NFL WILD CARD Review – Titans in a Thriller, Jags win/ Brees shines for Saints & Ryan stars for Falcons

American Football

7838__nfl_playoffs-alternate-2015

What a breathtaking weekend of Wild Card games that took place this past Saturday and Sunday, as it saw an Incredible performance by Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota single-handedly carrying the Titans to a thrilling comeback victory in Kansas City, after the Chiefs had looked like that had the game under full control at the halftime break.

The Atlanta Falcons looked good in their Wild Card game against the Los Angeles Rams on the West Coast, as Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan used his experience to guide his side to a win in their NFC clash on the return to playoff football at the Coliseum. Sunday’s games started off with a dull game between Jacksonville and Buffalo to which it was anything from ‘must watch TV’ in Florida, but the Jaguars did enough to progress.

The remaining game saw the New Orleans Saints marching on to the Divisional games next weekend after they picked up a tough win against Carolina at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Drew Brees shone for the Saints against the Panthers, as he faced his rival in Cam Newton in the battle of the star quarterbacks.

 

1280px-Kansas_City_Chiefs_logo.svg  KANSAS CITY CHIEFS   21   –  22   TENNESSEE TITANS     Tennessee_Titans_logo.svg

Saturday night saw a thriller at Arrowhead Stadium in the first of the AFC Divisional Wild Card games, after Tennessee Titans overturned an 18-point deficit, thanks largely to a second-half winning performance from quarterback Marcus Mariota, as the Titans playmaker helped to engineer a stunning come from behind victory to set up a meeting with New England next weekend at Foxboro.

The first half was dominated by the home side, as Kansas City got on the board first after Tyreek Hill had got the Chiefs up to the Titans 30-yard line and saw two plays later Kareem Hunt crashing his way into the end zone for a 1-yard score. Towards the back end of the first quarter, it saw Alex Smith finding Travis Kelce in space to throw into and he completed a 13-yard pass to the Tight-End for a Touchdown and moved the Chiefs 14-0 up.

Tennessee was simply being shut down by a solid Kansas City defensive unit, that didn’t allow the Titans any joy at all on offense and saw the Titans making a total of 127 yards in the first half. It saw the Titans yards numbers dwarfed by the home side who made 264 yards in the half, while the telltale statistic of the first half was Kansas City picking up sixteen First Down’s, compared to Tennessee’s five. Things weren’t helped either when Mariota threw a pass intended for Delanie Walker and saw the Titans man in double coverage and instead saw Marcus Peters picking it off for Interception.

Kansas City wasn’t just hitting Tennessee hard on the scoreboard, but they were doing just as much on the field too as Marcus Mariota could attest to, as the quarterback was sacked in a crunching tackle by Derrick Johnson on the Chiefs 30-yard line and set up the only points for Tennessee in the half, after Ryan Succop kicked over a 49-yard field goal. With 1.34 remaining in the second quarter, it saw a massive blow to the Chiefs when Travis Kelce suffered a big hit that kept the Tight-End out for the rest of the game.

Tennessee fell further behind with just five seconds left to go in the half when DeMarcus Robinson went in for a score after some ‘average’ tackling allowed the Chiefs to extend their lead and go into the break 21-3 points up at the interval. At the half, it seemed like the home side would be heading to a bit of lop-sided win and saw the Titans needing some inspiration from somewhere on their side. The way it looked they could do with another miracle that mirrored their infamous ‘Music City Miracle’ if they were to overcome Kansas City.

Marcus Mariota would prove to be that inspiration that the Titans was looking for, as firstly, he scrambled on a 3rd down to pick up a much needed first down for his side and then had handed off a pass to Derrick Henry who bulldozed his way through the Chiefs defense to get deep inside the Kansas half.

gettyimages-901975334

Tennessee Titans Quarterback dives for a Touchdown Pic: Getty Images

Later, while on a 3rd and goal, it saw Mariota having no options of which to pass to and saw him scrambling to make a play and threw into the end zone and saw the pass deflected back towards him and he went in for a touchdown. No matter how fortunate the end result, it gave the Titans a foot back in the game and see perhaps a new miracle for the Titans.

It felt like that score had sent the momentum shifting in favour of the Titans, but when Adoree’ Jackson spilt a punt return and saw Kansas City recovering it looked like that momentum would dissolve. As it turned out, the Chiefs were unable to make the most of the field positioning and saw Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker striking the post on a 48 yard FG attempt to see a chance go begging and sensed that perhaps the game was slipping away from the Chiefs. That miss boosted the Titans and despite trailing by 11 points with still a quarter to go it had Tennessee looking the better side.

Derrick Henry then ran for a 35-yard touchdown to bring the gap down to five points and saw the Titans trying a two-point conversion which failed miserably. With just over six minutes left to play, it saw the Titans taking advantage of a tired Chiefs defense that had been out on the field for the majority of the second half and saw Mariota throwing a pass to Eric Decker for a 22-yard touchdown. With Tennessee ahead in the game, they tried to put more daylight between themselves and their opponents, but their attempts to score on a two-point conversion were foiled again by a tired looking Chiefs defensive unit.

Kansas City’s offense then came back onto the field after what felt like an eternity since they were actually out their, but when they jogged on the field they looked like a stunned football team and one that seemed beaten. With the Chiefs on a 4th and 9 and forced into gambling, it saw Alex Smith throwing a pass upfield for Albert Wilson and saw the Tennessee safety’s  snuffing out their last chance and saw the Titans pulling off one of the most stunning comeback victories in Wild Card history. The loss for the Chiefs marked a run of six home losses in a row in the playoff football since 1993.

 

192px-Los_Angeles_Rams_logo.svg    LOS ANGELES RAMS   13  –   26   ATLANTA FALCONS    Atlanta_Falcons_logo.svg

gettyimages-902008056-e1515301111635

Falcons QB Matt Ryan firing a pass off- Pic: GETTY IMAGES

For the first time in 41 years, it saw an NFL postseason game being played out of the famous Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, as the Rams looked to carry on their incredible story this year. Sadly though, much like the last time that Los Angeles played at the Coliseum back in 1977 in a playoff game, it saw the home side coming up short once more as a Falcons side led by Matt Ryan, looking like a team on a mission, as they look to erase the memory of last year’s Superbowl nightmare less than a year ago.

Atlanta got a huge slice of luck midway through the first quarter when a Falcons punt upfield saw the ball bouncing off Blake Countess foot and saw a scramble for the loose football and see the Falcons recovering. That then led to a 29-yard field goal by Matt Bryant that put the Falcons ahead and saw him adding a further kick later on in the quarter to put the AFC South team 6-0 up.

Devonte Freeman put the Falcons in an even stronger position as they led 13-0 after a 3-yard run brought a touchdown for Atlanta and saw the home side falling further behind. LA then replied through quarterback Jared Goff, who threw for his first postseason touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp, as the pass connected for a 14-yard score in the end zone.

The final fifteen-seconds of play in the first half took an incredible nine minutes to complete, as with no timeouts the Rams spiked the ball with nine seconds to go and saw the officials wanting to review a couple of plays previous that saw an incomplete pass being called, and saw the rare occasion of the home fans cheering the decision to not give the catch and helped the Rams out, with time added back on the clock. With the last action of the half, it saw a 35-yard Field goal kicked by Sam Ficken to narrow the deficit and make it 13-10 at the half.

Matt Bryant then kicked a 25-yard field goal to open up a six-point lead for the Falcons before striking a 56-yard effort to make it 19-10 for Atlanta, with still a quarter to play. Jared Goff in his first playoff game looked assured of himself, much like he has for the best part of the season and saw him doing all he could to help his Rams side to stay in the game. Todd Gurley then started to pick up a bit of steam and had LA looking to him to score an get them back in it. As it was, it saw Los Angeles forced to kick a field goal instead and see the lead cut down to six with more than ten minutes left to play.

Mohamed Sanu then ran 52-yards to get the Falcons up to the Rams 10-yard line, before a couple of plays later while on a 2nd and goal, it saw Matt Ryan throwing a high floating pass out towards the corner for Julio Jones to make the grab and score a touchdown and make it a 26-13 game. Los Angeles then thought they had a touchdown when Goff found Tyler Higbee in the end zone, but the replays showed that the Tight-End had dropped the ball and so it was ruled an incomplete pass and saw the hopes of a comeback ended there and then.

It brought an end to an entertaining season for the Rams this year, as a stunning debut season for Head Coach Sean McVay, saw his team posting an 11-6 record on the year. Meanwhile, for the Falcons it saw them moving to an 11-6 record and have them now facing Philadelphia Eagles in Philly next weekend.

 

193px-Jacksonville_Jaguars_logo.svg  JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS  10  –  3   BUFFALO BILLS Buffalo_Bills_logo.svg

Ben Koyack

Ben Koyack celebrates Touchdown in Jaguars win – Pic: Boston Herald

Jacksonville and Buffalo played out the remaining AFC Wild Card game in Florida and while no one ran away with the game, it will certainly not be challenging the AFC game the night before between Tennessee and Kansas City for the game of the weekend, but it certainly proved to a case of how to defend at least.

A scoreless first quarter saw only 94-yards in total being recorded between the sides in the opening fifteen minutes of the game until a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka put the Bills ahead. Jacksonville’s Quarterback Blake Bortles then conjured up a first down conversion late in the second quarter to get the Jaguars within field goal range and have Bortles going to the well too often, and he was stopped by the Buffalo defence and led to a Josh Lambo 44-yard field goal to take the sides into the halftime break all square.

Late in the third, it saw Leonard Fournette trying to leap over the Bills defense for a touchdown, but he was dragged back by the ankles by Buffalo’s Lorenzo Alexander as he made sure that the Jaguars Running-Back wasn’t making the line. However, the Jaguars then gambled on a 4th and goal and it saw them richly rewarded as Blake Bortles picked out Ben Koyack in the end zone to see the Tight-End making the catch and getting the touchdown to put Jacksonville ahead.

In the fourth quarter, it saw Buffalo struggling to make much on offense and had LeSean McCoy being stifled by the Jaguars defense throughout the game and have the Bills top weapon being grounded. With just over a minute to play, it saw the Bills hopes all but go up in smoke, as quarterback Tyrod Taylor was sacked and had to be helped off the field of play following a hit he suffered and saw his head hitting the turf and saw backup Nathan Peterman coming into replace him for the remainder of the game.

This was the same Nathan Peterman, that in a previous start for Buffalo in Week 11, saw the rookie QB throwing for five interceptions in the infamous game against the LA Chargers in which Tyrod Taylor was benched and was soon thrown back on. With Taylor now done for the game, this was a chance for Peterman to redeem himself in the eyes of Bills fans and those fans around the league that mocked his performance earlier in the season. His first snap saw him scrambling for a first down and lost control of the football at the end of the play but thankfully was out of bounce. His second play saw a throw that was caught and helped the Bills pick up another first down and move upfield.

Tyrod Taylor, Yannick Ngakoue

Tyrod Taylor gets driven into the turf by Jags Defense – Pic: Boston Herald

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo who was commentating for American television said of Peterman as they moved upfield, “Peterman has a chance to etch his name into the history books with the Bills on this drive right here”. It proved to be the commentator’s curse and saw the backup quarterback sacked for a loss of ten yards. The next play was a 2nd and 20 and saw Peterman throwing a pass that was tipped and eventually Intercepted by Jalen Ramsey and he helped the Jaguars claim victory and see a rematch from Week 5, as the Jags now travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.

 

192px-New_Orleans_Saints_logo.svg  NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 31  –  26  CAROLINA PANTHERS191px-Carolina_Panthers_logo.svg

Panthers Saints Football

New Orleans Quarterback Drew Brees celebrates a Touchdown – Pic: New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints made it a clean sweep of victories over their NFC South rivals in in the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the final Wild Card game of the weekend, as Drew Brees shown his quality once more as a top performer in the postseason, as he threw for 376 yards and picked up two touchdowns that helped the Saints go marching on into the playoffs against a very stubborn opponent.

After a tight opening quarter of play between these rivals, it then saw a piece of brilliance by Brees to open the scoring, as the Saints Quarterback found former Carolina Wide-Receiver Ted Ginn Jr up the middle and have the now New Orleans man finishing off the play for an 80-yard touchdown pass to move the home side in front.

Earlier in the second quarter, it saw the ‘pride of Arbroath’ in Graham Gano slotting over a 27-yard field goal after the Scottish kicker had missed an earlier attempt in the quarter.

Drew Brees then pick up his second touchdown pass of the game when he found Josh Hill wide open in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown to make it 14-3 Saints, as New Orleans looked good in the contest. Graham Gano then kicked over another field goal for the Panthers to keep them still in touch with the home side, as they trailed by just 8-points.

Zach Line then went in for a 1-yard score to have New Orleans on moving further ahead and lead 21-6 as the halftime break was approaching, but Gano had the last say on the half as he drilled over a 58-yard kick to see Carolina down by 12 points at the half.

Cam Newton was trying his best to get the Panthers back in the game and had Gano being the one to chip away at the Saints lead, as he kicked over his third field goal of the game to make 21-12. Wil Lutz then replied with a 57-yard field goal for New Orleans as they looked to hold back a Carolina side at arm’s length.

Carolina then scored a touchdown when Newton found Greg Olsen in the end zone for a score, but the Saints came back later in the quarter, as Brees found Michael Thomas who got the Saints up to the 5-yard line and near the Panthers goal-line

Alvin Kamara then went in on a 2-yard run to get the fourth touchdown for New Orleans in the game and looked to have closed the game out. However, the celebration on the Saints score had hardly calmed before Christian McCaffrey raced into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown and have a noisy and boisterous Superdome crowd fall silent as the Panthers refused to give up with 4.09 remaining.

With the game coming to the crunch, it saw the Saints going for it on 4th and 2 to see the game out and have Brees being intercepted by Mike Adams and gave Carolina one last chance to steal victory at the death.

As the game reached its dying moments, Carolina just couldn’t find a way to break them down and with 11 seconds left to play it saw the Panthers on a 4th and 23 and needing Newton to come up with something special to get the win for the Panther. Instead was jumped upon by three New Orleans players and saw him go from the Saints 34-yard line to being dumped on his own 45- yard line.

960x0

Cam Newton (left) Drew Brees (right) Rivals shake hands after a tough battle -Pic: Forbes


NFC DIVISIONAL GAMES:

191px-Philadelphia_Eagles_logo.svgPhiladelphia Eagles (13-3) v Atlanta Falcons (11-6)  Atlanta_Falcons_logo.svg

@ Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia 

127px-Minnesota_Vikings_logo.svgMinnesota Vikings (13-3) v New Orleans Saints (12-5192px-New_Orleans_Saints_logo.svg

@ U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota

 

 

AFC DIVISIONAL GAMES:

193px-New_England_Patriots_logo.svgNew England Patriots (13-3) v Tennessee Titans (10-7Tennessee_Titans_logo.svg

@ Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass

196px-Pittsburgh_Steelers_logo.svgPittsburgh Steelers (13-3) v Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6193px-Jacksonville_Jaguars_logo.svg

@ Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

 

Advertisements

NFL WILD CARD Preview

American Football

This weekend is ‘Wild Card Weekend’ and sees eight-teams hoping to take another step towards making Superbowl Ll in Minnesota on February 4th, as the AFC and NFC Wild Card games are played out to see who advances to the divisional games next weekend. The four-game themselves are some of the most intriguing and unpredictable matchups in recent times and the postseason themselves is an absolute lottery as well.

It is difficult to recall a more open NFL season than this year’s one, as no side has looked particularly unbeatable compared to previous years gone by, and that goes for the four Wild Card games this weekend too. Half of the teams making up this weekend’s games (Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills) none have played in the postseason for at least 11 years and in the case of the Bills it is 18 years and helps brings to an end to the unwanted record of being the only NFL franchise to not have appeared in a playoffs in the 21st century.  But for the case Los Angeles it is 29 years since they last held a home playoff game – before the team moved to St Louis in 1995.

4cgcwgzbffxlpcbuj94601x5c

Tennessee_Titans_logo.svg158px-Kansas_City_Chiefs_logo.svg

TENNESSEE TITANS v KANSAS CITY CHIEFS – @ Arrowhead Stadium

First up is the Saturday night game, as the Tennessee Titans travel to the Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City to take on the in-form Chiefs. Kansas City will look to pick up their first Playoff victory in at home, since 1993 when the Chiefs had to overcome the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime to prevail. 25-years ago also saw the AFC West team beating the then Houston Oilers 28-20, in their divisional playoff game, and to which later saw the Oilers moving to Tennessee, before adopting the Titans names in 1999.

Kansas City does hold a 2-0 record over the Titans, but that is if you included their record as the Oilers too, with the victories for the Missouri side coming back in 1962 & 1994. In match-ups since the move to Nashville back in 1996 and onwards, the Titans hold a slender 5-3 series record overall in the head to head. The Chiefs have had three parts to their season, as they firstly defeated the Superbowl champion New England Patriots in Foxboro to shock the Patriots and the experts in the process. Kansas City then followed up that win with four straight victories that moved them to a 5-0 record before the wheels then blew off. The Chiefs then lost six of their next seven games, to move to 6-6 on the season and saw them finally getting back to winning ways in week 14, as Kansas beat their bitter rivals the Oakland Raiders and finished the regular season with four wins to claim a 10-6 record and make the playoffs.


For Tennessee, they haven’t played in a Playoff game since losing to the San Diego Chargers (now LA Chargers) back in 2008 and saw their last win in the postseason coming as far back as Baltimore in 2003, before they fell to the eventual champions in New England. The Titans have a decent record in the playoffs at 5-6, though that is if you exclude their Oilers history. Their first playoff ever victory as the Titans came against Buffalo back in 2000 in what was dubbed ‘The Music City Miracle’, in which Tennessee scored on the final play of the game after a kickoff return saw Frank Wycheck throwing a lateral pass across the field to Kevin Dyson, and he ran it back for a 75 yard touchdown to win the game.

That Tennessee side would make it all the way to the Superbowl XXXIV, having been a Wild Card side, and saw the Titans coming up a 1-yard short of winning their first ever Superbowl against ‘the Greatest side on turf’ in the St. Louis Rams. Since then, however, the Nashville outfit has struggled to make the playoffs and this year has seen them finding it hard to string more than two wins together and ended up with a 9-7 record on the season, but they’ll hope to improve on that. For a City that is famous for the ‘King’ Elvis Presley, they’ll know that come game time that ‘It’s now or never’ and will want to avoid feeling like a ‘Hound dog’ should they lose out.

PREDICTION: Kansas City

 


193px-Jacksonville_Jaguars_logo.svgBuffalo_Bills_logo.svg

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS v BUFFALO BILLS – @ EverBank Field

The second AFC clash of the weekend pits the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Buffalo Bills at EverBank Field in Florida. Such has been the demand for playoff tickets at the EverBank Field this Sunday, that steps have been taken to open up another section of their stadium, as the Jaguars are playing hosts to their first postseason game since the turn of the century and also first playoff game since losing to New England back in 2008.

The Jaguars saw them picking up huge scalps in the first half of the season with impressive victories that included a 44-7 blowout win at Wembley Stadium over the Baltimore Ravens and then beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-9 to claim another scalp. Towards the back end of the season, it saw players and coaches alike on the sidelines being involved in heated arguments during losses to San Francisco and Tennessee in the final two weeks of the season and has seen their momentum take a battering from those incidents. Jags quarterback Blake Bortles has picked up twenty-one touchdowns on the year while throwing for 3,687 yards while Running Back Leonard Fournette has been key in the rushing game with ten touchdowns and over 1,342 yards.

Meanwhile, Wide Receivers in Marquise Lee and Keelan Cole have picked up six touchdowns between them and account for 1,467 yards and Tight-End Marcedes Lewis has five touchdowns on the year himself with 318 yards to boot.


With the Jags booking their playoff spot weeks ago, in the case of Buffalo, it was literally a last-minute thing and needed help from unlikely allies. It saw the final week of the regular season seeing the Bills beating their fellow conference rival in the Dolphins in Miami and then had Buffalo needed to await the outcome of the Baltimore/Cinncinati game to see if they would make the playoffs or not.

For most of the game, it seemed certain that Buffalo was heading through until the Ravens led right up until the final stages of the game and needed an Andy Dalton throw on fourth-down to find Tyler Boyd and have the Bengals causing a shock and stunning the Baltimore Ravens and spark off wild celebrations among Bills players and fans that were watching from within the confines of the stadium in Miami.  Buffalo hasn’t made the end of season playoffs since 1999 and held an unwanted record of being the only side in the NFL to not have played a single postseason game in the 21st century, with their last game being the ‘Music City Miracle’ game against Tennessee.

The Bills this year has been led by Running-Back LeSean McCoy, of which the Harrisburg native has scored run in for six touchdowns and ran for 1,138 rushing yards on the season. Quarterback for the Buffalo side is Tyrod Taylor, and he has thrown for 2,799 passing yards and fourteen touchdowns on the year. However, the most bizarre incident involving Taylor came back in Week 11, when the head coach Sean McDermott made the strange decision to give Nathan Peterman the nod ahead of him against the LA Rams and saw Nathan Peterman having a nightmare game that saw him throwing five Interceptions and could have easily cost Buffalo in the long run.

Their biggest worry ahead of their game with the Jags this Sunday is an injury to  LeSean McCoy after he suffered an ankle injury in the win over the Dolphins but has said in the last couple of days that he plans to suit up and will hopefully take his place out on the field. If he is missing for the Bills, then you feel that they are in a world of trouble.

PREDICTION: Buffalo Bills



 

rkqnfgtgwky3sf8viwrmze8me

Switching conferences now to the NFC and it sees the past two NFC champions taking their place in the Wild Card games in the form of the Carolina Panthers and also last year’s beaten finalists in the Superbowl in the Atlanta Falcons.

 

192px-New_Orleans_Saints_logo.svg191px-Carolina_Panthers_logo.svg

NEW ORLEAN SAINTS v CAROLINA PANTHERS – @ Mercedes Superdome

The first game sees a clash of the NFC South rivals, as Cam Newton leads his Carolina Panthers side to the Mercedes Superdome as they face the New Orleans Saints and a side that the Panthers have lost twice to already this year in the regular season. It saw the Louisiana outfit beating Carolina in their previous meetings that came in Week’s 3 and 13.

For the Superbowl winners back in 2010 in New Orleans, they started this season with two losses against the Minnesota Vikings on the road and then the current Superbowl champions in New England at home. That was before they then secured their first win of the year at Carolina in Week 3. Evergreen Quarterback Drew Brees has thrown for a total of 4,334 yards on the year and picked up twenty-three touchdowns and has a passer rating of 103.9%. The Saints have the second-best offense in the league, with only the Patriots having a better record.

For the two-time Superbowl runners-up in Carolina, they haven’t had that much of a bad season in truth, with their only losses coming against teams that have made the playoffs barring of course the hapless Chicago Bears. Wins on the road at New England and Detroit gave the Panthers a 4-1 record, before losses to the Eagles and then a disaster in Chicago against the Bears saw two 75-plus yard turnovers helping their opponents to victory. The Panthers were also only one of three teams to defeat the top-ranked Minnesota Vikings over the whole of the regular season. Carolina had many weapons at their disposal in their offense, as Wide-Receiver Devin Funchess scored eight touchdowns while Running Back’s Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey both picked up seven touchdowns each and the duo combined for 1,818 yards overall.

Cam Newton saw him completing 3,302 yards on the season and collected twenty-two touchdowns as well, as the Panthers talisman came up big when they needed him and will need to do the same come Sunday, as he faces arguably one of the top 3 quarterbacks in the league in Drew Brees. It could see the game of the whole playoffs too between these two NFC South rivals.

PREDICTION: New Orleans Saints

 


 

192px-Los_Angeles_Rams_logo.svgAtlanta_Falcons_logo.svg

LOS ANGELES RAMS  v   ATLANTA FALCONS  – @  Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The last game of the weekend sees the Playoffs heading to the West Coast and have the beaten runners-up from last year’s Superbowl in Atlanta, as they travel to the City to Angels to take on the surprise package of the season, in the Los Angeles Rams at the L.A Memorial Coliseum.

Atlanta will be hoping to make their way back to the Superbowl and put right what went wrong last year, following their complete and utter disintegration against the New England Patriots. The Falcons were 28-3 up midway through the third quarter and on course for victory. What followed, was the worst collapse ever by a team in a Superbowl or perhaps any final in sporting history, as the Falcons lost out 34-28 in overtime to the Patriots and see them cave in spectacularly.

The Falcons overcome the Bears, Packers and Lions to post a 3-0 start to the season, as they looked to exercise their demons from last year, but they then suffered three straight losses, including a rematch with New England, that saw them then slumping to 3-3. Atlanta finished with a 10-6 record and had the Falcons bouncing back with a Playoff berth and saw the core of players from last year in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman and Mohamed Sanu all stepping up for the Georgia-based side. Freeman claimed eight touchdowns and made 1,182 yards in the regular season, only Julio Jones had more yards (1,459) for the Falcon on the year. Tevin Coleman scored eight touchdowns with five on the rush and making 927 yards, while Sanu caught five touchdown passes and 713 yards this season.

Los Angeles as previously mentioned may have been the surprise package of the season of the year, as having posted a 4-12 record last year with Jeff Fisher in charge in, after he was fired it saw the Rams making a brave move for Washington Redskins Offensive Coordinator in Sean McVay to be the new Head Coach of the Rams. The appointment raised a lot of eyebrows amongst the NFL, with McVay being the youngest coach in the league at 31 years old to coach any team.

When the Rams hit their Bye Week in Week 8, they were 5-2 on the season and that included a huge win at AT&T Stadium, in which they beat the Dallas Cowboys on their home turf 35-30 and also completed a shutout of the Arizona Cardinals at home and began to see people taking the Rams serious as a playoff contender. One huge difference for the Rams has been the impressive display of youngster Jared Goff at quarterback, as the former first-round draft pick by the Rams in 2016 had looked like he may not cut the mustard in the NFL last season, but roll on a year later and Goff has become one of the most exciting prospects in the league and with over 3,800 passing yards and twenty-eight touchdowns. Goff has been given new life under coach Sean McVay this year, as McVay by many has been the coach of the year and turned the fortunes of this Rams side around in such a short space of time that he has done an incredible job.

The meeting with the Falcons could come down to the quarterbacks, and Goff will be able to show how far he has come this season as he faces one of the best play-callers in Matt Ryan, as the Atlanta quarterback has struggled for form this season but not wavered at all and has helped carry his Falcons side to the postseason under some difficult times.

PREDICTION: Atlanta Falcons