NFL Playoffs Week 2: Divisional Round
After an exciting weekend of Wild Card action, the Lombardi trophy winner has been narrowed down to eight teams.
The Jaguars, Titans, Falcons, and Saints all advanced to the Divisional round. New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Minnesota all play for the first time this postseason.
Here’s a current look at the postseason bracket:
One vital factor to keep an eye on for all matchups this weekend is the head-to-head experience of the quarterbacks.
With that being said, it’ll be interesting to see whether experience or home-field advantage will play a bigger role (for the NFC games, obviously)
Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger hold both those advantages, and by a large margin.
Also, here is this week’s Sports Blog New York Podcast, where our three hosts make their NFL Playoffs Week 2 Picks.
Listen along for some quality breakdown of the game spreads and best bets of the week.
Now time for the matchups & predictions for the second week of the NFL Postseason!
ATLANTA FALCONS @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: SATURDAY, JANUARY 13th – 4:35 PM
It’s not too often the highest seed from a conference isn’t favorited against the lowest seed on their own turf, but that’s exactly the case.
Atlanta opened as 2.5-point favorites over the Eagles, according to Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Football Outsiders also stated the Eagles are the first No. 1 seed to be an underdog in the divisional round since 1970.
The Eagles deserve a lot more respect than they’re getting for this game.
Yes, their potential MVP quarterback tore his ACL and is done for the year in Carson Wentz, but Nick Foles is a former starting QB for Philadelphia and is no stranger to playing.
The Eagles hold the fourth-ranked defense in football and have edge on both sides on the line. They are also 7-1 at home this season.
Their run game is always a threat when Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, who both need to step up big of the Eagles even want a chance to win.
If Nick Foles can avoid a disastrous performance as well, and the defense takes some of the pressure off him, there’s no reason why the Eagles can’t compete toe-to-toe.
As for the Falcons, their defense shut down the number one offense in football.
This may not seem like much as an accomplishment since the Rams played in their first playoff game since 2004 and No. 1 offense hasn’t had recent success in the postseason.
But it wasn’t simple either. Atlanta is a scary and intimidating team when they’re clicking, and right now, they’re clicking.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Matt Ryan was 9-of-10 (90 percent) when targeting Julio Jones against the Rams, the duo’s best completion percentage in a game this season. Ryan and Jones have now played seven postseason games together, connecting on 80 percent of their passes. That’s the best of any QB-WR duo with 20-plus attempts in the postseason since 2011!
Not to mention the Eagles have lacked at the cornerback position all season.
It will be a dogfight until the buzzer hits 0:00 and can go either way, but the defending NFC champs advance to defend their title.
FINAL SCORE: FALCONS 28, EAGLES 27
TENNESSEE TITANS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: SATURDAY, JANUARY 13th, 8:15 PM
I give all the credit in the world to Marcus Mariota. He made it look easy against the Chiefs. I don’t care if Kansas City struggles in the playoffs, especially at home.
He threw a touchdown pass to himself and made a game-clinching BLOCK to let Derrick Henry run for the first down, sealing a 22-21 thriller victory.
That’s all the magic him and Titans will get. They’re no match for Brady and his Patriots.
Even with all the speculation surrounding the breakup of Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, the trio is still prioritizing the focus of winning a sixth Super Bowl.
If they also win it again, it could squash those reports, as all three have responded saying they all plan to stay together.
The Patriots have the upper hand on offense, while the Titans have the defensive edge.
According to Pro Football Reference, New England ranks No. 2 in total and passing offense and No. 10 in rushing offense.
The Titans finished fourth in the NFL in rush defense allowing 88.8 rushing yards per game. They held the NFL’s leading rusher, Kareem Hunt, to a measly 42 yards last weekend.
Both teams have defended the pass poorly, Tennessee ranks No. 25 as the Patriots are No. 30.
Brady won the passing title and the Patriots rank No. 20 in rush defense.
To make a long story short; the Titans have Mariota. The Patriots have It won’t be a total blow out, but will still be a walk in the park for New England.
FINAL SCORE: PATRIOTS 31, TITANS 17
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS: SUNDAY, JANUARY 14th – 1:05 PM
The last time Jacksonville played in Heinz Field was week 5, and the Jaguars picked off Big Ben five times, defeating the Steelers 30-9.
Blake Bortles became just the second QB in the past 25 seasons to finish a playoff game with more rushing yards (88) than passing yards (87), joining Michael Vick of the Falcons in 2005.
Although Bortles helped the Jaguars defeat the Bills, their defense is what really stepped up, once again. Jalen Ramsey ended the game with an interception of Nathan Peterman, who was subbed into the game on the winning drive in the 4th quarter after starter Tyrod Taylor left the game after being hit in the head.
The Jags defense is the best in football and it could be sort of the same thing if Big Ben wants to throw the ball.
By the way, Antonio Brown, the only player who was a unanimous first-team all-pro, has been sidelined with a partially torn calf suffered in Week 15.
He’s active and apparently fully healthy to play Sunday.
There was even a video of him on social media being defended by former NFL Star Chad Ochocinco and leaving him in the dust.
Not that Ochocinco is former star cornerback or is close to the age that Brown is, it’s a great site for Pittsburgh to see their star receiver running full speed and making hard cuts the week of his first game in four weeks.
Le’Veon Bell will be given the ball the most, but I still expect the Steelers to feed Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster all game as well. They’ll need to utilize all their weapons to take down this Jaguars defense.
It’s been an incredible run for this Jags team, but a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship is in order.
FINAL SCORE: STEELERS 24, JAGUARS 21
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS: SUNDAY, JANUARY 14th – 4:40 PM
The Vikings and Saints have not met in the playoffs since the 2009 NFC Championship Game. The Saints won the game 31-28 in dramatic fashion.
Vikings defense vs Saints offense … what a matchup to watch.
New Orleans is ranked No. 2 in total offense. Minnesota is ranked No. 2 in total defense, so who wins?
Drew Brees’ time to capture a second title is running out, he’s 38 years old. Somehow, he still manages to throw for 4,334 yards and complete 72% of his passes.
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara became the first running back tandem since 1985 to both have 1,400 scrimmage yards in same season on week 17.
Receiver Michael Thomas set a league record with 196 catches in his first two NFL seasons.
But it’ll be tough in a frigid and loud U.S. Bank Stadium.
All the way back in week 1, Thomas was held in check by Xavier Rhodes to eight catches yielded just 45 yards in a Vikings 29-19 win.
There’s two differences from the beginning of the season:
• Drew Brees can make any throw at any time with pinpoint accuracy and veteran experience. Rhodes has to be perfect in coverage, and even then Thomas can still end up with a catch.
• Sam Bradford won that game. Not Case Keenum.
This is another game that can go either way, but Brees will work his magic just like in 2009.
FINAL SCORE: SAINTS 31, VIKINGS 28
**All games are in Eastern Time**