rams defense is remarkably better.
Chances of making the Super Bowl: 20%
Carolina Panthers – 11-5 record – #5 Seed in NFC – Odds to win SB LII +2500
Puzzling season in Charlotte, most thought the addition of rookie Christian McCaffrey would invigorate a Cam-centric offense and be more dynamic. Once Greg Olsen missed a number of games to injury, then they traded receiver Kelvin Benjamin, the offense never really got on track. Even with all that turmoil Carolina quietly pieced together a good season, in the running for the division title until the last day of the regular season.
The defense has not been the bullies we had seen in previous years, but Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis have been stellar yet again.
Having lost to New Orleans already twice this year, going on the road to the Superdome is not going to be an easy task. The Saints are so damn good at home and I don’t see them stumbling here.
Chances of making the Super Bowl: 15%
New Orleans Saints – 11-5 record – #4 Seed in NFC – Odds to win SB LII +750
New Orleans has exceeded most pundits expectations all season long, and thanks to a pair of great drafts in 2016 & 2017 a team that needed an injection of youth, and that youth has propelled Sean Payton and Drew Brees into the post season yet again.
After quickly shaking off the potential drama with the dispatched Adrian Peterson, the Saints were able to focus the offense on the one-two punch of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara and take a ton of pressure off Brees. Kamara is the catalyst of this offense and is an absolute playmaker for an offense that needed one. Vegas has taken notice as well, of any team playing on Wild Card Weekend, the Saints have the lowest odds to win the Super Bowl.
New Orleans will win this weekend due to matchup advantages, and potentially next week against the Eagles as they are without their start quarterback Carson Wentz. The path has opened for the Saints to get a shot at Minnesota for the NFC title.
Chances of making the Super Bowl: 45%
Los Angeles Rams – 11-5 record – #3 Seed in the NFC – Odds to win SB LII +900
The Rams possess the possibility of having the NFL’s Most Valuable Player (Todd Gurley) the NFL Coach of the Year (Sean McVay) the NFL Defensive Player of the Year (Aaron Donald) and the possibility of being one and done in the playoffs.
There have been moments in 2017 that saw the Rams absolutely spank and humiliate opponents, yet at the same time seem to be their own worst enemy with their youth and inexperience. Sometimes not knowing a situation can allow great minds to thrive, so for a gifted rookie head coach, a blossoming second year quarterback and a dynamic offense that is a year or two ahead of schedule, being at home is going to be an advantage against the defending NFC Champions.
For all the good the Rams have done this year, if they lose at home against Atlanta, no one will remember the meteoric rise of their offense that improved from worst to first. Don’t sleep on the injury to kicker Greg Zuerelin, losing Legatron could cost them a game eventually.
If they run the ball and don’t elect to get into a shootout with the Falcons, they should be fine.
Chances of making the Super Bowl: 30%