The Philadelphia Eagles may have posted the best record in the NFC at 13-3 but they enter the playoffs with a broken wing without quarterback Carson Wentz who was having a MVP season. While the Eagle did win two-of-three starts with Nick Foles under center, they hardly looked impressive doing so. Foles played well against the Giants, but struggled against the Raiders and limited action against the Cowboys. The Eagle defense also has sputtered recently. The Atlanta Falcons still are the reigning NFC Champions, and while they did settle for the sixth seed this season their 10-6 record is better than you may think, having played the toughest schedule in the NFL. The Falcons looked good against the Rams last week, and that was on a slick field in Los Angeles. If the Falcons can get exploit the holes in the secondary that the Giants and Raiders found, this game could get away from the Eagles quickly. In the end the game will come down to quarterback play and a matchup of Nick Foles against Matt Ryan simply does not look good for Philadelphia.
The New England Patriots will be playing in their seventh straight AFC Championship, their game on Saturday against the Tennessee Titans is just a mere formality. Nothing is more automatic in sports today than a Saturday Divisional Playoff game in Foxboro. Since the infamous Tuck Game the Patriots are 7-0 in home divisional playoff games played on a Saturday. The Titans are extremely fortunate to even be here, as they spotted the Chiefs a 21-0 lead last week in Arrowhead. If not for a quick whistle, Travis Kelce’s injury, Darrelle Revis no longer being a capable defender, and the Chiefs being terrible in the playoffs they would not be here. Marcus Mariota may have a bright future, but he pales in comparison to what the Patriots offense can do when rested and motivated. That story of strife in the team will only serve to light a fire under the Patriots that won’t be quenched until doused by champagne in Minneapolis. Look for Tom Brady to team the Tians apart as the Patriots win easily.
If only the Jacksonville Jaguars had a good quarterback, they could be a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl. Possessed with a vicious defense the Jaguars won the AFC South with a record of 10-6, ending a decade long playoff drought. Jacksonville has a decent rushing attack led by rookie Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon who should play after missing the Wild Card Game, but Blake Bortles is not going to win a road playoff game in Heinz Field. The Jaguars did beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 5, but that was thanks in part to their defense picking off Ben Roethlisberger five times, with two pick sixes. Fournette also had a big game, but as the season came to an end, he appeared to hit a rookie wall and did not have a great game against Buffalo. One big boost for Pittsburgh is the return of Antonio Brown who missed the last few weeks with a calf injury. The game will be low scoring, which could give the Jaguars a shot, but Bortles won’t be able to make the big play to make it happen.
It’s been a long time since the Minnesota Vikings hosted the New Orleans Saints in the first Monday Night Game of the season. The Vikings won that game 29-19, on the way to a 13-3 season. The Saints meanwhile after losing their first two games, rebounded to go 11-5, winning the NFC South. The Vikings had one of the top defensive units in the NFL, allowing a league low 252 points. The Saints defense was vastly improved in 2017, thanks in part to Marshon Lattimore, who is the favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Saints also got a boost from Alvin Kamara, who could win the Offensive Rookie of the Year creating a running game that took pressure of Drew Brees. When the Vikings won their opener, they still had Sam Bradford at quarterback. Case Keenum would emerge and have a career year after Bradford was injured playing so well, that he is now the incumbent starter even with the return of Teddy Bridgewater. While Brees is the better overall quarterback, Keenum should be able to do just enough for a Vikings win.