NFL Playoffs 2018: Dates, Matchups and Bracket Breakdown for Weekend

David McCracken@crackemcFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2018

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 06: Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans avoids being sacked against the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 6, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The anticipation is almost over as the divisional round of the NFL playoffs kicks off Saturday with two intriguing matchups between the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles, followed by an AFC showdown between the Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots.

The action only gets better on Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars look for their second win over the Pittsburgh Steelers this season, followed by the Saints looking to upset the Vikings in Minnesota. There's a lot of football to digest, even now that college football is out of the way.

Here's all the information you'll need to know ahead of this weekend's slate of games including national television and live-stream information to watch the game wherever you may be. 

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)


AFC Breakdown

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

Isn't having NFL games on a Saturday the best?

While we were spoiled with college football dominating our Saturdays, there's something special about playoff football taking over your weekend, and this weekend has some of the more competitive matchups that we've seen in the past couple of years.

On paper, the Titans vs. Patriots game appears to be a bit of a mismatch and it's possible that New England blows Tennessee out of the water on Saturday. But isn't that what everyone thought before the Kansas City Chiefs were upset at Arrowhead Stadium by Marcus Mariota and the underdog Titans?

Say what you may about Mariota's inconsistent regular season; he balled out in the wild-card round when it mattered most.

From his incredible playmaking ability to his grit as a silent leader for his team, Mariota can do things a lot of football players just can't do, including throwing and catching the same pass for a touchdown.

Ruling out the Titans would be a foolish decision since anything can happen in the playoffs, even if the Patriots are playing at home.

As for the Jaguars vs. Steelers on Sunday, there's a lot more to this game rather than a possible berth in the AFC Championship Game.

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 25: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after a touchdown in the first half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 25, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Steelers will come into this game with a chip on their shoulder, motivated to avenge their 30-9 blowout loss to the Jaguars in Week 5. In that game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions, allowing Jacksonville's defense to simply take over.

Sure, that was just a regular-season game. But this time around, the consequences of having an off night throwing the ball can be severe, as it's time to win or go home.

The Steelers will have the services of Antonio Brown back this week and will still have Le'Veon Bell to lean on, despite his comments about possibly retiring and sitting out next season if he can franchise-tagged. The Jaguars will do what they do best: defend and win.

If Jacksonville's defense can continue to dominate in the trenches and in the secondary, the Steelers will have another rough night. But don't be shocked to see Pittsburgh turn the tables on this young Jaguars team on Sunday.


NFC Breakdown

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 06:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after being sacked by the Los Angeles Rams during the second quarter of the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Los Angeles Coliseum on January 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, Califor
Harry How/Getty Images

The Falcons vs. Eagles game should be the one to watch this weekend, but both offenses have some serious questions they need to answer.

Last year's Super Bowl runners-up dominated the Los Angeles Rams 26-13 during the wild-card round, but that win had more to do with the Falcons defense than it did with the play of their offense.

After boasting the league's best offense a year ago with the then-MVP Matt Ryan, Atlanta took a step back this season and aren't as explosive as it was a year ago. The Eagles have the same kind of problem, but for other reasons.

During the regular season, it was hard to argue that the Eagles weren't the best team in the NFL with Carson Wentz under center and the likes of Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount in the backfield.

But when Wentz went down with a torn ACL, everything changed. Nick Foles put together a great game in his start in the place of Wentz but fell apart in limited playing time against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.

If Foles can play like he did in Week 16 and play mistake-free football, the Eagles will be fine. But if the Falcons defense shows up like they did in the wild-card round, it's likely that the Eagles will get blown out on their home turf.

Nothing is worse than losing at home in the playoffs in front of your fans, and there might not be a more excited fanbase in the league than the Vikings, who will host the Saints this Sunday.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 31: Case Keenum #7 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on after the game against the Chicago Bears on December 31, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

In Week 1, the Vikings took it to the Saints and won 29-19. But since then, both teams have undergone a bit of a makeover. For the Saints, they've changed their offensive philosophy to become a run-first team behind Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, while the Vikings have had to rely on the "next man up" mantra due to injuries.

Case Keenum has been terrific under center for the Vikings after taking over for the injured Sam Bradford, who was filling in for Teddy Bridgewater. In the backfield, the Vikings had to depend on Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon to fill the shoes of standout rookie Dalvin Cook, who went down with an ACL tear early into the season.

To use that Week 1 game as a reference point for this Sunday's divisional game wouldn't be fair to either team, particularly a Saints team that didn't have it figured out on either side of the ball. One thing that is certain, however, is that this will be a barnburner of a game. 


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