National Football League picks divisional round: Predictions for every game

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National Football League picks divisional round: Predictions for every game

The games kick off Saturday with the No. 6 seed Atlanta Falcons at the No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles, and then the No. 5 Tennessee Titans versus the No. 1 New England Patriots.

Why? Because they are better.

New Orleans Saints running back Zach Line (42). Because that's how the Patriots win (or lose) Super Bowls: by the hairs of the chinny-chin-chins. Because of some troubling locker room rumors circulating I believe this Patriots team will be extra motivated, as if they needed an extra edge to play with. Lewis is a poor man's Le'Veon Bell, which means - to a slightly lesser extent - he's a game-changer.

Lewis, who is also a decent threat through the air (3 TDs), has some help with Rex Burkhead and James White, too.

The Atlanta Falcons are a team that have been tested and somehow pulled through. Marcus Mariota and company have a very tough task ahead of them, however, as Bill Belichick (above, right) and Tom Brady are a tidy 17-3 in the postseason at home (25-9 overall).

Rob Gronkowski saw his mortality last January and February, when the Patriots swept through the playoffs and won the Super Bowl, miraculously, with him on the sidelines.

Much was made during the College Football Playoff about how we wound up with an all-SEC final, and how regionalized the playoff had become. He is coming off a season, like Brady, when he was named the No. 1 player at his position. Two games on Saturday and two on Sunday, a weekend where a permanent imprint can be left on one's couch. My favorite Keenum myth is how the Texans cut him and if they'd just kept him, they'd have their franchise QB, which ignores (a) the two seasons he played in between the Texans cutting him and 2017, and (b) the Texans re fine at QB, thank you.

Championships are usually won by the best team. Ben Roethlisberger will take the field with 20 playoff starts under his belt, including two wins in three Super Bowls, against just one playoff start for Blake Bortles in which he compiled more yards rushing than passing last weekend.

While the average fans knows Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty, and quite possibly Patrick Chung, the rest of the defense is mystery. That won't happen again this week, but the Jacksonville defense is a young, cocky group that will keep this game close. This year, he's been making plays with his physical ability. The decline on the scoreboard has been even worse, Atlanta going from more than 34 points per game to a ho-hum 22.3.

Tennessee improbably came back against the Chiefs last week, earning a date against the defending Super Bowl champs.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune. That's a viable strategy against a bad Patriots run defense. Two turnovers, a pair of sacks, six tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries is plenty of disruption to win a messy game.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan enters Saturday's game with a passer rating of at least 100 in five consecutive postseason games, tied for the second-longest streak in National Football League history. Yes, Ryan and the Falcons have looked impressive the last two weeks. But Eagles' QB situation is a disaster-in-waiting.

The Jaguars will face the Steelers this weekend in Pittsburgh.

I expect Pittsburgh's defense to do a better job against Leonard Fournette than they did earlier this year.

Next month, the Minnesota Vikings will host Super Bowl LII in U.S. Bank Stadium. I like the Saints on both sides of the ball, but is a squad that didn't finish the season playing its best.

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