NFL Playoff Picks: Divisional Weekend

Jan 13, 2018

by Chase Gage

 

This round will showcase a point I’ve been making all season when people ask about my playoff picks. I’ve been high on the Saints, Panthers and Falcons and lower on the Vikings, Eagles and Rams. Why? Quarterback experience. Let’s take a look at the experience of all 12 playoff quarterbacks.

Quarterback Playoff Record Notes
Tom Brady 25-9 5-2 Super Bowl

Most Super Bowl Wins All-Time

Most Playoff Wins All-Time

Ben Roethlisberger 13-7 2-1 Super Bowl
Drew Brees 7-5 1-0 Super Bowl
Matt Ryan 4-5 0-1 Super Bowl
Cam Newton 3-4 0-1 Super Bowl
Alex Smith 2-5 One NFC Championship Appearance
Marcus Mariota 1-0 One Playoff Start (2018 Wild Card)
Blake Bortles 1-0 One Playoff Start (2018 Wild Card)
Nick Foles 0-1 One Playoff Start (2014 Wild Card)
Jared Goff 0-1 One Playoff Start (2018 Wild Card)
Tyrod Taylor 0-1 One Playoff Start (2018 Wild Card)
Case Keenum 0-0 No Playoff Experience

Interesting, right? I’ll let those statistics speak for themselves. Let’s get to the picks.


Wild Card Picks:

  • Kansas City Chiefs
  • Los Angeles Rams
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • New Orleans Saints

Record: 2-2



6 Atlanta Falcons (-3.0) at 1 Philadelphia Eagles

Saturday, Jan. 13, 3:35 P.M. CST, NBC

Quarterback Experience Comparison:

Matt Ryan Nick Foles
Playoff Starts 9 1
Playoff Wins 4 0
Furthest Round Super Bowl Wild Card (Divisional)

matt ryan

There is more to a game than quarterbacks, though.

The Eagles may have been the best team in the NFL before Carson Wentz went down with a season-ending injury. They were the most complete team, and still may be outside of the quarterback position. Nick Foles is not a bad quarterback. He could be one of the best backups in the game. He once threw seven touchdowns in a single game (tied for the NFL record).

The Falcons defense has come together as of late. They were able to shut down the highest-powered offense in the NFL in the Wild Card round against the Rams.

People forget that this same team led the entirety of the Super Bowl last year (the Patriots scored without time on the clock in overtime to take their first lead and the victory). They started off slow, but have been the hottest team in the league for some time now. They have won seven of their last nine games since they went on a three-game losing skid. Those two losses were to the Panthers and Vikings. They have avenged one of those losses, defeating the Panthers in Week 17 to make the playoffs.

In this case, I have to ride the hot hand versus the team whose starters have not played since Week 16. Rest can be good, but the rest versus momentum argument arose last week when the Rams fell short against this same team. The Falcons have the experience, the better, more proven quarterback, a better defense and are on a revenge tour.

I like this young Eagles team. They’ll be contenders for some time. Their time will come. But we all know their Super Bowl hopes died when Wentz went down.

Pick: Atlanta Falcons


5 Tennessee Titans (+13.5) at 1 New England Patriots

Saturday, Jan. 13, 7:15 P.M. CST, CBS

Quarterback Experience Comparison:

Tom Brady Marcus Mariota
Playoff Starts 34 1
Playoff Wins 25 1
Furthest Round Super Bowl (x7) Divisional

mariota.jpg

Yeah, this one stands out. Tom Brady leads NFL history in Super Bowl appearances and wins as well as playoff starts and wins. Marcus Mariota made his playoff debut a week ago.

Mariota does, however, have a winning percentage of 1.000. Brady’s is a lowly 0.735. And how many times has Brady thrown a touchdown to himself in the Playoffs? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Also, the Patriots are back to their cheating ways, as it was reported that the Titans flight to Foxborough was delayed when their plane slid off the runway. Did the Patriots sabotage them? No, but it makes for a funny joke. Spygate, Deflategate, and now, Planegate?

The Patriots will win this game. I don’t even have to get into the stats to tell you that. The Titans are one of the worst overall teams to make the playoffs this year. They were lucky enough to draw the best chokers outside of the state of Georgia in all of football in the first round and still needed a miracle to advance. As much as I despise the Patriots, they’ve been the best team in football since I’ve been watching (circa 2001 when I was six years old). They’re playing a home playoff game. That’s all I need.

The Titans are a team on the rise. Mariota, Derrick Henry and a stout defense are signs for a hopeful future. But the future isn’t here yet.

Pick: New England Patriots

 


3 Jacksonville Jaguars (+7.5) at 2 Pittsburg Steelers

Sunday, Jan. 14, 12:05 P.M. CST, CBS

Ben Roethlisberger Blake Bortles
Playoff Starts 20 1
Playoff Wins 13 1
Furthest Round Super Bowl (x3) Divisional

bortles

Ben Roethlisberger has won multiple Super Bowls, the first of which coming 12 years ago. And he’s still competing for more. Blake Bortles rushed for more yards (88) than he passed for (87) in his playoff debut a week ago.

These two teams met in Pittsburg earlier this season. Big Ben had what might have been the worst game of his career, posting a 0:5 TD to INT ratio. He did manage 312 yards to Bortles’ 95, but the Jaguars won the battle by a final score of 30-9.

The real battle was between Leonard Fournette and LeVeon Bell. The former rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns while the latter only gained 47 yards on the ground and failed to find the end zone.

I don’t expect a repeat performance for any of the aforementioned.

If Antonio Brown is at full strength, I believe he will have another field day against the best secondary in the NFL. He is the one receiver in football that is truly matchup proof. He gained 157 yards on 10 receptions in the last meeting.

The Jaguars have depended on their defense to get them this far, and so far, they have been very successful because of it. However, though defense wins championships, there has to be some level of offensive production. The fact that Bortles led the team in rushing with only 88 yards against one of the worst defenses in the league (Buffalo) and they only managed 10 points at home should be very concerning for Jaguar fans. Their offense was bad to start but has now completely disappeared.

If Fournette can repeat his production, Jacksonville will have a chance. If he can’t, this one might not be close.

The key to this game will be that and turnovers. If the Steelers win the turnover battle, it will be a bloodbath. If they lose the turnover battle, they’ll still have a chance, but it will be close.

Despite the early-season game and all the hate I’ve thrown at the Steelers, they’re easily the second-best (if not the best) team in the AFC.

Pick: Pittsburg Steelers


4 New Orleans Saints (+4.0) at 2 Minnesota Vikings

Sunday, Jan. 14, 3:40 P.M. CST, FOX

Drew Brees Case Keenum
Playoff Starts 12 0
Playoff Wins 7 0
Furthest Round Super Bowl N/A (Divisional)
Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints
NEW ORLEANS, LA – NOVEMBER 10: Quarterback Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates against the Dallas Cowboys during a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 10, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Drew Brees (almost) single-handedly beat the Panthers. He played his best game of the season and showcased to the world that he is still an elite quarterback. Case Keenum has never taken a snap in the Playoffs.

Like I’ve been saying all season, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are going to falter at some point. And when that happens, Drew Brees will be there to take over. I was right about that against my Panthers last week. This is the best squad Brees has ever had around him. He has never had a running game of this caliber mixed with a solid defense (the Panthers had to resort to five FG attempts inside the red zone last week). This is a team destined for greatness.

Last week, the Saints reaped the benefits of home-field advantage, as they play their best football in the Superdome. Now, the tables have turned. They’re playing at the home of the Kings of the North.

The Vikings are hard to beat at home. If they can earn a win and Philadelphia falters, they will have home-field advantage through the Super Bowl. That’s a scary thought. Minnesota was 7-1 at home this season, with a point differential of +102 (12.8 ppg), with notable wins against the Saints, Ravens and Rams.

In Week 1, the Vikings beat the Saints by 10. Both teams have changed (a lot) since then. Minnesota has a new quarterback and the Saints quickly figured themselves out after their 0-2 start. Will history repeat itself?

I don’t think so. My Super Bowl pick before the playoffs started was the New Orleans Saints. Last week, they made me even more confident about that pick. If they win and the Falcons upset the Eagles, they will have home-field in the NFC Championship game and then go back to a stadium they’ve already won in to play the Super Bowl.

Drew Brees is an all-time great. He’s better (career-wise) than Aaron Rodgers. Just thought I’d throw that out there since that debate popped up recently.

Pick: New Orleans Saints

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