Fikkle Fame’s NFL Predictions for Divisional Round Games January 13th-14th, 2018
Last weekend, the Titans scored 19 unanswered points in the second half to eliminate the underachieving Chiefs, the Bills first playoff appearance in 17 years was a one and done, the Saints beat the Panthers for the third time this season, and the Falcons beat the NFL’s highest scoring team, the Rams, by holding them to 13 points and scoring 26 themselves. We move on to the divisional round, where the Eagles, Vikings, Steelers, and Patriots will take the field after first round byes.
Games of Saturday January 13th
Atlanta (10-7) at Philadelphia (13-3). Falcons favored by 3. O/U: 41. The teams did not play each other in the regular season. The Eagles are the NFC’s #1 seed, but the sixth seeded Falcons are favored, in large part due to the fact that Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles, who replaced the injured Carson Wentz, has been less than impressive. Wentz was injured in the Week 14 game against the Rams. The Eagles won that game as well as their next two before losing a meaningless game against the Cowboys. The other two wins were against the Giants and Raiders, neither of whom made the playoffs. But while the offense has been sluggish since Wentz went down, the defense has played well all season, allowing just 18.4 points per game, fourth best in the NFL. The defense must come through for the Eagles to move on. The Falcons had a mid season slump but finished strong, going 6-2 the second half of the season. Atlanta is capable of beating anyone, but we think the home field, the Philly defense, and the fact that Foles has had some time to get acclimated to the offense will be enough for the Eagles to pull off the upset in a narrow victory. Eagles 24 Falcons 23.
Tennessee (10-7) at New England (13-3). Patriots favored by 13 1/2. O/U: 48. The teams did not play in each other in the regular season. The Titans pulled off a terrific comeback in their 22-21 win over the Chiefs, but playing the Patriots, the top seed in the AFC in Foxborough will prove to be too much. Patriots 34 Titans 20.
Games of Sunday January 14th
Jacksonville (11-6) at Pittsburgh (13-3). Steelers favored by 7. O/U: 41. The Jaguars beat the Steelers 30-9 in Week 5 as Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. This was about the time when the Jaguars looked like a legitimate playoff team. Their defense allowed just 16.8 points per game, and they scored 26.1 behind much maligned quarterback Blake Bortles, who began to get a little respect (it probably helped that he had a decent team around him for a change). However, the Jaguar offense–and Bortles– did little in Jacksonville’s 10-3 win over Buffalo last weekend. The Steelers won 10 of their last 11, losing only to the Patriots 27-24, and Roethlisberger is highly motivated to make up for his horrible game. Steelers 28 Jaguars 17.
New Orleans (12-5) at Minnesota (13-3). Vikings favored by 5. O/U: 46.5. The Saints lost at Minnesota in the season opener 29-19. The Vikings offense is perhaps slightly above average while the Saints can rack up the yards both on the ground and in the air (they were fifth best in the NFL in both categories, and led the league with 4.7 yards per rushing attempt). But Minnesota’s defense has shut opponents down; the Vikings allowed the fewest points per game (15.8) and fewest yards per game (275.9). If the Saints can establish both their running game and their passing game and keep the Minnesota defense off balance, they have a chance to win, but we think the Vikings will just be too difficult an opponent at home. Vikings 23 Saints 21.