NFL – Divisional Round
It’s on to the Divisional Round where the Eagles, Patriots, Steelers and Vikings await the Wild Card Weekend winners. The Falcons and Titans progressed as outsiders, while both the Jaguars and Saints got through as expected. The dream is also alive for the Minnesota Vikings to play Super Bowl LII in their own backyard if they can overcome the New Orleans Saints and take out the NFC Championship game the following week. The Wolf is making the Jaguars +7.5 his best bet.
|Atlanta @ Philadelphia
|Philadelphia +3 ($1.87)|
|Tennessee @ New England
|New England -13 ($1.91)|
|Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh
|Jacksonville +7.5 ($1.91)|
|New Orleans @ Minnesota
|Under 45.5 ($1.91)|
Atlanta @ Philadelphia – (Sun 8:35am)
Atlanta’s dream to make up for last year’s Super Bowl disappointment is still alive after their 26-13 over the LA Rams in the Wild Card round. The Falcons capitalised on two big mistakes by Rams’ kick returner Pharoh Cooper and controlled the game from that point on by dominating possession. The Falcons held the ball for 37:35 compared to 22:25 for the Rams. One concern for the Falcons heading into the clash against the Eagles is the yardage they gave up to Rams’ wide receiver, Robert Woods. Woods had 9 receptions for 142 yards and it’s something that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson wouldn’t have missed. The obvious problem here is that it will be Nick Foles under center and not No.1 QB Carson Wentz pulling the trigger. The Eagles hold a narrow 6-4 advantage in their last 10 meetings against the Falcons and will be hoping to get the job done in front of their home fans despite the absence of Wentz. The Wolf thinks it be up to the Eagles’ defence to get them across the line, with Foles set to face plenty of pressure from the Falcons, especially Adrian Clayborn. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox should be able to generate some pressure and it could lead to mistakes from last year’s MVP, Falcons QB Matt Ryan. On paper it seems crazy to think that a side with Matt Ryan will lose to a side with Nick Foles, but that is the way The Wolf is leaning, especially with home field advantage to sure to be a factor. The Falcons are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 playoff road games and are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 meetings in Philadelphia. The Eagles will feel like they have been disrespected ever since Wentz did his ACL and will come out fired up at the Linc!
Tennessee @ New England – (Sun 12:15pm)
It’s not a matter of IF the Patriots will win, but more of a case of how many points the Patriots will win by. New England is currently 13 point favourites (at the time of the preview) over the Titans, who caused a 22-21 boilover over the Chiefs at Arrowhead last week. They overcame a 21-3 deficit to set up a date with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. The Chiefs could only manage 69 rushing yards against the Titans, but were able to manage 256 yards through the air. This will be music to Tom Brady’s ears as he looks to exploit the burnable Titans’ secondary through his weapons on offence, with tight end Rob Gronkowski set for a massive game. The only thing that can slow down the Patriots is the off-field drama surrounding the team and the alleged rift surrounding Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft. The Wolf can’t see it happening as the Pats are one of the most professional teams in the league and won’t want to taint their legacy with another Super Bowl on offer. The Chiefs threw the game away against the Titans rather than the Titans winning it, and The Wolf has major concerns about Tennessee having enough points in them to go toe-to-toe with Tom Brady. The Titans have scored 24 points or fewer in their last 10 games and will need to score more than 24 points if they are to beat the Pats. The Patriots have won six-straight against the Titans are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 playoff home games. The Pats will want to make a statement!
Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh – (Mon 5:05am)
The Jaguars won a very ugly Wild Card game over the Bills by 10-3 and will have to play much better on offence if they are to challenge the Steelers on their home turf. Meanwhile, the Steelers will be keen to make amends after they were embarrassed 30-9 at Heinz Field by the Jaguars back in Week 5. It was an afternoon to forget for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who threw five interceptions in one of the worst performances of his career. That effort from Big Ben had him questioning whether he still could compete in the NFL. He has been very good down the stretch for the Steelers and will be sweating on the fitness of his No.1 receiver, Antonio Brown. Brown had 10 receptions for 157 yards in Week 5 and his battle against the Jaguars secondary will go a long way to deciding this contest. It’s been well-documented about the success that the Jags have on defensive side of the ball, but they need more from their QB Blake Bortles if they are to beat the Steelers for a second time in Pittsburgh this season. Bortles was terrible in the Wild Card win when he had to throw the ball, but remarkably he led the team in rushing, with 88 yards from 10 carries. One advantage for Bortles is that he won’t have to contend with linebacker Ryan Shazier, who is the heart and soul of the Steelers defence. The Jags aren’t getting enough respect here and should have plenty of success running the ball. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette gashed the Steelers for 181 rushing yards and 2 TDs in the 21-point win in Week 5. The Jaguars are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings in Pittsburgh, while the Steelers are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 home games. Take the Jaguars with generous start here.
New Orleans @ Minnesota – (Mon 8:40am)
The Vikings won the Week 1 clash by 29-19 in Minnesota but plenty has changed since then. Adrian Peterson has left and it’s become the Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara show, while Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook are sitting on the sidelines for the Vikings. The Vikings are strong against the run and The Wolf is expecting the Saints running game through Kamara and Ingram to struggle for a consecutive week after the Panthers kept them quiet last week. The Vikings also have excellent weapons in Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith who will make life difficult for Drew Brees in trying to locate an open receiver. The battle between Michael Thomas and Rhodes could be the difference here. Pressure is a funny thing and there’s no question that Vikings QB Case Keenum will be feeling some nerves in his first postseason start. He’ll have the advantage that he can fall back on the Vikings running back after Cook gashed the Saints on the ground in Week 1. The Wolf hates to write off a champion like Drew Brees, so is going to make the unders the best play here. The Vikings defence looks the real deal in all facets, while the likes of Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray should have success running the ball and will no doubt take plenty of time off the clock, especially if the game script goes their way. The unders is 5-1 in the Vikings last 6 home games and is 7-1-1 in the last 9 playoff games that the Vikings have played.