It wasn’t a very good start to the playoffs last week, going 0-4. It was a big weekend for the underdogs. We now enter what many consider to be the best weekend of the NFL season. Let’s try to turn things around this week.
by Nick Stasiak – Wannamakeabet Staff Writer
Atlanta Falcons (-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles
This matchup features something that hasn’t happened in the history of the playoffs. The number one overall seed is an underdog. And honestly, it shouldn’t come as a complete shock. Since Carson Wentz went down, the Eagles offense hasn’t been the same with Nick Foles. And that’s something which was to be expected. The Falcons were able to pull out a win last week, but they still don’t look like the team from last year. Matt Ryan only threw for 218 yards and combined Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were held to 106 yards rushing. Now the Falcons have to go on the road to face a defense that finished 4th in the NFL in total defense. This season, the Eagles were 10-6 ATS while the Falcons are 8-9. The Eagles offense hasn’t been the same since the Wentz injury but the defense is still good. It will keep them in the game and taking the points with the home team seems like the way to go.
The Pick: Eagles +3
Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots (-13.5)
For a while on Saturday it looked like the Titans were going to get blown out against the Chiefs. And then Marcus Mariota miraculously caught his own pass for a touchdown and the game changed. Mariota would later hit Eric Decker for the game winning touchdown and send the Titans off to the divisional round. And waiting are the defending Super Bowl champions. Some seem to think that the recent reports of the Patriots potential demise will distract them but it will probably only motivate them more. The Patriots had the league’s best offense this season while the Titans offense ranked 23rd. If the Titans are going to have any shot, they will have to give Derrick Henry the ball a minimum of 20 times. And it should probably be closer to 30. Their only chance of winning is to control the clock and keep the Patriots offense off the field. And don’t think Bill Belichick doesn’t know this. I’m sure the Patriots will be keying in on the run this week. Expect the Patriots offense to have a good game and for the defense to force a turnover or two in this one.
The Pick: Patriots -13.5
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)
When these two met back in week five, it was by far the Steelers worst performance of the season. The Jaguars romped the Steelers in Pittsburgh 30-9. Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, and LeVeon Bell only rushed for 47 yards. And on the other side, Leonard Fournette ran all over the Steelers, rushing for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Now the Jaguars will likely need a repeat performance of that if they want to win this game. And they will also need a much better Blake Bortles. Bortles had a brutal game last week against the Bills and the Jaguars will definitely need him to improve if they are going to win. For the Steelers, they will be getting Antonio Brown back and he is expected to be 100% for this game. The Jaguars this season are 9-8 ATS while the Steelers are 7-9. While I’m not sure the Jaguars will have enough offense to win this game, I think the defense, which ranked 2nd in the NFL this season, will be good enough to keep the Jaguars in the game.
The Pick: Jaguars +7.5
New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings (-4.5)
This is a rematch from the week one Monday night opener. But both teams are definitely different now. Back in week one the Saints had Adrian Peterson, didn’t know what they had yet in Alvin Kamara, and the Vikings were led by Sam Bradford, who had a great performance. Now Peterson is gone, Kamara could be the Rookie of the Year, and the Vikings are led by Case Keenum. With the injury to Carson Wentz, many consider the Vikings to be the favorite in the NFC. They finished 1st in total defense and 11th in total offense this season. The Vikings ranked 7th in rushing averaging 122.3 yards per game and that’s even with losing Dalvin Cook to a torn ACL. The game will likely be decided between the Saints offense and Vikings defense. As mentioned, the Vikings have statistically the best defense in football and the Saints rank 2nd in total offense. Whoever wins this matchup will likely win the game. The Panthers did a great job defending Kamara and Mark Ingram last week. They combined for just 45 rushing yards and 23 receiving yards. They will have to do better than that if the Saints want to go into Minnesota and win. This season the Saints are 9-8 ATS while the Vikings are tied for the league best ATS at 11-5.
The Pick: Vikings -4.5