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I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

2017-18 NFL Divisional Weekend Playoff Preview

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After a Wildcard weekend full of surprises, the NFL playoffs now move to the best eight teams.  Some call the Divisional Playoff Weekend their favorite, because you get a full four games and it literally is the best teams.  Road teams typically don't fare well because 1) they're the inferior team by record, 2) they of course are the road team, and 3) the home team had a week to rest up.  Will there be any upsets?  Vegas thinks so and actually has a road team favorite!  More on that in a minute

J.R. Ewing and "Bulldog Babe" (@bulldogbabexo) will offer you a full range analysis of the NFL playoffs week by week.  Here each playoff game will have a short breakdown with thoughts on key factors then a final score predict.  The final score predict then gives you a Straight Up, Over/Under, and Against the Spread (ATS) pick to chew on for "recreation purposes only".  We'll be tracking our own progress.  Or if you're someone with disposable income, gamble away (but this blog is not responsible for losses).

Down but not out
But first, much to Bulldog Babe's chagrin, we must look back on first week performance.  Hint, it doesn't end well for our Steelers fan.

J.R. Ewing (4-0 ATS, 3-1 S/U, 2-2 O/U).  J.R. hit a parlay on the Jacksonville win, but not cover, while staying under.  Outside of that game, He missed the Titans win along with the over on the Saints/Panthers and the under on the Falcons/Rams.  But a very successful week otherwise.  Be sure to track his plays on CappedIn.com

Bulldog Babe (2-2 ATS, 1-3 S/U, 0-4 O/U).  BDB didn't do bad at all against the spread, hitting with Falcons and Bills covers.  Straight up though, only got the Saints winning (although she will tell you that was her most important game from a rooting interest standpoint).  And we won't talk about the over/under.

We also picked the College Football Playoff final game.  Neither of us had the winner as we both picked Georgia.  Both of us won Georgia ATS as they covered the 4 points.  Bulldog Babe won the over on that one, while JR thought it would be just under (which it was before stupid overtime).

Lines and spreads are from VegasInsider.com.

January 13 2018: 16:35 EST
Atlanta Falcons (-3, -150) at Philadelphia Eagles (+3, +130) O/U 41

Atlanta Falcons (11-6)
Last eight games: 7-2
Road: 6-3
Against Playoff teams: 3-5 (1-3 on road)

Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
Last five games: 3-2
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 2-1 (0-0 at home)


J.R. Ewing prediction
By far the most intriguing game of the week, when you take the best team in the conference, put them at home, then give them points.  Yes, they do have a backup quarterback.  But backup quarterbacks have had success in the playoffs, such as Jeff Hostetler and Frank Reich.  The Eagles are a more complete team than people think.  However, I do feel like the Falcons are playing their best football of the year and have playoff experience in spades.  I see the Falcons defense continuing to play well and shut down the Eagles for a relatively easy Falcons win.

Final Prediction: Falcons 27, Eagles 13

Bulldog Babe prediction:
This game is tough to predict, to be honest. Atlanta and Philly are both great teams, but there can only be one team good enough to make it to the NFC Championship and I feel like the Eagles are the team. They lost Carson Wentz in the regular season due to a torn ACL, but they have proven they can win through adversity. This weekend will be the same way. Philly wins. 34-20.

Final Prediction: Eagles 34, Falcons 20

January 13, 2018: 20:15 EST
Tennessee Titans (+13.5, +700) at New England Patriots (-13.5, -1100) O/U 48

Tennessee Titans (10-7)
Last five games: 2-3
Road: 4-5
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (2-1 on road)

New England Patriots (13-3)
Last twelve games: 11-1
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 5-2 (1-2 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
You just don't see point spreads this wide in the playoffs.  Unless you're talking about the Patriots, who had a similar easy first game last year against the Houston Texans (who actually kept it closer than experts thought).  I've railed all year that the Patriots defense isn't that good.  The Titans aren't exactly world beaters, but with Derrick Henry toting the rock and Marcus Mariota creating, this ends up close. Within the points.

Final Prediction: Patriots 31, Titans 24

Bulldog Babe prediction:
I’m all for upsets and I think that will happen in this game. The Titans came back against the Chiefs in dominating fashion to get to this game and that is so crazy considering how down they were the entire first half of that game. I feel like if they can play the way they did in the second half of the Chiefs game, they will have success against the Patriots. New England I feel like just isn’t as dominant as they used to be and they are completely beatable. I think the Titans will upset them this weekend. 31-27.

Final Prediction: Titans 31, Patriots 27

January 14, 2018: 13:05 EST
Jacksonville Jaguars (+7, +300) at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7, -400) O/U 41

Jacksonville Jaguars (11-6)
Last seven games: 4-3
Road: 4-4
Against Playoff teams: 2-3 (1-1 on road)

Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)Last eleven games: 10-1
Home: 6-2
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (2-2 at home)


J.R. Ewing prediction
The Steelers are playing some of the best ball now having only lost one game to the Patriots in their last 11.  And some thing they actually won that game on a controversial TD reversal.  The Steelers are way too much at home and Jacksonville's defense, while good, won't be able to keep their offense in the game.  Steelers win pretty easily.

Final Prediction: Steelers 27, Jaguars 17

Bulldog Babe prediction:
The rematch from week 5. I don’t think the Steelers will let what happened in week 5 happen again, that was just the one down game they had. I know that getting Antonio Brown back will be huge for the Pittsburgh offense and it will be a factor in how they perform. The absence of Ryan Shazier still looms upon the Pittsburgh defense, but they’ve been able to get after the quarterback and defend the ball really well. I think the Steelers will have enough in the tank this time to get a win & a berth to the AFC Championship.

Final Prediction: Steelers 27, Jaguars 10
 
January 14, 2018: 16:40 EST
New Orleans Saints (+5, +190) at Minnesota Vikings (-5, -230) O/U 46.5

New Orleans Saints (12-5)
Last seven games: 4-3
Road: 4-4
Against Playoff teams: 5-4 (2-3 on road)

Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
Last twelve games: 11-1
Home: 7-1
Against Playoff teams: 3-2 (2-0 at home)

J.R. Ewing prediction
I feel like the Vikings aren't nearly getting the credit they deserve.  Just one loss since October 1.  Case Keenum isn't a game manager, look at the numbers he put up in college.  The Saints, while strong, had a tough game last week and will be tough to get that much energy back up again.  The Vikings win this one relatively pedestrian.

Final Prediction: Vikings 27, Saints 20

Bulldog Babe prediction:
The Vikings have surprised me this season, I can’t believe they’re in the playoffs and were even able to get a first round bye. With a week off, they will be healthy to compete with Drew Brees and the Saints, who are coming off of an incredible win over the Panthers last week. This will be a close one, I feel like and I have the Vikings in this one. I think they can keep their composure and strength long enough to get to the NFC Championship.

Final Prediction: Vikings 27, Saints 24

Can you believe there are only seven football games left this season?  And four are this week.  Don't miss out, find a way to watch!

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