Four games down. Four teams out. Only eight squads remain as we enter the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. Last week I went 2-2 overall and 2-2 with the spread. The Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans were easily the surprise team of the round. And, the shockers aren’t over yet.
With the top four teams in the NFL in action after a bye week, time for added fun in the postseason.
Saturday’s NFC Divisional Round Game (Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles
How to Watch: 4:35 pm kickoff on 1/13/18 on NBC
Preview: The Atlanta Falcons went on the road last week and knocked off a high-flying offense in the Rams with a tremendous defensive effort. Sure they were out-gained by Los Angeles, but they did have two takeaways and picked up three sacks. Now they face a Philadelphia team without its MVP-caliber quarterback in Carson Wentz. Since Nick Foles took over following injury, the Eagles went 2-1 down the stretch, but the offense struggled against Oakland and Dallas. How Foles plays is going to be the key. If he is 2014 Foles, Eagles should roll. If not, the top-seed could get clipped early.
Pick: During last year’s playoff run I never once really considered Atlanta a threat. I felt their defense wasn’t strong enough to make it through the field and their offense was one-dimensional. Both of those things have changed this year, and the Falcons have maybe the biggest chip on their shoulder of anyone. Plus, Foles doesn’t scare me. The Eagles are three-point home underdogs, and I like Atlanta to win it and cover.
Saturday’s AFC Divisional Round Game (Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots)
How to Watch: 8:15 pm kickoff on 1/13/18 on CBS
Preview: Maybe the biggest shock of Wild Card Weekend was the Titans scoring 19 unanswered points to defeat Kansas City on the road. Tennessee has a great run defense and, statistically, are better than the Patriots in every important defensive stat. Derrick Henry was a man-child running the ball and looks to do the same against the 29th best defense in the league. However, the New England Patriots are…well…the New England Patriots. The team that rallied from down 28-3 in the Super Bowl. They completely blew out every team they faced (save a loss at Miami and a last-second win over Pittsburgh) in the second half of the year. Their offense is insanely good, and their “bad” defense has been hurt by a rough couple weeks early.
Pick: Listen, the Titans win last week was a great story, and an even more fun game to watch. But these are the Patriots. My pre-season Super Bowl champ. It’s Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Ignore all the crap about a power-struggle in New England. Winning solves everything, and nobody does it better than the Patriots. I’d be wary of the 13.5 point spread, just cause double-digit favorites scare me, so take New England, but the Titans cover.
Sunday’s AFC Divisional Round Game (Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers)
How to Watch: 1:05 pm kickoff on 1/14/18 on CBS
Preview: The Jags played one of the ugliest games in postseason history last week against Buffalo. With a combined 493 yards between the two teams, it was a total snooze-fest. Jacksonville did, however, get two picks and sacked Tyrod Taylor twice. This week it’s a Pittsburgh Steelers squad that has a tremendous all-around team. Both squads rank in the top-5 in total defense and top-6 in total offense. Where they differ is how they get down the field. The Steelers have a great passing game with Ben Roethlisberger, Juju Smith-Schuster, LeVeon Bell and more. The Jaguars have Leonard Fournette who is a stud at running back and will make life terrible on Pittsburgh.
Pick: I understand that Antonio Brown is not going to be 100%, but one of the best wide receivers in the game at 80% is better than nothing. Not to mention the multiple other weapons in the passing game for Big Ben. On the other hand, the Jags demolished Pittsburgh 30-9 in Week 5, picking Roethlisberger off five times. I don’t think that will happen again, but Jacksonville has also won the last two meetings between these two. Pittsburgh is a 7.5 point favorite, and I’m going to call the upset. Jacksonville wins outright.
Sunday’s NFC Divisional Round Game (New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings)
How to Watch: 4:40 pm kickoff on 1/14/18 on FOX
Preview: Maybe the most intriguing game of the weekend right here. New Orleans redefined themselves and became a quality running team all season long. Then, last week, Drew Brees goes OFF for 376 yards helps the Saints march all over Carolina. The defense even sacked Cam Newton four times and controlled the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, the Vikings have been so intriguing this year. They have their third-string quarterback leading the 11th best offense in the league while their backup running back(s) rank seventh in rushing in the league. What helps is they have a great defense too and are even better on third downs.
Pick: I want to pick the Saints here. We saw the future Hall of Famer Drew Brees last week, and their run game is still just as dangerous. Sure, Minnesota beat them by 10 in Minneapolis alllllll the way back in Week 1. You know what? Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook were also playing in that game. Neither is available here, and New Orleans has only gotten more dangerous. The Vikings are a 4.5 point home favorite, and the Saints will cover. If Case Keenum makes one mistake, they’ll win outright too. Ah, screw it, I’m calling the upset here too.