The fun and the games are over – the serious business is underway. The NFL playoffs give us the 12 teams who can beat each other: to this point, the teams who have shown enough variation in scheme and play-calling will now face-off, knowing one more loss ends the road for them.
These next three weeks are a road to Super Bowl LIV, and only two sides will be making the flight to Miami to contest it. That all starts with the Wild Card round, where the so-called top-end teams can sit on their couches and study tape on their potential opponents.
But some will tell you they value the momentum more than the rehab. Who’s going to hit next week like a steam train? Let’s find out.Get your NFL bets on at PaddyPower.com
Sunday, 6.05pm – Minnesota Vikings (+7.5) @ New Orleans Saints – 10/11
The points aren’t what bother me here. This Vikings team was involved in a one-score game in just six of their 16 matchups this season, which is bizarre.
They either click and blow everyone away, or they don’t and get well-beaten.
Coming into this game off the back of two losses isn’t ideal, but their familiarity with the play-action they run means they’re unlikely to fall victim to the Saints’ jump-balls. As you expect them to play a lot of Cover 2 zone, Michael Thomas’ deep threat should be doubled for most plays, meaning the Saints will have extended drives.
There’s enough IQ on the defensive side of the ball to get one third-down stop, especially as the likes of Kendricks, Smith and Barr can all cancel out Kamara and Hill. Without some of the gimmick formations that work on less clued-in defences, the Saints’ third-down conversion rate in big situations drops significantly.
Once Waynes can deal somewhat with Thomas when the Vikes bring pressure, I think the Vikings spring a major upset here with the Vikings 3/1 to win.
Sunday, 9.40pm – Seattle Seahawks @ Philadelphia Eagles (+1.5) – 10/11
I cannot back a visiting team in a raucous environment with as many holes on their roster as this Seahawks team has.
From a long way out, the Eagles struggled to punch above the average weight of the NFC East, and with that psychological burden of winning the division off their backs, they can now focus solely on winning the Super Bowl.
The NFC East is unique in that regard. There’s massive rivalry between Philly and Dallas – and sometimes you can dragged down to the level of the other.
They do have the roster for it, of course. That’s not even a question, and there aren’t too many hotter quarterbacks in the league right now than Carson Wentz.
The Eagles were my pre-season Super Bowl pick and I can’t abandon them now. Even if you consider positional groups – can you name one where the Seahawks are better than the Eagles? Probably quarterback, and you could maybe make a case for Metcalf/Lockett being above the Philly receiving corps.
Coaching is not a problem here. The Eagles crafted a gameplan for Nick Foles to beat the New England Patriots. They’re going to manage to turn it on down the stretch.