I’m in a forgiving mood.
I’m going to give the NFL another chance. A chance to redeem itself after the least entertaining Wild Card Weekend I can remember. Despite the little voice inside my head screaming, “this is a bad idea!”, I’m going to prepare the couch for Divisional Weekend. Join me….
Atlanta Falcons (6) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1) – Saturday @ 4:35 P.M. EST (NBC)
The Philadelphia Eagles are about to do something that’s never been done before. No, not bring a Super Bowl to Philadelphia. Start the playoffs, as a #1 seed, as an UNDERDOG. The Eagles finished this season with a 13-3 record, in large part to a fantastic sophomore season from Carson Wentz. Thanks to Wentz’ Week 14, torn ACL, Nick Foles calls under center home. That’s why the peaking at the right moment, Atlanta Falcons are 3-point, road favorites.
This is the toughest game to call. Nick Foles is the ‘x-factor’. Will we see 2013 Nick Foles (64%, 27 TDs, 2 INTs), or 2015 Nick Foles (56%, 7 TDs, 10 INTs)?? Secret door #3 is probably the way Foles’ day will go. On the other hand, can the Falcons continue their strong play and get 1 step closer to returning to consecutive Super Bowls?? If they do, Falcons’ faithful will be thanking Matt Ryan’s right shoulder. However, I don’t think the Falcons are destined to follow in the footsteps of the 1990’s Buffalo Bills.
Prediction: Eagles 24, Falcons 21
Tennessee Titans (5) @ New England Patriots (1) – Saturday @ 8:15 P.M. EST (CBS)
There’s not much to talk about here. The Tennessee Titans didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs, and they certainly don’t deserve to be in the Divisional Round. With their annual, playoff bye week behind them, the New England Patriots are well rested and ready to put that scoreboard to work. Expect this game to get out of hand. Oh, and not that the Patriots needed any extra motivation, but Titans’ safety, Kevin Byard, thought it was a good idea to poke the beast. Byard said, “I want to make him (Tom Brady) look like Blake Bortles.”
That’s not the smartest thing I’ve heard this week.
Prediction: Patriots 45, Titans 17
Jacksonville Jaguars (3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2) – Sunday @ 1:05 P.M. EST (CBS)
Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars demolished the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5 of the regular season, 30-9. Ben Roethlisberger threw NO touchdowns and 5 interceptions (2 were returned for TDs). But that was a dress rehearsal. This is show time. As good as the Jaguars’ defense is, returning 2 interceptions for TDs, in the same game, is an anomaly. Do you know what isn’t an anomaly?? Blake Bortles throwing for less than 200 yards and committing a turnover.
Bortles threw for less than 200 yards 7 times this season (including 87 yards last week). He also had 19 total turnovers in the 17 games he’s played. That’s not a recipe for success. A well rested Ben + a healthy Brown + Bell in the backfield = success.
Prediction: Steelers 27, Jaguars 19
New Orleans Saints (4) @ Minnesota Vikings (2) – Sunday @ 4:40 P.M. EST (FOX)
For consecutive weeks, the NFL has saved the best for last. Drew Brees, who turns 39 the day after this game, is looking to make 1 last Super Bowl push. He still has the arm. He has the offensive weapons. And for just the 2nd time in his life, he has a defense worth talking about (last time he had a good defense, he won the Super Bowl). But he must get past a tough, Minnesota Vikings defense, on the road, before he can set his sights on another Lombardi Trophy.
The Vikings’ defense, overshadowed by the Jaguars, may actually be the best defense in the league. They rank 1st in total yards and points allowed per game. And they rank 2nd in passing and rushing yards allowed per game. And just like the Eagles, they have an ‘x-factor’; Case Keenum. While Keenum has had a consistently good season, regression to his previous 4 seasons mean seems likely at any moment.
If the Falcons beat the Eagles, the Saints and Vikings will be playing for the right to host the NFC Championship.
If the Vikings reach the Super Bowl, they’ll become the 1st team in NFL history to play the ‘big game’ on their home field. They’ll have to get past Brees and the 2-headed monster in his backfield first.
Prediction: Saints 23, Vikings 21
Who do you think will win this weekend?? Post your predictions in the comment section below.
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