Press Box Perspective: A Divisional Round that Looks Good on Paper

By Seth Rivello

The NFL playoff wild-card round took a strange turn last weekend. The Kansas City Chiefs blew a halftime lead at home against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans, who are the worst team in the playoffs, killed the Chiefs’ defense with the run game. Derrick Henry had 156 yards on the ground. At one point, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown to himself. The Chiefs blew a 21-3 halftime lead and lost 22-21.

The Atlanta Falcons went into Los Angeles and stopped the explosive Rams pairing of Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. Atlanta’s win will propel them into the Divisional Round to play the Carson Wentz-less Philadelphia Eagles.

The New Orleans Saints defended its home field by taking down the Carolina Panthers by the score of 31-26. The run game never got started for either team so Drew Brees was relied on to chuck the ball deep for New Orleans. Cam Newton did his thing throwing for 349 yards and adding 37 on the ground. The other wild-card matchup was brutal as the Jacksonville Jaguars took down the Buffalo Bills 10-3. It was so bad I just don’t want to talk about it.

The Divisional matchups should be interesting, but there are a couple snoozers. The Falcons are traveling into Philadelphia. Philadelphia, a team once high powered but taken down a notch because of the huge loss to MVP candidate quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz suffered an ACL tear in Week 14 that sent him to the injured reserve. I expect Eagles backup veteran Nick Foles to play an average game, with average numbers, and a loss. The Eagles defense is good but not good enough to carry the baggage of Foles. The Falcons offense is slowly heating up, never sleep on Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

The Titans are traveling into New England to take on the Patriots that same night. No one expects this to be a game. Expect Tom Brady, Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski to embarrass the Titans lacking secondary with big plays. The playoffs are completely different from the regular season. New England lacks an outstanding defense, but Matt Patricia, the defensive coordinator, always has these guys ready to play ball.

A very interesting matchup is the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers. This doesn’t really look like a great game because the Jaguars offense lacks with Blake Bortles under center, but the defense is outstanding. Calais Campbell has been a force at defensive end this season totaling 14.5 sacks, Telvin Smith is all over the place with 102 tackles and three interceptions. It has a crazy defensive line and not to mention the guys on the outside like Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Bouye has allowed only 38 catches on 84 targets including six interceptions. On the other side, Ramsey has only allowed 47 catches on 92 targets including four interceptions. Ben Roethlisberger and company need to watch themselves, and not get too cocky going into this one; the floor can collapse on them at any time.

In the last matchup, the Saints travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. The Saints do have an explosive offense, but the Vikings have a crazy defense. Xavier Rhodes is the definition of lockdown corner, and if you get past him, over the top is safety Harrison Smith who totaled five interceptions this season. The only thing holding the Vikings back is quarterback Case Keenum. He’s shown flashes at times, but deep down, he is still an average backup QB. If Minnesota can ride this home field advantage, it will be very hard to take down.