The wildcard round of the NFL playoffs is in the books, four teams have survived and advances, and the bye week teams are back in play as eight teams remain in contention for the Lombardi Trophy. At SportSmasher.com we went (2-1-1) against the spread in the wildcard round, only losing on the Tennessee Titans come-from-behind upset victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead. Before we break down the games this all in one NFL info section contains all the latest upcoming games along with different betting guides.
Let’s see if we can capture glory, and cash in on an elusive perfect week, with our Divisional Round gambling picks:
Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles (+3) Did you know that the Philadelphia Eagles are the first team in history to be home underdogs coming off of a first round bye? It’s a fact, and that has everything to do with superstar quarterback Carson Wentz tearing his ACL in a week 14 win over the Rams, he is out for the season and was replaced by veteran Nick Foles. In his first start against the terrible Giants, Foles looked very impressive, throwing four touchdown passes in a win at the Meadowlands. However, in two starts since, Foles managed just one touchdown pass and two interceptions while the Eagles offense has produced just 13 points. The Atlanta Falcons battled a Super Bowl hangover all season long, after famously blowing a massive lead en route to losing the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, and the once high powered Falcons offense is a shell of its former self under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. However, the Falcons have arguably as much talent as any team in the NFL, while the Eagles do not seem to believe they can win without Carson Wentz. The Eagles will be contenders again next season, when Wentz gets healthy, but Nick Foles will not get the job done. THE PICK: Falcons (-3) FINAL SCORE: Falcons 27 Eagles 10
Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots (-13.5) The bye week was filled with controversy for the New England Patriots, after ESPN published a hit piece on the faltering relationship between Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, which may have only angered the Patriots leading up to their showdown with the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are coming off of a huge come-from-behind win at Arrowhead, beating the Chiefs 22-21, but luck was involved for example a Marcus Mariota pass that should have been intercepted was batted into the air and Mariota caught it and ran it in for a touchdown himself. The Patriots enter the postseason with the top offense in the league, despite the fact that they lost Tom Brady’s security blanket in Julian Edelman to an early season ending injury, and wide receiver Chris Hogan has been injured for much of the season. The Patriots have a healthy Rob Gronkowski in the playoffs, who they have protected much of the season, and Dion Lewis has established himself as a dangerous dual threat running back. They have a big play threat in wideout Brandin Cooks, oh, and their quarterback is the greatest of all-time Tom Brady. I do think the Tennessee Titans present problems for the Patriots, who allowed 366 yards per game in 2017, 29thin the NFL. Physical Titans running back Derrick Henry will move the chains, and Marcus Mariota will make enough plays with his legs to keep the game relatively close, but the Titans do not have the pass rush to bother Brady consistently or the offensive firepower to win the game. THE PICK: Titans (+13.5) FINAL SCORE: Patriots 31 Titans 20
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5) The Jacksonville Jaguars have a ferocious defense which ranked second in the NFL in total yardage as well as in sacks (55), they have an excellent running game led by rookie sensation Leonard Fournette, but they have won this season despite the play of quarterback Blake Bortles. There is no doubt that Bortles had some strong games this season, but these were against mediocre at best opponents, not a top tier defense like the Steelers that led the NFL with 56 sacks and was ranked fourth overall. While the Jaguars have the top pass defense in the NFL, they did surrender 116.3 rush yards per game, tied for 21st in the NFL. The Jaguars can expect a healthy dose of Steelers All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell this weekend. The Steelers do have some issues, superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown suffered a serious calf injury late in the season, and while he is expected to play he will not be 100% healthy. I think the Jaguars can win this game, but they will have to use their pass rush to force Steelers quarterback into mistakes, and the playmakers in their secondary will have to capitalize and turn these mistakes into turnovers. If the Jaguars get down early, Blake Bortles is not bringing them back from behind against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, they need to either get an early lead or hang around and get a big play or two out of their excellent defense. I think that the Steelers running game led by Le’Veon Bell will give them the lead, watch for a big play from rookie gamebreaker Juju Smith-Schuster, and I do not think Blake Bortles will be able to produce enough points for the Jaguars to get the win. It’s going to be a fun game to watch though, two great defenses, hard hitting smashmouth football. THE PICK Steelers (-7.5) FINAL SCORE: Steelers 17 Jaguars 9
New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings (-4) The Minnesota Vikings are in rare territory, because if they are able to advance to the Super Bowl, they would be the first team in history to have a home game in the Super Bowl. They enter the postseason with the NFL’s top ranked defense, they are only surrendering 275.9 total yard per game and only giving up 15.8 points per game. The Saints have a high powered offense, led by the one-two punch of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara at running back, but the Vikings defense that allows only 83 yards per game should slow them down. Drew Brees is a first ballot Hall Of Fame quarterback, but his top target in the passing game wide receiver Michael Thomas has a tough matchup, he will be shadowed by cornerback Xavier Rhodes who is a nightmare for opposing receivers. The New Orleans defense was middle of the pack, and while the Vikings offense is not exactly high powered, Case Keenum and wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs will be able to move the chains. This should be a very close game, and all it would take is a big play from gamebreaker Alvin Kamara to flip the script, however the Vikings defense will corral Kamara and limit Ingram to short gains. The Vikings are motivated, they see that the NFC should be theirs for the taking, and they want that Super Bowl home game. I think the Vikings defense slows down the Saints, and Case Keenum and the Vikings offense do enough to win, and cover the spread. THE PICK: Vikings (-4) FINAL SCORE: Vikings 20 Saints 13