The divisional weekend in the NFL playoffs is coming up. Four games. Winners will play for a shot at getting to the Super Bowl.
The Wild Card games came and went. There was quite a few good games, and a few bad ones. Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans advanced to the next round – the divisional round.
- Philadelphia Eagles vs Atlanta Falcons
- New England Patritos v Tennessee Titans
- Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars
- Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints
That’s the four games we’ll see this week. All of last weeks winners are underdogs, except last years Super Bowl loser Atlanta Falcons, who is favored against a quarterback-less Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz is the reason they’re in the game – now they have to trust Nick Foles to finish the job.
EAGLES vs FALCONS
Lincoln Financial Field – Sat 13 Jan, 22:35 CEST
TV: Viasport, NBC
Eagles record: 13-3
Falcons record: 11-6
|Philadelphia Eagles||Atlanta Falcons|
|QB: Nick Foles | RB: Legarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi | TE: Zach Ertz | WR: Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffery | OL: Vaitai, Wisniewski, Kelce, Brooks, Johnson||QB: Matt Ryan | RB: Devonta Freeman | TE: Austin Hooper | WR: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu | OL: Matthews, Garland, Mack, Schweitzer, Schraeder|
Atlanta Falcons started off bad, but got their season going eventually. It was expected that they would have a Super Bowl hangover, and I’m actually impressed they managed to turn the season around. For the Philadelphia Eagles, however, the season started off great, and then the unthinkable happened: Their MVP candiate got injured. Now Nick Foles will have to find his inner strength to overcome the hot Atlanta Falcons.
Foles was awful for the St. Louis Rams, but as we later has learned, that might’ve been because of bad coaching. It’s not a coincidence that previous Jeff Fischer «flop» quarterbacks is doing good after finding a new head couch. Case Keenum is balling out in Minnesota, and Jared Goff is a completely new quarterback after Fischer departing. Foles was depreciated as an NFL QB under the former Rams coach, but he might just be a good quarterback after all, winning two of his last three games as a starter for the Eagles.
The problem with Nick Foles is that he is bad facing pressure, and Atlanta can bring pressure with a bunch of explosive playmakers on defense. Foles just completed 38 % of his passes when facing pressure, and just 3,3 yards per attempt. He also threw two interceptions.
Atlanta’s game plan should therefore be to blitz more often than not, and see if Foles can keep calm. Julio Jones, Devanta Freeman and Mohamed Sanu has all been limited in practice this week, so it might be up to the Atlanta defense after all.
Eagles 17 – 24 Falcons
MVP: Deion Jones
PATRITOS vs TITANS
Foxborough – Sun 14 Jan, 02:15 CEST
TV: Viasport, CBS
Patriots record: 13-3
Titans record: 10-7
|New England Patriots||Tennessee Titans|
|QB: Tom Brady | RB: Dion Lewis, James White | TE: Ron Gronkowski | WR: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan | OL: Solder, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, Fleming||QB: Marcus Mariota | RB: Derrick Henry | TE: Delanie Walker | WR: Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews| OL: Lewan, Spain, Jones, Kline, Conklin|
Yes, the Tennessee Titans played amazing in the second half versus the Kansas City Chiefs, and completed a great comeback to advance to the next round. One thing is clear: They can’t afford another half like the first one if they want to beat New England.
The Patritos are healthy, and they are playoff ready. After practicing through a snow storm, stopping a 250 pound heavy Derrick Henry might not be as hard. But that is also where this game will be decided. Henry must average at least four yards per carry, and if he can move the chains continuously, Mariota can make the plays to score points. If Tennesse can’t get their run game going with Henry, they simply don’t stand a chance.
And even if Henry would rush for 200 yards and three touchdowns, the game still isn’t won when Tom Brady plays for the other team. It’s a very tough task for Tennessee, and getting to Brady often – and hard – is important for them to have any chance of winning. I just don’t think they have the defense to do that.
Patriots 28 – 19 Titans
MVP: Tom Brady
STEELERS vs JAGUARS
Heinz Field – Sun 14 Jan, 19:05 CEST
TV: Viasport, CBS
Steelers record: 13-3
Jaguars record: 11-6
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|QB: Ben Roehtlisberger | RB: Le’Veon Bell | TE: Jesse James | WR: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant | OL: Villanueva, Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro, Gilbert||QB: Blake Bortles | RB: Leonard Fournette | TE: Mercedes Lewis | WR: Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns | OL: Robinson, Omameh, Linder, Cann, Parnell|
On paper, this is an unfair matchup. The Pittsburgh Steelers has superstars in every position. Jags has Bortles, Lewis, Lee and Hurns. Just as their AFC South collegues, Tennesse Titans, Jaguars must trust their running back to move the sticks.
And yet again, that’s not necceserely enough to win against Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Big Ben. It’s obviously up to the great Jags defense to keep the game close, and even though Jalen Ramsey has been limited in practice this week, I expect him and AJ Bouye to own each of their sides of the field. I think the damage will be done in the middle of the field, with Antonio Brown or JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Both Ben and Blake will turn the ball over here, and this won’t be the prettiest game this weekend. However, the Steelers is just better at scoring points, and that should get them the W.
Steelers 17 – 12 Jaguars
MVP: Le’Veon Bell
VIKINGS vs SAINTS
US Bank Stadium – Sun 14 Jan, 22:40 CEST
TV: Viasport, FOX
Vikings record: 13-3
Saints record: 12-5
|Minnesota Vikings||New Orleans Saints|
|QB: Case Keenum | RB: Latavius Murray | TE: Kyle Rudolph | WR: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs | OL: Reiff, Sirles, Elflein, Berger, Remmers||QB: Drew Brees | RB: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram | TE: Josh Hill | WR: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr | OL: Armstead, Kelemete, Unger, Warford, Ramczcyk|
Minnesota Vikings is another team that wasn’t supposed to be in the playoffs this week. In fact, they were expected to be one of the worst teams in the league after losing two starting quarterback, and their star rookie running back. Somehow Case Keenum became one of the best QBs in the NFL, and the undrafted and underrated Adam Thielen really found his place on the team. Add a great defense to the mix, and the Vikings are in the divisional round.
But they’re up against one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Drew Brees and New Orleans Saints has started their Super Bowl run. They beat Carolina Panthers last week, and giving Drew Brees a dome in the divisional round? Should be a Brees win.
Saints has struggled several seasons, but what changed this year is the defense. Marshon Lattimore has had a Defensive Rookie of the Year season, and the 2nd year player Sheldon Rankins has been disruptive. Saints has in fact drafted really well recently, and that is paying off now. They should be able to out-score Minnesota, and if there’s one guy I begrudge winning another Super Bowl ring, it’s Drew Brees. If he beats the Vikings, we should see New Orleans return to Minnesota early in February.
Vikings 17 – 34 Saints
MVP: Alvin Kamara
WRITTEN BY MATTIS HOLT, SPORTS WRITER AND VALUELIVE SHOW HOST
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