Wildcard Weekend wasn’t as mid as people wanted to make it, the only the Jaguars/Bills game was snoozable, and even then it was great if you liked defense and watching Nathan Peterman end the season the way Scott McDermott had been begging for (should’ve put Webb in). Panthers put up more of a fight than I thought they had in them after Atlanta drubbed them the week prior, and the Titans comeback/Chiefs meltdown was fun to watch. Add to that we got a pretty damn good College Football Championship game and I’d say it was a GREAT weekend for football.
The divisional round should add the same ratio of entertaining to mid games, as I (Ryan) only really expect one to be non-competitive. We’ll get there shortly.
#6 Atlanta Falcons (11-6) @ #1 Philadelphia Eagles (13-3),
4:35 PM EST, NBC
First and foremost I find it odd that the new playoff broadcasting format kind of slights CBS one game, leaving FOX with 4 games this postseason, CBS with 3 and NBC with 3 since they’re broadcasting Super Bowl LII. With that being said, Al Michaels is probably the Play-by-Play guy in this bunch that I enjoy the absolute most.
The Falcons are coming off a strong defensive performance against one of the league’s most high-powered offenses holding them to just 16 points and 5 of 14 on 3rd down. The Falcons did this through a mix of ball control (held the ball for 37 minutes) and creating turnovers (2 on one of the league’s better ST units). The offense looked a bit spotty at times, but ultimately delivered late, they still need to be more consistent as they progress, but for now this style of play could get them to the Conference Title game. They’re facing a strong defense in Philadelphia, a team that beat them last season despite the offense still needing some retooling. The Falcons are lucky that Wentz is out, as the Eagles chances decrease significantly under Foles. Brian Baldinger has been highlighting a myriad of Foles’ issues on twitter:
Foles must fix his 3rd down issues if the Eagles want a shot, if he’s as hesitant and late on throws as he was against the Raiders, the Falcons will capitalize with turnovers. Regardless, Philly has earned their way to this 1-seed by more than just Nick Foles and can rely on those elements to get themselves to an NFC Championship game berth.
Alex (27-20)* | Ryne (23-10)
Ryan* (23-21) | Joe (24-21) | Brandon (30-14) | Keenan (31-17) | Wop (21-7)
#5 Tennessee Titans (10-7) @ #1 New England Patriots (13-3)
8:15 PM EST, CBS
The great thing about this game is we get Tony Romo as the Color Commentator, so that’s good. Here’s the thing to remember when you play the Patriots: all 53 men on your roster and your coaching stuff must believe you can beat them, really believe it, otherwise you’ve already lost. Aside from that, you have to HIT Tom Brady, hurry, rush, whatever, make him uncomfortable. Brady is aware of his age, despite all he’s done to overcome and outplay it, he’s aware of it. The Titans have a pass rush that could get Brady off his rhythm, though it’s not as strong as what Houston did to him last year. If the Titans can get home, they have a chance, but Mariotta has to be as magic as he was the second half last week. A slow start will also get them beat.
Ryan (23-13) | Brandon (28-17) | Alex (38-17) | Ryne (35-10) | Joe (33-16) | Keenan (34-27) | Wop (28-13)
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6) @ #2 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
Sunday, January 14th, 1:05 PM EST (CBS)
We all know that Jacksonville beat Pittsburgh down earlier in the season, prompting a myriad of questions about whether or not Ben Roethlesberger still had it (I was one of those people). Since then the Jaguars have trended upward before a slide into the postseason and the Steelers have seemingly returned to form with one of the more consistent offenses in the NFL. Sunday will be a big test for Jacksonville, but this defense is strong enough to beat anyone the face, the question is, which Bortles are we going to see?
Brandon (20-13) | Alex (27-24) | Joe (27-24) | Keenan (24-16)
Ryan (19-13) | Ryne (28-24) | Wop (20-14)
#4 New Orleans Saints (12-5) @ #2 Minnesota Vikings (12-4)
Sunday, 4:40 PM EST, FOX
You don’t really beat a guy like Drew Brees unless you can pressure him and get him off his timing/rhythm. If there is a team who can do it, it’s Minnesota. That being said, this is either going to be a classic that Minnesota squeaks out, or a blowout dud in favor of New Orleans. Can the Saints win one and pray for a Falcons win to get an NFC Championship game hosted in the Super Dome? Or will Minnesota win, sending them one step closer to being the first team to play for a Super Bowl in their own home?
Ryne (28-24) | Ryan (31-27) | Joe (28-20)
Alex (23-20) | Brandon (23-20) | Keenan (27-20) | Wop (24-10)
Standings from last week:
Ryan, Alex (3-1)
Ryne, Keenan (2-2)