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Jan 11, 2018

NFL Divisional Round Preview

The second round of the 2017 NFL preview kicks off in Philadelphia this Saturday. A big story coming into this weekend is the polarity in quarterback experience. While we will see the familiar faces of Big Ben, Matty Ice, Drew Brees, and of course Tom Brady, their opposing quarterbacks are far less proven. Of the other quarterbacks, Nick Foles is the only one to have played in a playoff game before last week. However, even for Foles, this is only his second career playoff game. His first came four years ago when the Eagles lost in the wildcard round to the Saints. In fact, Roethlisberger, Ryan, Brees, and Brady have a combined 72 more playoff appearances than their opposing quarterbacks.

Looking closer at the matchups, we start the divisional round with an interesting game between the Falcons and the Eagles. The Falcons are favored even though the Eagles had the first round bye. Atlanta was strong against the Rams and their explosive offense last week, and have been a top defense all year long. Nick Foles and Jay Ajayi have a big task ahead of them trying to score on the Falcons. As good as the Eagles have been all year, their secondary has looked shaky. That could spell trouble against the likes of Julio Jones and Matt Ryan.

Following that game is the AFC matchup of Tennessee at New England. The Patriots are two-touchdown favorites against the Titans in Foxborough this weekend. The Titans pulled off a huge comeback last week against the Chiefs and will need to keep that momentum rolling if they want any hope of beating the Patriots. Bad news for the Titans is they don’t defend the tight end position very well, and we all know who they will be having to stop this Saturday.

Sunday action kicks off with the Jaguars in Pittsburgh. The Steelers were pounced by the Jaguars earlier this season thanks to a five-interception game from Big Ben in his worst career start. However, Pittsburgh still remains favorites this weekend. If the Jaguars want to beat the Steelers again, it will have to be on the backs of their defense. After all, Blake Bortles only threw for 87-yards last week. Jacksonville does have one of the best pass defenses in the league and will need it to shut down the combination of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Keep an eye on the Jaylen Ramsey-Antonio Brown matchup, that one is sure to be fun.  

And for the last game of the weekend, we have the Saints in Minnesota. Case Keenum will be making is first ever playoff start, and is favored to win. Just like the Jaguars, Minnesota will need their defense. The Vikings have arguably the best defense in the league, but the Saints also have an electric offense. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram were relatively quiet last week against the Panthers, while Saints’ receivers lit it up through the air. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings can shut down the Saints potent run game while also keeping Brees and his favorite receiver Michael Thomas at bay.

Dan Quinn