Jan. 11, 2018
NFL Divisional Round BOLD Picks and Predictions
Article by Antwon "Smitty" Smith
It's time for the big dogs to step up and show why they had the extra week to prepare. There may be a couple of upsets brewing in this round as well, so let's get to the nitty-gritty shall we, here are my picks.
Falcons @ Eagles
The Eagles secured the first seed in the NFC with Carson Wentz but since he suffered a season ending injury, they are stuck with veteran Nick Foles. Atlanta will have their full arsenal on both sides which is why they are favored to win this contest. Philadelphia must have success running the ball if they want to advance to the championship game, because Foles is more of a game manager not a QB that can carry them.
Key Matchup: Falcons Front 7 vs Eagles Offensive Line
If Nick Foles is to have success, Lane Johnson and the rest of the line will have to protect him against an aggressive Falcons pass rush. They will also be important in the run game as well, of they are balance out their gameplan.
Falcons 27 Eagles 17
Titans @ Patriots
Marcus Mariota has a game to remember Wildcard weekend but now its time to go against the chess master in Bill Belichick. Tennessee boasts a strong run game, but will have to move the ball through the air if they want to run with the big dogs. The Patriots will try to overcome the turmoil by starting the game at a fast pace, so they can jump out in front quickly. If that happens Titans have NO chance because their offense is not built for that. We have seen stranger things.
Key Matchup: Patriots linebackers vs Marcus Mariota
Mariota is the key to the Titans success, so if the Pats linebackers contain him in the pocket by or use a spy to keep him from running, they likely stop the Titans offense. Mariota on the other hand must use his pro bowl tight end Delanie Walker and his receivers as best he can, if they are to open up running lanes for Derrick Henry. This will be an interesting Matchup to watch.
Patriots 31 Titans 16
Jaguars @ Steelers
The billboard material has already been written for this game, a week 5 win by the Jags means the Steelers are out for revenge. Ben Roethlisberger may not be ready to call it a career, so look for him to challenge this ball hawking defense. He gets Antonio Brown back from a calf injury so look for the Ramsey/Brown Matchup which will be key. Blake Bortles is the key for Jacksonville, If they get the QB from weeks 10-15 then I will take them to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, but we'll have to wait until Sunday to see that with our own eyes.
Key Matchup: Steelers WR vs Jaguars DB
The strength of the Steelers offense against the strength of Jacksonville's defense and it will be a good one. The Jags picked Big Ben off 5 times in the first meeting, so look for the Steelers to use Le'Veon Bell more in the passing game to set up more open plays downfield for Brown and Smith-Schuster.
Steelers 23 Jaguars 17
Saints @ Vikings
Another classic matchup of great offense against great defense, but the offense has a future hall of fame QB. The Saints have a lot of weapons, so it will be difficult for the Vikings to focus on one player. The Vikings have a nice balance on offense as well, so they pose the same threat as New Orleans. McKinnon and Murray may not have the stat line that Ingram and Kamara posess but are equally as dangerous. The defense who will force the most turnovers or throw the opposite QB outta rhythm will likely come out on top.
Key Matchup: Kamara/Ingram vs Vikings LB
This has to be the Matchup the Vikings win to get the upper hand because these backs can break the game wide open. Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith will have to track these backs the whole game.
Saints 24 Vikings 23
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