NFL Playoffs Week 2 Preview + Predictions
After an exciting opening weekend of playoff football that saw me go 2-2 with my predictions, I am truly excited to see how this next round is going to play out. The four teams that moved past the wild card round last week were the Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, and Tennessee Titans. Now, I did only go 2-2 in my predictions last week, and those two that I got wrong shook up my thinking for the rest of the playoffs, so I would take my predictions with a grain of salt.
The first game of the weekend takes place on Saturday, with the Atlanta Falcons going to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles. The Falcons upset the Rams last weekend, and have while doing so, completely changed my view on them. They were able to take advantage of the youth and inexperience of the Rams, and play smart football to come out on top. I think that this team managed to backdoor their way into the playoffs, and now that they are here, they are a completely different animal than in the regular season. They know how to win in the playoffs, as they made it to the Super Bowl last year, and they have some of the best weapons left in the playoffs. I think that Matt Ryan will be even better this week, and that Julio Jones will explode and have an absolutely dominant performance. They have now won 8 of their last 11 games, and should be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the year.
The Eagles were the best team in the NFC for the majority of the season, until Carson Wentz tore his ACL. Now, the team has Nick Foles at the helm, and that is a bick drop off from Wentz, who was the MVP-frontrunner when he was playing. I don’t trust Foles, especially after seeing his game against the Oakland Raiders, where he was unable to get the ball into the endzone and finished with a QBR of 59.4, and then followed up that game with a terrible outing against the Dallas Cowboys, even though he did not play all game, when he did play, he went 4 for 11 and only had 39 yards. The Eagles do have decent weapons around Foles, like Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffrey, Nelson Agholor, LeGarrette Blount, and Jay Ajayi. The problem though lies with the quarterback, and I don’t trust foles to get the ball to his weapons on a consistent basis, and the running game shouldn’t be able to get going because the Falcons have a pretty good run defense.
I think that Matt Ryan will be able to get the ball to his receivers more consistently than Foles, and I don’t trust the Eagles offense without Carson Wentz, especially against one of the league’s better defenses. I think the Falcons will beat the Eagles, 28-17.
The next game of the weekend is also on Saturday, and will see the Tennessee Titans march into Foxborough to get absolutely stomped by the New England Patriots.
This is the game I am most confident about for the entire round. I think that the Patriots will dominate the Titans, especially because I think that their win last week was much more about the Chiefs’ incompetence than the Titans’ talent. I have total faith in Brady and Belichick to dispatch the Titans and make it look easy. Now, there has been plenty of controversy surrounding the Patriots thanks to an article from ESPN that talked about the decision to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, but if we have learned anything about the Patriots in the last 16 years, it is that they will always have an “us against the world” mentality, and if anything, this article and controversy will just make add fuel to their fire. They have an insatiable appetite for competition and I think that they will go out, and just obliterate the Titans on their march for another Super Bowl.
This matchup does not require much analysis, at least from a statistical standpoint. I don’t trust Marcus Mariota in any capacity, and last weeks’ win did not do much to change that in my eyes. I thought it was a fluke, I mean, do you really think that he is going to throw another touchdown to himself, and benefit from horrendous clock management and play calling a second time? No, they won’t, the Patriots play a much more refined version of football than the Chiefs do, and Tom Brady is a completely different animal in the postseason, and had a bye week to rest and prepare. He has only lost in the first round of the playoffs twice in his long, storied career, and I do not see it happening again.
The Patriots will dominate the Titans and win the game 35-13.
Sunday will be a day of two very exciting football games that I can see going either way. The first of these two games is the Pittsburgh Steelers at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are coming off a low-scoring affair in Buffalo between some of the two best defensive teams in the NFL. Earlier this year, the Jags’ defense shut down the Steelers, and forced Big Ben to throw five interceptions in a 9-30 loss. The thing about that game though, is that afterwards, the Steelers went on to go 9-1 in their next 10 games, with their only loss being at the hands of the New England Patriots. Simply put, I think that the Jaguars convincing win over the Steelers was more about a rare horrendous game from Big Ben than it was about the Jag’s stifling defense.
Now, the Jags do have an incredible defense, and allow the second least total yards per game, but the Steelers ranked fifth in opponents yards per game, which means that something’s got to give for one of these two teams. I think that the Jaguars will be able to limit what the Steelers can do, but they will still be unable to keep up with them offensively. I still do not trust Blake Bortles in the playoffs, and have a lot of faith in Big Ben to get his offense in a groove and into the next round.
I think the Pittsburgh Steelers will beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in a close game, 24-17.
The last game of the weekend is happening in Minnesota, as the New Orleans Saints will take on the the Minnesota Vikings. I think that this will be the closest game of the weekend, and to be honest, I have no idea how it is going to go. I really like the Minnesota Vikings’ defense, and think that Case Keenum has done an excellent job this year running the offense. He took over after Sam Bradford went down with an injury, and has been spectacular. He went 11-3, threw for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. Now, this is his first career playoff start, so I don’t know what to expect, but I think that he has more than enough weapons to do some serious damage. I think that Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are both spectacular receivers, and are capable of breaking loose for a long touchdown at any given time. The two combined for 2,125 yards and 12 touchdowns. New Orleans’ pass defense ranked 15th in the league this season, and when the two matched up in week one, the Vikings receivers torched the Saints’ secondary for 346 yards, and Stefon Diggs had two touchdowns.
While the Saints had the 15th best pass defense in the league, they also ranked 16th in run defense, the Minnesota Vikings ranked 7th in rushing yards per game and 11th in passing yards per game. I don’t believe that the Saints will have a good time trying to stop the Vikings’ well-rounded offensive attack. The Vikings’ defense is on a whole different level than the Saints, ranking 2nd in rush defense and 2nd in pass defense. They also allow less than three third-down conversions per game, and I trust them to shoulder the load and keep the offense on the field to help them build momentum.
Now, we saw last week that even when the opposing team shuts down the rushing attack of the Saints, they can still rely on one of the best QBs of all time in Drew Brees. This game is so hard for me to call because I think both teams are incredibly evenly matched, could win. I do think that the Vikings have the advantage because they are playing at home, and have the potential to do so for the entirety of the postseason, including the Super Bowl.
This will be the best, most exciting game of the weekend, and I think that the Vikings will beat the Saints 28-26.
This should be a very fun, exciting weekend of playoff football, and I can’t wait.