NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend – Who Will Make It To The Championship Finals?
Last weekend was Wildcard Weekend in the NFL with eight of the 12 teams that made it through to the playoffs in action in what proved to be a weekend of surprises in the NFL.
Tennessee Titans 22 Kansas City Chiefs 21
This was a stunning comeback win by Tennessee in a game where they trailed 21-3 at half-time, but produced an outstanding second half recovery, aided by some stellar play from quarterback Marcus Mariota, to claim victory by a single point. Mariota even managed to catch a touchdown pass from himself, after his pass was batted by a defender, allowing the quarterback to catch the ball he’d just thrown and turn it into a touchdown. Drew Henry had a day to remember racking up 156 yards on 23 carries including one crucial touchdown
Atlanta Falcons 26 Los Angeles Rams 13
Last year’s Superbowl runners up showed their mettle with a fine performance on the road to defeat the freescoring Los Angeles Rams on home turf. While seldom dominating the game, Matt Ryan was efficient enough with the ball to keep the scoreboard ticking over with able support from the Falcon’s running game. The Rams however struggled to complete passes with just 24 completions out of 45 attempts for Jared Goff and with crucial errors on offence and special teams, the Falcons hung on to record another road win.
Buffalo Bills 3 Jacksonville Jaguars 10
Much maligned as the weakest division in football, the AFC South now has two teams in the Divisional Playoff round with the Jacksonville Jaguars joining the Tennessee Titans in the next stage of the playoffs thanks to a hard-fought 10-3 win over Buffalo in Jacksonville. A very defensive game, in the end it was Blake Bortles effectiveness with his feet and an unfortunate injury to Tyrod Taylor at a crucial point in the game which proved decisive, his replacement Nathan Peterman only completing one pass and that was the game ending interception which handed Jacksonville the win.
Carolina Panthers 26 New Orleans Saints 31
A late rally by the Panthers, even with quarterback Cam Newton seemingly struggling with injury, wasn’t enough to see them through against their NFC South rivals the New Orleans Saints as the brilliant Drew Brees steered his team into the next round of the playoffs. The Saints Quarterback was sensational in this game throwing for 376 yards and 2 touchdowns against a decent Panthers defense and he was the difference between the teams in what proved to be the highest scoring of the playoff matches contested this week.
So where does those four results leave us in terms of how the remainder of the NFL playoffs shapes up? Well this week, the top two seeds in each conference (Philadelphia and Minnesota in the NFC and New England and Pittsburgh in the AFC) enter the fray with home games against the winning teams from last weekend. Here’s how the Divisional Playoffs shape up:
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan returns to his hometown on Saturday to try and steer Atlanta into their second successive NFC Championship games against the top ranked Philadelphia Eagles, albeit the Eagles will be missing their talisman quarterback Carson Wentz through a season-ending injury sustained a few weeks ago. Nick Foles carries the hopes of the Eagles who have a decent record against Ryan at home (winning three times and losing just once against the Atlanta Falcons since Ryan became starting QB) and the Eagles will be relying on their defence to nullify the Falcon’s many weapons on offense. This should be a close one but one key factor may be the fact that the Falcons play in a dome, while Philadelphia play outdoors and the weather in the city next weekend is set to be icy cold, perhaps giving a crucial advantage to the home team.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots
The Tennessee Titans have not beaten the New England Patriots in their last six meetings and their last win over the Patriots came way back in December 2002. The Titans last played in New England back in 2009 and they do not have fond memories of that snow-filled trip as the Patriots led 42-0 at half time and in the end ran out 59-0 winners. The Titans have had a couple of blowout losses this season too, notably away to Houston, and with conditions set to be freezing cold once again for this game, Mike Mullarkey’s team face an uphill task if they are to cause what would be a massive upset. Their one ray of hope may be rumours of discord in the Patriots camp between owner Robert Kraft, head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady. However that may well be clutching at straws as this game should end up in a very comfortable Patriots win.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers
These two teams last met on Week Five of the regular season in Pittsburgh and it was a dominant display by the Jaguars defence against an unusually lacklustre Pittsburgh Steelers offense with the Jags racing to a hugely impressive 30-9 victory over a team that are the second ranked team in the AFC. The Jacksonville Jaguars landed five interceptions in that game and restricted La’Veon Bell to just 47 yards as they nullified the much vaunted Steelers attack with some outstanding defense. With the Steelers unable to stop Leonard Fournette on the ground who rushed for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns, that was the basis for the Jaguars win and you can bet that they have a similar game plan for the Divisional playoff match up. I think the Steelers will have learned from this game though and it will certainly be closer, however if there is one game where an upset is possible in the AFC, it is this one.
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings second seed spot in the NFC was richly deserved after a fine season where their superb defense was key in the team finishing with a 13-3 record. That defence is likely to face one of their sternest tests with Drew Brees and his much-vaunted New Orleans Saints offence comes to town. The teams met on the opening weekend of the season with the Vikings running out 29-19 winners but both teams have seen major changes to their starters since then and both have developed significantly from that opening fixture. It is likely whoever wins the battle between Brees and the Vikings defence will have the biggest say in who ends up taking on the other NFC winner in the Championship game next weekend.
Our Weekend NFL Accumulators
Looking at the four games on the Spread betting market with Coral, I’m going to suggest the following fourfold accumulator:
- Atlanta Falcons (-3.0) to beat the Philadelphia Eagles – Evens
- Tennessee Titans to beat the New England Patriots (-13) – 10/11
- Jacksonville Jaguars to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5) – 20/23
- New Orleans Saints to beat the Minnesota Vikings (-4.0) – 19/20
A £10 bet on this fourfold would return £139.20.
If you prefer to bet on the Outright winner (Money Line) bet for each game then I would back the following fourfold bet:
- Atlanta to beat Philadelphia (8/13)
- New England to beat Tennessee (1/10)
- Jacksonville to beat Pittsburgh (14/5)
- New Orleans to beat Minnesota (17/10)
This fourfold acca offers a return of £182.30 for a £10 stake if the bet is successful.