NFL playoff tips: Best bets for the divisional round
We make our picks for the second week of the postseason, with our four-fold boosted to 7/1.
Atlanta Falcons to beat Philadelphia Eagles –
Rarely will a No. 1 seed enter a divisional playoff game as the underdogs, but the injury to Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz in Week 14 means Atlanta are the favourites this week.
Rightly so, given how well they played in a 26-13 win in Los Angeles last Saturday, where they shut down the league’s best offense.
The Falcons have caught fire at the right time of the season with four wins in their last five, and their defence is more than equipped to deal with Eagles QB Nick Foles, who’s looked shaky since replacing Wentz.
New England Patriots to beat Tennessee Titans –
This is the biggest divisional round banker in recent memory.
The Patriots are the top team in the AFC, the defending Super Bowl champions, the NFL’s second-highest scorers and have won five consecutive home games.
Expect them to thrash a Tennessee team that closed out the regular season with three defeats out of four before beating the Kansas Chiefs last weekend, and who ranked just 19th in points scored and 17th in points against this year.
Pittsburgh Steelers to beat Jacksonville Jaguars –
The Jaguars’ defence looked hugely impressive in their 10-3 Wild Card win over the Buffalo Bills last weekend, but they now face the much more dangerous Steelers.
Pittsburgh averaged 25.3 points per game in the regular season – the league’s eighth-highest mark – and will be boosted by the return of star receiver Antonio Brown on Sunday evening.
The Steelers won 10 of their last 11 games in the regular season, losing only to the Patriots, and it’s hard to see how the Jaguars manage to outscore them with the often inaccurate Blake Bortles starting at quarterback.
New Orleans Saints to beat Minnesota Vikings –
There’s almost always one shock in the divisional round, with the four top seeds having advanced to the Conference Championship games in just one of the past 10 years.
This weekend, the Saints are the team likeliest to cause an upset against a Vikings side that beat them 29-19 in Week 1.
New Orleans were poor in that game, but they are so much better defensively now.
Star quarterback Drew Brees, meanwhile, is also in form having thrown for 376 yards and two touchdowns last week.
The Saints have perhaps the most balanced offense of all the remaining playoff teams and could catch the Vikings cold after their bye week, just as Atlanta did last Saturday against a Rams team that rested their starters for Week 17.