Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars (-9)
If there is a matchup that the Jaguars (10-6) could have wanted more in the first round, you’re welcome to point me in that direction. The Bills (9-7) are a wonderful story and deserve tons of credit for fighting through adversity and Nathan Peterman but this is a rough ask.
Buffalo doesn’t throw the ball well. The Bills’ leading receiver is Deonte Thompson and he has 430 yards. Meanwhile, Jacksonville has the top corner tandem in the league with A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. Factor in LeSean McCoy — Buffalo’s only real threat — as a limited, game-time decision, and it’s ugly.
So why will this game still be close? Blake Bortles. Hell, Buffalo might win the game because of Bortles, who has thrown five interceptions over the past two weeks. If Buffalo has any chance, it is to play conservative on offense and hope Bortles either throws a pick-six or turns the ball over deep in his own territory.
Pick: Jacksonville 13, Buffalo 9
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-7)
The Saints (11-5) handled the Panthers (11-5) in both meetings during the regular season. New Orleans was able to hold Cam Newton under 200 passing yards in each game, with a cumulative two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara also proved too much for Carolina, which allowed more than five yards per attempt to the duo. If the Panthers have any chance of going into the Superdome and winning, they have to nullify the running game and force Drew Brees to throw. Of course, that presents the problem of a Hall of Famer throwing against a very average secondary, which is why this is a terrible matchup for the Panthers.
Newton will have to play a great game for Carolina to advance, something he hasn’t come close to doing in either previous matchup against the Saints.
Pick: New Orleans 30, Carolina 24
Last Week: 12-4