Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

Super Bowl LII: Ranking top five potential matchups

Super Bowl LII: Ranking top five potential matchups

In the meantime there's a great weekend of playoff action to look forward to. People are essentially penciling in the Falcons for a repeat NFC Championship Game appearance.

That's why Brady's Patriots and Roethlisberger's Steelers are heavy favorites to oust Mariota and Bortles in their AFC divisional matchups this weekend.

Here's my picks for the divisional round.

Now the question becomes whether I trust in Nick Foles. Add in the ESPN.com story that suggests Brady, Belichick and owner Robert Kraft aren't seeing eye-to-eye, and the ingredients seem to be in place for a command performance by a New England team which seems to thrive on turning controversy into motivation. He didn't look good against Oakland or Dallas in a limited role. They took care of business in Los Angeles and are favoured to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia.

The Patriots are 9-1 at home in the playoffs since the 2011 season. That's what Eagles fans will be hoping helps their team win. If they get into a 21-3 hole against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, there probably won't be any digging out of it. The Titans sneaked into the playoffs with a 9-7 record and needed a miraculous second-half comeback to upset the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round. The long time Saints signal caller will be a first ballot Hall of Famer yet will likely be overshadowed for playing in the same era as Aaron Rodgers, Tome Brady, and Peyton Manning. The workhorse back out of Alabama was able to get the max reps with starter DeMarco Murray. (Yeah, I'm with you Clowney!) Another easy play on the better QB at home. I know the Jaguars had their way the last time they visited Pittsburgh, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not throw five interceptions once again, and he will not allow the Jaguars defense to do the scoring for Jacksonville. He did run for 88 yards. Bortles also went without a touchdown pass, while throwing one interception.

The Steelers don't have to be reminded of how good Jacksonville is. But expect the Steelers to commit to the run this time, even if they get behind early. When the rubber meets the road between good offense and good defense, especially in the National Football League playoffs when the sheer volume of recreational money can make a serious impact on the point spread, more often than not the best value is on the good defense.

Kamara punched it in from two yards out in the fourth quarter last week, but was also lined up in the backfield when fullback Zach Line vultured a 1-yard score in the second quarter. First, the Falcons collapsed in the Super Bowl, but then just a couple days ago it looked like the Georgia Bulldogs were going to win the National Championship.but lost in overtime to Alabama. But a well-orchestrated game plan should allow the Titans to keep this one closer than expected.

Pittsburgh will lean on the ground game. Jalen Ramsey has what it takes to limit the damage done by Antonio Brown, who is coming back from injury, and the front seven can slow down Le'Veon Bell. His stat lines in the four games before that were 7-83-1, 6-68-1, 3-28-1, and 7-108-1, with at least eight targets in each game. Additionally, they are 5-1 at home in the postseason since the 2008 season, the second-best record in the National Football League in that time (min. five games). I really think they just need a better quarterback.

It's hard to be a starting quarterback making a playoff debut, no matter how much of a veteran you are. Nearly as telling is that Saints running back Alvin Kamara only rushed for 18 yards.

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