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Game Capsules: Breaking Down the Wild-Card Games

Erik Siegrist

Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.

Buffalo (+9) at Jacksonville, 39.5 o/u Sunday, 1:05 p.m. EST

The Story: The Bills are in the playoffs! The Bills are in the playoffs! The longest postseason drought in North American sports ended last Sunday when Buffalo beat Miami and Cincinnati somehow upset the Ravens in Baltimore. To put in perspective how long ago that was, the No. 1 song in the country the last time the Bills saw playoff action was "Smooth" by Carlos Santana featuring Rob Thomas. You're welcome for the ear worm. Buffalo might need its own version of the Music City Miracle to steal this one, though. LeSean McCoy might not be 100 percent healthy, and without him chewing up yardage it's hard to see Tyrod Taylor putting many points on the board. Their one shot may be the continued reversion of Blake Bortles, who's thrown five INTs in his last two games both Jacksonville losses after getting picked off only three times in his previous eight, during which the team went 7-1. In fact, the Jags are 1-3 when he throws multiple INTs, and 9-3 when he doesn't. If the Jags lean on Leonard Fournette and their stellar defense, and limit Bortles' opportunities to make mistakes, they should coast into the next round.

The Skinny:
2017 regular-season BUF offense: 18.9 PPG (22nd), 126.1 rushing yds/gm (6th), 192.9 passing yds/gm (31st), 47 sacks allowed (T-24th), 16 turnovers (6th)
2017 regular-season JAC offense: 26.1 PPG (5th), 141.4 rushing yds/gm (1st), 232.3 passing yds/gm (18th), 24 sacks allowed (T-3rd), 23 turnovers (T-19th)
2017 regular-season BUF defense: 22.4 PPG allowed (18th), 124.6 rushing yds/gm allowed (29th), 240.3 passing yds/gm allowed (16th), 27 sacks (T-29th), 25 turnovers (T-9th)
2017 regular-season JAC defense: 16.8 PPG allowed (2nd), 116.3 rushing yds/gm allowed (21st), 192.1 passing yds/gm allowed (1st), 55 sacks (2nd), 33 turnovers (2nd)
2017 regular-season net QB rating: BUF, plus 3.2 (14th); JAC, plus 15.9 (7th)
Key injuries, BUF: RB LeSean McCoy (ankle, questionable), TE Charles Clay (knee, questionable), WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee, questionable); JAC: WR Marqise Lee (ankle, questionable)
Weather forecast: partly cloudy, 11 mph wind, less than 10 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: McCoy is held to 60 combined yards. Taylor throws for less than 200 yards and a TD to Clay. Fournette pounds out 110 yards and two touchdowns. Bortles throws for 220 yards and a score to Keelan Cole. Jaguars, 24-10

Carolina (+7) at New Orleans, 48.5 o/u Sunday, 4:40 p.m. EST

The Story: Had the Panthers beat the Falcons in Week 17 this game would've been in Carolina, but instead they'll have to head back to New Orleans to do something they haven't managed to do all year, which is beat the Saints. The two regular-season meetings weren't particularly close, with the Saints winning them by a combined 65-34, and Carolina's young secondary had little luck against Drew Brees, who posted a 4:0 TD:INT and a 7.8 YPA in those contests. Cam Newton was awful in the Week 3 loss (167 passing yards, 0:3 TD:INT) and marginally better in the Week 13 clash (183 passing yards, 2:0 TD:INT), but he'll need to be better still if the Panthers are going to have a chance. Christian McCaffrey's flat ending to the regular season (112 combined yards and zero TDs over his last two games) also doesn't bode well, especially compared to the Saints' dynamic duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

The Skinny:
2017 regular-season CAR offense: 22.7 PPG (12th), 131.4 rushing yds/gm (4th), 207.4 passing yds/gm (28th), 35 sacks allowed (T-13th), 22 turnovers (T-14th)
2017 regular-season NO offense: 28.0 PPG (4th), 129.4 rushing yds/gm (5th), 270.9 passing yds/gm (6th), 20 sacks allowed (2nd), 18 turnovers (T-9th)
2017 regular-season CAR defense: 20.4 PPG allowed (11th), 88.1 rushing yds/gm allowed (3rd), 248.1 passing yds/gm allowed (22nd), 50 sacks (3rd), 21 turnovers (T-16th)
2017 regular-season NO defense: 20.4 PPG allowed (10th), 111.7 rushing yds/gm allowed (16th), 242.8 passing yds/gm allowed (19th), 42 sacks (T-7th), 25 turnovers (T-9th)
2017 regular-season net QB rating: CAR, minus 13.1 (24th); NO, plus 24.9 (2nd)
Key injuries, CAR: QB Cam Newton (shoulder, questionable), WR Devin Funchess (shoulder, questionable), RB Jonathan Stewart (back, questionable); NO: WR Michael Thomas (hamstring, questionable)
Weather forecast: indoors

The Scoop: McCaffrey puts together 80 combined yards. Newton throws for 230 yards and runs for 40, hitting Brenton Bersin for a score. Ingram piles up 90 combined yards and a TD, while Kamara adds 80 combined yards and a receiving touchdown. Brees throws for 250 yards and a second score to Michael Thomas. Saints, 24-16

Tennessee (+9) at Kansas City, 44.5 o/u Saturday, 4:35 p.m. EST

The Story: The Titans squeaked into the playoffs with a Week 17 win over the Jaguars, but their reward is a matchup against a Chiefs squad that's won four consecutive despite resting key personnel in the final week, which actually makes them the hottest team still playing. With DeMarco Murray out, Derrick Henry will shoulder the full load in Tennessee's backfield, and while he didn't do much last week he should find more success against a fairly soft KC front seven. The question will be whether he gets any assistance from Marcus Mariota. The third-year QB was pretty bad down the stretch, throwing multiple TD passes just once in his last eight games with a 7:10 TD:INT, numbers that just won't cut it if the Titans are going to pull an upset or two. By contrast, Alex Smith has a 7:1 TD:INT over his last four games, posting at least a 7.7 YPA in all four, and he could pick apart the Titans' porous secondary if he gets enough time in the pocket.

The Skinny:
2017 regular-season TEN offense: 20.9 PPG (19th), 114.6 rushing yds/gm (15th), 212.1 passing yds/gm (25th), 35 sacks allowed (T-13th), 25 turnovers (T-23rd)
2017 regular-season KC offense: 25.9 PPG (6th), 118.9 rushing yds/gm (9th), 270.4 passing yds/gm (7th), 37 sacks allowed (17th), 11 turnovers (1st)
2017 regular-season TEN defense: 22.3 PPG allowed (17th), 88.8 rushing yds/gm allowed (4th), 256.3 passing yds/gm allowed (26th), 43 sacks (T-5th), 21 turnovers (T-16th)
2017 regular-season KC defense: 21.2 PPG allowed (15th), 118.1 rushing yds/gm allowed (25th), 258.2 passing yds/gm allowed (29th), 31 sacks (T-24th), 26 turnovers (T-7th)
2017 regular-season net QB rating: TEN, minus 10.7 (21st); KC, plus 19.3 (5th)
Key injuries, TEN: RB DeMarco Murray (knee, out), CB Logan Ryan (ankle/illness, questionable); KC: none
Weather forecast: partly cloudy, wind less than 10 mph, less than 10 percent chance of snow

The Scoop: Henry runs for 80 yards and a TD. Mariota throws for less than 200 yards and gets picked off twice, but he does scramble for a score. Kareem Hunt piles up 110 combined yards and a receiving touchdown. Smith throws for 280 yards and two more touchdowns, both to Travis Kelce. Chiefs, 27-17

Atlanta (+6.5) at L.A. Rams, 48.5 o/u Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST

The Story: The Falcons' 10-6 record might have gotten them a home playoff game in the AFC, but in the stacked NFC they barely get the No. 6 seed. Surprisingly, it was their defense and not their offense that got them into the postseason Atlanta allowed 17.5 PPG over its final six, going 4-2 during that stretch, while Matt Ryan and company only scored 20.3 PPG, topping 24 once (and that performance came against the Bucs, which hardly counts). Ryan did finish the regular season by throwing for 317 yards in Week 17's must-win game, but his 4:4 TD:INT over his last five is a far cry from last year's MVP form. The Rams, meanwhile, got a week to rest up and head into the playoffs mostly healthy. Todd Gurley finished his campaign on a tear, topping 120 yards from scrimmage in five consecutive games and scoring eight touchdowns in his final three, and if the Falcons can't find a way to slow him it could be a very long evening for them.

The Skinny:
2017 regular-season ATL offense: 22.1 PPG (15th), 115.4 rushing yds/gm (13th), 259.1 passing yds/gm (9th), 24 sacks allowed (T-3rd), 18 turnovers (T-9th)
2017 regular-season LAR offense: 29.9 PPG (1st), 122.1 rushing yds/gm (8th), 251.4 passing yds/gm (11th), 28 sacks allowed (9th), 21 turnovers (13th)
2017 regular-season ATL defense: 19.7 PPG allowed (8th), 104.1 rushing yds/gm allowed (9th), 232.8 passing yds/gm allowed (11th), 39 sacks (T-13th), 16 turnovers (T-27th)
2017 regular-season LAR defense: 20.6 PPG allowed (12th), 122.4 rushing yds/gm allowed (28th), 237.4 passing yds/gm allowed (15th), 48 sacks (4th), 28 tunrovers (5th)
2017 regular-season net QB rating: ATL, plus 0.5 (16th); LAR, plus 19.9 (3rd)
Key injuries, ATL: WR Julio Jones (ankle/ribs, questionable), RB Devonta Freeman (knee, questionable); LAR: LB Mark Barron (Achilles, questionable)
Weather forecast: partly cloudy, wind less than 10 mph, less than 10 percent chance of rain

The Scoop: Freeman picks up 70 combined yards, while Tevin Coleman adds 50 and a receiving score. Ryan comes through with 290 yards and three TDs, with the other two going to Julio Jones (who hauls in 140 yards) and Austin Hooper. Gurley thunders for 160 combined yards and two TDs, one rushing and one receiving. Jared Goff throws for 250 yards and a second touchdown, hitting Robert Woods, but he gets picked off trying to drive for a game-winning or game-tying score in the fourth quarter. Falcons, 27-24

Last week's record: 10-6, 5-11 ATS, 7-9 o/u
2017 regular-season record: 164-92, 111-131-14 ATS, 114-138-4 o/u
2016 regular-season record: 155-99-2, 110-136-10 ATS, 139-112-5 o/u
2015 regular-season record: 157-99, 137-111-8 ATS