The National Football League certainly has its share of surprises on a given week. For the opening round of the 2017 playoffs, it was not that Tennessee erased an 18-point deficit at halftime and won in Kansas City. Nor was it the perennial losers from Jacksonville advancing to the second round. It was that, in a week where no spread was smaller than six-and-a-half-points, every game was actually exciting and compelling. Of course, the defensive showcase of Buffalo and Jacksonville proved to lack fireworks, but the game was closely contested throughout.
It is rare that we get four games to produce a relatively high amount of drama, especially when it did not seem possible given the matchups. The opposite is true for the Divisional round, as we have quite the set of ‘storylines’ to read. In fact, ‘storylines’ are the key to this weekend’s action, as we even find them in places where they don’t normally exist.
Below are predictions for each game against the spread. Spreads have been taken from various websites and are subject to change. The spread in parenthesis denotes the selected team. An asterisk denotes a confidence pick.
*Confidence Picks – 2017 Season: 53-46-4 (Last Week: 2-0)
(2016 Season: 53-67-3) (2015 Season: 69-45-2) (2014 Season: 61-46-2) (3-Year Total: 183-158-7)
All Picks Against Spread – 2017 Season: 136-114-10 (Last Week: 2-2)
(2016 Season: 123-136-8) (2015 Season: 143-117-7) (2014 Season: 149-114-4) (3-Year Total: 415-367-19)
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
If everything in sports comes down to timing, then the Atlanta Falcons are the running case study. The team entered last year’s postseason as hot as any, tore through the NFC playoffs and took a 28-3 lead into the second half of the Super Bowl. Infamously, it went ice cold at the wrong time and cost the Falcons its first title in franchise history. Atlanta had to wait an entire offseason before beginning the long journey to redemption. But, along the way, it was met with more improbable displays of timing.
The Falcons muddled through a ‘Super Bowl hangover’ for the first half of the season en route to a 4-4 record. They could no longer stay alive in the division race due to a late loss to the Saints, but a previous nail-biting win against Tampa Bay kept the Falcons in control of their own playoff destiny. A home win against Carolina completed a tough regular season with a reward.
The “reward” extended beyond just playing a game in January, as it was met with another fortunate twist. That is, the Falcons would play a Rams team completely over-extended and recently out-of-sync after resting its players. Atlanta never trailed in the game. It took the lead roughly eight minutes into the first quarter and didn’t relinquish it.
What’s equally noteworthy about the Falcons’ pairing with Los Angeles is that all three playoff participants from the NFC South were in action in the Wild Card Round. Of the three possible opponents for Atlanta, the Rams were the only non-division matchup. The Falcons took advantage.
Looking to the Divisional Round, it is clear that