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The Atlanta Falcons lost one of the more heartbreaking games in American professional sports history when it blew a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI last February.
However, Atlanta may get a chance to exact revenge, as it is just two games from returning to the Super Bowl. Likewise, the Pats are two wins away from earning a chance to win their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
Both teams will face off in divisional-round matchups Saturday, and both happen to be favored, per OddsShark.
Read on for the playoff schedule and score picks and analysis for Saturday’s contests. All spreads and over/under totals are according to OddsShark.
Saturday, January 13, at 4:35 p.m. ET on NBC: Atlanta Falcons (-3, 41 O/U) at Philadelphia Eagles
Saturday, January 13, at 8:15 p.m. ET on CBS: Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (-13.5, 48.5 O/U)
Sunday, January 14, at 1:05 p.m. ET on CBS: Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7, 41 O/U)
Sunday, January 14, at 4:40 p.m. ET on Fox: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (-5, 46.5 O/U)
Sunday, January 21, at 3 p.m. ET: AFC Championship on CBS (lowest-seeded AFC team at highest-seeded AFC team)
Sunday, January 21, at 6:30 p.m. ET: NFC Championship on Fox (lowest-seeded NFC team at highest-seeded NFC team)
Super Bowl LII
Sunday, February 4, at 6:30 p.m. ET: AFC champion vs. NFC champion on NBC (game will be played in Minneapolis)
Saturday Score Picks
Falcons 27, Eagles 13
Patriots 42, Titans 17
Atlanta Falcons Defense Shuts Down Philadelphia Eagles Offense
The Atlanta Falcons only allowed an average of 16.9 points per game in their past seven contests (including the playoffs).
Those matchups include a 22-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers to close the regular season and a 26-13 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, who scored a league-leading 29.9 points per game. Atlanta has also allowed more than 23 points just twice in 17 games.
The defense is fast and hard-hitting, led by linebacker Deion Jones (team-leading 91 tackles and three interceptions) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (team-leading 9.5 sacks).
Cornerback Desmond Trufant is also one of the best in the business at his position. The X-factor may be rookie linebacker Takkarist McKinley, who accrued five sacks in his past eight games (including playoff games). The defense is much stronger with McKinley forming a tough one-two pass-rush punch with Clayborn.
If the Falcons can hold the Rams to 13, you figure they could do the same against the Philadelphia Eagles, who lost starting quarterback Carson Wentz for the year to a torn ACL in Week 14.
Philadelphia scored 34 in their first full game without Wentz, but the offense struggled to score 19 against a below-average Oakland Raiders defense in Week 16.
The Eagles showed no signs of life on offense in a 6-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys to close the regular season, but the starters did not play the whole game.
Still, the Falcons and Eagles look like two ships passing in the night, and the pick is to roll with the hot hand of the Atlanta defense.
New England Patriots Jump Out to Early Lead and Never Look Back
The Tennessee Titans engineered an excellent comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs during the Wild Card Round, scoring 19 unanswered points to turn a 21-3 deficit into a 22-21 victory.
As impressive as quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back Derrick Henry and the defense were during that 30-minute stretch, one has to wonder whether that comeback would have occurred had Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce not suffered a concussion at the end of the second quarter following a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Kelce was a major problem in the first half, as he caught four passes for 66 yards and one touchdown. The Titans defense (like most defenses) did not have the personnel to match up with the former Cincinnati Bearcat.
Tennessee’s problem Saturday is that it faces a tight end that is as good (or perhaps even better) than Kelce in the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski. For the season, the eighth-year pro amassed 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games (in reality 13, as he was more or less used as a decoy against the New York Jets in Week 17).
If the Titans’ main focus is neutralizing Gronkowski, then they may have other problems on their hands. Running back Dion Lewis has emerged as a workhouse in the past two gameweeks, scoring four touchdowns. Pats wideout Brandin Cooks is one of the best deep threats in the game and can take the top off any defense.
And according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, New England should be getting back wideout Chris Hogan, who torched the Pittsburgh Steelers to the tune of nine catches, 180 yards and two touchdowns in the AFC Championship Game last year.
At the helm of all this is quarterback Tom Brady, who is a front-runner for the league’s MVP, and head coach Bill Belichick, winner of five Super Bowls during his time in New England.
It’s hard to see the Titans pulling off an upset here. Better odds exist of the Pats blowing out the Titans and pulling starters in the fourth quarter.