NFL Playoffs 2018: TV Coverage and Predictions for All AFC, NFC Divisional Games

Richard Janvrin@@RichardJanvrinFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2018

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 31:  A detail of the jersey of Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during the first 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

While it may be the divisional round of the playoffs this weekend, there seems to be a gap in talent in at least two of these games to the point where you can almost certainly pick a winner.

Last year, we saw the Houston Texans at the New England Patriots. This year, the Patriots host the Tennessee Titans.

Of course, this Titans team is most likely better than that Texans team, but come on—it's safe to assume who is going to win.

But let's focus on the positives here—these games will decide both the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

Based on the predictions below, we should be in for quite the matchups.

With that said, let's make some predictions and look at an X-factor from each of the games.


NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

Game: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles

Date: January 13 at 4:35 p.m. ET


Point Spread: ATL -2.5

Prediction: Falcons 24, Eagles 13


Game: Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots

Date: January 13 at 8:15 p.m. ET


Point Spread: NE -13.5

Prediction: Patriots 33, Titans 17


Game: Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers

Date: January 14 at 1:05 p.m. ET


Point Spread: PIT -6.5

Prediction: Steelers 24, Jaguars 16


Game: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

Date: January 14 at 4:40 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Point Spread: MIN -4.5

Prediction: Vikings 28, Saints 24

Here's a graphic of the bracket, courtesy of the NFL.


Analyzing Each Game's X-Factor

Atlanta at Philadelphia: Nick Foles

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 31:  Quarterback Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks ot pass against defensive end Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys during the first quarter of the game at Lincoln Financial Field on December 31, 2017 in P
Elsa/Getty Images

Fair warning, three of the four X-factors are quarterbacks, but with good reason.

With Carson Wentz being out for the season due to a torn ACL, Nick Foles has had to step up and be the guy.

In his first game as the starter against the New York Giants, everything was fine and dandy, or so we thought.

Foles went from throwing four touchdowns in that game to throwing for 202 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the final two games of the Eagles season.

I'm sorry, but that's just downright atrocious. Heck, he threw for under 40 yards against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, and yes, I'm aware he was pulled early.

Still. Atrocious.

If Foles can conjure up whatever was going on in Week 15 against the Giants, the Eagles have a shot.

Anything less than that? They're toast. This is probably the worst No. 1 seed in the NFL in recent memory, and it has everything to do with the quarterback.

With Wentz, they win this game. With Foles, they're home underdogs who won't cover.


Tennessee at New England: Marcus Mariota

<<enter caption here>> at Arrowhead Stadium on January 06, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Let's be brutally honest here—there's really no X-factor. In fact, the Titans stand no chance. 

They may have beat the Kansas City Chiefs at home and Mariota may have had a play for the ages catching a deflection and taking it in for a score, but they're walking into their own funeral.

If the Titans want to have a shred of hope in this game, they need not only their running game from the running back position to continue to flourish from Derrick Henry, they need Mariota to utilize his legs to pick up first downs and to escape pressure and deliver dimes down the field.

Throwing the ball has not been Mariota's strong suit this season; we all know that. Whether he's battling injuries or not, he's just not the same passer we saw last season. 

Sure, he may have a completion percentage of 62, but 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions? Not going to work at Gillette Stadium.

Furthermore, Mariota's 312 rushing yards this season were best for eighth in the league behind guys like Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles and even Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer.

So, to win this game, it all comes down on Mariota. How will he handle pressure? Will he run to pick up those third downs with seven yards to go? Will he make errant throws? Will he throw an interception in the red zone for the first time in his career?

Mariota is the X-factor hereno question about it.


Jacksonville at Pittsburgh: Blake Bortles

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 07:  Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars warms up in the bench area in the second half of the AFC Wild Card Round game against the Buffalo Bills at EverBank Field on January 7, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills and Jaguars' wild-card matchup a week ago was one of the most heinous offensive showings in NFL playoff history.

A combined 13 points. That's it.

There are three quarterbacks who are X-factors this week, and Bortles is the final one.

No matter how good the Jaguars defense is, it's going to get worn down eventually by the Steelers offense. There are just too many moving parts for the Jaguars to keep up the entire game. Whether it's the wide receiving corps of Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant running all over the field, or quarterback Ben Roethlisberger keeping a play alive or running back Le'Veon Bell being, well, Bell, they're going to get beat up.

The Jaguars are going to have to score points in this one. There's no chance they're going to be able to hold this team to a field goal and squeak out a close game.

And to be frank, Bortles can't do that. At least not from what I've seen this year.

There was a small stretch there where he was playing fine, but overall in his career, Bortles just hasn't been competent.

Like the other quarterbacks before him on this list, he'll need to step it up to win this game. Running for more yards than throwing isn't going to cut it here.


New Orleans at Minnesota: Alvin Kamara

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:  Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints stands on the field during the first half of the NFC Wild Card playoff game against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

If you could only watch one playoff game this weekend, this is the one to watch. It will definitely be the most competitive, and the fact that the Super Bowl is in Minnesota puts an even bigger microscope on the Vikings and how they perform.

Coming into Minnesota, the Saints are the underdogs, and that's to be expected.

The Vikings have an incredible defense led by safety Harrison Smith, and their offense, though it's quarterbacked by Case Keenum, has plenty of playmakers.

The Saints will have an answer to at least one of those playmakers with cornerback Marshon Lattimore, but he can only be in one place at a time.

Of course, the Saints also have an electric offense, headed by running back Alvin Kamara. He's the X-factor this week.

In the Wild Card Round against the Carolina Panthers, Kamara did score a touchdown, but he wasn't as big a threat as he is normally.

This week, Kamara faces not only a better run defense (ranking fifth in defense-adjusted value over average), but the best defense in the league against pass-catching running backs.

If the Saints can get Kamara off and running (no pun intended), they'll have a much better shot at winning this game.


Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference, Football Outsiders and Picking Pros. Odds courtesy of Odds Shark.


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