By Hamish Girvan
This weekend the rubber hits the road with the top seeded teams entering the playoffs. Upset alert forthcoming.
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles 10.35am Sunday NZ time
The Falcons accounted easily enough to the LA rams last week and here head to a cold Philadelphia to face the Eagles who are the NFC top seed. One issue for the Eagles – they have backup quarterback Nick Foles. Competent enough he was not one of the reasons the Eagles got to where they are and he struggled in his last game losing to the Dallas Cowboys. Here he faces a Falcons defence that looked totally up to it last week however the Falcons are not totally use to cold weather football. This could be a close one however the Falcons should prevail to the NFC Championship game next week. They are 2.5 point favourite – basically a field goal. Take it as 6-7 points is more like it. Not a blowout but a comfortable win
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots 2.15pm Sunday NZ time
The Titans caused the upset of the playoffs last week beating the Kansas City Chiefs at their own ground coming from a 21-3 half time deficit to win 22-21. The Chiefs shot themselves in the foot. The Patriots will not. Titans Marcus Mariota may still get the room to run here as the Patriots defence is not great – however their offence is better. Brady and the Patriots have a 13.5 point start here-massive in any playoff game however take it. The Titans have won 2 other away games this season – against Cleveland and Indianapolis. Not a no chance but fairly certain. This should be the most one sided game of this playoff weekend
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers – 7.05am Monday NZ time
These two faced each other in the regular season with the Jaguars easily accounting for the Steelers 30-9 at the Steelers home ground. The game made Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger think about his future in the game however they subsequently recovered and went on a good unbeaten run. There will be plenty of motivation here with the Steelers this writers favourite to win it all – then send Big Ben into retirement. The Jaguars possess one of the leagues best defence however their offence is average. The Steelers have strengths on both sides – more offensively – they have a 7.5 point start – about right – take it.
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings 10.40am Monday NZ time
The Saints got by divisional rival Carolina last week and here travel to the Minnesota Vikings and their rabid Viking fan base. Being played in this season’s Superbowl venue and one of the loudest this will be interesting. The Vikings started 3rd string quarterback Case Keenum this season (injury related) and he has excelled. Strong and steady he led the Vikings to the title and the no.2 seed in the NFC. The Saints meanwhile are led by veteran Drew Brees who knows what it takes to win it all. This will be a close one. The Vikings have a 4.5 pint start however there may only be a point or two in in it. The Vikings to host and play in the Superbowl would be great – it should still happen. Vikings to prevail.
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