NFL: 2018 Divisional Round Predictions

I was stuck working all day today and was unable to get my prediction for the Eagles/Falcons game. In this “Battle of the Birds” as it’s being called, I was expecting a higher scoring game. With a final score of just 15-10 with the #2 Eagles beating the #6 Falcons, big players were held in check. With the exception of Julio Jones, who hauled in nine catches (on 16 targets) for 101 yards, no player in the game recorded more than 100 reception or rushing yards.

Nick Foles showed up and delivered a solid game–throwing for 246 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. His completion percentage of 23/30 was healthy and he didn’t seem too pressured all game, only taking one sack.

Though his team lost, Matt Ryan played a solid game of his own–throwing for 210 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. The Eagles defense pressured Ryan more and brought him down for three sacks in the game.

The teams combined for four FGs and only two touchdowns on the day. The Falcons got on the board first with a 33 yard FG from Matt Bryant, but the Eagles answered right back with a touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount. After a missed extra point, the Falcons scored their only touchdown of the day on a short pass from Ryan to running-back Devonta Freeman. Down 10-6, the Eagle orchestrated a five play, 37 second drive to get into field goal range and Jake Elliot connected on a 53 yard FG as the first half expired.

The second half was all Eagles, but still wasn’t an exciting game. With two more Elliot FGs, the Eagles pulled ahead for good for a 15-10 win to advance to the NFC Championship next weekend.

My Predictions for the Remaining Divisional Games

Starting with the AFC, I fully expect the Patriots to beat the Titans and move on to the AFC Championship for the seventh straight season. Tom Brady is too good of a player to think he won’t play on another level in the playoffs. I think Marcus Mariota and the Titans will keep in close for the first half, but the Patriots will come out fast in the second half and put the game out of reach.

Patriots 34
Titans     13

With the second-best defense in the league, the Jaguars are looking for the upset on the Steelers. I see this game going one of two ways. Either it’ll be low scoring, hard earned runs and passes, OR it’ll be a shootout between Roethlisberger and the Jaguars defense. The Jaguars beat the Steelers in week 5 in Pittsburgh. That game was all Jaguars, mostly because their defense intercepted Roethlisberger FIVE times and ran two back for touchdowns. Don’t expect that again.

Steelers 17
Jaguars   15

In the NFC, I expect the second game to be more exciting than the Eagles/Falcons game. With the best defense in the NFL, the Vikings will look to slow down rookie star Alvin Kamara and proven starter Mark Ingram for the Saints. The Saints, who are top-5 offense in the league, look to get ahead early and not slow down. I expect lots of big plays, on both offense and defense, and a close game that will come down to the final drive.

Vikings  34
Saints    28

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