The NFL Playoffs have started and the divisional round matchups are set. The matchups for Saturday, January 13 are New England Patriots vs. Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles. Then on Sunday, January 14 the Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, and New Orleans Saints travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings.
Tennessee Titans vs. New England Patriots
January 13, Saturday, 5:15 PM, CBS
After rallying back from an 18-point-deficit against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Tennessee Titans will have a very difficult task ahead of them when they face the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Titans will look to feed (running back) Derrick Henry the ball after coming off a very strong performance in his first playoff game, rushing for 156 yards.
According to Mike Reiss and Cameron Wolfe of ESPN, the Titans best strength is their rush defense, which held the NFL’s rushing leader Kareem Hunt to only 42 rush yards. The Titans will hope to stop the Patriots‘ running backs with the hope of forcing Tom Brady into throwing an interception, which he has done in five of his last six games.
Although the Patriots are heavily favored to win this game, no one on the team is overlooking their opponent. According to the Boston Herald, center David Andrews stated, “[The Titans] create a lot of turnovers, sacks and also I think they’re the best run defense in the AFC right now, haven’t given up many long runs.” Special Teams Captain Matthew Slater added, “You can tell they’re a group that’s together. They play for one another. They have a lot of belief in what they’re doing. It says to me that they have a great deal of mental toughness.” The New England Patriots are looking to repeat as Champions but will have to face a tough Tennessee Titans team to get there.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles
January 13, Saturday, 1:35 PM, NBC
Despite losing MVP candidate Carson Wentz to injury in Week 14 and struggling offensively since that point, the Philadelphia Eagles remained the number 1 seed in the NFC. They will look to protect their home field when the reigning NFC champions Atlanta Falcons come into town with their back up QB Nick Foles.
Foles is looking to create some magic in the playoffs by leading this team to a win in the biggest game of their season. According to Jordan Raanan of ESPN, Coach Doug Pederson will not drastically change the game plan for Foles and still wants to throw the ball downfield. Pederson stated, “My message to Nick is, ‘Listen, you have a great opportunity. Just go be Nick. Go play. Let’s go execute the offense.“ The number 1 seeded Eagles have a very difficult task by playing reigning MVP Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
January 14, Sunday, 10:05 AM, CBS
The embarrassing loss that the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered to the Jaguars in Week 4 has Ben Roethlisberger seeking revenge in the playoffs. Roethlisberger played one of the worst games of his career by throwing 5 interceptions in that Week Four matchup.
So before the Jaguars defeated the Buffalo Bills to advance to play the Steelers, Roethlisberger spoke to the host of his radio show on which team he wants to play against by stating,¨Obviously any game that we’re going to play in the postseason, it’s going to be a difficult opponent. Just for me personally, I’d love to just prove that five interceptions wasn’t me in that game.¨
According to Phillip Heilman of the Florida Times-Union, Pro Bowl cornerback A.J Bouye of the Jacksonville Jaguars replied to Ben Roethlisberger by stating, ¨Be careful what you wish for.¨ Ben Roethlisberger received his wish and it will be interesting to watch how he plays against one the top defenses in the league.
New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings
January 14, Sunday, 1:40 PM, FOX
Even though the Minnesota Vikings defeated the New Orleans Saints the first Monday of the season, a lot has changed since that point. For the Vikings, there is no more Sam Bradford or Dalvin Cook, who have both suffered from injuries. The Saints made some drastic changes by trading Adrian Peterson early in the season to the Arizona Cardinals. With the different matchups between the two teams here are a few things to look for in this playoff game.
The Saints running backs were the first pair of running backs to exceed 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same season, but they were not very effective vs. the Carolina Panthers, who held them in check by only allowing 68 yards total between the two. Also keep an eye on Vikings QB Case Keenum, who has had a phenomenal season.
There are some great matchups this weekend and it will be one step closer to see who will play in Super Bowl LII.