It’s the start of the best weekend of the NFL season. Two tickets to Championship Sunday will be punched today in a pair of evening Divisional playoff games. The Falcons will visit the Eagles at 4:35 p.m. Eastern on NBC, and the Patriots will host the Titans at 8:15 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
The Philadelphia Eagles are hosting are in the Divisional Round for the first time since 2008, and in the playoffs for the first time under head coach Doug Pederson. Carson Wentz can only watch as Nick Foles leads the offense, but the Eagles should lean on their strong ground game to move the Falcons. Atlanta pulled the road upset last week, but it’s not the same case heading east. The Falcons are a three-point favorite, making the Eagles the first top seed to ever open the NFL playoffs as an underdog.
Atlanta showed poise and experience as reigning NFC Champions last week in Los Angeles. The Falcons bottled up Todd Gurley, and played mistake-free football to advance. It’ll be important to get Julio Jones involved like last week, when Jones finished with nine catches for 94 yards and the score that put the game away. The Falcons also controlled the game in the second half, driving for over 13 minutes of the third quarter.
Nobody owned a second half quite like the Tennessee Titans last weekend. Marcus Mariota led his team to a comeback win in Kansas City, fueled in large part by Derrick Henry’s physical performance. DeMarco Murray has once again been ruled out with a knee injury, paving the way for another busy day for Henry. The former Alabama back compiled 156 yards on 23 carries, doing most of his damage in the later stages. The concern this round is that if the Titans stick to a ground-based approach, it might not be enough to keep pace with Brady and the Patriots.
It wouldn’t be the NFL playoffs without Saturday night in Foxboro. The Patriots are favored by nearly two touchdowns Saturday night, and could advance to a ridiculous seventh straight AFC Championship game. The top seed has had an extra week of rest, which could prove critical as Tom Brady has been nursing an achilles injury this season. The Patriots could get a boost in the run game, as Rex Burkhead has been slowly returning to practice with a brace on his injured knee.
After Saturday, we’ll have half of our championship teams. The bracket fills out on Sunday, when the Steelers host the Jaguars and the Vikings host the Saints.