What To Look For In The Divisional Round Of The NFL Playoffs

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Wildcard weekend featured some pretty entertaining moments for fans who tuned in.  Marcus Mariota did the unthinkable and caught his own pass for a touchdown, Andy Reid melted down in the playoffs (again) and lost an 18 point lead at halftime, and the Jacksonville defense held Buffalo to 3 points.  I don’t know if we’ll see another quarterback catching his own pass for a touchdown but I can guarantee there will be some crazy moments.  Here’s what to look for in each game.

Eagles vs. Falcons

Sorry to break it to all of you Eagles fans out there, but, a Super Bowl is not in your future.  Carson Wentz was your only hope and you know as well as I do, even if you refuse to admit it, Nick Foles isn’t going to save your season.  Wentz’s last game against Dallas didn’t go well, to put it kindly.  In one quarter, Foles went 4 of 11 for 39 yards and an interception. I don’t like the decision to sit him after that. I understand if he gets hurt, then there is truly no hope, but what’s going to happen now, is it is going to take a long time for him to get into his groove.  He’s only played two full games and then had two weeks off before this weeks game against the Falcons.  It’s especially tough when your first game back is a pressure filled playoff game against a scorching hot Atlanta defense that has gotten hot at the exact right time. Add into the fact that the Falcons are especially determined, considering, you know, 28-3.  The falcons offense has been great and with Davonta Freeman fully healthy again, the Eagles defense is going to have to play out of their minds to give them a shot.

My Pick: Falcons, not even close

Titans vs. Patriots

This game features the biggest age gape between quarterbacks in playoff history with Tom Brady at 40 and Marcus Mariota at 24.  Brady has all the post season experience in the world, Mariota beat the Chiefs last week.  I’m not taking anything away from Tennessee, they’ve played very good football all year and their come from behind win was amazing to watch.  Derek Henry proved that given the right amount of touches, he can produce big numbers, which he’ll have to do again with Demarco Murray ruled out again.  The Patriots have not played their best football lately but even when they’re not at their best, they’re still pretty damn good.  Mariota is going to have to make plays with his feet and allow his receivers time against the cornerback tandem of Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler.  New England’s defense has been questionable all year, their offense has not been.  The Titans are going to have to put up a lot of points in order to keep it close.  Brady is going to have to be careful with the deep ball as all-pro safety Kevin Byard has a unique ability to gain distance insanely fast; a skill that has given him a league leafing eight interceptions.

My Pick: Patriots, by a long shot

Jaguars vs. Steelers

After Jacksonville dominated Pittsburgh in the regular season, Ben Rothlisberger questioned if he even had what it takes to be in the NFL anymore after he threw five interceptions and no touchdowns. Big Ben has found his mojo again since that game and with Antonio Brown back, and Juju Smith-Scheuster showing true elite potential they are going to test that elite secondary much more than Robert Woods than the Bills did.  Blake Bortles showed us what he is made of in high stress games.  He threw for a whopping 87 yards and a touchdown.  Bortles is going to make mistakes, he isn’t going to throw for 350 and 3 touchdowns, so this game essentially lands on the shoulders of Leonard Fournette and every single person on the defensive side of the ball to hold down the elite weapons in Leveon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Big Ben.

My Pick: Steelers in a one score game

Saints vs. Vikings

This is going to be the best game of the weekend.  The Saints have an incredible offense with one of the best backfields I’ve ever seen. Kamara and Ingram have been a nightmare to contain, throw in a future hall of fame in Drew Brees and receivers like Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr, and that is an offense that will give problems to any defense, even as great as the Viking’s. Xavier Rhodes will be locked up with Michael Thomas all game which means the other receivers are going to have to make big plays.  Case Keenum has had himself an MVP caliber season out of nowhere and he is going to be a serious problem for the Saints defense.  If the Vikings offense gets hot and gets out to an early lead, the average Saints D can’t contain it.  Two high powered offenses, advantage New Orleans, but Vikings have the superior defense.  Expect this game to come down to the last few plays.

My Pick: Saints – Kamara 100 yards and 2 TDs

 

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