Saturday’s Divisional playoff match-up has two teams that played in the Super Bowl last year, the Atlanta Falcons (10-6) and New England Patriots (13-3). It also has two teams who didn’t make the playoffs last season. The Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) and the (9-7) Tennessee Titans.
Falcons at Eagles, Saturday 4:35 PM: NBC TV.
The Falcons dominated the LA Rams last week 26-13 in LA. The Falcons held the number 1 rated offense to just 13 points and only 3 points in the second half. Quarter, back Matt Ryan had a very efficient day. He was 21 for 30 for 218 yards and 1 touchdown. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Colemen rushed for 106 combined yards. Julio Jones and Mohamad Sanu had 13 catches for 169 yards.
The Eagles had the best record in the NFL but lost their MVP, Carson Wentz, in week 13 due to an injury. In 13 games this season, Wentz was in the top 5 in almost every category. He threw for 33 touchdowns had only 7 interceptions and amassed over 3,200 passing yards. Nick Foles has taken over the reigns under center. In 2013, under Chip Kelly’s Eagles, Foles had 27 passing touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. Foles has been an average quarterback over the past three games. He has 5 touchdowns 2 interceptions and just over 500 yards.
Philadelphia doesn’t have a dominant running back but as a unit, their backfield averaged 4.5 yards per carry and rushed for over 2,000 yards. LeGarette Blount rushed for 766 yards, Corey Clement over 300 and late season acquisition Jay Ajayi over 400. They will need all of them to produce to take the pressure of Foles. The Eagles should be able to pass the ball, they have a ton of talent at the skill position. TE,Zach Ernst, and WR’s, Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffries had 193 catches and 25 touchdowns combined.
Prediction: The Eagles were the 4th stingiest defense in the league giving up 277 points on the season. They thrive on turning the ball over. They had 19 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries. They had 38 sacks which was about average, 15th in the league. If the Eagles want to win this match up Foles must have a “throwback” game and the defense must get Ryan to turn the ball over. I think that happens.
Take the Eagles 24-20 in a close game.
Titans at Patriots, Saturday, 8:15 PM: CBS TV.
Tennessee looked terrible in the first half of their wildcard match up against the Kansas City Chiefs. They were down 21-3 at halftime and they couldn’t get anything going offensively. All that changed in the 2nd half. Part of the reason for the Titans dominance was the fact that quarterback, Marcus Mariota started calling the plays at the line of scrimmage. Mariota threw for 205 yards two touchdowns and had 46 yards rushing on five carries. He even caught a touchdown pass that he threw to himself. The Titans won 22-21 and held the Chiefs scoreless in the 2nd half.
What can you say about the Patriots that hasn’t already been said. Under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, they have won 15 AFC East Titles and 5 Super Bowls. There will never be a dynasty like this in football ever again. Brady is like LeBron James, every year he could be the league’s MVP. The former Michigan Wolverine completed 66% of his passes, threw for 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. RB, Dion Lewis has proven to be one of the best dual threats in the NFL. He rushed for over 800 yards (averaging 5 yards per carry) and had 32 receptions and 9 total touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks caught 174 balls and had 15 touchdowns combined. Defensively, New England has struggled at times, but appears to be getting better as the season moves along. They finished 5th in point allowed (278) 7th in sacks (42) and 18th interceptions with 12. This team doesn’t necessarily get opposing teams to turn the ball over, but they are a classic example of… bend but don’t break
Prediction: Marcus Mariota won the game against Kansas City, but one man can’t beat the Patriots. Even if Mariota duplicates his performance, can he out duel Tom Brady, on the road in a hostile environment?
The answer is no. Take the Patriots here 34-20.
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