March 19, 2018

NFL GM on playoffs: Eagles will lose, Patriots will roll, more

13 January 2018, 09:11 | Sandy Nunez

NFL GM on playoffs: Eagles will lose, Patriots will roll, more

NFL Divisional Playoffs Q&A: What are the odds …?

Tennessee's comeback victory last week was thrilling, but make no mistake, the Titans will be outmatched in New England. The games kick off Saturday with the No. 6 seed Atlanta Falcons at the No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles, and then the No. 5 Tennessee Titans versus the No. 1 New England Patriots.

For most organizations in sports, a story like the ESPN one published last week could potentially derail the team and disrupt the normal day-to-day operations.

The Falcons were not great on offense by any means. My favorite Keenum myth is how the Texans cut him and if they'd just kept him, they'd have their franchise QB, which ignores (a) the two seasons he played in between the Texans cutting him and 2017, and (b) the Texans re fine at QB, thank you. Second, Nick Foles is awful.

Now the question becomes whether I trust in Nick Foles. Everybody knows this is not the same team without MVP candidate Carson Wentz under center, and it has shown. Agholor has enjoyed a 22% target rate with Foles, compared with 16% with Wentz under center.

"You don't bet against New England at home, in the playoffs". The two teams meet again in Pittsburgh, a day after the Patriots play host to the upset-minded Tennessee Titans. "I think it is two road teams in the NFC this weekend to advance". In my predictions for the Wild Card round, I called out Marcus Mariota, and boy did he prove me wrong in the second half of that game. It would be nice to see the Patriots line pushed to a field goal with the tease, but I'm not sweating 3 to 3.5. Patriots win 31-20. The Steelers will not be playing at full strength, providing the flawless opportunity for the underdog Jaguars.

David: Both teams are stellar.

The Jaguars forced five Ben Roethisberger interceptions in that game, and they had 11 interceptions on the road during the regular season, tied for the second most in the league. They are led by the young Blake Bortles who tallied more rushing yards than passing yards last week against a struggling Bills team. They were down 21-3 at halftime, but never gave up and went on to score 19 unanswered points.

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Chewing clock and controlling the ball will be key to the Titans' ability to keep this one close, but they must finish drives. In the game-winning drive alone, he was the only Patriots player Brady targeted. Prediction: Steelers 38 - Jaguars 7.

New Orleans Saints running back Zach Line (42).

But the veterans conquering the newbies wasn't the narrative in the other three Wild Card matchups.

I expect Pittsburgh's defense to do a better job against Leonard Fournette than they did earlier this year. The Vikings defense surrendered the fewest points this season, allowing just 15.8 per game. Their plus-49 differential is the third highest in the NFL.

The odds are interesting due to the Vikings playing at home Sunday against the Saints, as the victor would seemingly be considered the favorite to reach the Super Bowl.

Normally I wouldn't pick against the Vikings at home, but this Saints team is going to go all the way. Minnesota's linebackers and defensive front featuring Everson Griffin and Linval Joseph will also face the tall task of shutting down New Orleans' two-headed backfield of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. His ability to draw multiple defenders keeps defenses scrambling to keep up with Brady's quick-hit strikes to wideouts and running backs.

The offense vs. defense dichotomy will be in full effect in Foxboro, where Tom Brady has the experience in his back pocket of five wins in seven Super Bowl starts.

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