Hello everyone, and welcome to Divisional Round Sunday. This is the most critical day of the postseason yet for the purpose of Falcons fans, who are left with little to root for other than any team beating the Saints. Let that happen today.
This is your open thread for the day, plus some detail on each matchup. Enjoy!
Chargers @ Patriots, 1:05 p.m.
This is one I’m looking forward to. The Patriots have been the AFC’s dynasty for close to two decades now, and arguably the most successful dynasty in NFL history. As a New England-based Falcons fans, that’s been pretty annoying.
Those days may continue, but we’re reaching a tipping point. Tom Brady had another quality season, but is visibly not the same quarterback this season. Rob Gronkowski is falling apart in front of our eyes, and the Pats are more dependent on their ground game than they have been in years. They’re still one of the best and certainly most well-coached teams in the AFC, but they feel less inevitable this year than they have in a long time.
Enter the Chargers, a fun team to root for. Phillip Rivers is another great quarterback nearing the end of his career, but he’s been chasing a ring that entire time and has never gotten one. The Chargers are loaded with interesting young talent, including an opportunistic secondary and fun passing attack, and are good enough to knock off the Patriots. I think that this is the year that New England’s age and cracks show, and the Chargers advance to the AFC Championship Game.
Prediction: Chargers 30, Patriots 21
Eagles @ Saints, 4:40 p.m.
The last time the Saints played the Eagles, they beat them 48-7 and put up over 500 yards of offense. That was the last great game New Orleans played on offense, however, and there are plenty of reasons to think the rematch won’t be nearly so lopsided.
Start with the Eagles. Since losing to the Saints, they are 6-1 (including their last second triumph over the Bears), and have put together some genuinely impressive games on offense. They had to grind one out against the Bears, who have one of the league’s toughest defenses, but they smothered the offense and look much more capable of putting up real yards and points against the Saints this time. You never know when Nick Foles is going to see his pact with the devil wear off, but the Eagles are solid-to-very good across the board and remain a dangerous team.
The Saints, meanwhile, are ringing all the alarm bells a top seed possibly can, and I say that as someone who has seen the Falcons disappoint as top seeds. The Saints have been fading on offense for weeks and weeks now, they have some quiet but fairly significant injuries that might at least limit top players, and they elected to rest their starters in Week 17, potentially leaving them to knock off some rust. They are, unfortunately, still the most complete team in the NFC and should be able to handle this one. I just hope they won’t, and I’ll jinx them now.
Saints 27 – Eagles 24