January 19, 2018

The TGS NFL Playoff Pool: Divisional Round

Are you ready for some football… predictions? TGS is back at it with our NFL Playoff Pool, Divisional Round edition. After a weekend that saw the Falcons go to Los Angeles to take out the Rams, Tennessee continue Kansas City’s playoff woes, and the Jaguars and Saints hold serve at home, it’s now on to the final eight teams.

A group of our best and brightest have assembled to tell you who will win, who will lose, and how confident you should be in each pick. We assign anywhere from 1 to 4 points to each game. You pick the game right, you get the points for that game. Here’s how we did last week:

1. Lindsey Schoon: 10 points – a perfect week!

2. Jake Ohlde: 8 points

T-3. Austin Narber and Matthias Schwartzkopf: 6 points

T-5. Shaun Curran and Spencer Hughes: 4 points

7. Jacqueline Cordova: 2 points

8. Nicole Gustafson: 0 points (but missed the first week, so gets a break)

It’s still anyone’s game, so let’s see how we do from here. Let us know what you think of our picks here or on Twitter, and enjoy the games this weekend!

Lindsey Schoon

4 points: New England over Tennessee

OHHH SNAP. CHIEEEEEEFS. LOLOLOLOLOLOL. Okay, for real. Is anyone not making this their 4 confidence points game? The Titans’ luck ends on Saturday.

3 points: Minnesota over New Orleans

Drew Brees & company made me stupid levels of worried last week. The Saints are better than Minnesota in almost every major statistical category. I still like the Vikings at home where they haven’t lost in three and a half months.

2 points: Philadelphia over Atlanta

Man, I don’t like this match-up. These two teams are about as even as you can get on paper. Nod to the playoff-victory starved home team. Again. I guess.

1 point: Jacksonville over Pittsburgh

My only rule: always make emotional picks worth the least amount of points. I officially jumped on the Sacksonville bandwagon this weekend. Jags win a tight one.

Jake Ohlde

4 points: New England over Tennessee

The Titans were gifted a win last weekend in Arrowhead, thanks to a poor Chief defense and Alex Smith. I really can’t see a path to them winning in Foxboro in January, unless Tom Brady were to have one of the worst games of his career (though he’s quietly had a down year by his own standards). Still, I think he shreds the subpar Tennessee pass D from the outset, and Marcus Mariota won’t be able to keep up. Pats by a sizable margin.

3 points: Pittsburgh over Jacksonville

This game could’ve gotten really interesting had Antonio Brown been out. Even so, this is shaping up to be a slugfest. The Jaguars tout that fun defense, but they’re bad against the run and that isn’t good news against Le’Veon Bell. Brown should be able to do enough on the outside to keep the pressure off him as well. Blake Bortles got away with a historically terrible performance last Sunday, but not against this Pitt defense.

2 points: Atlanta over Philadelphia

Atlanta’s defense isn’t very desirable on paper and their O hasn’t been as good as last season – but as I said last week, they’ve struck me as a team with all the pieces yet sleepwalked through the regular season. They finally showed flashes in LA last week and are even favored here. Nick Foles is going to have to play well in Carson Wentz’s stead, seeing as the Eagles aren’t a great running team. Philly has lived off their talented defense for most of the year, but I think QB play (Ryan > Foles) ultimately is the difference in this one.

1 point: New Orleans over Minnesota

Two of the NFL’s most efficient teams go head to head in Minneapolis. The intriguing area to watch is NO’s offense going up against Minnesota’s bruising defense, as each unit is the team’s backbone. One of the Vikings’ few soft(er) spots is their run defense, and I suspect the Saints will make a conscious effort to get Kamara as many carries as possible. Case Keenum has had a Cinderella season, but I think it finally comes to an end facing the Saints’ opportunistic defense and Drew Brees outplaying him late in the game. Minnesota’s playoff woes continue.

Austin Narber

4 points: New England over Tennessee

THE PATRIOTS ARE GONNA WIN THE FOOTBALL GAME. That’s about it. Big day for Dion Lewis. Tennessee will score more than you think.

3 points: Pittsburgh over Jacksonville

It was just 95 days ago that Jacksonville beat Pittsburgh at Heinz Field 30-9, causing Ben Roethlisberger to lament that he “maybe doesn’t have it anymore.” The Steelers are the pick here because that is simply not going to happen again. And, frankly, this story is writing itself — after all that whining, Roethlisberger will be a game away from the Super Bowl.

2 points: Minnesota over New Orleans

By rule I never bet on my team, but since Spencer is making me: Skol Vikings. Two key stats to keep an eye on: 1) Minnesota allows a league-best 30.6 receiving yards to running backs, and 2) they rank 5th against the run according to Football Outsiders. If they can stifle Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara and make Drew Brees throw at these Vikings corners—namely Xavier Rhodes—then this should be over relatively quickly. Brees is 1-4 in road playoff games.

1 point: Philadelphia over Atlanta

Once again, Atlanta appears in my least confident pick. And once again, I am picking them to lose narrowly. I think when you give a team like the Eagles and a city like Philadelphia two weeks off to sit around and listen to everyone talk about how they’re toast without Carson Wentz—unlikely to beat whichever team they’re matched up with—you’re in for a bad time. The Eagles are 13-3 for a reason, and it’s not just Wentz.

Matthias Schwartzkopf

4 points: New England over Tennessee

Tom Brady and Beill Belichick are too proven in the playoffs and that experience will take over in the second half and the patriots will pull away from the Titans.

3 points: Pittsburgh over Jacksonville

As much as I wouldn’t mind the Jaguars making a run in the playoffs. Unfortunately the Steelers are going to be a bit too much for them. The Jags defense will allow them to hang around but I don’t think Blake Bortles and company has enough offense to pull it off.

2 points: Atlanta over Philadelphia

The Falcons have found their stride and the Eagles are without Wentz. Philly is still talented enough to hang in there and maybe pull it off which is why this pick is down here.

1 point: Minnesota over New Orleans.

Look, these are the Vikings. We know what happens to the Vikings in the playoffs. The vikings have the better team but I am still not confident in that.

Shaun Curran

4 points: New England over Tennessee

This is the only matchup in my mind that without a doubt the underdog has absolutely zero chance. Only reason Tennessee won last week is by murdering Travis Kelce on the field. New England wins and it’s not even close.

3 points: Atlanta over Philadelphia

I was very down on the Falcons last week (despite living in Atlanta) but boy was I wrong. Unless 7 TDs 2013 Nick Foles travels to the future and plays this game for the present day version that has 5 TD and 4 turnovers this season, then the Falcons all the way.

2 points: #Sacksonville over Pittsburgh

Part homer pick, part hope – all belief… I got the Jags. It happened earlier this season. When they faced the Steelers in Pittsburgh, they made Big Ben consider retirement with 5 interceptions, beating them 30-9… and the last time my boys made the playoffs 10 years ago they beat the Steelers as a wild card 31-29. In fact, the Steelers are actually 1-4 at home against the Jags. So I’m all in… Sacksonville does the impossible again!!!

1 point: New Orleans over Minnesota

This is a tough one… I want to say Minnesota so badly because they have been beastly all season. Keenum is a stud and put Bradford and Teddy out of work. Buuuuuut… I never bet against Brees, and let’s not forget Kamara is still breathing too.

Spencer Hughes

4 points: New England over Tennessee

Let’s not waste our time on this. This is a historically bad Divisional Round playoff matchup. New England is a Super Bowl favorite and the Titans are in the bottom tier of teams that have made the playoffs since the expansion to 32. The Patriots will win, and they will win big.

3 points: Pittsburgh over Jacksonville

This pick hurts me. I have grown to love the Sacksonville football culture over the last few months. As an Iowa State fan, I can totally respect the scrappy, small market squad that is a laughingstock for years who’s finally figuring it out. That defense will keep them in the game, but the Jags offense looked horrendous against Buffalo last week. In Pittsburgh? Forget it. A low-scoring game here, but one that Pittsburgh takes to set up the much-anticipated Steelers-Patriots conference title game.

2 points: Minnesota over New Orleans

SKOL VIKINGS. We are back and better than ever, itching for revenge for the 2009 NFC Championship Game. I am biased, but I do believe the winner of this game will be a heavy favorite to advance to the Super Bowl as the two best teams in the NFC will get after it on Sunday. We hear a lot about Brees, Kamara, and Thomas going up against the Vikings’ stingy defense, but what about the other side? It will come down to Case Keenum protecting the football and Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen making plays. I believe they will and home field advantage will be the difference. Kai Forbath hits a game-winner as Vikings fans everywhere can’t bear to watch, and Minnesota advances.

1 point: Philadelphia over Atlanta

I went back and forth on this one for a while. In the end, I’m taking the top-seeded team playing at home that’s probably felt disrespected all week for being an underdog. Nick Foles plays just well enough to win the game and the Eagles keep the Vikings from becoming the first team in NFL history to play every postseason game, including the Super Bowl, in their home stadium as they set up a Minnesota at Philadelphia conference title showdown.

Jacqueline Cordova

4 points: New England over Tennessee 

My only explanation in confidence in this game is that as much as I hate the Patriots, they’re indestructible. Even if you think they’re having an off year and have some hints of it, they still surprise you and I hate them for it so I’m most confident they’ll continue to pull through and make me hate them.

3 points: Minnesota over New Orleans

As someone who is proudly an intern of the Minnesota Vikings. We’re taking it all baby. #skol

2 points: Atlanta over Philadelphia

Eagles lost their QB that had them going strong and now they don’t so I think the Falcons are going to pull through and I’ll take that as my risky pick for the week.

1 point: Jacksonville over Pittsburgh

The Jags may have pulled through in week 5 against the Steelers and I’m going to go ahead believe they can do it again because my NFL team isn’t in the playoffs, so I always forget to not be biased and look at it for what the teams are worth. But I’m here to watch the Steelers lose, even though I want *cough cough* Shaun to shed some tears.

Nicole Gustafson

4 points: New England over Tennessee

The Patriots have been dealing with some rumors of tension between Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Robert Kraft. And the Titans did have a huge comeback against the Chiefs in the Wild Card round. But don’t let all of that distract you from the fact that this is a matchup between perennial contenders and a team who didn’t make the playoffs for nine years. I’m happy for Tennessee, but I think it’s going to take a better team to take down Brady.

3 points: Atlanta over Philadelphia

Earlier this season, my pick might have gone differently. But Philly has not looked the same since losing Carson Wentz to a torn ACL and I think the Atlanta defense makes it a rough day for new starting QB Nick Foles. The Los Angeles Rams had the highest scoring offense in the regular season, but the Falcons held them to just 13 points in their Wild Card game. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will take advantage of some turnovers and advance.

2 points: Pittsburgh over Jacksonville

My heart wants to pick the Jags. Who doesn’t love an underdog story? But the Steelers are well known for defense and the Jaguars are still starting… Blake Bortles. I watched the Wild Card game last week between Jacksonville and the Buffalo Bills, which ended in a thrilling score of 10-3. It did not exactly give me the confidence that the Jaguars can score enough points to beat Big Ben and Antonio Brown.

1 point: New Orleans over Minnesota

This game is a toss-up. It should be entertaining as hell, especially with the Saints’ talented offensive stars like Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, and Alvin Kamara facing the Vikings’ strong defense. But here’s the part where I reveal that I am a Green Bay Packers fan living in the NFC North battleground, Iowa. All year long I’ve been listening to the giddy whispers of Vikings fans about playing in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. And I want to see their hearts crushed (again). I want to bathe in their salty Twitter tears as they lament how the world is out to get them. I want to like all the memes about whatever disastrous way they lose. If I get all other games wrong and this one right, I’ll be stoked. Don’t let me down, Saints!

Spencer Hughes
Spencer Hughes 11 Articles
Staff Writer

Spencer is a Cedar Rapids, Iowa native currently located in Jacksonville, Florida. He holds degrees from Iowa State University (B.A., 2014) and Duke University (J.D., 2017) where he learned that you can't choose which is better between Hilton Coliseum and Cameron Indoor Stadium; they're just different. Spencer is a lifelong fan of the Iowa State Cyclones, Minnesota Vikings, Scott's Tots, St. Louis Cardinals, and the Oxford comma. He will discuss college football playoff scenarios or health care legislation with you whenever you want.

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