Business is about to pick up in the playoffs
One round down, three more to go in the NFL playoffs as we march closer to Super Bowl LII, and I am off to a flying start. Starting things off with a 4-0 record (remember it’s the selections, not my picks) is a good way to get things going. The Divisional Round features several intriguing matchups, so let’s get going with the breakdowns and selections.
Record: 47-31-3 (4-0 last week)
Note: All times are ET.
Atlanta Falcons (11-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-3), 4:35 p.m. (Sat.)
For the first time in playoff history, a No. 6 seed is a road favorite over the top seed in the Divisional Round. People are essentially penciling in the Falcons for a repeat NFC Championship Game appearance. Yes, they looked very good in Los Angeles last week as the offense made the plays it had to and the defense clamped down on the Rams. Atlanta is becoming a defensive-oriented team with the offense doing just enough to get victories. The Falcons have gone under in six straight games and is probably in play in this one. On the other side, you've got an Eagles team that has heard the last two weeks how they are destined to be one-and-done and how they are the inferior team in this matchup. It's probably warranted in terms of Nick Foles' failures the last two weeks. He didn't look good against Oakland or Dallas in a limited role. People are forgetting though how good this defense is. Philadelphia finished No. 1 against the run and has held six of its last seven opponents to no more than 210 passing yards. Overall, the Eagles have won seven of their last home games against Atlanta, including a 24-15 victory last year. They ran for 208 yards in that game and will have to focus on a similar offensive approach this time around as well. With Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement, they have the weapons to throw at the Falcons to keep them honest. I think Philadelphia wins but my official selection is the under. Atlanta is playing a fourth road game over its last five. That catches up to every team eventually. SELECTION: Under 41 (Eagles 17-13)
Tennessee Titans (10-7) at New England Patriots (13-3), 8:15 p.m. (Sat.)
In-depth analysis aside, there’s really only one way to play this game. New England has covered 35 of its last 53 games overall including 18 of the last 27 in Gillette Stadium. In six career games against Tennessee, Tom Brady has thrown for 1,461 yards, 12 touchdowns and one interception, and he's 5-1 vs. the Titans. Tennessee is a nice story and is underrated defensively, but don't have enough to win this one. SELECTION: Patriots -13 (New England 37-13)
Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3), 1:05 p.m. (Sun.)
My favorite play of the weekend is probably the Jaguars for many reasons. Jacksonville couldn't be any lower right now after a putrid 10-3 win at home over the Bills on Wild Card Weekend. Blake Bortles looked bad with just 75 passing yards, but the defense did its part and continue to be stout and the primary strength of this team. These two met in Pittsburgh back on Oct. 8 with the Jags dominating 30-9 behind five interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger, two of which were returned for touchdowns. The Steelers’ defense limped down the stretch and hasn’t been the same since linebacker Ryan Shazier was lost for the season. You can throw on them (although that may still be a challenge for Bortles) and also can run on them, as evidenced by four of their last five opponents gaining more than 100 yards on the ground. This team also is chirping already about playing New England again, which can’t sit well with Jacksonville. The Jags have covered 11 of their last 15 games as an underdog of 3.5 to 9.5 points. I think they win this one outright as I believe Bortles bounces back and Pittsburgh gets punked at home once again. Jalen Ramsey has what it takes to limit the damage done by Antonio Brown, who is coming back from injury, and the front seven can slow down Le’Veon Bell. I don't believe in either head coach in a big game, but Mike Tomlin doesn't inspire much confidence in me. SELECTION: Jags +7.5 (Jacksonville 24-20)
New Orleans Saints (12-5) at Minnesota Vikings (13-3), 4:40 p.m. (Sun.)
Much like Jacksonville vs. Pittsburgh, these teams have already faced one another, but it came way back in Week 1. The Vikings won that game at home 29-19 in what was Adrian Peterson’s return to Minnesota, in a Saints uniform. Peterson is no longer with New Orleans, who really took off once the running game was turned over to Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. The Vikings have been stingy against the run (83.6 rushing ypg allowed), and have been no slouch against the pass either thanks to Pro Bowl cornerback Xaiver Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith. The numbers actually say that New Orleans' defense is better, but I really don't trust this unit in a big spot. The Latavius Murray/Jerick McKinnon backfield combo can be deadly and Case Keenum (above, right) has been on target as of late. Don’t forget that Sam Bradford, not Keenum, was the starting quarterback in the first meeting (although to be fair, Bradford played extremely well in that game). Minnesota has covered in 19 of its last 25 home games including six of eight this season. The Vikings have covered 34 of their last 49 overall. Because of the fact that I still don't want to trust the Saints away from home, I'm taking the home team. SELECTION: Under 45 (Minnesota 21-17)
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.