NFL divisional round preview

Christopher Spinks Roar Guru

By Christopher Spinks, Christopher Spinks is a Roar Guru


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    This weekend we head into the divisional round in the NFL – it is officially do or die. Every team puts their season on the line. Who will come out in front?

    Atlanta Falcons vs Philadelphia Eagles
    Sunday at 8.35am AEDT
    History: Eagles lead 18-14-1
    Odds: Falcons – $1.68, Eagles – $2.25

    It’s the first time in NFL playoff history that a number one seed is an underdog in its first playoff game.

    The Eagles have had the week off but are missing star quarterback Carson Wentz for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL. Nick Foles has taken the reins in the last few weeks but he isn’t of the same standard.

    They finished the season with a 13-3 record, but during that run they had only two wins over teams who made the playoffs. With Wentz at the helm they had no trouble scoring points, but their defence needs work. This will be exposed by the Falcons offence this week.

    Running back LeGarrette Blount has found a new lease of life at the Eagles, rushing for an average of 4.4 yards per carry. Look for him to have another big game.

    On the receiving side of the ball, tight end Zack Ertz and wide receiver Nelson Agholor have combined for over 1500 yards and 16 touchdowns and will have a big say in the results.

    The Falcons have been here before. They made it all the way to the Super Bowl last season only to blow a 25-point lead. They have talent all over the park and showed last week they can beat anyone on their day.

    Prediction: The Eagles are a different team under Nick Foles. Not as good. It’s a shame that Wentz isn’t playing, as they could go all the way with him at the helm. The Falcons will win this one. 24-10.

    (Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)

    Tennessee Titans vs New England Patriots
    Sunday, 12.15pm AEDT
    History: Patriots lead 24-16-1
    Odds: Titans – $7, Patriots – $1.11

    The Titans surprised most people by beating the Chiefs in the wild card round, but this game is a whole different story.

    We saw last week they have a good leader in quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has the ability to guide his team around the park when they need him most, and they’re coming off the back of some incredible runs from running back Derrick Henry, who averaged 3.8 yards after contact against the Chiefs last week.

    Henry is helping to drive his team downfield late in the game, so look for big games from him and Mariota two if the Titans have any chance of producing an upset in Foxborough.

    The Patriots are a class all on their own. There is nothing this team cannot do. It’s worth noting that they haven’t lost a game since 1 October. In a league with no perfect teams, they are the closest.

    Quarterback Tom Brady has had an extra week to nurse his shoulder injury. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has never looked fitter this late in a season and will cause the Titans defence a lot of headaches.

    Prediction: The Patriots have been here before and know exactly what it takes to win. They will win this game easily. Look for some players to be rested late in the game, ready for the AFC Championship game next week. Patriots win this 28-3.

    (Jeffrey Beall / CC BY-SA 3.0)

    Jacksonville Jaguars vs Pittsburgh Steelers
    Monday, 5.05am AEDT
    History: Jaguars lead 13-11
    Odds: Jaguars – $3.70, Steelers – $1.30

    The Jaguars are one of the best defensive teams in the NFL and will need all that and more to overcome the red-hot Steelers in this clash. These two teams met in week five of the regular season, with the Jags coming away with a 30-9 win.

    Quarterback Blake Bortles hasn’t been at his best for the back half of the season and probably doesn’t have the ability to lead his team to such a resounding victory again.

    The Key for the Jags is to play a long, grinding, low-scoring battle.

    They will need to stop two of the best players in the NFL: Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who has rushed for nearly 1300 yards and nine touchdowns this season, and wide receiver Antonio Brown, with 1500 yards and nine touchdowns.

    These two have led the Steelers offence from the front all season. They will play a huge part in this game and are the key to the Steelers moving on to the AFC Championship game.

    We haven’t seen a lot from Jags running back Leonard Fournette in these playoffs, so look for him to have a huge impact if the Jags want to win this one.

    Prediction: This will be a step too far for the Jags. They have won nine games this season when holding teams under 10 points. They will not be able to stop the Steelers offence from running riot. Steelers to win 35-0.

    (AP Photo/Fred Vuich, File)

    New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings
    Monday, 8.40am AEDT
    History: Vikings lead 21-11
    Odds: Saints – $2.67, Vikings – $1.50

    What a great way to end the divisional round with this clash of two of the best teams in the NFC.

    The Saints have their best team on paper since they won the Super Bowl in 2009. They lost to the Vikings in Week 1, but both teams have improved immensely since then.

    Wide receiver Michael Thomas is one of the best receivers in the league and could turn this game on his own. Expect him to get a lot of the ball. It will be interesting to see if they run the ball much against the best defence in the country in the Vikings.

    Saints quarterback Drew Brees is an old head and has been here before. Experience counts for everything in the playoffs.

    As mentioned earlier, the Vikings have the best defence in the league. They have held 14 of 16 opponents to less than 20 points. They will need to be at their very best to contain the Saints.

    This game will be the first playoff game for Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, who took over in Week 2 of the regular season. The key for him is to continue to play the way he has all season on such a big occasion.

    Prediction: This game will be tight. Not many points in it. Saints to win this one. Saints 17-14.

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • January 11th 2018 @ 7:12am
      Bill said | January 11th 2018 @ 7:12am | ! Report

      Vikings vs saints will be great. Good running games on both sides, receivers who can receive. Suspect the Vikings d will be the difference.

      • Roar Guru

        January 11th 2018 @ 11:06am
        Christopher Spinks said | January 11th 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        I dont know why i even give a tip, its usually wrong. Vikings D is unreal, just dont know if they can score enough points to overcome the Saints.
        I love Michael Thomas, that guy could be a hall of famer.

    • January 11th 2018 @ 11:16am
      paul said | January 11th 2018 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      Are you a Steelers fan or was your prediction a typo? I agree Pittsburgh should win but by 35 points?

      I can’t see either the Saints or Vikings beating either Pittsburg orthe Patriots if they get to the big game. They might have the best defence on paper, but they’ll get chewed by Brady and Roethlisberger

      • January 11th 2018 @ 5:00pm
        no one in particular said | January 11th 2018 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

        Don’t take him seriously. He ignores the fact that Jacksonville have already beaten Pittsburgh at Heinz this season by 21 points. And Pitt’s best player won’t be 100%

        He also ignores the 31st ranked rushing defence in terms of yards per rush are playing the team ranked 4th in yards per rush. That mismatch doesn’t exist. Nor does the fact that long dries on the ground keeps Brady off the field

        And Atlanta will have too much offense? 15th in points scored and 8th in yards versus the team ranked 4th in both categories on defence (and ATL have Jones and Sanu carrying significant injuries)

        • January 12th 2018 @ 7:25am
          monday QB said | January 12th 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

          Agee on the run game issues for the Steelers. If the Jags can settle better than they did against Buffalo they could really prove a handful for the Steelers. That said, i’m tipping a Steelers win, but it’s probably more likely a 7-10 point game.

          The most interesting games on the weekend are definitely on the NFC side. I’m taking the Vikings over the Saints. The Vikings run defense is excellent (their pass defence isn’t bad either) and Keenum at QB gets enough happening. In the other NFC game, i’ll take the Falcons, but i think this one really is a coin flip.

    • January 11th 2018 @ 1:21pm
      E-Meter said | January 11th 2018 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

      Good wrap there. Just one small detail – Patriots lost to Dolphins in December.

    • January 11th 2018 @ 3:23pm
      Art said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

      Go Eagles!

    • January 12th 2018 @ 10:42am
      Jeremy said | January 12th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

      In my opinion Jags v Steelers will be a very close game. The Jags defence has been as potent as the Steelers offence and I think they will win in a close one. I also think that although the Patriots win, the Titans will make it a close game at the death. The Patriots are not good against the run and the Titans run very well. Look for Henry to have 100 yards rushing and a TD. Mariota might even run for 50 yards and a TD himself. Saints to escape with a win over the Vikings and the Falcons will romp the Eagles. Falcons defence is playing well and Foles is not up to scratch. Falcons offence should have enough even if they are not as potent as they once were.

    • Roar Pro

      January 12th 2018 @ 1:51pm
      Pete McAloney said | January 12th 2018 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

      It’s a great round of games, no doubt about that, thanks for the preview Chris.

      I think the current Patriots are being over-rated though. For sure, as long as Bill and Tom are present they are dangerous but I don’t think they are as good all round as the Steelers. I am really hoping that Team Evil get a big dose of hubris (it’s “just the Titans” right?) and focus on the Championship game, and the Titans with nothing to lose run all over them. A man can dream… (On the other hand, there would be some poetry if the Steelers crush the Pats next week, especially if they win with a controversial “fair catch” call, haha!)

      It’s the exact opposite for the Vikings who I think are being under-rated by many. They’ve quietly gone about building a great season with a very effective team. I think the Saints will be exposed as a glass cannon and the Vikings will meet the Falcons next week. That game could go either way and will be exciting to watch.

      Injuries are always a part of NFL but it’s hard not to feel sorry for the Eagles.

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