It is time for the Divisional Round in the NFL, which means each playoff team is one step closer to getting to the Super Bowl. Last week, I went 2 for 4 in my picks, so this week I’ll be looking to choose correctly. This week, the Atlanta Falcons, who recently beat the Rams, will be traveling to Philly to take on the 1 seeded Eagles who are the first 1 seed to be underdogs in NFL history. Also, the Titans, who recently upset the Chiefs, will be traveling to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots. On Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars, who recently beat the Bills, will be taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Heinz Field. Finally, the New Orleans Saints will be taking on the 2nd seeded Minnesota Vikings in US Bank Stadium. With this said, let’s get into the picks.
Falcons 23, Eagles 16; 4:35pm NBC
The Falcons are favored by 2.5 points in Philly and are a hot team at the right time. They have a real chance of going to the championship game next weekend. For starters, did you see what they did to the Rams who averaged nearly 30 points a game?? The Falcons defense kept Jared Goff and the offense to 13 points! 13! And since they are facing a shaky Nick Foles, they have a real chance of shutting him down. Matt Ryan will need to play as well as he did last week and the defense will have to create turnovers to get a win out of this game. Also, they have Julio Jones who will be a matchup nightmare against the Eagles secondary. The other thing that will play a factor in this game is the playoff experience, which is something the Falcons already have.
The Eagles have the benefit of playing in front of their home crowd and this team is very motivated since no one believes that the Eagles will come away with a victory. Eagles fans will remember that they beat this team last year in the regular season and limited the offense to 15 points! They were the highest scoring offense last year under Kyle Shanahan, but now it is Steve Sarkisian who runs the offense. The Eagles defense will need to create turnovers to give Nick Foles better field position while the run game will need to be effective Foles more breathing room in the play-action game. With all of this in mind, the Eagles will have to play a near-perfect game to come away with a victory, which is why unfortunately, I do not think my Eagles will win this Saturday.
Patriots 27, Titans 20; 8:15pm CBS
Tom Brady and the Patriots will be looking to ensure that they win this game against the Titans by doing what Tom Brady does best; be clutch. Brady will have to carry his team to a victory seeing as the Titans are one of the best teams against the run and this team is full of playoff experience as the Pats have made the postseason every year under Tom Brady. The Patriots defense will have to keep Derrick Henry in check to force Mariota to throw the ball a lot. With all of this said, the Pats should be challenged by a motivated Titans team.
As for the Titans, they’ll need to stick to a similar winning formula as last week as Derrick Henry ran for over 130 yards and scored a TD. Mariota will keep the turnovers at a minimum as Brady and Co will take advantage of those opportunities and only bury the Titans run for the Super Bowl. The biggest challenge for the Titans will be putting pressure on Tom Brady and not letting him sit back in the pocket or else he will pick apart this defense. Also, the Titans can’t afford to play a lot of zone coverage because Brady is very good against it. If the Titans can dial up enough pressure to throw Brady and the timing with his recievers off, the Titans will have a very strong chance of upsetting the Patriots. However, the Titans may not have what it takes to defeat Brady in Foxborough, so the Patriots should find a way to win.
Steelers 20, Jaguars 16; 1:00pm CBS
The Steelers will be looking for revenge on the Jaguars after they got pummeled by them back in Week 5 and Ben Roethlisberger threw 5 interceptions, 2 of which resulted in pick-6s. This time around, the Steelers offense is going to establish the run and try to wear out the defense to give Big Ben his chances to throw the back t his receivers. Speaking of receivers, Antonio Brown will be coming back from injury after he suffered a partially torn calf back in Week 14 against the Patriots, so he may have a big game this time around. For the defense, they’ll simply look to do what the Bills did on Sunday, which was shut down the run and mix up the coverages when he passes the ball. Bortles looked pretty bad in that win and didn’t even throw for 100 yards. The Steelers are more than capable of giving Bortles a hard on Sunday.
As for the Jaguars, they will need to shut down Le’Veon Bell and feed Leonard Fournette the ball to take crucial seconds off the clock to keep the Steelers offense on the bench. Blake Bortles will also need to be sure of his throws and not force any turnovers or else this game will get out of hand very quickly. The defense will look to pressure Big Ben early and often along with shut down Antonio Brown to force him to look for other relievers. The Jaguars have already beaten the Steelers in the regular season, but the stakes are much higher in this game, which may prove to Ben the downfall of the Jags on Sunday. However, expect this game to be a defensive showdown and expect the Jags to put up a good fight.
Saints 23, Vikings 20; 4:40pm FOX
This game is the game of the week as the Saints travel to Minnesota to try and take down the mighty Vikings. The Saints are a very balanced team and the Saints offense will look to establish the run with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram and keep it consistent to neutralize the pass rush. However, if the run game doesn’t work out, Brees will be more than capable of carrying the offense on his back as he can make every throw and has been in the league for a long time. And for the defense, the Saint must shut down Latavius Murray and force Case Keenum into throwing the ball a lot. Since Keenum doesn’t have the playoff experience, the Saints should pressure him into driving the distance for long drives by playing a bend don’t break defense.
As for the Vikings they’ll be looking to win to get to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday to then win that game to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The key for the Vikings will be to shut down the Saints run game so that Brees 8s forced to throw a lot on them because their defense is very solid in both the pass and the run. Also, the Vikings will want to establish the run against the Saints as they are a mediocre team when defending the run. Also, the defense has to pressure Brees into throwing quick and decisive throws and keep everything in front of them. Most importantly, Case Keenum will need to play as well as he did during the regular season by limiting his turnovers for the VIkings to defend their home turf. Since the Vikings may not have enough playoff experience to win this game, Brees and the Saints may come away with a narrow win.