Always exciting playoff football. No one wants to go home. I think that the cream has definitely risen to the top this year. Yesterday proves that. These determine who goes on the AFC/NFC Championship games next week. Read along to find out how I am choosing this weekend. Off we go…
AFC DIVISIONAL GAME
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS vs NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS:
Frigid is what the weather will be in Foxboro today. That will be the first thing that the Chargers will have to overcome today. Getting over the stats will be another issue that they will have to overcome. Phillip Rivers has yet to win a playoff game. He is 0-2 in that category. His only win in six regular season meetings came against Mark Cassell as he filled in for the injured Tom Brady back in 2008. Needless to say, he will be looking for his first win against Brady and the Pats. Last major issue to overcome is running back Melvin Gordon not being 100%. Rivers does have other great offensive players like Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates on the receiving end of the ball. Defensively, a healthy Joey Bosa is always welcomed. He can make Brady uncomfortable and throw of the Pats offense: much like he and Melvin Ingram did to Lamar Jackson in Baltimore last week.
Just admit it. Tom Brady is not the Tom Brady of old. With that being said, he is still managing to get it done. Getting Julian Edelman back gave the offensive a boost since Rob Gronkowski has been a bit injury prone this season. The big factor for the Patriots is whether or not the defense shows up. When they do, it makes for a well-rounded football team. J.C. Jackson and Duron Harmon in the secondary have been playmakers on defense. Even though it may not look like the Patriots are playing average ball, there is nothing exciting outside of the usual Brady and Belichick tandem.
L.A.’s pass rush will keep New England on their toes. The Chargers need to make sure that the offensive line can protect RIvers. Beiichick will find a way to exploit any weakness that the Chargers have. A couple of weeks off may have done the Patriots good, but the way the Chargers played last week gives them the momentum going into this week. Expect a great battle.
Los Angeles Chargers
NFC DIVISIONAL GAME
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES vs NEW ORLEANS SAINTS:
What a win last week for the Eagles! Philly manages to play more fluid with Nick Foles in charge. Philadelphia is looking for a little revenge against New Orleans after suffering a 48-7 week 11 loss to them. With four playoff games of 100+ passer rating, count on Foles to spread the ball around. Look for Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Golden Tate, and Darren Sproles to get targeted according to what the Saints defense will put up. As in the Chicago game, Tate could be the difference maker or whomever may be covered by Eli Apple. The Eagles have had secondary problems this season, but Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas have turned out to provide the much needed coverage. Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, and Malcolm Jenkins will also play a major part in the pass rush to keep Drew Brees on the run and Kamara and Ingram from long yard plays.
New Orleans has had plenty of rest. They are going to play the game they should have played last year in the playoffs. The Minnesota Miracle busted all those bubbles for the Saints. Drew Brees has a list of accolades, but does that help him defeat the defending Super Bowl Champs? It is definitely something to keep in mind. Offensively, there is Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. The offensive line has allowed the second fewest sacks this year. There really is not an issue with offense though. Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, A.J. Klein, and Alex Anzalone are going to have to play up to the offense. Philadelphia did not seem to have a problem with Khalil Mack and the rest of the Chicago defense last week.
Ultimately, New Orleans has home field advantage and has used it to their benefit all season. If the Saints defense can cause Nick Foles to make mistakes, they can easily take advantage of Philly. If the Eagles can get to Drew Brees, they can change the course of the game. This will be a true test of both teams as one is defending their title and the other, with their history making quarterback, is trying to win another.
New Orleans Saints
These playoff games are hard to determine. Such great match ups this season. I am crossing my fingers that I chose wisely. How are you all feeling about these games? All we can do is wait and see. Good luck to your teams and picks!
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