The NFL playoffs will officially start on Saturday with one Wild Card Game from each conference. First, the Tennessee Titans will travel to Kansas City to clash with the Chiefs in the AFC at 4:35 p.m ET on ESPN (live stream). Later at 8:15 p.m. ET on NBC (live stream), the Atlanta Falcons — last year’s NFC Champion — will fly to the West Coast for battle against the Los Angeles Rams.
Tennessee (9-7) and Kansas City (10-6) found success on the ground this season, with both rushing offenses finishing in the top 15. But this game will come down to which team can make more plays in the passing game. The Titans finished with the 23rd-best pass offense in the NFL, while the Chiefs’ seventh-best pass offense clicked on all cylinders. Both defenses struggled with defending the pass in 2017, so the keys to winning this game are simple: throw the ball and defend the pass.
But the scare that the Chiefs put into them was phenomenal. McDonough’s call was even better. It’s almost too bad that it was all for nothing, but we’ll still have his breaking voice for the rest of time — and Jon Gruden won’t let him forget it.
The week before the injury that changed everything, Mike Mitchell leaned against a wall outside the locker room at the Steelers’ practice facility. This was early December. His team was 9–2, and Pittsburgh’s resident free safety–free spirit had a lot on his mind.
The result: Aided by an improved secondary that has forced passers deeper into their progressions, the Steelers racked up a franchise-record 56 sacks (from 15 different players), the NFL’s highest total since 2013. There were blips—see: Bears, Bengals, Browns and an A-Rod-less Packers—but they often outplayed their own vaunted offense. Despite Shazier’s injury (and others, including to Antonio Brown), Pittsburgh finished 13–3, securing a first-round playoff bye, and hosts the Jaguars this Sunday.
Even Haden—the newcomer who felt the unfamiliar sensation of playing for a winning team—knows how to frame this postseason. “It’s all about number 50,” he says.
The biggest upset of Wild Card Weekend has to be that Gruden has a smartphone. He totally seems like the kind of person that would still have a flip phone like a Super Football Guy.