Saturday, January 13, 2018 1:00 am
Atlanta at Philadelphia
Time: 4:35 p.m. today (NBC)
Records: Falcons 11-6, Eagles 13-3
The skinny: Atlanta surprised some with its solid, all-around win at Los Angeles in the wild-card round, and now gets a Philadelphia team without its starting quarterback but with a stout defense and a Liberty Bell-sized chip on its collective shoulders as it's a 21/2-point underdog at home. The Eagles tied for first in NFL in point differential (plus 162), led league in rush defense (79.2 yards per game), ranked first in NFC in turnover differential (plus 11) and has the top-ranked pass defense in the league. Now it gets Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman and a Falcons team that has no players on their injury report and is riding momentum. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was 2-1 filling in for the injured Carson Wentz. Foles completed 56.4 percent of passes for 537 yards, five TDs, two picks and 79.5 passer rating. Reason for concern. Can Foles make enough plays to make the run game effective while avoiding the Big Mistake?
Prediction: Falcons 17-14
Tennessee at New England
Time: 8:15 p.m. today (CBS)
Records: Titans 10-7, Patriots 13-3
The skinny: Tennessee pulled off the upset of the wild-card round, defeating Kansas City in Arrowhead Stadium. Can the Titans top themselves in Gillette Stadium? The Titans ranked fifth in NFL in regular season in sacks and fourth in NFL and first in AFC in run defense, allowing 88.8 yards per game. And Titans safety Kevin Byard tied for NFL lead with eight interceptions. The Patriots will probably come out throwing. New England has also been dealing with the fallout from an ESPN article detailing in-fighting among coach Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft. The Patriots are masters of the “Us-Against-The-World” ploy. A week of rest, and controversy, will make for a volatile concoction for New England as it tries it make its seventh straight AFC title game.
Prediction: Patriots 26-18
Last week: 2-2; Season: 176-84
– Mark Jaworski, The Journal Gazette