NFL Playoffs 2018: AFC, NFC Schedule, Bracket Predictions for Divisional Round

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2018

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 08:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Heinz Field on October 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Wild Card Weekend lived up to its name with matchups coming down to the final drive and two underdogs leaving hostile territory with victories. What should we expect from the divisional round?

The upcoming games will feature two rematches. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be looking to avenge an ugly Week 5 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The New Orleans Saints have made a change in the backfield since their last meeting with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1. Will the adjustment affect the outcome?

Few analysts and pundits gave the Tennessee Titans a chance against the Kansas City Chiefs. The playoff underdogs can expect the same when compared to the New England Patriots. Can quarterback Marcus Mariota help pull off another upset?

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles will attempt to shake off two poor performances against an Atlanta Falcons team that's clicking on both sides of the ball.

Check out the viewing details and early projections for each divisional-round matchup below:


Divisional Round

Saturday, January 13

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

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots: 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS, CBS All Access 

Sunday, January 14

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers: 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS, CBS All Access 

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


Matchup Predictions

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 06:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons throws a pass during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Los Angeles Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

In today's game, fans marvel at impressive offensive performances, but many overlooked the Falcons' defensive effort in their wild-card matchup with the Los Angeles Rams.

Despite what he tells the media, head coach Sean McVay may regret giving his starters the week off after scoring 13 points Saturday. However, Atlanta deserves credit for holding the top offense under its approximate 30-point average.

If the Falcons can slow down a unit that clicked most of the year with an MVP-caliber running back, how will the Philadelphia Eagles offense fare while fighting through an offensive slump?

The Falcons' top-10 run defense should be able to neutralize the Eagles' attempt to balance their attack. In this matchup, take the team performing at an optimal level.

Prediction: Falcons 24, Eagles 17


Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 31:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots huddles with teammates during the first half against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Titans have a franchise quarterback with a will to win. We saw Mariota make plays as a passer, ball-carrier and blocker to complete a comeback win over the Chiefs.

However, the Titans' story will end in cold blustery New England where the Patriots can put the rumors about rifts within the organization behind them. Seth Wickersham's piece may have added fuel to the champions' fire.

Quarterback Tom Brady and a talented stable of running backs had an extra week to rest and nurse injuries. Despite some flaws on defense, specifically at linebacker, the offense should roll against an average defensive unit with a weakness in the secondary.

If the Titans dig an early hole, the Patriots will continue to bury them at Gillette Stadium. Unless Tennessee's offense comes out swinging, expect a win and another AFC Championship Game for the Patriots.

Prediction: Patriots 35, Titans 16


Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 08:  Allen Hurns #88 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in action during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Media outlets will play the soundbite with Roethlisberger speaking poorly about his five-interception performance, but he's played well since that Week 5 loss.

Let's update our perception and realize the Steelers have won 10 of their last 11 games. Furthermore, Roethlisberger finished with 28 touchdown passes to 14 interceptions.

It's worth noting wideout Antonio Brown expects to play and take the field at 100 percent, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Fortunately for Roethlisberger, he doesn't have to view this matchup as a revenge game. Instead, it's best to hand off to running back Le'Veon Bell and attack the Jaguars' 21st-ranked run defense. In the first meeting, the Steelers' featured ball-carrier only logged 15 rush attempts. 

Quarterback Blake Bortles didn't look sharp in his playoff debut versus the Buffalo Bills. In four of his last five outings, running back Leonard Fournette hasn't reached 70 rushing yards. Despite its dominant defense, Jacksonville won't score enough points to win this contest.

Prediction: Steelers 21, Jaguars 13


New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 11: Senio Kelemete #65 of the New Orleans Saints blocks Danielle Hunter #99 of the Minnesota Vikings during the game on September 11, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Saints 29-19. (
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Saints and Vikings will come down to the final drive. We'll see a prolific offense with two dynamic running backs and a pure pocket passer against the top defense in points and yards allowed.

Don't overlook the Saints' improved defensive unit that forced the Carolina Panthers to settle for four consecutive field goals through three quarters in the wild-card round.

The Vikings won't allow Drew Brees to sling the football all over the field, but Case Keenum will have a tough time moving the chains against a top-10 defense in yards surrendered.

The Saints will likely study tape from Week 14 and take notes from the Panthers' approach in attacking the Vikings defense. It's asking a lot to hold New Orleans under 20 points, which is what Minnesota needs to do to win this game.

Brees or Keenum will have to make a critical play to help his team advance to the NFC Championship Game—place your bets on the future Hall of Famer.

Prediction: Saints 23, Vikings 21


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