The Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints survived the Wild Card Round to advance to the Divisional matchups. The strongest teams in the league, the ones that clinched a bye from the first round of the Playoffs, stand between them and a spot in the conference championships. The first round already saw some upsets, will there be more?
This year’s Playoff structure is interesting because there are several new teams that entered the postseason fray. However, this next round may very well expose some of them, as it is time to face the big dogs of the current NFL. Jacksonville is set to take on Pittsburgh after beating the Buffalo Bills in the first round. It goes without saying that Pittsburgh is in a different breed than Buffalo, so Jacksonville has their work cut out for them. QB Blake Bortles has been less than stellar since his NFL debut and will have a tough time against the Steelers. He had more rushing yards than passing yards in a Playoff game, putting him in the same category as Michael Vick. However, Bortles will not have that much freedom in Pittsburgh. Jacksonville’s best quality is their defense, but with star WR Antonio Brown back from injury for the Steelers, they will have their hands full. The Steelers are favored to win this game and they want their shot against New England in the AFC Championship.
Speaking of New England, they pretty much have a cakewalk to the AFC Championship through the Tennessee Titans. Not to take away anything from the Titans’ incredible season, but they are up against the defending champions. Sure, they will be without Julian Edelman, but Tom Brady has enough weapons at his disposal to make a run at the Titans’ defense. Tennessee has QB Marcus Mariota, who put on a phenomenal performance in their comeback win against the Chiefs, but he’ll face a relentless Patriots’ defense. New England is favored to win by 13 points in most licensed offshore sportsbooks, showcasing how most analysts believe this game will go.
The Atlanta Falcons made a statement in beating the LA Rams in the first round. Los Angeles was the underdog team on a miracle season and their inexperience showed, but there is still a lot of promise for the future. Atlanta, however, showed flashes of their former selves, the ones that nearly won a Super Bowl just last season. They’ll take on a depleted Philadelphia Eagles in hopes of clinching a spot in the NFC Championship. QB Matt Ryan played well in the first round, not to mention offensive weapons RB Devonta Freeman and WR Julio Jones. Meanwhile, the Eagles will be without their catalyst in QB Carson Wentz, who was lost to injury late in the regular season. With QB Nick Foles leading the offensive charge, the Eagles see themselves slated as the underdog at a 2 ½ point spread.
The last divisional matchup will be New Orleans against Minnesota. The Vikings have been playing well throughout the season, but the Saints’ late surge has gotten them this far and they don’t look to want to stop just yet. New Orleans narrowly escaped the Carolina Panthers in the first round and the Vikings have been resting in preparation. This game is arguably the best of the 4 and will be a battle between key players. Vikings QB Case Keenum has been electrifying, but veteran QB Drew Brees set an NFL record with 72% pass completion. Both teams pack a solid 1-2 punch running combo with Minnesota’s Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon and New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Adam Thielen will be an X-factor for the Vikings, but it will be their defense that aids them the most. Minnesota poses the best defense in the league this year, and while New Orleans is close behind, this will be a tough challenge for them. Minnesota is favored to win.
You can find multiple betting lines in USA gambling online sites, including prop bets, point spreads and much more. These are the only legal forms of betting in the US outside of Las Vegas, so be sure to take advantage of them. Gambling laws permit the use of licensed offshore sportsbooks, so there is nothing to worry about.
You can follow the NFL playoffs schedule here.