NFL Playoffs – Divisional Round
The Divisional Round is upon us. Four teams fell short of their championship dreams last weekend. I managed to correctly predict the result of three out of the four Wild Card games last week. You can probably guess which game I got wrong. Who could have anticipated that the Kansas City Chiefs would blow a comfortable lead at halftime to ultimately lose the game? Surely the so-called “expert analysts” over at ESPN, the network that carried that game, would have seen it coming:
Wow. Looks like ESPN’s Randy Moss had some kind of insight the other panelists did not. If you’ll recall, Moss spent the last eight games of the 2010 season in Tennessee with the Titans. Perhaps there were some of those old-team-homer-vibes pushing him towards this pick? Who knows. In any event, Tennessee’s win was the biggest surprise from last weekend. The game was one of the best in a Wild Card Weekend that was filled with some fairly competitive games. Last year’s Wild Card slate was a bit of a snoozer, with final scores of 30-12, 27-14, 38-13, and 26-6. Hopefully what was an entertaining Wild Card Weekend will carry over into this year’s heavily-anticipated Divisional Round. Going four-for-four in picks would also be great.
With that here are my (hopefully) winning picks for this weekend’s Divisional Round action:
(6) Atlanta Falcons @ (1) Philadelphia Eagles – Saturday 4:35 PM ET, NBC
Coming off of their upset victory over the Los Angeles Rams (11-6) last weekend, the Falcons will make the trip to Lincoln Financial Field to face the NFC’s top seed. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, an Exton, Pennsylvania native, is 3-3 lifetime against the Eagles. Their most recent meeting came last season in Philadelphia. The Eagles managed to be the only team to hold the high-flying Falcons offense of 2016 to less than 20 points. The Eagles won the game 24-15. Can the Eagles reign in Ryan and the Falcons and defend their home field? Let’s take a look at each team:
Atlanta Falcons (11-6)
Despite all of their struggles this season, the Falcons are within shouting distance of returning to the NFC Championship Game. The battle-tested Falcons have braved one of the league’s toughest schedules while playing in the league’s toughest division. The adversity that the Falcons have faced this season came in handy last week in their convincing 26-13 win over the Rams.
The Falcons offense managed to come out on top in Saturday night’s slugfest. Matt Ryan was efficient and mistake-free, completing 70% of his passes for 218 yards and one touchdown pass. Ryan posted a passer rating of 101.8, marking the fifth straight postseason start that Ryan has posted a passer rating of 100 or better. Among quarterbacks in the Wild Card Round, Ryan posted the highest passer rating while under pressure at 108.9, with the next closest mark being set at 79.2.
Ryan benefited from his two feature runningbacks combining for 106 rushing yards, as well. Tevin Coleman (40 yards) and Devonta Freeman (66 yards 1 TD) helped take the pressure off of the passing game and allowed the Falcons the chance to win in the time of possession department (37:35 – 22:25).
Mohamed Sanu (4 catches 75 yards) provided a big play with a 52-yard run and catch off of a screen to set up a late touchdown. That touchdown would be caught two plays later by Julio Jones (9 catches 94 yards 1 TD) who finally started to see some redzone targets. Jones averages 104.7 yards per game in the postseason, the best all-time.
This unit will face a tough test in Philadelphia, as the Eagles boast one of the league’s top defenses. But if this experienced group can execute and remain mistake-free like they did against Los Angeles, they can get the job done.
If there was any remaining doubt as to the quality of Atlanta’s defense, it should be erased by now. This defense is really good.
The Falcons ended up allowing the Rams’ season average in total yards on Saturday (361). That’s not the good part: they also held the league’s number one scoring offense to only 13 points. The Falcons also created two special teams takeaways that helped them salt away the clock, add more points on the board, and capture the game’s momentum. In addition to tallying up three sacks, the Falcons only allowed the Rams to convert on 35% of their third down attempts (5/14) and 33% of their fourth down attempts (1/3). In four redzone trips, the Falcons only allowed the Rams to get into the endzone once. What’s more, Atlanta was able to do this while having their corners play man-to-man coverage the majority of the night against the Rams receivers.
The Falcons defense is much improved from last year, and they will certainly be anxious to get after an Eagles offense that has struggled its last two games.
Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
After four long years, the Philadelphia Eagles have returned to postseason play. We’ve been itching to catch a glimpse of what this team would look like in the playoffs, albeit without Carson Wentz at the helm. Nick Foles will start at quarterback for the Eagles on Saturday. Coincidentally enough, Foles was the starter in the Eagles’ 24-26 loss to New Orleans in the Wild Card Round of the 2013 season. Foles played well going 23/33 with 195 yards and throwing two touchdown passes against no interceptions as he posted a passer rating of 105.0. Could another sterling performance from Foles be in the works?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how explosive this Eagles offense has been this season. Philadelphia finished in the top ten in total offense (7th), rushing yards per game (3rd), and in points per game (3rd). Excellent ranks, to be sure. However, it is worth noting that their numbers have fallen off in recent weeks.
The Eagles finished ranked 13th in the league in net passing yards per game, no doubt due to the absence of Wentz. Nick Foles has posted a 2-1 record in Wentz’s stead, but the numbers haven’t been great. Since taking over as a starter, Foles has posted a 77.7 passer rating, completing only 54% of his passes. His last two starts he only has one touchdown pass against two interceptions. The little time that he was in the game against Dallas, Foles did not look on point. Foles is a former Pro Bowler and has won games in this league, but the way his play has been trending lately has all eyes on him in this matchup.
The best thing the Eagles have going for themselves right now is their backfield. Philadelphia has managed to squeeze 1,759 combined scrimmage yards and 11 total touchdowns out of the committee backfield of Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement. Each back brings a unique skill set to the position that makes their offense dangerous. The Eagles would be best served establishing the run between the tackles. The Falcons defense has too much to try and get to the boundary on running plays regularly. Running inside is something the Eagles have been able to do well all season long.
Tight end Zach Ertz (74 catches 824 yards 8 touchdowns) is probably Foles’ most reliable target. Ertz has had one of his best seasons yet en route to his first Pro Bowl selection.
The Eagles boast one of the best defenses in the NFL. Philadelphia ranks in the top 5 defensively in total defense (4th), scoring defense (4th), and in rush defense (1st). That top rush defense will come in handy against Atlanta, a team whose offense is predicated on establishing the running game.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons, will be looking to have a big game. Cox will try to replicate the success that Aaron Donald had last weekend in being quite disruptive for the Falcons. Although Donald only managed to collect a half of a sack, he was seemingly in the backfield all night long. Cox may have more chances than Donald did given that he has a better supporting cast on that Eagles defensive line.
One area that the Eagles somewhat lack is defending the pass. The Eagles allowed an average of 227.3 net passing yards per game, which was 17th in the NFL. This has been masked, largely, by Philadelphia’s ability to create turnovers. The Eagles must create turnovers to keep the Falcons from gashing them through the air. If the Eagles can hold Atlanta to under 80 total rushing yards and force Matt Ryan to make mistakes, they will put Nick Foles in a position to lead the Eagles to victory.
I talked about experience a lot last week. I have a hard time believing that experience combined with both teams’ recent histories won’t play a factor in this one. Atlanta’s offense has been trending up in the last couple of weeks. Matt Ryan has been efficient and hasn’t turned the ball over against two tough defenses the last two games. Atlanta’s defense plays fast and has only allowed an average of 16.3 points per game since the start of December.
Meanwhile, Foles’ play has been trending down for a few weeks. I think with the extra time he’s had with the receivers over the bye his performance will improve. The Philly defense is stout, especially in the running game. At the same time I think Atlanta’s backs are good enough to combine for more than 80 yards on Saturday. In doing so they will be able to slow down the pass rush (if only slightly), extend drives, and open up passing lanes for Matt Ryan. As dominant as they have looked all season, it’s worth noting that they gave up 29 points a few weeks ago to the Giants.
I will also be interested in seeing how the Atlanta pass rush fares with Eagles starting left tackle Jason Peters on injured reserve. Every point will count in a game like this. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant has been outstanding all season. In week 17 he made all 5 of his field goal attempts and last week in Los Angeles he went 4/4. He will be a factor on Saturday.
The Falcons return to the NFC Championship Game.
Atlanta 23 – Philadelphia 17
(5) Tennessee Titans @ (1) New England Patriots – Saturday 8:15 PM ET, CBS
This is the first time these two teams have met in the postseason since the Divisional Round of the 2003 season. That game turned out to be a forgotten classic. In frigid temperatures, the Patriots managed to get by the Titans by a score of 17-14 to make it to their second AFC Championship Game in three years. We all know Brady and Belichick’s postseason reputation, but Marcus Mariota is steadily trying to build his own playoff track record.
Tennessee Titans (10-7)
Tennessee managed to pull off the biggest upset of the playoffs so far in Kansas City last weekend. The Chiefs (10-7) stormed to a 21-3 halftime lead. The Titans persisted, though, and rattled off 19 unanswered points to win 22-21 in an instant classic.
The Titans offense stepped up in a big way against the Chiefs. After averaging only 314 yards per game during the regular season, the Titans put up just under 400 total net yards of offense. Tennessee did all this while staying balanced, mixing in the pass with a steady diet of the running game. They were especially strong on third down, converting 8/13 third down attempts (61%).
How about Marcus Mariota bouncing back from an early interception? And how about that (albeit controversial) touchdown pass that he threw to himself? He would later throw the go ahead TD strike to Eric Decker to put the Titans up for good. Mariota ended up having a very solid first playoff start. Mariota threw for 205 yards and two scores. He also looked at full health as his mobility appeared to be fully intact. Mariota used his legs to add 46 yards on the ground. Gotta give him credit for throwing a block that sprung Derrick Henry for the game-clinching first down run.
Speaking of Derrick Henry, with DeMarco Murray likely out of Tennessee this offseason, Henry will have the opportunity to cement himself as a top ten back next year. He certainly looked like one on Saturday. Henry racked up 156 rushing yards on 23 carries and even found the endzone once. He also had two receptions for 35 yards to add to his impressive numbers. If the Titans want to have any chance of winning going forward, they’ll have to give Henry 25-30 touches and take pressure off of Mariota.
The Titans defense did a really good job against a dangerous offense. The Chiefs averaged 375 yards of total offense per game during the regular season. The Titans held the Chiefs to just 325 total yards. The Titans’ fourth ranked rush defense held the Chiefs to just 69 total rushing yards. Some of that may have had to do with Kareem Hunt seeing only 14 total touches. Even still, Hunt only averaged 3.8 yards per carry and 1.7 yards per reception, virtually making him a non factor (play calling aside).
The Titans also only allowed the Chiefs to convert on 4/11 of their third down attempts (36%), and also prevented the Chiefs from converting on their lone fourth down attempt late in the fourth quarter. They were also able to create pressure, downing Alex Smith for four sacks.
The Titans defense played better than they had all season. If they want to have any chance at winning in Foxborough, they have to do what they did in Kansas City: stop the run, pressure the quarterback, and get off of the field on third and fourth down.
New England Patriots (13-3)
Let’s see: Patriots are in the playoffs – check. They won the AFC East – check. They were written off early in the season only to go on another championship run – check. Tom Brady has another MVP-caliber season – check. Patriots have a first round bye and homefield advantage in the AFC – check. Just another one of those seasons for the Patriots.
The Patriots finished in the top ten in every major statistical category. They were number one in total offense, second in net passing yards per game, tenth in rushing, and second in scoring (28.6 points per game).
Tom Brady is at his usual antics again. Brady became the oldest quarterback to win a season passing title, finishing 2017 with 4,577 passing yards. He also tossed 32 touchdown passes against only 8 interceptions, posting a passer rating of 102.8. It seems like this guy doesn’t age. Makes me wonder two things: 1.) When will his quality of play start to drop? 2.) Should I start eating some of that avocado ice cream he raves about?
Dion Lewis led the way this season on the ground, rushing for 896 yards and 6 touchdowns. Super Bowl LI hero James White was Brady’s favorite target out of the backfield in 2017, grabbing 56 receptions for 429 yards and three touchdowns. Rex Burkhead has also been a surprise contributor, and fullback James Develin earned his first Pro Bowl nod this season. Seems like Belichick always finds the right players at the right position to produce the desired result, and his committee of runningbacks has been no exception to that.
Losing Julian Edelman to injured reserve in the preseason had the potential to be a serious setback. Don’t get me wrong, this team misses having number 11 on the field every day. At the same time, though, Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski did more than enough to fill the void. Gronkowski (69 catches 1,084 yards 8 touchdowns) earned his fifth Pro Bowl nod and Cooks (65 catches 1,082 yards 7 touchdowns) continued to be the explosive player he was in New Orleans.
What’s most surprising of all is how poorly this defense has played this season. As far as a Belichick-era defense is concerned, this one has to rank close to the bottom.
The Patriots were 29th in total defense and 30th against the pass. The defense was also in the bottom half of the league in terms of defending against the run, ranked 20th in that category. Amazingly, the Pats managed to only allow an average of 18.5 points per game, good for fifth in the league.
This defense may not be as dominant as it has been, but what they have done is force opposing offenses to beat themselves. The Patriots have benefited from taking advantage of timely turnovers. And I also heard something about some kind of controversial touchdown reversal, but that’s neither here nor there.
This team lives in the postseason, and I have a hard time believing that they will surrender a whole lot to the Titans this weekend.
I mean, you probably know where I’m going with this one. I was wrong to pick against the Titans last week, but I’m fairly certain I won’t be wrong in doing so this week.
New England 35 – Tennessee 14
(3) Jacksonville Jaguars @ (2) Pittsburgh Steelers – Sunday 1:05 PM ET, CBS
Let me take you back to early October. Seems like a long time ago now, doesn’t it? Well, the Jaguars made their way up to Pittsburgh for a contest and boy did they make some headlines. The Jaguars defense picked off Ben Roethlisberger FIVE times. Five times. Nothing brings out the Is Big Ben done? talk quite like that kind of game. Of the five picks, the Jags returned two of them for touchdowns. Leonard Fournette had 181 yards on the ground and two touchdowns of his own. Jacksonville emerged victorious by a lopsided margin of 30-9. Could this Sacksonville defense roll into Pittsburgh again to stun the Steeler faithful?
Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6)
The Jaguars were one of the league’s biggest surprises this season. Jacksonville rode one of the league’s best defenses to their franchise’s first playoff win in ten years.
Jacksonville boasts one of the best defensive units in all of football. They showed up in a big way last week. No disrespect to the Bills (9-8), but they weren’t exactly an offensive powerhouse. Nonetheless, the Jags’ numbers from last weekend are still impressive and difficult to do against any team in the NFL.
Jacksonville held the Bills offense to only 263 total yards of offense. They also picked Bills quarterbacks off twice, keeping points off of the board and sealing the narrow seven point victory.
When their offense has lagged, the Jaguars defense has been able to bail them out. Of course we all know what the Jags did in week 5 against Pittsburgh. They won’t need to pick off Big Ben five times to win on Sunday (but I mean, if they did that it wouldn’t hurt), but takeaways will be a big part of who comes on top in this one. The Jags have been the best in the league against the pass, and pressuring the quarterback and creating takeaways have been their specialties all season long.
Would you believe me if I told you that Blake Bortles ran for more yards than he passed for last Sunday? That’s right. Bortles rushed for 88 yards and only threw for 87. I mean, it’s not a lot, but offense was a bit hard to come by in Jacksonville for both squads. In any event, Bortles was responsible for the game’s lone touchdown, finding tight end Ben Koyack for a one yard touchdown on fourth and goal, giving Jacksonville the lead once and for all.
Leonard Fournette was a non factor in this game. On 21 carries, Fournette only mustered 57 yards. You have to give the Bills defense a lot of credit. Although, if Jacksonville wants to beat Pittsburgh on Sunday, they need to get Fournette going. Pittsburgh ranks 10th against the run, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility, but it will still be a tough task. The less pressure they put on Bortles to have to win with his arm, the better.
Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)
They started the season 3-2. There were ups and downs along the way. But the Steelers rattled off 10 wins in their final 11 games, securing yet another first round bye.
The Steelers have one of the league’s top offenses, and they have their “Killer B’s” to thank for that. That would be Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown.
Despite a horrendous zero touchdown and five interception performance by Roethlisberger in their previous meeting with Jacksonville, he managed to have another excellent season. In 15 starts Ben threw for 4,251 yards and 28 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Le’Veon Bell continues to prove that he’s one of the best runningbacks in the league. Bell touched the ball 406 times in 15 starts this season for 1,946 scrimmage yards and 11 total touchdowns. Side note: if I were the Steelers, I probably would just pay this man, already.
And last, but certainly not least is the receiving corps led by Antonio Brown. Brown showed us all again why he may be the best receiver in the NFL. AB hauled in 101 catches for 1,533 yards and 9 touchdowns, and he didn’t even play the last few weeks of the season with a calf injury. (Don’t worry, Steelers fans, it sounds like he’ll be good to go this Sunday). Rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has also been a revelation: 58 catches 917 yards and 7 touchdowns. These two will have their work cut out for them against the Jags’ number one passing defense.
The first thing you usually think of when you hear the words “Pittsburgh Steelers” is “defense.” While this group may not be quite as dominant as the “Steel Curtain” of the 1970s, they have certainly made a name for themselves in 2017.
The Steelers finished the year ranked 5th in total defense. They were also fifth against the pass, allowing only 201.1 net passing yards per game. They’re tenth against the run and only allow 19.3 points per game, good for seventh in the league.
The Steelers are at their best when they dominate defensively, and they’ve certainly done that this season. Despite the Jaguars earning the moniker of Sacksonville, the Steelers were the only team to sack the opposing quarterback more often. Fifty-six times, as a matter of fact. Cameron Heyward led the squad with 12.0 sacks.
Added to the sacks are 22 total takeaways. If it’s one thing the Steelers have been able to do all year, it’s get after the quarterback. They haven’t been swimming in the takeaways, but all of that could change against Blake Bortles this Sunday, as he has been known to turn the ball over.
As good as the Steelers offense is, I feel like the Jags defense is good enough to keep this one competitive for four quarters. In the end, I’m not sure the Jaguars offense is good enough to keep pace with the Steelers, even with the help of their great defense. Looks like it’s Steelers-Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, again.
Pittsburgh 21 – Jacksonville 13
(4) New Orleans Saints @ (2) Minnesota Vikings – Sunday 4:40 PM ET, FOX
This could very well be the best game of the weekend. The Saints have one of the league’s top offenses and the Vikings have the league’s best defense. These teams met in week one, but both squads have changed significantly since then. Adrian Peterson was the starting runningback for New Orleans (and he, oddly, was only given six carries). The Ingram-Kamara duo had yet to really take off. Sam Bradford was Minnesota’s starting quarterback, with rookie runningback Dalvin Cook joining him in the backfield. Most people probably assumed Case Keenum still played for the Rams.
To say the least, a lot has happened since September. The last time these two played was in the NFC Championship Game of the 2009 season, and just like that game, this one could come down to the wire.
New Orleans Saints (12-5)
Saints fans pulled out their brooms on Sunday. In their 31-26 Wild Card Round win over the Carolina Panthers (11-6), New Orleans captured their third victory against Carolina this season in as many games. Not an easy feat to accomplish. They did it all behind the incomparable arm of Drew Brees
When your team only rushes for a net total of 41 yards, you’re not going to win too many games. The Saints were able to pull it off. The vaunted runningback duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara were held to 68 combined scrimmage yards. New Orleans has ridden the success of these two backs to the postseason. But with them not being able to carry the load, it seriously diminished their capacity to move the ball.
Oh wait, can’t believe I almost forgot that the Saints have Drew Brees at quarterback. Brees was sensational, making pinpoint throws in tight coverage. Many of his passes had no earthly business being complete, given the difficulty, but Brees just simply has the ability to put the ball wherever he wants on the field. Brees racked up 376 yards and two touchdown passes and only one interception that came on a fourth down play late in the game.
Brees was efficient in completing his passes, connecting on 70% of his passes. What wasn’t so efficient was the Saints on third down in this game. New Orleans only successfully converted 25% of their third down attempts (2/8). They also only possessed the ball for 26 minutes and 11 seconds of game time, while the Panthers held on to the football for an additional seven minutes and 38 seconds. Those numbers may have been just good enough to get by the Panthers, but that won’t be good enough against Minnesota. The Saints need to improve on third down and possess the ball if they want to upset the Vikings at home.
The Saints defense had one of those bend-but-don’t-break games on Sunday. The Saints were gashed for 413 total yards against the Panthers. Of that 417 yard total, the Saints allowed 107 yards on the ground alone. Minnesota is a team that likes to establish the running game early, and they do it well. If the Saints want to slow down the Vikings they will need to improve in the running game.
Also troubling was the fact the Saints had a hard time getting off of the field. New Orleans allowed the Panthers to convert on 8/17 third down attempts, just under 50%. Fortunately for the Saints, the Panthers failed to convert on many third downs in and near the red zone, leading to Carolina settling for field goals. And if it wasn’t for Graham Gano missing a 25 yard field goal early in the game, the Panthers would have only needed to kick a field goal to win by one. Before, and even after, Cam’s intentional grounding penalty (which was also slightly controversial) the Panthers were well within Gano’s range. The fourth down sack that ended the game for the Panthers would not have happened in such a scenario.
Sacking the quarterback was the best thing that New Orleans did defensively on Sunday, downing Cam Newton four times. They’ll have to get after Case Keenum like they did Cam Newton in order to come out victorious. No easy task against the Vikings offensive line.
Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
After weeks of anticipation, we finally get to see what this Vikings team will do in the postseason. Making their first playoff appearance since the 2015 season, the Vikings are looking to prove that they belong among the NFC’s elite. Their defense is strong, likely the best in the league, but their offense has been nothing to trifle with as well.
Sam Bradford was hit with a debilitating knee injury early in the season, and Vikings fans could not have been more distraught. Bradford had played well in his time with Minnesota. Now what? Well, at least they had a young, rising star in Dalvin Cook at runningback…until he also suffered a serious knee injury. Oh no. You mean to tell me the Vikings now have to rely on the quarterback who was let go by the Texans and the Rams? Well, yeah. And it’s, arguably, one of the best things to happen to this franchise in some time.
That’s right, Case Keenum has exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations. In 14 starts, Keenum posted a record of 11-3. On the season Keenum completed 67.6% of his passes for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdown passes and only 7 interceptions. Case also had 160 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown to add to his totals. What has been most impressive is his ability to move in the pocket, avoid the rush, and buy time for his receivers to get open downfield. While I don’t think he’s the league’s MVP this season, I definitely would put him in the top ten players that would be in that conversation.
Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have adequately filled the void left by the absence of Cook. The two have combined for 1,936 scrimmage yards and 13 total touchdowns. Murray gets the bulk of the first and second down carries while McKinnon has proven his aptitude for being a reliable third down pass catcher.
Minnesota native, Adam Thielen, has led the way for the Vikings receivers this season. Thielen had a career year, collecting 91 catches 1,276 yards and four touchdowns. Stefon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph have pitched in eight receiving touchdowns apiece. The Vikings offense may not be very well known league-wide, but they have quietly been one of the more effective units all season long.
I know that I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but the Vikings truly have the best defense in the NFL. They’re ranked first in both total defense and scoring defense. They’re second best against the pass, only behind Jacksonville. They are also second best against the run, behind only Philadelphia.
Headlining the Vikings defensive line is Everson Griffen. Griffen led the squad with 13.0 sacks this season. Griffen can not only rush the passer but he has also done a great job in disrupting the opposition’s running game. Safety Harrison Smith led the team in interceptions with five. He received First Team All-Pro honors but was inexplicably not voted into the Pro Bowl. I’m sure Smith could care less. He and his fellow teammates on that defense have a far, far more important bowl on their minds. It’s supposed to be played in their home stadium in February.
No team does a better job of getting off the field on defense than the Vikings, who boast the league’s top third down defense as well. With New Orleans’ recent struggles on third down, the Vikings defense has to like their odds in being able to slow down the Saints and their high-powered offense.
I was trying to decide whether this game would be a shootout, blow out, defensive struggle, or one of those tight contests that is comprised of more than one of these elements. If I had to choose, I think it will be the latter. It would be safe to say that this game will be tight until the end. The Vikings should be able to slow the running game. Brees will be able to move the ball but the Saints will have very few red zone trips that will amount to anything substantial. The Vikings offense will also hit a few snags. I can’t wait to see the Michael Thomas vs Xavier Rhodes matchup. Minnesota will host the NFC Championship Game next Sunday.
Minnesota 20 – New Orleans 16
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