Last week I hit you all with my Wildcard Weekend picks, and I was feeling good about them. That is until the Kansas City Chiefs decided to treat their lead like phlegm and cough it up to the Titans. (Amazing game by the way.) It was a solid reminder once you get into the tournament, anything can happen. Unofficially I went 3-1 with my picks. (I said my head was with the Falcons winning.) Officially I went 2-2. Since this is my domain, we are all winners, we’ll stick with the 3-1 mark. (So disregard the 2-2 statement.) Now we enter the best weekend of football, the Divisional Round. This is where the heavyweights enter the fray. Doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win. Let put some Squared Logic to it.
(6) Falcons versus (1) Eagles
After a well earned first-round bye week, the Philadelphia Eagles are back in action. The Eagles have been the top seed in the NFC wire-to-wire. With Carson Wentz at the helm, this team seemed unstoppable. Then Wentz goes down for the season for a torn ACL, and the doubts began to creep in. Nick Foles was going to have to carry them to where they wanted to go and Eagles fans were in a panic. I, however, am not. This is a guy who just a few seasons ago threw for 27 touchdowns and just 2 picks. He has started in the regular season and playoffs. He is no stranger to the intense pressure of Philly expectations. But, a week off can do funny things to teams. The Atlanta Falcons are fresh off of a victory against the Rams on Wild Card Weekend and they looked tough. The Falcons held the Rams top offense to just 13 points while scoring 26 of their own. As I mentioned last week, this squad is trying to heal the scars from Super Bowl LI. They are battled test and hungry. Their defense is playing as fast as they have all season. They are a legit threat to repeat as NFC Champions. This game comes down to one thing: the quarterback. Both of these teams will be able to stop each other’s run game for the most part. Who’s secondary is up to the challenge of stopping their opponent’s pass game. Nick Foles will be tested, as will be Matt Ryan. This game is more of a toss up than people realize.
(5) Titans versus (1) Patriots
I was enjoying a fun family dinner at Red Robin. (We all wanted burgers and bottomless fries. Quit hating!) I made sure to have a view of the game. (I do it for all of you.) Needless to say our table got crazy looks from the reactions we gave from the Titans win (or Chiefs collapse.) in their Wild Card match-up. The Titans went to the playoff basics; play good defense and run the football. The Titans defense was able to shut down Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt (after Travis Kelce went down in the first half with a concussion.) and ran Derrick Henry hard. (29 rushes, 156 yards, 1 TD) Marcus Mariota was still handcuffed in this offense, but threw a TD pass to himself in this one. (One of the more incredible plays you’ll ever see.) Many incredible things had to go right for the Titans to win this game, as will be the case when they face the Patriots. New England, coming off of a bye week, with extra time to prepare for the Titans. I think you know where I’m going with this one.
Winner: Patriots (I’m hoping it’s close.)
(3) Jaguars versus (2) Steelers
Back in 2007, the Jaguars beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh in the regular season. The Jaguars returned to Pittsburgh in postseason and best the Steelers again. Fast forward to 2017; the Jaguars destroyed the Steelers in the regular season (so badly it had Roethlisberger questioning whether he could play anymore.) and now have a chance to do it again this postseason. The biggest question is: will history repeat itself? Many are saying Big Ben won’t throw 5 picks again. Many are saying the Steelers will be more explosive offensively and the Jags won’t be able to duplicate whet they did defensively. My question is: what if they do? What if the Jags DO pick Ben off 5 times again? What if the Jags ARE able to duplicate what they did defensively? (They’ve been stellar all year.) There is a strong possibility it could happen. The Steelers are a different team than they were at that point in the season, and get Antonio Brown back from a calf injury. (How healthy he actually is is another story.) This will be a much different game than in their Week 5 game, but this is another toss up. (Par for the course in the Divisional Round.) Defensively both teams will be able to get after each other’s quarterback. This game will come down to running the ball. The Jags running D isn’t nearly as stout as their passing D, and Le’Veon Bell is running far better now than he was back then. The Steelers will have a test of their own trying to bottle up Leonard Fournette. Who gets it done?
Winner: Steelers (It will be close)
(4) Saints versus (2) Vikings
The Saints were certainly tested in their Wild Card victory against the Panthers. They’ll be tested again in their Divisional Round game against the Vikings. The Saints opened the season with a 29-19 loss to the Vikings. After that defeat, the Saints went on to win 8 straight games. They’ve been much better defensively and have gotten back to the formula offensively that won them a Super Bowl. Balance. The Saints boast the fifth ranked rushing offense (129.4 ypg) and the fifth ranked passing offense. (261.8 ypg) The Vikings have a championship caliber defense. Their first ranked defense has made life hell for many teams in the league this season. (Was up close and personal for those Packers beat downs. I’m not angry at all… *clinches fist*) They also have had an offense that’s put points for that defense, lead by Case Keenum. Would you believe me if I told you he leads the NFL in Passer Rating since Week 10? (107.2) Would you believe me if I told you his TD/INT ratio was on par with Drew Brees’? (22/7 & 23/8 respectively) Keenum has been everything you want and more from your backup QB… in the regular season. This is the postseason, territory Keenum has never ventured into as a starter. Brees has a Super Bowl ring on his Hall of Fame resume, he is no stranger to this intense situation. This may prove to be the deciding factor… or will it?
Winner: Vikings (Wouldn’t be surprised by a Saints victory.)
We are inching closer to the Super Bowl and these games are only going to get more intense. Make sure to enjoy them.