Wow, what a weekend of National Football League playoff games! Tennessee’s thrilling comeback against Kansas City, then Atlanta’s resurrection against the Rams. Jacksonville outlasted Buffalo in a defensive struggle, followed by New Orleans winning a shootout against Carolina. With the Wild Card weekend in the books, Gildshire turns its eye toward the NFL’s Divisional Playoff weekend. One hopes that the games coming up will be as exciting as in the weekend just past, and it’s a pretty good bet that they will. The divisional playoff round historically offers up the best football of the year. Who do we like and how much do we like them? Are any of the point spreads worth wagering a cup of coffee on between friends? Let’s see what’s on tap.
Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles: The divisional playoff weekend gets underway with one of the most intriguing matchups of the lot. The defending NFL Conference Champions will attempt to continue their rise from the dead to take on a dangerous, albeit crippled Eagles squad. After Atlanta’s team-wide impression of a folded piece of paper in last year’s Super Bowl, one could imagine them laying low for a year. However, here they are and looking as dangerous as ever. Philadelphia looked like a lock for Super Bowl LII until quarterback Carson Wentz’ season-ending leg injury. His absence is the reason for Atlanta’s installation as a three-point favorite. Gildshire expects this could be the best game of the divisional playoff weekend, but we don’t have a bet…so far. Push to shove, though, the Falcons will be the wager. Televised by NBC, 4:35 pm Eastern/1:35 pm Pacific, Saturday, Jan. 13.
Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots: The Titans’ comeback against Kansas City filled the bill for excitement everywhere, except in the western half of Missouri, and the western suburbs of Kansas City. (The eastern half of Missouri is still bent by losing the Rams to L.A. and like the idea of misery in W. Missouri.) Now, the Pats lie in wait for Marcus Mariota and his intrepid Titans. Oh…dear. A rested Tom Brady generally dismembers his opposition, hence the oddsmakers installing New England as a 13.5 point favorite. We hope for a competitive ballgame, but we don’t give Tennessee a pimple’s chance in the cheerleader’s dressing room. Take New England and give however many points you must. Televised by CBS, 8:15 pm Eastern/5:15 pm Pacific, Saturday, Jan. 13.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers: An upstart team traveling to an established power. That’s the story of Tennessee and Jacksonville alike. We just said, “take New England and give however many points you must.” So, that’s our thought process when it comes to this game. Am I right? Well, kinda’ sorta’ maybe. Except for one niggling fact. On Oct. 8, Jacksonville went into Pittsburgh, slapped the Steelers across the lips and took their lunch money to the tune of a 30-9 whipping. That Week Five game gives us pause as we approach the divisional playoff round. Pittsburgh opened as a seven-point favorite, and the line has been bet up to 7.5. That’s the way we’re leaning, as well. But…30-9? Televised by CBS, 1:05 pm Eastern/10:05 am Pacific, Sunday, Jan. 14.
New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings: Conventional wisdom says “Take the best quarterback in the playoffs.” So, future Hall of Famer Drew Brees against career journeyman Case Keenum makes sense. Add to that, Minnesota’s status as a four-point favorite and the bet would seem to be obvious. Except that it isn’t. The Vikings have one of the league’s best defenses and a defensive backfield that can run with New Orleans’ receivers. Oh, we’re leaning toward taking the points, but it is just a lean at this point. Televised by Fox, 4:40 pm Eastern/1:40 pm Pacific, Sunday, Jan. 14.
Those are our thoughts and picks for the divisional playoff weekend. Are we right on, or do we need to have our heads removed for recalibration? Come next Monday, will we be feted for brilliance or filleted for utter ridiculousness? As they say, “Hindsight is 20/20,” so prepare your own picks and we’ll see where the week takes us. It’s only Monday, but we’re ready for some football.