One step closer to Minnesota.
Wild Card Weekend was predictably wild, but gave us some unexpected results. The great choke artist known as Andy Reid gave away yet another home playoff game as the Chiefs blew a 21-3 halftime lead and lost to the Titans 22-21, the Falcons beat the Rams by holding Los Angeles’ explosive offense to 13 points, the Jaguars barely squeaked by the Bills 10-3 in a battle of ineptitude, and the Saints pulled the hat trick by defeating the Panthers for the third time this season.
We have now arrived at the Divisional Round in the NFL Playoffs, where the top seeds in each conference finally get in on the action. The Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, and Vikings may have earned their high seeding during the regular season, but none of that means anything now that every teams’ season can be summed up by one simple phrase: Win, or go home.
Last Week: 3-1
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles (Saturday 4:35 P.M.)
Suddenly, the Atlanta Falcons have become the team no-one wants to see in the playoffs. Their defense is clicking, holding the league’s top offense in the Los Angeles Rams to a measly 13 points. The Falcons scored 26 points, and are undefeated when scoring 20 or more points this season. While the Eagles were experiencing a magical season behind MVP candidate QB Carson Wentz, Philly’s offense hasn’t clicked since Wentz tore his ACL in week 14. The Eagles cannot rely on the arm of backup QB Nick Foles to get them to Minnesota February 4th, and asking their 4th ranked defense to carry them to the Super Bowl is too tall of a task.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (Saturday 8:15 P.M.)
The Titans rode on the back of RB Derrick Henry, who rushed for 156 yards and a TD, and had the ball bounce their way, particularly on QB Marcus Mariota’s 1 yard TD pass to himself off a deflection, en route to an epic comeback win on the road last week at Kansas City. Hope they enjoyed it while it lasted. The Patriots will want to smack anyone in their way of another title, especially after reports of a power struggle between QB Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday 1:05 P.M.)
The Jaguars made the Steelers look convincingly ordinary back in their week 5 meeting. After Jaguars QB Blake Bortles rushed for more yards (*88*) than he passed for (*87*) in his playoff debut last week against the Bills, it’s safe to assume Jacksonville will have a much more difficult time beating the Steelers this time around. QB Ben Roethlisberger may have thrown 5 interceptions in their last match-up, but he knows how to win in spots such as these. Throw in the return of unanimous All-Pro WR Antonio Brown, and that spells doom for the vaunted “Sacksonville” defense.
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (4:40 P.M.)
In a game where their one-two RB tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kumara only rushed for 45 yards on 19 carries, Saints future Hall-of-Fame QB Drew Brees turned back the clock by passing for 376 yards and 2 TDs. If need be, Brees can still fling it. However, against a top-ranked but largely nameless defense in the Vikings, Brees will find it much more difficult to have another throwback performance. And with the prospect of being the first team to play in their home stadium in the Super Bowl for the first time in NFL history, the Vikings will be even more motivated to show their regular season dominance wasn’t a fluke, particularly their week 1 drubbing of the Saints.