NFL playoff predictions: Divisional round

After an exciting NFL Wild Card weekend, the NFL Divisional Round is set and fans are completely divided on who will move onto each conference championship.

No. 6 Atlanta Falcons vs. No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles (Saturday @ 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC)

Falcons Summary: To be able to go into Los Angeles and outscore the #1 ranked offense in the entire league is a cause for concern if you’re an Eagles fan. Not only did they outscore the #1 ranked scoring offense, the Falcons also held them to 13 points. Even though the Falcons defense ranked 8th in the league in points allowed I don’t think any of fan would have expected that to happen, especially with Todd Gurley on an extra week’s rest.

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Eagles Summary: The biggest question is: Which Nick Foles is going to show up? The one against the Giants where he threw for 237 yards and 4 touchdowns? Or the Foles who completed 23/49 for 200 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions through the final two games of the season? Regardless which Foles shows up, if the Eagles fourth-ranked defense can stop Matt Ryan and company for the majority of the game it’ll give Foles and the Eagles offense more comfort room. Honestly, if Carson Wentz didn’t go down, this game wouldn’t really be of much discussion.

Final Prediction: The Falcons are the only away team in the divisional round that is actually favorite to win. So if the Eagles win and people call it an upset then an upset it shall be. But I don’t see that happening with Foles under center. Falcons win this one 33-20.

No. 5 Tennessee Titans vs. No. 1 New England Patriots (Saturday @ 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS)

Titans Summary: After coming back from an 18-point deficit led by Marcus Mariota and Derrick Henry to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City, there is no denying this Titans squad has heart. But outside of heart there really isn’t much to be excited about for Titans fans, or the rest of the country in general. The Patriots defense is ranked 20th against the run so if the Titans can establish a run game with Henry early on then it might give the Titans some leverage.

Patriots Summary: What more needs to be said? They have Tom Brady at quarterback. The divisional round of the playoffs is just another game for head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots. They have just one lost since October 1st despite Brady’s decline in play. Honestly, there really isn’t much to summarize with the Patriots. We know who they are and what they bring to the table.

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Final Prediction: After their win against the Chiefs, Titans cornerback, and former Patriot, Logan Ryan said, “We’ll be heavy underdogs again, but we’ll bring our best effort. This isn’t like the NBA or MLB, where it’s a series. You just have to win one game.” Well, Ryan, I don’t see you winning this game. Patriots win 42-17. The nation is rooting for the Titans, Ryan. Pull off the upset of the decade and prove all the doubters, including me, wrong.

No. 3 Jacksonville Jaguars vs. No. 2 Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday: 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS)

Steelers Summary: The Steelers have an opportunity for revenge after taking a 30-9 week 5 beating against Jacksonville. Luckily, Antonio Brown seems to be back at 100% and ready to go this Sunday. The Steelers are averaging 31.2 points per game over the past seven weeks but five of those games being decided five points or less. Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, the Steelers have the fifth-ranked defense in all of football that possesses a vicious pass rush who has wracked up a league-high 56 sacks.

Jaguars Summary: The rest of the Jaguars destiny lies solely on the shoulders of their defense. While they rank 1st in the league in pass defense and 2nd in interceptions, they rank 21st in run defense. This is obviously a problem when dealing with the league’s third-leading rusher in Le’Veon Bell. But in Week 5’s matchup they managed to hold Bell to 47 yards on 15 carries. This stems more from the Steelers have to play from behind. Regardless of how Blake Bortles plays, if the defense holds up the Steelers offense then the Jaguars definitely have a shot at winning this game

Final Prediction: This will be one of the most exciting games in the playoffs. Jacksonville’s defense is the real deal and they are riding this momentum wave into the divisional round. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are too experienced in these type of playoff scenarios. Steelers win this one 19-17 off a Boswell go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter.

No. 4 New Orleans Saints vs. No. 2 Minnesota Vikings (Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX)

Vikings Summary: Four words describe the Vikings: BEST. DEFENSE. IN. FOOTBALL. In 12 of 16 games this season, opponents couldn’t manage to score more than 20 points. Also, raise your hand if you guessed Case Keenum would rank 7th in Passer Rating (98.3), 2nd in QBR (69.7), and throw just one less touchdown than Drew Brees to end the 2017 season? This team is healthy. And having an extra week of rest and preparation makes the Vikings the understandable four point favorites.

Saints Summary: Brees has yet to lose a step. The future first ballot Hall of Famer made cooked Carolina’s defense last week with almost 400 yards and two touchdowns. With the league’s best running back duo in Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, and a surprisingly good Saints defense, this is possibly the most well-balanced Saints team in the Brees era.

Final Prediction: I saved the best game for last. Well, technically the NFL did. I just ordered the list according to game times. Regardless, this game is where I pull out the upset card. Brees finally has a complete team around him. They aren’t playing out in the elements thanks to the Vikings new stadium. And the Saints offense is ranked 5th in both rushing and passing. While I do believe this game will be neck and neck, Keenum will fold under the pressure of the playoffs. Saints upset the Vikings 26-24.