The top seeds are coming off their BYE weeks, and will have to fend off the lower seeds at home. Yes, even after accounting for Nick Foles. Mariota, while good enough to defeat the Chiefs, won't be able to get by the Patriots' pass defense.
The Patriots have been off and they are rested, while the Titans are playing on the road for a second straight week. Atlanta's defense is the better of the two in this game, which is why I will lay the points on the road. An angry Tom Brady is usually at his best. The most obvious one is home-field advantage, which is particularly important to Minnesota this season. I will be honest in admitting that Blake Bortles didn't cost them last game but this time around it could be very different. More than half of that came via the team's fourth-year quarterback (88). If that 30-9 Jaguars win isn't enough to convince you, consider this: two reliable predictors of National Football League team performance arePythagorean Win Expectancy and Net Yards Per Play - and Jaguars rank first and second, respectively, in each of those categories. Sure, Atlanta could easily keep things going with another win, but with no sense of how well the Eagles can perform, I want to grab as many points as possible. The Steelers have the third-ranked offense, according to ESPN, this season led by veteran Ben Rothlisberger. With last season's offense largely intact, the Falcons have regressed sharply from 6.7 yards per play under Kyle Shanahan to 5.8 under Sarkisian.
The Jaguars beat the Steelers 30-9 back in September, marking as Pittsburg's worst loss of the season.
"There is also the whole emotion around Ryan Shazier". In a week with just four games, Bell laps the field in terms of value expectation. I think this will be a back alley brawl.
They will also prove to be a much-tougher test for the Falcons than their recent opponent, the Los Angeles Rams, in the NFC wild-card game. Reigning MVP Matt Ryan turned in a solid 218 yards and one touchdown, but the real stars were on the defensive side. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles were resting, getting ready for their home game this week.
Tennessee improbably came back against the Chiefs last week, earning a date against the defending Super Bowl champs. The Eagles, on the other hand, are on a steep decline. And no, Foles hasn't inspired any confidence since replacing Carson Wentz as the starter in Week 15. The Falcons are 1-6-1 against the spread in his last eight games in Philadelphia. The Eagles finished as the best team in the league but are underdogs against the Falcons without their start quarterback Carson Wentz. The game was closer than the score made it seem, but Atlanta's defense is what gave them the win. And I've played a lot of football. However, the Vikings stand in the way, and won't be an easy task, especially in Minnesota.
The outlier of the weekend is the Saints-Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, where Keenum's Vikings are favored over Brees' Saints despite a huge disparity in playoffs experience. Minnesota's defense is absolutely good enough to slow down New Orleans' receivers, but I can't bet against Drew Brees right now.
"But Drew Brees showed us last week how special of a quarterback he is".
I put too much faith in Blake Bortles last week.
A lot went into this game and the Falcons looked great in several specific categories, but they were all vibrantly apparent for the same reason: The Falcons were clearly the playoff weathered team.