NFL Playoffs 2018: TV Schedule, Bracket Predictions for AFC and NFC Games

David McCracken@crackemcFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2018

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 6:  Running back Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans runs up field for a touchdown during the second half of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on January 6, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

After an exciting start to this year's postseason with the Wild Card round last weekend, the 2017 NFL playoffs are back in full swing in the Divisional round with just eight teams remaining in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy.

While only one team will become Super Bowl champions this season, the league is not short on suitors this time around as some teams, like last year's Super Bowl runner-up Atlanta Falcons, appear to be clicking at just the right time.

Below, we'll take a look at the Divisional round schedule with all the information you'll need to know in order to enjoy the game, followed by the latest buzz in each AFC/NFC matchup this weekend:

      

Divisional Round

Saturday, January 13

NFC: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:35 p.m. ET (NBC, NBC Sports Live

Prediction: Falcons defeat Eagles, 27-17.

           

AFC: Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS, CBS Sports Network) 

Prediction: Patriots defeat Titans, 35-14. 

          

Sunday, January 14

AFC: Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:05 p.m. ET (CBS, CBS Sports Network) 

Prediction: Steelers defeat Jaguars, 28-13.

            

NFC: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings, 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox, Fox Sports Go)

Prediction: Saints defeat Vikings, 26-24. 

                           

Conference Championships

Sunday, January 21

AFC Championship Game, 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS, CBS Sports Network)

NFC Championship Game, 6:40 p.m. ET (Fox, Fox Sports Go)

                                    

Super Bowl LII

Sunday, February 4

AFC champion vs. NFC champion at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, 6:30 p.m. ET (NBC, NBC Sports Live)

      

Latest Buzz

DeMarco Murray Ruled Out vs. Patriots

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 24: Running Back DeMarco Murray  #29 of the Tennessee Titans is helped off the field during a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Nissan Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

At this point of the season, every team wants to be at full strength. But the Tennessee Titans will be without the services of running back DeMarco Murray for the third straight game, meaning that Derrick Henry will continue to carry the load in Tennessee's backfield, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. 

While Murray's absence will be felt, particularly with his ability to catch the ball, it's not as if there's a severe drop-off in production with his absence.

Henry, a former Heisman Trophy winner during his days with the Crimson Tide, has proved more than capable to step in and become a bell-cow running back in the NFL, as shown by his monster performance against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.

Henry ran for an impressive 156 yards on 23 carries, averaging 6.8 yards per rush on the game. Whether the Titans will have the luxury to run the ball that often against an explosive Patriots team is still up in the air, but even with Murray out, the Titans are more than capable of filling his shoes. 

      

Falcons Defense, not Offense, the Key to Victory

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Last season, it was the Atlanta Falcons offense that carried the team through the regular season and the playoffs to a Super Bowl berth, led by the league's MVP in quarterback Matt Ryan.

But with a new offensive coordinator this season in Steve Sarkisian, it's safe to say the offense took a step back this year. And while the Falcons struggled at times to hang around in some games during the regular season, their defense has stepped up in a big way.

In the Wild Card round against the league's best offense in the Los Angeles Rams, the Falcons defense shut down the young, explosive Rams offense on the road, limiting the Rams to 13 total points—just the fourth time all season that the Rams scored 13 points or fewer in a game.

With their ability to rush the passer and cover wide receivers one-on-one, the Falcons defense has quickly become the calling card for this football team while the offense tries to get into a rhythm.

Going up against the Philadelphia Eagles is no easy task for Atlanta, but the absence of Carson Wentz under center does make stopping the Eagles' high-flying offense a bit easier with Nick Foles dropping back in the pocket.

      

Antonio Brown Back on Practice Field

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 10: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a reception for a first down in the fourth quarter during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on December 10, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Pittsburgh's star wideout Antonio Brown was missing in action for the last two games of the regular season with a calf injury, but he has worked himself back to fitness in a short amount of time to be ready to take on the Jaguars at home.

Brown's presence on the practice field this week was a welcome sight not just for Steelers fans but also for the team's offense that will need all the firepower it can get going up against a Jaguars defense that held Pittsburgh to nine points points at home during the regular season in a 30-9 blowout loss.

Brown actually had a decent outing against Jacksonville back in that Week 5 loss, racking up 157 yards on 10 receptions, but it wasn't enough as Ben Roethlisberger tossed five interceptions on the game.

While a repeat performance like that is unlikely for Roethlisberger this weekend, having Brown back on the field certainly makes it a little easier to go up against the league's most fearsome defense that was second in the NFL in points allowed per game (16.8 points) while ranking second in the league in total sacks (55), just behind Pittsburgh's 56-sack tally.

Brown will need to play like an MVP candidate to turn things around against the Jaguars this weekend, but he's more than capable of putting the team on his shoulders to get the job done.

      

Kyle Rudolph Appears to Be a Full-Go Against Saints

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 17: Kyle Rudolph #82 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates after catching the ball for a touchdown in the third quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals on December 17, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The calling card for the Vikings this season has been its defense, a unit that led the league in scoring defense (15.8 points per game) going into the playoffs. But the key to the Vikings being able to win in the playoffs won't be the defense, it will be the team's offense that determines their postseason success.

And having tight end Kyle Rudolph healthy is essential.

Rudolph is recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in Minnesota's victory over the Carolina Panthers back on December 10, which hobbled him down the stretch. But it appears the bye week over Wild Card weekend has done the trick, per TwinCities.com:

"I don't think you can say anyone is 100 percent in the middle of January, but I definitely feel a lot better after that time off. We've run around a little bit, and it feels a lot better than I did the last three weeks when I was out there trying to get through."

On the season, Rudolph has been a model on consistency with 532 yards on 57 receptions along with a team-leading eight touchdowns. Going up against a Saints defense that he scored on back in Week 1, Rudolph will surely be a target in the red zone for the Vikings now he's able to move around freely without much limitation.

      

All stats are courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted. 

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