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The best weekend of the NFL season is here. The Divisional Round usually pits the eight divisional champs against one another, if they win at home the week prior. This year only two of the four matchups are between division champs, Jags at Steelers, and Saints at Vikings.

A quick word about Chiefs collapse against the Titans. I’ve suffered through awful Jets losses over the years. From Doug Brien missing two game-winning field goals in Pittsburgh, which would have sent the Jets to the AFC Championship against the Pats, to many others. When you think about that Chiefs game, that may top it all. Blowing a 21-3 halftime lead at home against an offense out of the 80's. I wouldn't be surprised if that was Alex Smith's last game in a Chiefs uniform.

My quest for perfection lasted all but one game. I went 1-3 against the spread, but 3-1 straight-up. Underdogs were 4-0 against the spread and 2-2 straight-up.

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EAGLES +3 vs. Falcons

Saturday 4:35 p.m.

This will be the first time a number-one seed will be an underdog in the divisional round. And I just love the Eagles. I've heard several analysts say they believe the Saints-Vikings winner will go on to the Super Bowl. Nobody believes in the Eagles. Their defensive leader Fletcher Cox said, “We’ve been disrespected all year,” via Tim McManus of ESPN.com." He continued to say, “people doubting us every week. So we just want to go out and shut those doubters up.” It's like this game is a given for the Falcons.

It seemed like Atlanta played a great game against the Rams, but then I dove into the numbers and those paint a totally different picture. Atlanta had 72 plays to the Rams 64, yet 39 less offensive yards than the Rams. Both teams opened up the game Saturday with consecutive three-and-outs. The Rams then ensued to muff a punt. The Falcons go four plays and six yards getting three points. A drive later the Falcons would score three more points and recover the fumbled kickoff at the end of the first quarter. You could understand a young team getting off to a slow start in their first playoff game under the bright lights in primetime. But to find yourself down 13-0 because of two special teams turnovers that early in the game is tough to come back from. Yet, the Rams still had a chance late.

Another very telling sign of the Falcons is their inability to score touchdowns in the red zone. Atlanta was 23rd in red zone scoring percentage (touchdowns) this year. If they don't begin scoring touchdowns, it will come back to haunt them. Maybe not this week, but certainly next week against top-10 red zone offenses.

Philly will need to rely on their defense to win this game. The Falcons will struggle to run against the first-ranked rush defense, but should be able to move through the air against the 17th ranked pass defense. This game will fall on Matt Ryan's shoulders. Now you ask, how does Matt Ryan play in the cold weather? Well, he was born in Pennsylvania, went to Boston College so he should be good in the cold. But, the dome and warm weather down South have softened him up. Earlier this season, the Falcons played the Jets in rainy New York. Ryan went on to have a nice game, but he couldn't hold on to the ball coughing it up three times. He's played in three road playoff games in his career, but one was in Arizona, the other in L.A., so those don't count. The third was in New York in 2011 when they lost 24-2 in 44 degree weather. Since 2011, they've played in ONE game in 32 degrees or less. That may not matter come Saturday with a high of 50, low of 28, but there will probably be rain. The Eagles stadium is grass, and that usually slows down dome teams, but there is no sample size. They've played three games on grass in under 50, since 2013, the last of which in 2014.

There's not much to say about the Eagles offense. Nick Foles is average and that's obvious. They will need to pound their triple-headed backfield against an above-average rush defense. Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffrey will need to make some plays to help Foles out and I believe they will. If this game comes down to turnovers, Philly had a +11 margin to Atlanta's -2. That may not be a fair stat because Carson Wentz threw seven picks all year. But, Philly's defense was fourth in taking the ball away.

I'm siding with the team that nobody believes in, in a game that looks too easy for the Falcons. I think Atlanta will settle for field goals allowing the Eagles to hang around and pull one out late.

Prediction: Eagles 23- Falcons 19

 

PATRIOTS -13.5 vs. Titans

Saturday 8:15 p.m.

You really can't make this line high enough. You could play the second half of the Chiefs-Titans game 100 times over and the Chiefs would win 99 of them. The Titans did make a great comeback in the second half so nice job. But they are in for a demolishing come Saturday. The only way they stand a chance in Foxborough is if Derrick Henry can run the ball effectively and Marcus Mariota can make plays on his feet. They'll need to score about 30 because the Pats will get to that number. I really don't think that will happen. Bill Belichick will have his guys more united than ever after that ESPN report.

Prediction: Patriots 31 - Titans 14

 

Jaguars +7.5 @ STEELERS

Sunday 1:05 p.m.

This game is so hard to pick in regards to the spread. The Steelers should win but will they cover? Blake Bortles was the garbage time king for two to three seasons in fantasy and always had that sneaky backdoor cover.

The Steelers are seventh in points per game, 25.4, and Jacksonville is right behind them at 25.1 No, I did not make that up. Jacksonville's defense is the best in the league. They will need to hold the Steelers to under 20 to have a chance. I  know I just said they average 25 points, but how Blake Bortles looked last week, they won't get to 21 in Pittsburgh.

My only other concern is the weirdness of the Steelers in some games. Sometimes they'll play awful, but then play like the best team the next week. Mike Tomlin is a very good coach, but his team his very emotional, just like him. Tomlin's first career playoff game as a coach was a loss at home to the... Jaguars. He's also the same coach that lost to Tim Tebow in the playoffs.

I have the belief that warm-weather teams struggle in the cold, but the Jaguars aren't apart of that group. From the days of Byron Leftwich, David Garrard, and Fred Taylor, this team has always been a run-first team with a good defense. You can be sure Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone, two New Yorkers, will have the Jags preparing for the worst. I'd be shocked if they don't practice with a wet ball. As of Tuesday, it's projected to be a high of 36, low of 13, with snow showers. If the Steelers haven't fixed their run defense after three weeks off (barely any starters played against Cleveland) then they will be in trouble.

I also have to mention these two teams played in Week 5 when Big Ben threw five picks. That game has zero relevance. As for this game, the Jaguars defense will need to create turnovers to keep them in the game. They'll force two or three, but not enough.

Prediction: Steelers 24 - Jaguars 20

 

VIKINS -3.5 vs Saints  

Sunday 4:40 p.m.

This is the game of the week and one I'm most excited for. This will be a rematch from Week 1 on Monday night when Adrian Peterson was the Saints running back and Sam Bradford was the Vikings quarterback and Dalvin Cook the back. How times have changed. That matchup obviously has no bearing on this one, except that the Vikings won.

Against the Panthers, the Saints duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram were held to 41 total yards, their lowest output all season. Ingram rushed for 22 yards, his lowest all year. That may be because they lost left guard Andrus Peat to a broken fibula early in the second quarter. Senio Kelemete will step in to replace him, however he will be in for a tough time against the second-ranked rush defense.

Drews Brees will struggle against a top-five pass defense, that features first-team All-Pro Xavier Rhodes and first-team All-Pro safety Harrison Smith. The Saints may have a great passing game, but defense wins championships. The Saints defense was picked apart by Cam Newton. Despite a dropped touchdown pass and missed 25-yard field goal, the Panthers still had a legitimate shot at winning. The defense hasn't looked the same since safety Kenny Vaccaro and linebacker A.J. Klein went out a few weeks ago.

Both of these teams are top-10 in red zone scoring and top-11 in opponent red zone scoring. What will determine the game is who can get off the field on third downs? The Vikings were third in third-down conversions and first in opponent conversions. The Saints were 20th in that stat and 27th in stalling drives. I think this is the determining factor of the game and I'll take the Vikes in a close one continuing their quest to become the first team to play on their home turf in the Super Bowl.

If you're taking the Vikings, please buy this line down to three off the half point.

Prediction: Vikings 27 - Saints 23

Best of luck RotoBallers!

 

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