It’s the divisional round, and I’m closing in on a knockout blow to MDS. Which would be a good thing, given that he knocked me out, curbed stomped me, stuffed me in a sack, and threw me in the river during the regular-season contest.
Last week, my faith in the Falcons delivered a one-game edge, with MDS getting half the games right and yours truly nailing three of four.
This week, MDS once again doubts the Falcons. I don’t. Come Saturday night, I’ll have a two-game lead and I’ll be making plans for cramming him into the meat grinder at Satriale’s.
Figuratively speaking, of course.
Falcons at Eagles
MDS’s take: The Eagles are the first No. 1 seed ever to be the underdog against a No. 6 seed in the NFL playoffs, and it’s easy to see why: Carson Wentz is out, and Philadelphia will live or die with Nick Foles at quarterback. Against Matt Ryan, who typically plays very well in the postseason, most people are picking Atlanta. I’m not. I think the Eagles are a better all-around team than people are giving them credit for, and they can win without Wentz.
MDS’s pick: Eagles 17, Falcons 14.
Florio’s take: The sixth-seeded Falcons are favored, and for good reason. They have their MVP-caliber franchise quarterback, and the Eagles don’t. Can the Eagles parlay the disrespect card into the kind of effort that will carry the No. 1 seed to what would be an upset? Maybe. To aid the effort, I’ll pick the Falcons to win.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 27, Eagles 17.
Titans at Patriots
MDS’s take: The Patriots are two-touchdown favorites, and that sounds about right to me. The Titans deserve credit for coming together in the second half in Kansas City, and I do think Derrick Henry could have a big game against New England’s defense, but the Titans just won’t have enough to keep this one close. Tom Brady will play in his 35th postseason game, and it will be a big one.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 35, Titans 20.
Florio’s take: A team with a mobile quarterback and a nothing-to-lose mindset invades Foxboro with a highly unlikely final-four berth on the line. Marcus Mariota and Derrick Henry could give the Patriots fit, and maybe it won’t be a blowout. But the Patriots have the skill, the coaching, the experience, and the motivation to finish the job, again.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Titans 20.
Jaguars at Steelers
MDS’s take: The Jaguars blew out the Steelers when these teams met in the regular season, and I’m tempted to pick Jacksonville to win again in Pittsburgh on Sunday. But I just don’t trust Blake Bortles to throw the ball well enough to put many points on the board, and I think Pittsburgh will win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 12, Jaguars 9.
Florio’s take: Allow me to retract my prediction that the Steelers will lose in the divisional round, based on coach Mike Tomlin’s willingness to peek ahead to a rematch with the Patriots. A rematch with the Jaguars will get the home team to focus on avoiding a second embarrassment at Heinz Field. The only glitch is the possibility that the Steelers will sell out to stop the run and Blake Bortles will make like Tim Tebow in early 2012 and find a way to complete enough passes and score enough points to beat the Steelers.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 24, Jaguars 13.
Saints at Vikings
MDS’s take: The Vikings have the best chance of playing a home Super Bowl that any team has ever had. I think they’ll get one step closer on Sunday when they beat the Saints and punch their ticket to the NFC Championship Game. Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense are firing on all cylinders, but the Vikings’ defense matches up well with New Orleans, and I’m expecting a big game from Case Keenum as Minnesota wins.
MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Saints 21.
Florio’s take: Both teams are far different than they were in Week One, and both are better than they were on the first Monday night of the season. The Vikings are arguably the most balanced team in the NFL, and it will be louder than anything the Saints have experienced on the road in the postseason, probably even louder than the Beastquake game of early 2011. Minnesota advances, setting up the team’s latest chance to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1976.
Florio’s pick: Vikings 31, Saints 20.