San Francisco 49ers Schedule Analysis

2018 could be a return to glory for the red and gold.

For the San Francisco 49ers, the release of the 2018 NFL Schedule couldn’t have come soon enough. After a disastrous 1-10 start in 2017, the 49ers ended their season on a five game winning streak thanks to the emergence of new franchise QB Jimmy Garoppolo. His play earned him a five year, $137.5 million contract extension, the richest in NFL history. With all the excitement surrounding him and one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, let’s take a look and analyze the 49ers schedule for 2018.

Week 1: at Minnesota Vikings (10 a.m. PST, Sunday September 9th)

Week 2: Detroit Lions (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday September 16th)

Week 3: at Kansas City Chiefs (10 a.m. PST, Sunday September 23rd)

Week 4: at Los Angeles Chargers (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday September 30th)

Week 5: Arizona Cardinals (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday October 7th)

Week 6: at Green Bay Packers (Monday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST Monday October 15th)

Week 7: Los Angeles Rams 5:20 p.m. PST (Sunday Night Football, Sunday October 21st)

Week 8: at Arizona Cardinals (1:25 p.m PST, Sunday October 28th)

Week 9: Vs Oakland Raiders (Thursday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Thursday November 1st)

Week 10: New York Giants (Monday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Monday November 12th)

Week 11: Bye

Week 12: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10 a.m. PST, Sunday November 25th) 

Week 13: at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Sunday December 2nd) 

Week 14: Denver Broncos (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday December 9th)

Week 15: Seattle Seahawks (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday December 16th)

Week 16: Chicago Bears (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday December 23rd)

Week 17: at Los Angeles Rams (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday December 30th) 

For a team that went from middling aspirations in 2018 prior to trading for Jimmy Garoppolo to now being mentioned as a possible contender, the 49ers start to the season couldn’t be any harder. Three of their first four games are on the road, and all four games come against teams that posted records of 9-7 or better in 2017, including the NFC runner-up Minnesota Vikings in Week 1. Within the first quarter of the season, we’ll know whether the playoff aspirations for the 49ers are legitimate or not. 

jimmy_shanny
The pairing of quartback Jimmy Garoppolo and head coach Kyle Shanahan could yield playoff results in 2018.

The 49ers then have a stretch where four of their next five games will be played in front of a national television audience. These games include a Lambeau Field showdown against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, a home divisional battle the next week against the upstart Rams, a battle of the Bay Area less than two weeks later against their cross town rival Raiders, and a classic NFC slugfest against a historical rival in the Giants. The 49ers five game wining streak at the end of 2017 caught the eyes of many, and they’ll be playing under the lights in prime-time five times in 2018. 

Of course, one would be remiss if they failed to mention the 49ers late season match-ups against the Seattle Seahawks. While the Seahawks have won the last 9 games is in the series, including the 2013 NFC Championship game where then Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman had his miraculous deflection in the back of the end zone to linebacker Malcolm Smith for a game sealing interception send them to Super Bowl XLVIII. In 2018, Sherman will find himself on the opposite side of the rivalry, and look for him to perform at an All-Pro level against his former team in Weeks 13 and 15.

The end of the 49ers season resembles that of a homebody, as three of their last four games will be played at Levi’s Stadium. This includes a Super Bowl XXIV re-match against the Broncos, the aforementioned NFC West battle against the Seahawks, and a gimmie game against the lowly Bears. This could result in a nice end of the season run to the postseason should they take advantage of the home for the holidays crowd.

The 49ers are in a prime position in 2018 to not only move out of the basement of their division, but also be a surprise contender in the NFC. Head Coach Kyle Shanahan seems to have found his quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, as he elevated a putrid offense into the the best offense statistically in the NFL during the last five weeks of 2017. While trouble looms over linebacker Reuben Foster over his domestic violence case (and should’ve been cut already), the defense still boasts young talent in Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner along the defensive line, and the previously mentioned addition of Richard Sherman improves the secondary. Even with a tough start and a series of under the microscope prime-time games, the 49ers should be players for the postseason should everything fall into place.

Advertisements

Oakland Raiders Schedule Analysis

Jon Gruden and the Raiders look to improve upon a disappointing 2017 season in 2018.

While we’ve known who the Raiders opponents will be in the 2018 NFL Season since New Years Eve 2017, the NFL has finally released every team’s full schedule for the 2018 season. Sure, there’s still the NFL Draft to get through and we haven’t even reached training camp, but let’s analyze how the 2018 schedule stacks up for Jon Gruden and the Oakland soon to be Las Vegas Raiders.

Week 1: Los Angeles Rams (Monday Night Football, 7:20 p.m. PST, Monday September 10th)

Week 2: at Denver Broncos (1:25 p.m. PST, Sunday September 16th)

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins (10 a.m. PST, Sunday September 23rd)

Week 4: Cleveland Browns (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday September 30th)

Week 5: at Los Angeles Chargers (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday October 7th)

Week 6: Seattle Seahawks (10:00 a.m. PST, Sunday October 14th in London)

Week 7: Bye

Week 8: Indianapolis Colts (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday October 28th)

Week 9: at San Francisco 49ers (Thursday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Thursday November 1st)

Week 10: Los Angeles Chargers (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday November 11th)

Week 11: at Arizona Cardinals (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday November 18th)

Week 12: at Baltimore Ravens (10 a.m. PST, Sunday November 25th)

Week 13: Kansas City Chiefs (1:05 p.m. PST, Sunday December 2nd)

Week 14: Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Sunday December 9th)

Week 15: at Cincinnati Bengals (10 a.m. PST, Sunday December 16th)

Week 16: Denver Broncos (Monday Night Football, 5:20 p.m. PST, Monday December 24th)

Week 17: at Kansas City Chiefs (10 a.m. PST, Sunday December 30th)

Once again, the NFL has not been kind to the Raiders schedule. It’s not like they have much of a choice, however. Especially after owner Mark Davis pillaged Las Vegas for nearly a billion dollars in public funds for their new stadium in Las Vegas and begged the NFL to move there, the Raiders are at the whim of the league and their scheduling. 

2920772_1280x720
The Raiders brass faces an uphill to start the season in 2018.

They begin the season away from home for four out of the first six weeks of the season. This includes divisional clashes against the Broncos and Chargers, and a trip to South Beach against the Dolphins. One of the recurring themes of the Raiders schedule since 2014 is effectively losing a home game in Oakland to play a “home” game internationally, and this year their reward is to play the earliest scheduled London game in Week 6 against the Seahawks. Sure, the Raiders have international appeal due to their global brand, but taking away yet another home game from the soon to be abandoned Oakland fans adds insult to injury.

To end the season, the Raiders face divisional foes three out of their last five games, including two tilts against the Chiefs and a Christmas Eve battle against the Broncos. They also face two tough AFC North foes in the final five weeks, with their historical rival in the Steelers coming to town in what could be a potential playoff match-up and a grind it out early kickoff against the Bengals. This stretch could make or break the Raiders playoff aspirations, and they must take care of business in their final divisional games and stand up to the bullies of the AFC North.

In regards to marquee time slots, the Raiders appear on prime-time television four times in 2018, down from the five nationally televised games last season. They’ll get exposure on all three prime-time time slots, with two home game Monday Night Football tilts against west coast rivals in the Rams and Broncos, a road battle of the Bay Area on Thursday Night Football against the 49ers, and a Sunday Night a Football slugfest against the Steelers.

After a disappointing 2017 that perhaps had too much unwarranted hype going into it, the Raiders should improve upon last season’s disastrous campaign. Yes, the defense may have to bend and not break once again, but 2016’s Defensive Player of the Year, defensive end Kahlil Mack, can anchor this defense, and should receive a contract extension at some point before the start of the regular season. Quarterback Derek Carr is a franchise player who regressed to the mean last year, and should bounce back under the tutelage of Jon Gruden. Adding veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson should help wide receiver Amari Cooper regain his Pro-Bowl form, and the one two punch of running backs Marshawn Lynch and free agent acquisition Doug Martin should result in a potent running attack. Mark Davis can only hope his ten year, $100 million investment in Jon Gruden pans out in year one of the second Chucky era. By the looks of the 2018 schedule, the Raiders should be able to contend for the postseason, but as always, it’ll be a grind for the Silver and Black. 

Bro-Picks Presents: The Top 10 Super Bowls of All Time

Super Bowl 52 came and went, but does it crack the top 10 of the greatest Super Bowls of all time?

Despite its grandiose nature, the Super Bowl is often a one-sided affair and relatively uncompelling. Every so often, however, we get a Super Bowl that is actually competitive and exciting, and it’s important to cherish these games since they don’t come around often. The top 10 Super Bowls of all time are:

10. Super Bowl V: Baltimore Colts V. Dallas Cowboys

Also known as “The Stupor Bowl”, this game is often ranked as one of the worst games of all-time due to its sloppy play, but it’s undeserved. Sure the game featured 11 turnovers combined, a missed PAT, and even some officiating miscues, but Super Bowl V was a back and forth contest that came down to the final play of the game: a 32 yard field goal by Colts kicker Jim O’Brien. If that doesn’t qualify as a great Super Bowl, then what does?

9. Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos V. Green Bay Packers

After agonizing defeat after defeat, Super Bowl XXXII was shaping up as another disappointment for Denver’s QB John Elway, as the Broncos were 14 point underdogs against the reigning Super Bowl champion Packers, who were led by QB Brett Farve. Super Bowl XXXII went down to the wire, and featured one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history, when Elway launched himself in the air in the hopes of gaining a first down, and was hit and spun around like a helicopter. Talk about a heart of a champion.

8. Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots V. St. Louis Rams

In the wake of 9/11, how fitting was it that a team called the Patriots pulled off an incredible upset against the then St. Louis Rams “Greatest Show on Turf”? Sure, allegations of cheating have marred the Patriots dynasty, but it was the first Super Bowl appearance and victory in their remarkable 18 year run that featured an enthralling game winning field goal from New England kicker Adam Vinatieri.

7. Super Bowl LII: Philadelphia Eagles V. New England Patriots

This year’s Super Bowl featured one of the more exciting games in the big game’s history. A back and forth contest that saw the Eagles and Patriots combine for 1,151 yards offensively and featured only one key defensive play late in the fourth quarter, it also featured a blown lead and two comebacks. Somehow, the Eagles managed to shake-off their choker label and win their first Super Bowl in franchise history, and Super Bowl LII should be remembered as an all time great Super Bowl.

 

6. Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh Steelers V. Dallas Cowboys

Two of the NFL’s most iconic franchises did battle for the second time in four years, and this one was one for the ages. An offensive explosion that featured seven touchdown passes from future hall of fame QBs, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw and Dallas Cowboys QB Roger Staubach, the game gave us another iconic Super Bowl moment when Cowboys TE Jackie Smith dropped a pass in the end zone that would’ve tied the game at 21. The Cowboys would never recover, and the Steelers walked away with their 3rd Lombardi Trophy in a thrilling contest.

5. Super Bowl XXIII: San Francisco 49ers V. Cincinnati Bengals

Another re-match bowl, Joe Montana and the 49ers capped off their 3rd Super Bowl victory with a 92-yard touchdown drive that all started with a spotting of comedy legend John Candy in the stands. To win the game, Montana threw a 10-yard touchdown to WR John Taylor, his only catch of the game. It added to Montana’s legend as “Joe Cool”, and was the last game Niners coach Bill Walsh roamed the sidelines on as a member of the organization.

 

4. Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants V. Buffalo Bills

After New York executed a game plan that kept the ball out of the explosive Bills no-huddle offense, Buffalo still had a chance to win the game with a 47-yard field goal with eight seconds left. Bills K Scott Norwood missed the kick wide right, a thrilling finish to a game that would mark the end of coach Bill Parcel’s tenure with the Giants and the beginning of the Bills four straight Super Bowl appearances in the 90s. Broadcasting legend Al Michaels’ two words, “wide right”, continues to haunt the city of Buffalo to this day.

 

3. Super Bowl XXXIV: St. Louis Rams V. Tennessee Titans

Sure, the Rams at one point led the game 16-0, but Steve McNair and the Titans led a furious comeback to tie the game at 16. After Rams QB and league MVP Kurt Warner threw a 73 yard TD pass to WR Isaac Bruce, the Titans had a chance to win the game with 1:54 left. On the final play of the game, McNair completed a pass to WR Kevin Dyson, who was tackled by Rams LB Mike Jones 1-yard short of the goal line. One. Yard. Short. Perhaps the greatest finish in Super Bowl and NFL history.

2. Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers V. Arizona Cardinals

For the Steelers, appearing in Super Bowls is second nature. For the Cardinals, it seemed like a pipe dream. A close contest throughout, Super Bowl XLIII gave fans one of the greatest plays in football history when Steelers LB James Harrison intercepted a pass from Cardinals future hall of fame QB Kurt Warner and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown before halftime. The Cardinals would battle back valiantly, scoring the game’s next two touchdowns, including a 64-yard touchdown reception by WR Larry Fitzgerald, which gave Arizona a three point lead with 2:37 remaining. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger then led the Steelers on an 8 play, 78-yard drive that was capped off by WR Santonio Holmes’ terrific tip-toe catch in the back of the end zone to secure Pittburgh’s 6th Lombardi trophy, the most in NFL history.

 

1. Super Bowl XLII New York Giants V. New England Patriots

With the prospect of a perfect season on the line, the New England Patriots had only one game to win in order to immortalized as the greatest team ever. The New York Giants had other plans. The game was a 7-3 score stalemate throughout until an amazing fourth quarter took place. First, the Giants took the lead after QB Eli Manning threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to unknown WR David Tyree (*more on him later) to give the Giants a 10-7 lead. Just a few possessions later, Patriots QB Tom Brady did what he does best by leading a 12 play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a 6-yard touchdown pass to WR Randy Moss to give the Patriots a 14-10 lead. On the Giants final possession, Eli Manning escaped the clutches of Patriots DE Richard Seymour and DE Jarvis Green and delivered a 32-yard completion to WR David Tyree, who out-jumped Patriots All-Pro S Rodney Harrison and caught the ball by pinning it to his helmet in what is now referred to as “The Helmet Catch.” Four plays later, Manning tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to WR Plaxico Burress to cap the upset of the century, and the greatest Super Bowl of all-time.

Philadelphia Eagles End Title Drought, Win Super Bowl LII

The Eagles are the top dogs of the NFL.

Fly Eagles, fly.

After postseason disappointment after postseason disappointment, the Philadelphia Eagles ended their title drought and won Super Bowl LII 41-33 against the favored New England Patriots.

Sure, the Eagles looked dominant during the season, but their star 2nd year QB, Carson Wentz, suffered a torn ACL, MCL, and LCL in week 14. The Eagles limped into the playoffs with back-up QB Nick Foles. Everyone counted them out.

Many counted the Eagles out after 2nd year QB Carson Wentz was lost for the season due to injury.

But not the Eagles themselves. They embraced the role of the underdog literally throughout the postseason, donning dog masks whilst holding the favored Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings to 17 points total between the two, steam-rolling their way to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII.

But people didn’t believe the Eagles could defeat the mighty New England Patriots, the NFL’s crown jewel franchise. One could hardly blame someone for believing New England would win the game. Patriots QB Tom Brady, head coach Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft were making their eight Super Bowl appearance together. Who would bet against the golden boy and the hoodie? Their dynasty had seemingly no end in sight.

The trio of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft were making their 8th Super Bowl appearance together in Super Bowl LII.

But the Eagles put an end to the Patriots machine. Philadelphia’s offense moved the ball at will against the Patriots defense, as they gained 538 total yards of offense and scored 5 touchdowns. The most dazzling and gutsy of those touchdowns was a 4th down touchdown when Eagles TE Trey Burton tossed a touchdown pass to QB Nick Foles to put Philadelphia up 22-12 in the waning moments of the first half.

QB Nick Foles catches a touchdown pass from TE Trey Burton before the end of the first half to put the Eagles up 22-12.

But the Patriots didn’t stay down for long, as Tom Brady led three straight touchdown drives in the 2nd half, including a 4 yard TD pass to TE Rob Gronkowski to put New England up 33-32 with 9:22 left in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady did what he does best: lead a comeback.

But the Eagles had one last hurrah in them. Back-up QB Nick Foles then led the Eagles on 14 play, 75 yard touchdown drive that was capped off by a controversial 11-yard touchdown catch to TE Zach Ertz that took nearly 7 minutes off the clock. They inexplicably left Tom Brady too much time on the clock, however, as 2 minutes and 21 seconds remained in the game. If you remember the endings to Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLVIX, and LII, you know how this movie ends.

Zach Ertz’s go-ahead 11-yard touchdown catch was met with controversy due to the NFL’s catch/ no-catch rule.

But in a twist most movie executives would reject, the Eagles defense, which had been torched for most of the game and allowed New England to gain 638 yards on offense, made the big play to save the game. Eagles DE Brandon Graham sacked Brady and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Philadelphia DE Derek Barnett. Eagles rookie kicker Jake Elliott then made a 46-yard field goal to put the game out of reach.

Eagles DE Brandon Graham made the play to save the game by sacking Patriots QB Tom Brady and forcing a fumble that was recover by Philadelphia DE Derek Barnett.

After countless choke-jobs throughout the franchise’s history, particularly under the guidance of Andy Reid, it’s ironic a descendant of Reid’s coaching tree, Dough Peterson, was able to coach the Eagles to victory. He put together the perfect game plan: play ball control offense to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands, take shots down the field, and call every single “special” play every team has in their playbook, en route to the Eagles first Super Bowl in franchise history.

Back-up QB Nick Foles, who had considered retirement just years earlier after bouncing around the league as a journeyman and having lost his love for the game, played the game of his life. Foles threw for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns and caught another one to earn Super Bowl MVP honors. Make no mistake, this is still Carson Wentz’s team, but Foles rose to the occasion and played a huge role in Philadelphia’s victory.

Eagles QB Nick Foles won Super Bowl MVP honors for his performance in Super Bowl LII.

As improbable as their victory was, maybe we shouldn’t have reduced the Eagles success down to one player, QB Carson Wentz. Wentz was having an MVP season before going down with a season ending injury, but the Eagles proved why they were one of the best teams in the NFL this season with their magical postseason. This team is built to make another run at the Lombardi trophy, but the city of Philadelphia, whether it is still standing or not after the partying and rioting takes place, will enjoy this victory and remember it for generations.

The city of “Brotherly Love” loves playing the role of the underdog, having built a statue of the fictitious Rocky Balboa from the Rocky franchise, and the Eagles embraced this role during the postseason. If their victory in Super Bowl LII proves anything, it proves every dog has its day, even the Eagles and the city of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie hoists the Lombardi Trophy during the Eagles post-game celebration after defeating the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII.

Bro-Picks Presents “The Predicta-Bowl”: Super Bowl 52 Preview

The least hyped Super Bowl in recent memory awaits.

This postseason in the NFL has more than made up for an otherwise lackluster regular season. It took us a while to get here, and some of it was agonizing to sit through, but we have arrived to the NFL season’s final destination: Super Bowl LII in the freezer known as Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For the 4th time in five seasons, the NFL’s big game features the number one seeds from each conference: the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Many predicted the Patriots would be here at the start of the season. Despite a lackluster defense and even minimal signs of sure to be MVP 40 year old QB Tom Brady slowing down, New England once again ran through most of the AFC. Sure, they were in a dog fight in the AFC Championship game where they were without star TE Rob Gronkowski for an entire half due to a concussion, but even a game Jacksonville Jaguars couldn’t kill off the Patriots machine. Heck, not even alleged in house fighting between head coach Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady, and owner Robert Kraft over who was supposed to be Brady’s successor, QB Jimmy Garoppolo, and Brady’s cult-ish training guru, Alex Guerrero could stop New England from making it to an NFL record 10th Super Bowl, the 8th among this regime.

Despite rumors of a rift between them, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, QB Tom Brady, and head coach Bill Belichick dominated the AFC once again and are set to partake in their 8th Super Bowl together.

The Eagles were a dominant force this season under the guidance of 2nd year QB Carson Wentz. Wentz and the Eagles looked unstoppable at times, as he threw 33 TDs and finished 2nd in the league in that category. He was first in the league at the time he suffered a torn ACL, MCL, and LCL, a devastating blow that led many, including myself, to believe the Eagles were done. But the Eagles embraced something they hadn’t considered the entire year until the NFL Playoffs: the role of the “underdog.”

Enter back-up QB Nick Foles, who was on his way to being a superstar QB with a 27 TD to 2 INT season with the Eagles in 2013 before bouncing around the league and pronounced done after failing to secure a starting job. Foles has filled in nicely this postseason, throwing for 598 yards and 3 TDs, and could be on his way to earning another starting job this offseason. The Eagles defense has also proven itself to be a main factor in their success this season, as their fourth ranked defense during the regular season has allowed only 17 points in two postseason games. The Eagles have proven they are more than their superstar QB by embracing their “underdog” status, and are a great team firing on all cylinders heading into Super Bowl 52 despite crushing injuries.

When many counted them out due to crippling injuries, the Eagles embraced the role of the underdog. If the playoffs are any indication, they are anything but underdogs in Super Bowl 52.

 

The Prediction:

2 Weeks ago: 1-1

Overall: 170-96

While there has been a lack of buildup to “The Big Game” due to being played in an icebox known as Minneapolis, Minnesota, Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz’s injury, and the prevailing notion the Eagles don’t stand a chance against the mighty Patriots, this will be a close game. The aforementioned Eagles defense is good enough to keep them in the game, and with offensive talent like WR Alston Jeffrey, RB Jay Ajayi, and TE Zach Ertz, the Eagles definitely boast better talent and position players. Had Carson Wentz been under center for Philadelphia, the Eagles would prevail and win their first Super Bowl in franchise history after a legacy of agony, defeat, and underachievement. But the most important position, QB, is dominated by this year’s MVP and perhaps the greatest QB of all time: Patriots QB Tom Brady. Throw in head coach Bill Belichick getting an extra week to game plan and prepare for an opponent, and you have to like the Patriots chances to hoist a 6th Lombardi trophy, a “Predicta-Bowl” result if there ever were one.

Winner and Final Score: Patriots 27 Eagles 23

Bro-Picks: AFC and NFC Championship Predictions

Football’s Fantastic Four.

The NFL’s conference championship weekend has arrived, and all four QBs playing this weekend have combined to make it to this round 12 times. (*Okay, all of those appearances are courtesy of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, so what?*) Other than the Patriots, we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought these teams were going to make this far as late as last week, as no one expected the Jaguars make the Steelers look like dogs in Pittsburgh, the Eagles looked like they couldn’t complete a pass to save their lives with QB Nick Foles filling in for MVP candidate Carson Wentz, and the Vikings needed the  “Minneapolis Miracle”to upend the New Orleans Saints. The NFL’s regular season might have been outright terrible, but the NFL Playoffs have been nothing short of surprising and thrilling, and the AFC and NFC Championship match-ups could provide even more of those same qualities come Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots (3:05 P.M. E.S.T.)

Let start by apologizing to the Jacksonville Jaguars. I predicted you would go 3-13 this season and remain in the basement of the AFC. I highly doubted the Jaguars would be able to go into Heinz Field and knock off a superior Steelers team despite the fact they had done it earlier this season in week 5. The “Sacksonville” defense has been nothing short of stellar this postseason, as they have sacked the opposing team’s QB 4 times, have forced 4 turnovers, and have scored a defensive touchdown. Their defense is good enough to keep them in this game. Their rushing attack, led by rookie RB Leonard Fournette, has been a steady presence for the offense, scoring 3 touchdowns thus far. Even QB Blake Bortles has silenced some of the haters, making key throw after key throw and has even made plays with his legs en route to the Jaguars improbable postseason run.

However, despite all of the ruckus surrounding New England QB Tom Brady’s hand being injured, the Patriots are going to make it to their record 10th Super Bowl. Head coach Bill Belicheck takes the Jaguars seriously, (*unlike the Pittsburgh Steelers*), and is treating this game as if the Jags are going to pulverize the Pats. He does not want to be on the losing end a third time against Tom Coughlin, Jacksonville’s Executive VP of Football Operations, in big game spots such as these. As fitting as it would be to see the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL’s forgotten franchise, make it to the Super Bowl, it’s just not going to happen. Even with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s long running feud with the Patriots in mind, the NFL cannot afford Blake Bortles making a Super Bowl over the golden boy.

Winner: Patriots

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles (6:40 P.M. E.S.T.)

Had QB Carson Wentz been playing this postseason, not only would the Eagles win this game, they’d win the Super Bowl. Sure, QB Nick Foles had one of the greatest NFL seasons ever with 27 TDs compared to just 2 interceptions back in 2013, but everyone had serious doubts he could fill in for Wentz and make it this far this postseason. Foles played mistake free football last week against the Falcons, and let his top ranked defense win the game for him. It’s true defense wins championships, and the Eagles have enough of it and the “underdog” motivation to surprise everyone by making the Super Bowl despite their crushing injuries.

It should be said, however, one of the only defenses to be better than the Eagles this season belonged to the Vikings, who were number one in total defense in 2017. The Vikings shutout Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense for a whole half last Sunday, and looked like an impenetrable wall. Sure, it took the “Minneapolis Miracle”, a 61-yard touchdown pass from QB Case Keenum to WR Stefon Diggs, to pull-out a victory, but that play precisely sums up the Vikings this season. People have doubted this team due to it’s lack of star-power, as its top-ranked defense is mostly nameless and their starting QB has been a journeyman in the NFL. The Vikings have been underdogs his entire season, and the opportunity to be the first team to ever play in their home stadium in a Super Bowl is too good of an opportunity to go to waste. Every dog has its day.

Winner: Vikings

Bro-Picks: NFL Divisional Round Predictions

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

Overall: 167-93

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.

Winner: Falcons

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.

Winner: Patriots

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.

Winner: Steelers

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.

Winner: Vikings