I got slammed on the first round of the 2018 playoffs. I thought each favorite would not only win, but also cover their respective spreads. Only the Saints and Jags won (but failed to cover), while the Titans and Falcons pulled off upsets. The Falcons’ win was more predictable; I was worried the Rams would be inexperienced and not ready for the moment, and that’s exactly what it happened. But the Chiefs blowing a 21-3 lead after halftime, at home, to a team that’s struggled to score all year is inexplicable.
Either way, we’re moving on to the Divisional Round.
Falcons @ Eagles (4 p.m.)
- I know everybody thinks the Eagles are dead without Wentz, and I don’t completely doubt that. But I wasn’t exactly floored by Atlanta’s performance. I think the Rams lost that game more than the Falcons took control of it. The Eagles have had two weeks to rest and prepare for a high-powered offense, and Philly is no easy place to play. I expect their defense to pick up the slack, while the offense has had enough time to prepare for a solid game plan to put up enough points to put themselves in position to win. I do think the Falcons will likely find a way, but I expect it to be a lot closer than one may expect despite MVP-candidate Wentz being sidelined.
Titans @ Patriots (8 p.m.)
- Is there anybody in the world who thinks the Titans can win this game? With all the noise about Brady, Belichick and Kraft this past week, I think it’s pretty predictable that the Patriots will come out hot and take control of this game right out of the gate. I do think the Titans have found a new identity with Derrick Henry handling the bulk of the carries, and they can attempt to slow the game down by running the football and scoring efficiently. I just don’t think their defense is remotely ready for the storm they’re about to face at Foxboro, and the Patriots should win this game in the first half.
Jags @ Steelers (1 p.m.)
- This is a rematch from the Jags’ beatdown of the Steelers 30-9 earlier in the season, when Big Ben was contemplating retirement after his five-interception performance. Well, it’s the playoffs now, and the Steelers should be fully healthy and rested en route to an AFC Championship game with the Patriots. I don’t doubt the Jags’ defense showing up in a big way again, but I think Pitt’s defense is too much for the Jags’ incompetent offense and they will find a way one way or another.
Saints @ Vikings (4 p.m.)
- This is easily the game of the week. The Saints are so good because they can run the ball first, and if that’s not working, they have HOF-QB Drew Brees to fall back on. The difference this week is that Minnesota’s defense is one of the best in the league, and they’re home. If Case Keenum is the real deal, this is the week to show it. The winner of this game likely makes the Super Bowl. This is the NFC Championship game in my eyes, and it should be electric.