One Step Closer: NFL Divisional Round

Updated: January 14, 2018

Two games remain before conference champions will be decided.  Before we can start looking at next week we have to decide the participants. Both contests provide regular-season rematches. The Jaguars will start off looking to again upset the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The second game gives us a big time matchup between the Saints and the Vikings.  We are going to take a minute to break down each matchup and where the numbers currently sit.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers:  Sunday, January 14th at 1:05 PM ET

This one is a rematch from week 5 where the Jaguars walloped the Steelers 30-9. This was one of the first games where people started believing the Jaguars were legit.  The Jaguars picked off Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger 5 times, including two that were returned for touchdowns.  Leonard Fornette rushed 28 times for 181 yards including a 90 yard rushing touchdown as the Jaguars were running the clock out.

The Steelers offense struggled mightily to score in this game thanks primarily to Big Ben’s turnovers. Roethlisberger was 33/55 for 312 yards but had no touchdowns. Steelers all-pro running back Le’Veon Bell was held to 47 rushing yards on 15 carries.

The Steelers opened up as a -7 point favorite this time around with the total currently set 41. The previous contest has Pittsburgh as a -7.5 point favorite with a total of 42.5.

Do not see a scenario where Big Ben throws 5 interceptions again so Jacksonville may have to put up a little offense to stay in this one. Bortles often struggles to put up numbers so if the Steelers are able to jump out early this one could get ugly for the Jaguars. However, if Jacksonville is able to keep it close early they could get a defensive struggle which they should fair well in with their stellar D.

My numbers favor Pittsburgh between 5 and 6 points so a slight lean on the Jags at +7 or better. The total for the game looks razor sharp with no value to be had on over or under so I am going to pass.

New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings: Sunday, January 14th at 4:40 PM ET

We have to go all the way back to week #1 for this rematch as the Minnesota Vikings will host the New Orleans Saints in this NFC contest. The Vikings were victorious in week 1 29-19. How much to gain from looking at a week #1 contest is up for debate especially in this case where the Vikings were starting Sam Bradford in week 1 and Alvin Kamara had yet to really have his breakout for the Saints as Adrian Peterson was still on the roster. In addition, the Vikings got a monster game from Dalvin Cook (127 yards rushing) who has since been put on IR with a torn ACL. Basically, two totally different teams from week 1 will meet this week.

Case Keenum will lead the Vikings in what he hopes ends as a great made for TV story. The Vikings spread the ball around on offense and have a pair of quality wideouts in Stefan Diggs and Adam Thielen. There should be opportunities for the offense and they have to hope Keenum is able to keep up his magical run and not fold under playoff pressure.

The Saints, of course, are led by first-ballot Hall of Famer Drew Brees. This is a different New Orleans team though that has an offense led primarily by the ground game where both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara play huge roles. Will the Saints be able to move the ball on the ground versus the formidable Viking front or will they have to make a slight return to the air it out Saints of old?

Classic contrasting battle here with New Orleans good offense and slightly below average defense versus Minnesota with average offense and big time defense.  The Vikings currently sit as a -5 point favorite with the total set at 46.5.

My projections have this game lined pretty close so I am going to pass. If I had to have some action on the game their are a few playoff situations that favor the Saints.