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The NFL Playoffs Move North

Mill Woods

Posted on January 9, 2018 21:22

1 user

As the storm in the Eastern U.S. finally subsides, the NFL playoffs move north. Frigid temperatures still await players and fans this weekend – except, of course, in Minnesota. It may be cold, but according to my crystal ball, all four games will be hotly competitive.

I disagree with the early lines!  The New England Patriots are unlikely to make short work of the Tennessee Titans due to: 1) the Titans’ excellent defense, 2) the weather, and 3) the gutsy play of Titan QB Marcus Mariota.  In my view, only a rash of turnovers could turn this game into a blowout.

The Philadelphia Eagles, balanced offensively and defensively, take on the Atlanta Falcons, who have struggled this season after leading the NFL in scoring in 2016.  The Falcons’ defense has improved this season, and that may foretell another close game. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ big-play offense and stifling defense will try to solve the riddle of the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars.  I think the play of Jaguar QB Blake Bortles will be the key to whether the Jaguars can repeat their upset from the regular season. 

The New Orleans Saints bring one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses to challenge one of the league’s best defenses – the Minnesota Vikings.  The Saints’ improved D is not a shut-down defense, but it can bring significant pass pressure, and it seems particularly stout in the Red Zone. For the Vikings to repeat their regular-season victory over the Saints, the Vikings’ offense will need to focus on limiting turnovers and scoring TDs in the red zone. 

Let me say a little about last weekend.  All the games were outstanding, but I noticed strategic mistakes.

Resting Todd Gurley did nothing to improve the LA Rams’ chances. They looked nervous and flat. The Kansas City Chiefs, who also took the final week off, did not look particularly sharp either. True, they got a bad break on a missed fumble call, but in the second half, they were their own worst enemy.  

By contrast, in Week 17, the Saints did not take a week off against the underrated Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs won, but that fierce battle may have helped the Saints survive Sunday. Carolina played a great game overall, but simply kicked too many field goals in the first half, while the Saints scored touchdowns.  Lately, the Panthers have not run the ball well, and they don't seem to call plays (like screens) to counter aggressive pass pressure.

In a classic defensive duel, the Buffalo Bills were unable to mount much offense against the Jaguars. In my view, the Jags were guilty of a dirty tackle on QB Tyrod Taylor. But that came near the end of the game; the Jags D deserved the win. 

The Bills, Panthers, Chiefs and Rams suffered a bitter ending to their seasons, but in my view, they should be applauded.  The NFL doesn't believe in sending half of its teams to the playoffs.  Only 12 of 32 teams make it; every one of those 12 should be proud.  

Now on to the divisionals!

My picks this weekend:

Titans at Patriots           Patriots          

Falcons at Eagles           Eagles

Saints at Vikings            Vikings

Jaguars at Steelers        Steelers

I predict these games will be priceless entertainment.  Enjoy!

Mill Woods

Posted on January 9, 2018 21:22

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