As entertaining (or lack thereof) as the 2018 NFL playoff games have been, fans globally hope this weekend is better. Last week, every home team was favored in Vegas. While this week has three of four home teams favored, for the first time in the history of the NFL, a sixth seed is favored over a one seed.
Here are the date and times of each matchup.
January 13th – 4:35 ET – Atlanta Falcons (-3.0) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
January 13th – 8:15 ET – Tennessee Titans vs. New England Patriots (-13.5)
January 14th – 1:05 ET Jacksonville Jaguars vs Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)
January 14th – 4:40 ET – New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings (-4.0)
Let’s dive into each individual matchup and why only four teams will prevail.
Atlanta Falcons (-3.0) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
To the surprise of no one, the Atlanta Falcons are favored in this matchup. But do they have enough to defeat a Carson Wentz-less Eagles team?
The Falcons are riding a hot streak that will take them straight to the NFC Championship game. Keys to this game for the Falcons are to stop the inside run and force Nick Foles to beat them with his arm. Philadelphia has one of the most athletic offensive lines in the NFL.
For Philadelphia, the more they run the football, the better. If they can keep the Falcons offense on the sidelines for most of this game, they have a chance. Although it won’t be a pretty game, I think the Falcons go into Lincoln field and pull off the upset.
Prediction: 20-13 Atlanta Falcons
Tennessee Titans vs. New England Patriots (-13.5)
Does Tennessee honestly have a chance in this game? Seriously, this isn’t a joke. The New England Patriots are a 13.5 point favorite in this game.
Ironically enough, the next coach of the Titans is on the other sideline – offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. If the Titans were wise, they would look past the short-minded Mularkey and see a change is necessary for the growth of Marcus Mariota, the offense, and this team.
One of the keys to watch is tight end Rob Gronkowski and his matchup on either Johnathan Cyprien or Kevin Byard. No matter that Byard is a first team all-pro; he can’t hang with 87.
I predict that the Patriots have a field day on offense while the Titans show flashes here and there of how good they can be. Unfortunately, they aren’t nearly as consistent as the Patriots. This will be their seventh straight AFC Title game. That’s absurd. An absolute dynasty.
Prediction: 31-14 New England Patriots
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)
Jacksonville barely won last Sunday (at home) against the Buffalo Bills. So how are they going to fare against an offensive juggernaut the Steelers contain? Now, the Jacksonville defense is as good as it gets in the NFL, but can they do enough offensively to win this game?
A key to this game is Leonard Fournette. Get him as many touches as possible. If he can wear this defense down, it takes the pressure off Blake Bortles to throw the football.
I don’t think the Jaguars have enough offensive firepower to compete with the Steelers and their offense.
Prediction: 24-10 Pittsburgh Steelers
New Orleans Saints vs Minnesota Vikings (-4.0)
The Minnesota Vikings are one of those teams that have flown under the radar all season long. They can no longer do that as they face the New Orleans Saints in the final divisional playoff game.
Some keys to this game are Drew Bees and his control of the offense. It isn’t likely that New Orleans runs the football well against this stout Vikings defense, but Brees has never backed down from an aerial challenge. If he can find success through the air, it’s going to be a long game for the men in purple.
If Case Keenum controls the tempo of the offense and they have the football longer than the Saints, I give them a good shot at winning this game.
The Saints have too much firepower and playing inside a dome is basically home field advantage for Brees.
Prediction: 24-17 New Orleans Saints