Posted: 1/11/2018 1:39:49 PM
Hi everyone, this is Professor MJ, I hope you are doing well! Last week all four underdogs beat the spread, so since I picked two favorites and two dogs, I got two picks right and two picks wrong.
This week we’ve got another slate of four games for the divisional round in the NFL, including some very interesting matchups. The top two seeds from each conference are now entering the big dance, so it’s time to separate the men from the boys. Let’s do this!
PICK #1: Atlanta Falcons -2.5 at Philadelphia Eagles
Here is a very interesting stat about this game: according to Dan Hanzus from NFL.com, since 1998 we’ve seen 10 quarterbacks starting a playoff game with 3-or-fewer starts in that regular season. Nick Foles from the Eagles will be the 11th this weekend. Guess what is the combined record of those 10 quarterbacks? 3-7? 2-8? No, the answer is 0-10. Wow, that is not reassuring for Eagles fans.
Let’s talk about Nick Foles a little more. After throwing 4 TD passes in his first start against a weak Giants team, he looked really bad in his next two outings. He completed just 47% of his passes, averaged close to 4 yards per attempt, and threw one touchdown pass versus two interceptions. These two contests occurred against the Raiders and the Cowboys, two teams that finished near the middle of the pack in terms of points allowed.
This week, Foles will be facing a stiffer test against a very underrated Falcons defense who played great against the high-octane Rams offense last week. Much talk has been made about the Falcons offense not being as explosive as last year, but not enough talk has been made about how improved their defense is. Last year they finished 25th in yards allowed per game, while they ranked 9th this season. They allowed an average of 25.4 points per game in 2016 versus only 19.7 this year.
That being said, the Eagles defense is very solid too. They finished 4th, both in terms of yards and points allowed in 2017. Last week I mentioned that I do not handicap totals, but that I was tempted to take the under in the Buffalo-Jacksonville game because I expected a very low scoring game, which is what happened with a 10 to 3 score. This week I would probably go with the under in the Atlanta-Philadelphia game as I feel like both teams will struggle to move the ball, especially in a cold weather game and a few showers that are being forecasted as of now.
I’m taking the Falcons in this one, even though I’m a little concerned about the health of star receiver Julio Jones. He has been hampered by injuries throughout the year, and this week won’t be an exception. He did not practice Wednesday as he is bothered by an ankle injury, and you could see him limp a little bit during last week’s game. He will be needed for Atlanta to win this game.
I like the fact that the Falcons gained some valuable playoff experience last year.
By the way, the Eagles are the first #1 seed to open as an underdog in their first playoff game. It’s also interesting to note that Matt Ryan was raised in Pennsylvania.