NFL Divisional Round Preview
It's that time of year in the NFL season again where we find out who will get to the Conference Championships. This is also the time of year where we get to see all (cough) the 1 and 2 (cough) seeds (cough) get (cough) upset (cough). Sorry, I just had some Divisional Round fever with a temperature prediction of all the road teams winning. But who am I kidding! You've got the defending NFC champs as road favorites against the number one seed Eagles, A rematch of Week 1 of Monday Night Football and rematch of the 2009 NFC Championship Game with a stout Vikings D-line and secondary and the best running back duo in the Saints with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, A Week 5 rematch of #Sacksonville going into Pittsburgh and making Big Ben throw 5 interceptions and hold them to only 3 field goals, and the Evil Empire (Patriots) against the fresh legs of Marcus Mariota who just beat another AFC powerhouse in Kansas City after some controversy of a touchdown pass thrown to himself.
So with that said, here are my predictions for who is moving on to the Conference Championships.
* Warning: Fans of all divisional round home teams (except for the Super Bowl home team) may not like to hear the following.
Falcons @ Eagles:
The last time these two squads met was for a trip to Super Bowl XXXIX in a battle between two of the NFL's best duel threat quarterbacks at the time in Donovan McNabb for Philadelphia and Michael Vick for Atlanta. This time around, you've got Matt Ryan who is poised to take his team on another Super Bowl run, and Carson Wentz (I mean) Nick Foles, who should be running for his life if he's going to win in his first NFL Playoffs start. My point is that this Falcons defense crushed the Rams at the LA Colliseum as they held them to a season low in terms of points. Plus, the Falcons offense with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Austin Hooper has been (Fire Emoji) (Fire Emoji) (Fire Emoji). They should be able to stop Fletcher Cox and the Eagles defense and silence the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. This is what I like to call Road-Field Advantage. 1998 NFC Championship rematch? Yes please!
Falcons 28 Eagles 17
Titans @ Patriots
This is the part of the blog where I must analyze and think critically about this mother of a matchup. Dynasty Vs. One Hit Wonder, The Ageless One Vs. The Young Gem, The legendary hoodie Vs. the man who was about to get his ass fired last week but is still saved by one of the most crazy NFL Playoff comebacks. There is a lot to be said about this matchup and the key here is the quarterbacks. What the Pittsburgh defense did not do against New England is what the Titans defense is going to have to do to beat the unstoppable duo of Gronk and Brady... play Man-to-Man coverage on every play possible. What worked on the Patriots final drive against the Steelers is that they had the advantage of going against zone coverage, which made it just another day at the office for the Evil Empire. Gronk made every single catch on that drive. The Titans must play Man-to-Man coverage and keep Brady in the pocket to make sure to prevent any long plays from Gronk, Brandon Cooks, and Chris Hogan. As for the other side of the story, the Patriots defense must also keep Marcus Mariota's legs inside the pocket to limit their receivers on routes and plays and limit Mariota's scrambling room. The Patriots secondary must also keep on the lookout for Delanie Walker and Eric Decker and make sure they do not get open. Now comes for the prediction. You know, after all the Titans have been through this season; from their head coach Mike Mularkey's job in danger, to being in danger of getting knocked out of the Playoffs, it's about time for them to taste something that they have not tasted in 15 years. Plus who doesn't want see Tom Brady cry and not host the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Who knows, maybe the tensions between Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady will come back to haunt them. Although i think there's a deeper meaning to this... MADDEN CURSE!!! Although, like last week it will come down to the final drive. Patriots fans, it's time for you to deserve some disrespect.
Titans 28, Patriots 20
Jaguars @ Steelers
Rematch of Week 5 for a trip to the AFC Championship Game? I'm in! But here's my only issue. The Jaguars will do what they did against the Steelers in Week 5, but their biggest opponent will be Mother Nature. Compared to the temps in Northeastern Florida, expect the high in Western Pennsylvania to be as low as 13 degrees and 100% chance of snow come game time. You know what that means? Snow Day! So what does this have to do with the matchup? Well the Jaguars are not used to playing in cold weather so I suggest the whole team to bundle up with some layers. As for the Steelers, Antonio Brown is expected to be a game time decision as they sent him home from practice with an illness on Friday. If it does so happens that Antonio Brown will be out for this crucial Divisional Round Playoff game, this will give A.J. Bouye, Jalen Ramsey, and the Jacksonville secondary a lot more freedom for coverage. Plus, the only reliable receiver they'll have to play against is JuJu Smith-Schuster. #Sacksonville D-line? Just keep Ben Roethlisberger in the pocket and possibly a couple of sacks for Calais Campbell. Prediction time! Now despite Mother Nature's powerful instincts, the Jacksonville Jaguars' defense can stop the Steelers and nothing will be able to stop them from keeping Big Ben out of the pocket and winning. Not even a healthy Antonio Brown. Expect Ben Roethlisberger to improve from his disappointing Week 5 performance, but it won't be enough against the Jags' defensive pressure. So with that said, AFC South AFC Championship Game anyone?
Jaguars 31 Steelers 24
Saints @ Vikings
What scares Drew Brees is playing on the road against a fierce defense. What scares him even more is to hear the Viking horn along with the Minnesota Crowd yelling and clapping the UEFA Icelandic chant and their favorite word... SKOL! Sorry Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, but it's time that you meet your worst nightmare in the Vikings run defense of Everson Griffen and Anthony Barr. Expect the New Orleans Saints' rushing attack to limit their yardage combined dramatically. But don't you worry, we didn't forget about Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings Secondary. Xavier Rhodes will play a huge role in how Drew Brees will perform in terms of completions and passing yards. The key to victory for Minnesota is to win the turnover battle. Key for the Saints is to improve on the ground game performance contrary to last week's Wild Card win against Carolina. And as long as the adrenaline doesn't catch up to Case Keenum in his first career playoff start, he shouldn't make too many mistakes in throwing to his favorite target in Adam Thielin. As for he prediction? Not even close.
Vikings 35 Saints 24
At this point in the NFL Playoffs, you might expect that it will be the Steelers and Patriots for the second straight year in the AFC Championship Game and Vikings and Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. But don't jump to conclusions just yet. Any fan watching today's and tomorrow's games should be prepared for the possibility of any of the top two seeds in each conference getting upset by road teams. And if that is in fact the exact case, it will be the first time that both conference championships will be played by divisional opponents since 1982. If I was Nick Foles, Ben Roethlisberger, or Tom Brady I would be terrified right now.
Because nothing is better in sports than a classic David and Goliath underdog story on the Road to Glory.