Didn’t I tell you that NFL Wildcard weekend was going to deliver on some memorable moments? From Cam Newton’s near comeback against the New Orleans Saints to the Tennesse Titans overcoming a 21-3 halftime deficit to defeat the Chiefs and possibly end the Alex Smith era as starting Quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, last weekend gave us great games and moments that would be talked about for years to come. This week, the top seeds are in action. Will we go straight chalk through this round or are upsets on the horizon? Here is your preview of the 2018 NFL Divisional Round.
Game 1. Saturday, January 13, 2018, at 4:35 PM ET on NBC
I was wrong about the Atlanta Falcons. I thought that they were damaged goods heading into their Wildcard matchup with the young and promising LA Rams. Last weekend, the Falcons proved that there is no substitute for experience and that they are in fact still a contender in the NFC. This week they go up against Nick Foles and the number 1 seed, Philadelphia Eagles. Many are writing the Eagles off as contenders due to the season-ending knee injury of star Quarterback and MVP candidate, Carson Wentz. However, with a stifling defense, solid running game, and home-field advantage in this matchup, it probably isn’t wise to count out the Eagles. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Prediction: Falcons 28 Eagles 13
Game 2. Saturday, January 14, 2018, at 8:15 PM ET on CBS
The Titans come into this game on an emotional high after overcoming an 18 point halftime deficit to beat the Chiefs. Unfortunately for the Titans, the Chiefs aren’t the Patriots which means that a Bill Belichick coached team likely won’t make the same mistakes with playcalling and mishaps on the field. The Titans will also be without star running back, DeMarco Murray, which leaves second-year running back, Derrick Henry, to carry a heavy workload in the running game. The Pats will also be without key cogs in their running back by committee backfield but they have matchup nightmares in tight end, Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver, Brandin Cooks.
Prediction: Titans 13 Patriots 31
Game 3. Sunday, January 14, 2018, at 1:05 PM ET on CBS
These two teams met earlier in the year and it wasn’t pretty. The Jaguars defeated the Steelers in their week matchup 30-9. Big Ben threw 5 interceptions in the matchup and even contemplated retirement with his “maybe I don’t have it anymore” comment. But that was then and this is now or is it…..? Blake Bortles struggled last weekend against the Bills but then again football is a week to week game and trends don’t usually last unless your name is Case Keenum (more on him later). Ben Roethlisberger threw 5 INTs with a healthy Antonio Brown out there so what is he going to do with a hampered AB out there? Nonetheless, I still predict that we will see the inevitable matchup on Conference Championship weekend.
Prediction: Jaguars 6 Steelers 17
Game 4. Sunday, January 14, 2018, at 4:40 PM ET on FOX
The Saints and the Vikings met on the opening week of the NFL season on Monday Night Football. The result was a 29-19 victory against the Saints at home in Minnesota. It is safe to say after 17 more weeks of the “eye test” that neither one of these teams is the same from their Week 1 meeting. The Saints no longer have Adrian Peterson and now found their rhythm in the running game with the dynamic duo of Mark Ingram and star rookie, Alvin Kamara. The Saints also picked things up on the defensive end as the weeks gone by. As for the Vikings, Case Keenum replaces Week 1 starter Sam Bradford as the team’s signal caller and rookie running back, Dalvin Cook won’t be around to torcher the Saints Defense this time around as he’s been out for the season with an ACL injury since Week 4. What does remain the same however is that Drew Brees is still the signal caller for one of the best offenses in football coached by Sean Payton and that Mike Zimmer is going to have his stout Vikings defense ready and led by one of the most underrated secondary tandems in cornerback, Xavier Rhodes and free safety, Harrison Smith.
Prediction: Saints 24 Vikings 21
Sound off in the comments with your thoughts and opinions on these playoff matchups.