Predicting this weekend's NFL playoff games

By Steve Sell
January 12, 2018

The NFL’s wild-card round produced one surprise to me and unfortunately it was the Kansas City Chiefs’ 22-21 loss to Tennessee after being ahead 21-3 at the half.

I was correct in that Atlanta would go into Los Angeles and knock off the playoff-inexperienced Rams. The other games for me went according to form.

Now it’s time to get serious as we’re down to the Elite 8.

• New England 31, Tennessee 14 — There’s been a lot of controversy around the Patriots, but what else is new?

Supposedly Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are feuding and owner Robert Kraft isn’t happy about all the allegations.

Again I say, what else is new?

The Patriots thrive on this stuff. They probably secretly like all the turmoil because that gives them motivation.

Let’s be honest, Tennessee had no business beating the Chiefs, especially after facing the first-half deficit. Kansas City’s troubled playoff history reared its ugly head again and it could be a loss that sends the Chiefs back into mediocrity as plenty of changes will be made.

New England will take care of business in an orderly fashion.

• Philadelphia 23, Atlanta 20 — Atlanta is the trendy pick because Philly’s Carson Wentz is out for the season and Nick Foles’ last couple of games at quarterback were non-descript.

But the Eagles don’t need for Foles to be spectacular to win.

First off, Philadelphia is a tough place to play. Its fans’ passion is legendary. They booed Santa Claus, for heaven’s sake.

But I like the Eagles because they are so physical. They’re physical on defense and I look for them to pound the ball at the Falcons with a run-oriented attack. Foles is serviceable and all he has to do is manage the game and not make any big mistakes.

• Pittsburgh 24, Jacksonville 7 — Everyone points back to the Jags pounding the Steelers earlier in the season.

That has no bearing on this game.

Blake Bortels is not a good quarterback. In the Jags’ slumbering win over Buffalo in one of the worst playoff games in recent memory, he had more rushing yards than passing yards. He literally got the “yips” throwing the ball.

I know the Jags have a great defense. But Pittsburgh is rested and hungry. It can’t wait to get another shot at New England, which could very well be a Super Bowl game.

I’ll be shocked if this is close.

• Minnesota 20, New Orleans 17 — The Vikings know if they make the Super Bowl it’s a home game, which has never happened in the history of the big game.

Minnesota is not flashy. It doesn’t overwhelm you. But that defense has been amazing.

I like the Saints. They’re a fun team to watch. But I don’t like them enough to go on the road and pull the upset.