The NFL Playoffs are advancing to the Divisional Round this weekend. The Wild Card Round had some surprises that set up some interesting matchups for the top seeded teams that claimed a first round bye. The winners of this round move on their respective conference championships. The AFC seems to be a lock, though anything can happen in the Playoffs. The NFC is practically wide open, so this weekend should provide some insight into how Super Bowl LII could look. If you want to place a wager on any of the divisional games, there are multiple USA sportsbook sites you can use.
The first game of the Divisional Round is the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Atlanta Falcons. The Eagles are the top seeded team, but they will be without starting QB Carson Wentz who is out for the season with an injury. Wentz was undoubtedly their main offensive catalyst, and backup QB Nick Foles has been shaky throughout his career. However, Philadelphia has a strong run game in RBs LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles. Philly will probably try to run the ball as much as possible to avoid leaving the fate of the game in Foles’ hands, but on the flip side, you can bet the organization has been grooming him for this game in their time off. They looked shaky in the last few games of the season under Foles, but they are still a strong team, especially defensively.
Atlanta has been in must-win mode for the last month and secured a Wild Card berth in the process. They had a strong performance against the LA Rams and showed signs of their former selves—the team that was in Super Bowl LI. QB Matt Ryan is an elite player, not to mention the presence of RB Devonta Freeman and WRs Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. The Falcons are hoping to avenge last year’ Super Bowl embarrassment and must beat the Eagles in their home turf to get there. A lot of analysts have Atlanta winning over the Eagles because Philly is not intact and they are coming off a rest, meanwhile Atlanta has looked better in each game.
The Tennessee Titans will play the reigning champion New England Patriots in Foxborough for the first AFC game of the weekend. The Titans had an emotional comeback win against the Chiefs to get here, but the Patriots are a different story. They will be without WR Juilan Edelman, but New England has a lot of different weapons, including new WR Brandin Cooks. Don’t forget about QB Tom Brady, arguably the best to ever do it. In what could be the Patriots’ last year in the Brady-Belichick era, you can bet they’ll want to cap off the season with a second-straight Super Bowl. The Titans are a promising team, but they are not where they need to be to defeat New England. Anything can happen in the Playoffs, but a Pats victory at home is practically guaranteed.
Sunday’s action kicks off with the Jacksonville Jaguars in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are favored to win this game and it is easy to see why. WR Antonio Brown is back from injury, RB Le’Veon Bell is playing great and QB Ben Roethlisberger is conducting business as usual. Jacksonville had a flat game against the Bills to advance, though their defense (which is their strongest point) looked solid. QB Blake Bortles has had a rocky career and had more rushing yards than passing yards in the Wild Card game, but this will not happen against Pittsburgh. These 2 teams played earlier this year and the Steelers did not look good, but Playoff Steelers are a different story, especially a team looking to avenge their loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. The emphasis will likely be on Bell and their run game to avoid throwing to the team with the second-most interceptions, but in any case, the Steelers will do everything in their power to get their rematch with New England.
The last game of the weekend is the most interesting. The red-hot New Orleans Saints are travelling to Minnesota to face the Vikings. They will be up against the #1 defense in the country on their home turf, meaning this will be tough for the Saints. Vikings QB Case Keenum has been on fire throughout the season, not to mention their dual-threat run game. The Saints also have a strong run game in Alvin Kamare and Mark Ingram, not to mention an experience QB in Drew Brees. However, they say defense wins championships and Minnesota has the best. Whoever wins this game will have Super Bowl implications, so this is one to watch.
In terms of betting odds, the Falcons, Patriots, Steelers and Vikings are all projected to win. You can find NFL betting lines covering the playoff games at premium US friendly online sportsbooks. We predict a Falcons-Vikings NFC Championship and Patriots-Steelers AFC matchup, but if the NFL Playoffs are always full of surprises.