LOS ANGELES, January 12, 2018: The Wildcard playoff games are in the history books. The teams lucky enough to even make the playoffs have for the most part been weeded out. Now we get to the real games.
The NFL’s obsession with competitive balance did not lead to a bunch of 8-8 teams. There were the 0-16 Browns and four teams that finished with precise 13-3 records.
The Super Bowl is truly up for grabs.
If all four home teams win, than next week’s games will have all four teams with the exact same record. This is also the cold weather week. Last week had playoff games in Los Angeles, Florida and indoors in New Orleans. This weekend truly becomes the cold weather sport that makes football tough and beloved. Bring your defense, and your bruising running backs. The finesse teams are out. Winning in the trenches takes over.
With that, here is the NFL 2017-2018 Divisionals Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
The Divisional Playoffs are now set:
Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018:
4:30pm: NFC: (6) Atlanta Falcons (-3) (10-6) at (1) Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) on NBC —
Yes, the Falcons won a road playoff game. Yes, the Eagles are without Carson Wentz. Don’t believe the hype in Atlanta or the gloom about Philadelphia. The Eagles are at home, they have a tough defense, and they are rested. Matt Ryan is not the same in cold weather outdoors as he is indoors. Nick Foles will need help, and he will get it. Upset special, Eagles win outright.
8:00pm: AFC: (5) Tennessee Titans (9-7) at (1) New England Patriots (-13.5) (13-3) on CBS —
The Titans squeaked into the playoffs and took advantage of a Kansas City team that melts down in the playoffs every year. The Titans are a tomato can opponent. Bill Belichick probably leaked the story about discord within the New England organization to give the media something distracting. The truth is far more boring. This is an easy game for the Patriots, and everyone knows it. Patriots cover.
Sunday, Jan. 14
1:00pm: AFC: (3) Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) at (2) Pittsburgh Steelers (-7) (13-3) on CBS —
Early in the season, Jacksonville went into Pittsburgh and shocked the Steelers 30-9. Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted five times. History will not repeat itself. The Jaguars staggered into the playoffs losing two straight, and barely survived a hideous Wildcard match at home. The Steelers will make their adjustments and handle business. Jacksonville’s defense is for real, but trust Pittsburgh’s running game in the fourth quarter in cold weather. Steelers win but fail to cover.
4:30pm: NFC: (4) New Orleans Saints at (2) Minnesota Vikings (-5) (13-3) on Fox —
The Saints have the offense and the Vikings have the defense. New Orleans won a thriller over Carolina last week, but this is one game where the home field should matter. Points could be difficult to come by. Brees has a strong running game, but Mike Zimmer’s defense is special. Yes, the defense still wins championships, and Case Keenum is far more than a game manager. Vikings win but fail to cover.