Wild Card weekend delivered some great games and some phenomenal football as Saturday delivered major surprises while Sunday gave expected results. The first game of the entire playoffs may be one of the best and most exciting games we get to watch during this postseason. The Chiefs blew another big playoff lead and once again choked away an opportunity in the playoffs. I really thought they were going to be able to make the big plays necessary, while Mariota and Henry would falter late, but the exact opposite happened. Mariota played phenomenally, especially in the second half when it mattered most. He made sure to stuff the stat sheet in every category too, as he helped himself out by catching one of his own passes for a touchdown. In the second game, Atlanta’s defense showed it is becoming one of the best units in the league. The combination of the great defensive play and Jared Goff turning into an inaccurate Captain Check down late in the game assured them the win. This defensive unit for Atlanta has a lot of confidence and that offense is one of the scariest in the leagues when it is clicking. They are set up perfectly to continue their run, and right now, they seem to be one of those sixth seeds (2010-11 Packers) that everyone wishes they hadn’t let into the playoffs at all. On Sunday, the Jags did exactly what was expected. They played great defense and found a way to win a low scoring, run heavy game. Blake Bortles didn’t play as well as I thought he would, but I guess we can chalk that up to the wind which gave both teams trouble. The Jaguars should really find a dome to play in if they want to keep Bortles because he really is awful when the weather gets just a little bit weird. Finally, the last game of the weekend was a thriller as expected. Cam played great. Brees played better. The Saints found a way to win a close game and that will undoubtedly give them some needed confidence as they head into Minnesota to play the Vikings who have been in the top of the league on both offense and defense. While there is still a lot of football left to be played, this playoffs is shaping up to be one to remember.
Divisional Round Predictions
#1 Philadelphia Eagles vs. #6 Atlanta Falcons
This is not a very hard decision. The Falcons entire defense, but the secondary in particular, is gaining confidence in leaps and bounds, especially after shutting down the Rams’ explosive offense. That is not good news for the Eagles or any teams that may have to play the Falcons later in the playoffs. Back up QB Nick Foles is going to play fairly well for a back up quarterback, but he will have some costly plays, including two turnovers, that help end his team’s season. The Falcons are going to put up a lot of points and easily win this game.
#2 Minnesota Vikings vs. #4 New Orleans Saints
This will be a game for the ages and a true toss up. Brees and the Saints are playing very well, and they can win in so many different ways. All season, they have relied on their rushing game, but this past weekend, Brees showed that he still has what it takes to put the Saints on his shoulders. Unfortunately, the Vikings defense is the best in the league, and the best in a few years. They won’t completely shut the Saints down, but they will do enough to keep their team in the game and give their offense, led by Case Keenum who is finally having his break out season, a chance to keep up with the Saints. This is going to come right down to the wire, but the Vikings are going to find a way to win.
#1 New England Patriots vs. #5 Tennessee Titans
Prepare to see one of the greatest games ever by a player over forty. The recent ESPN.com article really attacks QB Tom Brady, making him seem petty and questioning his TB12 business, his future outside of football. And one thing everyone has seen before is how dominant Brady is when he is given a little extra motivation. The Patriots will shut down the run, and Marcus Mariota will not have enough to carry his team to a win.
#2 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. #3 Jacksonville Jaguars
The last time these two teams played, QB Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. That will not happen again. He will play better, but Le’Veon Bell will have to play well, so the Steelers can stay balanced on offense. No doubt, it will still be tough to move the ball against this Jacksonville defense. That is why the real reason the Steelers are going to win this game is because of their defense, not their offense. The Steelers’ defense was fifth in the league, and they will be able to really shut down QB Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense. Bortles threw for only 87 yards against the Bills, and unfortunately for Jags’ fans, I don’t see Bortles playing much better, especially on the road. Bortles will give the Steelers a few extra possessions, and that will be the advantage in this low scoring game.
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