Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

What to watch for in National Football League playoff divisional round

NFL playoffs Probabilities to win each divisional-round game on road to Super Bowl 52 NFL playoffs Probabilities to win each divisional-round game on road to Super Bowl 52
Rita Gibson | 13 January, 2018, 09:00

The NFL playoffs have reached the divisional stage, and there are four interesting matchups to break down this weekend. Expect Atlanta to return to the NFC Championship for the second-straight year with a 20-10 win. They held a potent Los Angeles offense to just two field goals and a touchdown, and the special teams also forced two fumbles on a kick returns. Atlanta is becoming a defensive-oriented team with the offense doing just enough to get victories. However, Philadelphia is a home underdog here against the spastic and inconsistent Atlanta Falcons.

In short, this game boils down to one question: Can the Saints, with all their offensive weapons, find a way to cut through the best defense in football? After shutting down the league's best-scoring offense last week, the Falcons will feast on Foles and the low-flying Eagles.

Foles didn't look good in the team's Week 17 loss to Dallas, and he gets a tougher test here.

Jacksonville's defense can clearly create a number of problems for Pittsburgh. The Saints have won three of their last four meetings against the Vikings. With Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement, they have the weapons to throw at the Falcons to keep them honest. I will do some recaps from the previous week of football to start out.

This could be one of the games of the season. That catches up to every team eventually. Did anybody else really play that well last week?

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Tasked with picking their playoff road to the Super Bowl, and eventual victor, can Graves triumph over the likes of England cricketer Liam Plunkett WWE superstar Baron Corbin and Sky Sports News Deadline Day expert Jim White? Only Steelers-Chiefs and Packers-Cowboys were close before the Patriots' memorable comeback over the Falcons in the Super Bowl made a lot of us forget the drab games leading up to the big one. "But at the end of the day, experience or no experience, you've got to execute". Blake Bortles looked bad with just 75 passing yards, but the defense did its part and continue to be stout and the primary strength of this team. Back in Week 5 at Pittsburgh, the young running back had 181 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 28 carries.

The Pittsburgh defense has lost a leader in Ryan Shazier, but they won't have to be spectacular in order to stop the Jags.

Last weekend's four games were uninspiring, for the most part. Jacksonville is a team that can play with anyone. Not only are Freeman's cuts less effective away from the Mercedes Benz Stadium field turf, but he also has to deal with an Eagles defense that allowed the second-fewest schedule-adjusted fantasy points to running backs. I do think he can do enough to win (or at least not lose) this game. It's been reported that Chris Hogan and Kyle Van Noy will play and that could be huge, as is the possible return of Rex Burkhead. I don't believe in either head coach in a big game, but Mike Tomlin doesn't inspire much confidence in me. More than half of that came via the team's fourth-year quarterback (88).

When it comes to identifying the top dogs on this weekend's betting board, the notion of the NFL being a quarterback-driven league goes head-to-head with the adage that defense wins championships. Bortles floated fullback screens and threw torn up paper airplanes to wide open receivers. But I just have a good feeling about this Saints team.

"I was disappointed about the way the first game went and the way it turned out". With a healthy Carson Wentz, that implies the Eagles would be favored by more than a touchdown at home against Falcons.

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