Falcons vs. Eagles

Falcons vs. Eagles
Money Line (As of Jan. 10):

Falcons (1.60)
Eagles (2.35)


It likely wouldn't be this way if Carson Wentz was healthy.

But he isn't. Done for the season with a torn ACL is the second-year Eagles quarterback, who had, deservedly so, garnered plenty of attention as an NFL MVP candidate before the catastrophic injury occurred against the Rams in Week 14. And as a result, Philadelphia's Super Bowl prospects - which had looked so promising as the season progressed -- took a massive hit.

The Eagles are in unusual territory here. Historic territory, actually, based on reports earlier this week.

They are the top seed in the NFC thanks to a 13-3 regular season record. They clinched home field advantage during the playoffs. And yet they opened as the underdog (+3.0 as of Wednesday) to the Atlanta Falcons, the six seed in the conference, in advance of Saturday's contest.

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Per reports, this could be the first time a No. 1 seed has been the underdog at home in a divisional playoff game.

The Eagles have shown the kind of potential that will likely have them in the Super Bowl conversation over the next couple of years, but now their hopes for 2018 sit on the shoulders of 28-year-old Nick Foles, who is in his sixth NFL season.

It can pose enough of a challenge going into a playoff game knowing the guy who was previously a back-up for the majority of the season has now been thrust into the starting role. It's the standard cliché to hear players and coaches alike talk about the back-up preparing as if he would be the starter - you know, just in case. That's the reality in Philadelphia. What adds even greater pressure on Foles and the Eagles is the fact the Falcons have been gaining strength throughout the second half of the regular season and into their Wild Card showdown - a road victory for Atlanta -- with the L.A. Rams.

The talent the Falcons possess on offence has been well-documented. Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman - you get the idea. But in their quest to get back to the Super Bowl, the Falcons also boast a defence that was top-10 in the league against the run and top-10 in the league in points allowed per game, at 19.7, during the regular season.

Titans vs. Patriots
Money Line (As of Jan. 10):

Titans (7.00)
Patriots (1.08)

Titans vs. Patriots

The Titans completed the comeback last weekend versus the Kansas City Chiefs. So, what's their reward? A date with the Patriots this Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

For Tennessee, this has the earmarks of a sad country song in the making.

Not many are giving the Titans - who will reportedly be without running back DeMarco Murray because of an injury - a chance. They are far and away the biggest underdog heading into this weekend (+13.5 as of Wednesday) versus New England, which despite a slower start to this season, earlier concerns about their defence, and a recent report of turmoil between legendary quarterback Tom Brady, legendary coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft, has propped itself right back to the status of primary Super Bowl favourite.

Coming back and winning against the Chiefs is an accomplishment that shouldn't be diminished.

But upsetting the Patriots? The odds are, rightfully so, stacked against the Titans.

Jaguars vs. Steelers

Jaguars vs. Steelers
Money Line (As of Jan. 10):

Jaguars (3.40)
Steelers (1.30)


Rewind back to Oct. 8, 2017. Ben Roethlisberger, the 35-year-old Steelers quarterback, had a day to forget, throwing five (yes, *FIVE*) interceptions against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was also sacked twice and the Jaguars rolled to a 21-point victory - in Pittsburgh.

That prompted Big Ben to deliver the line, "Maybe I don't have it anymore."

This all makes for what could be a classic redemption story - at least as far as this week - for Roethlisberger and the Steelers as they face the upstart Jaguars and their vaunted pass defence in the Divisional Round on Sunday.

(Despite such a lopsided victory over Pittsburgh in October, Jacksonville is the underdog at +7.5 as of Wednesday.)

The Jaguars have been a menacing force against the opposition's air attack all season, allowing only 169.9 passing yards per game to lead the league in that category. They were second behind only Baltimore in interceptions with 21. They were tied with the Chargers for the third fewest passing touchdowns allowed.

While Pittsburgh's quarterback was better as the season went along, throwing for 506 yards in Week 14 against Baltimore, what was a forgettable day for Roethlisberger against the Jaguars in October should be at the front of everybody's mind this weekend. How will Roethlisberger and the Steelers handle this Jacksonville defence? The potential return of receiver Antonio Brown - he returned to practice this week, and all signs point to him returning to game action as well - could provide an X-Factor for Pittsburgh.

Saints vs. Vikings
Money Line (As of Jan. 10):

Saints (2.90)
Vikings (1.44)

Saints vs. Vikings

It's another history lesson!

The Saints have made significant gains since the start of the season, when they opened with a 29-19 loss on the road versus the Vikings.

The Saints are underdogs (+4.5 as of Wednesday) on the road as the two teams meet again to close out the Division Round on Sunday.

Sam Bradford picked apart the Saints' secondary for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie running back Dalvin Cook was a beast with more than 120 yards rushing.

Drew Brees and the Saints offence was far from its dynamic self. And the Saints eventually started the season with back-to-back losses before turning their fortunes around.

Much has changed since the middle of September.

Because of an injury, Bradford is no longer QB of the Vikings. That responsibility for now rests with Case Keenum, who doesn't necessarily possess the 'Wow' factor that some of his contemporaries do but is certainly effective nonetheless. Without Cook - also because of injury - Minnesota's run game can be a two-headed monster at its best with Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. One thing that has remained constant: The Vikings defence doesn't give up much. They're second behind Jacksonville for the fewest yards per game allowed through the air. They gave up the fewest passing touchdowns (13) in the league.

With Brees as its catalyst behind centre, the Saints remain dangerous. The big question, though, is how much of a threat will they pose to the Vikings and their defence in Minnesota?

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