NFL Weekly Predictions: Divisional

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Atlanta @ Philadelphia (+2½)

The Falcons upset the Rams, 26-13, in Los Angeles to earn a date with the top-seeded Eagles. Atlanta's balanced offense controlled the tempo, while their defense slowed the Rams high-powered offense.

"Just like Jeff Fisher did," Matt Ryan said, "we 'left Los Angeles in good shape.'

"The Los Angeles Coliseum has hosted two Olympic games. As if we needed another reminder of our Super Bowl collapse last year, the Olympic logo consists of five rings, the same as the New England Patriots.

"We're confident heading to Philadelphia, but we certainly don't plan on taking the Eagles lightly. They're playing at home, and they have those crazy home fans on their side. Remember, these are the people who booed and assaulted Santa Claus with snowballs. But even Saint Nick knows who the best quarterback in this game is, and it ain't Nick."

In the wake of Carson Wentz's season-ending injury in Week 14, the Eagles Super Bowl aspirations lie with Nick Foles.

"When Carson went down with the injury," Doug Pederson said, "most people thought our Super Bowl chances had been 'Nixed.' Not so. Nick can do anything Carson can do, just not as well, or not as quickly, or not as strongly, or not at all.

"Vegas has us listed as underdogs. My players should take that as a slap in the face. If they don't, then they should take this as a slap in the face: my money's on the Falcons and the points. I'm just kidding, I would never bet against my own team. I just want them to play with a chip on their shoulder. Most of 'em will tell you that's better than having a 'Chip' on the sideline.

"To win, we'll have to play our tails off. As Donovan McNabb would say, 'You gotta leave it all on the field.' Actually, I wanted Donovan to give us a pep talk in person, but he was busy. So he sent us a text message; it said, 'I know you want it.'"

The raucous Philly crowd gets amped when native sons Hall And Oates sing the "Star Spangled Banner." Eagles fans display the "national bird," a collective middle finger aimed at the Falcons and their inferior avian mascot.

Pederson gives Foles the green light early, and with pristine protection from their offensive line, the Eagles build an early lead. Then the Eagles pass rush gets in Matt Ryan's face, and "Matty Ice" melts under the pressure.

Philadelphia wins, 28-18.

Tennessee @ New England (-13½)

The Titans stormed back from a 21-3 halftime deficit to stun the Chiefs, 22-21, at Arrowhead Stadium. Marcus Mariota passed for 2 touchdowns, one to himself, and Dick LeBeau's second half defensive adjustments held Kansas City scoreless in the second half.

"You heard right," Mike Mularkey said. "Mariota caught his own touchdown pass. It sounds crazy, doesn't it? It makes more sense when you say 'Marcus intercepted his pass and returned it for a touchdown.'

"Once again, Labeau displayed his defensive genius. Dick's 80-years-old, and at that age, he's adding wrinkles everyday, especially to our defense. He's so old, when he dials up blitzes, they're on a rotary phone. Dick was once called the 'Father of the Zone Blitz.' That nickname doesn't do him justice. It needs more superlatives. So let's call him the 'Great, Grandfather of the Zone Blitz.'

"I'm not sure what's going on in Foxboro. But I sure would like to be a fly on the wall in that facility. Actually, I'd like to be a 'bug' on the wall there. But jeez, it would be so crowded!"

The Patriots spent much of their bye week trying to quell rumors that there is a rift brewing between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Reports allege that Brady demanded the Jimmy Garoppolo trade as a show of loyalty to him.

"I'm not going to lower myself by responding to this," Brady said. "My five Super Bowl rings speak for themselves, so I'm just going to plead the 'fifth.' Besides, if I was going to not be completely honest with an answer, I would do it with the help of my personal trainer/adviser/body coach/witch doctor Alex Guerrero. Alex's famed pliability and flexibility exercises make stretching the truth easy.

"The truth is, Coach Belichick, Robert Kraft, and myself are all on the same page. But enough about the 'titans' of New England, let's focus on the Titans of Tennessee. Their coach is terribly underrated. When people call him a 'shitty' coach, it's only because his last name is synonymous with poop.

"We love our matchups against the Titans defense, particularly that of Rob Gronkowski. I've told Rob I expect him to do great things against the Titans. I said, 'Rob, I want you to do a number on the Tennessee defense.' He replied, 'Is that number 69?' Then he cracked open a beer, slammed it, then he pulled a 'Sebastian Janikowski' and 'spiked that drink.'"

Controversy erupts early at Gillette Stadium when a clever Titans fan in a Lee Corso mask displays a sign that reads "The TB12 Sports Therapy Center is a Rub and Tug" before he's manhandled by Pats fans. Fittingly, the Pats spank the Titans.

The Patriots rush for 153 yards and 2 scores, while Brady adds a pair of TD tosses.

New England wins, 33-16.

Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh (-7½)

The Jaguars beat the visiting Bills 10-3 in a sloppy contest at EverBank Field that now sends Jacksonville to a divisional round matchup at Pittsburgh, where the Jaguars won 30-9 in the regular season.

"It wasn't pretty," Doug Marrone said. "But we walked out of there with a 'W,' and so did Blake Bortles and Tyrod Taylor, if their quarterback skills were graded on an A to Z scale. But like the Bills, we're stuck with the quarterbacks we have, and we have to make do, even if they're making 'do do.'

"I trust my defense to keep us in games. For everything our offense can't do, the defense more than makes up for it. So, 'Sacksonville' has 'Lacksonville's' back.

"We're going to put the games in the hand of the defense, and pray to God that Bortles doesn't do the same. I'm not a religious man, but if Jesus was a Jags fan, I'm sure his first order of business would be performing a miracle by walking on water in the pool at EverBank Stadium. His next order of business would be to have Mary Magdalene give him a most thorough foot-washing."

The Steelers cause will be boosted by the return of Antonio Brown, who missed the last two regular season games with a calf injury.

"Antonio has been rehabbing with the help of Chad Johnson," Mike Tomlin said. "I can't speak for his calf, but I'm guessing he's got a leg up on some nifty new touchdown celebrations. What happens when 'Ocho Cinco' and 'Ocho Cuatro' get together? Spanish fly patterns, of course.

"We'll certainly have revenge on our minds. We were embarrassed back in early October. Ben Roethlisberger threw 5 interceptions in that game. That may have been Ben's worst game as a professional. And he was tore up about it. He was so distraught afterwards that he locked himself in the bathroom.

"We have to be mindful of Bortles' running ability. I'd venture to say Bortles' two legs are more dangerous than his one arm. Look, we're not foolish enough to call him 'trash,' but if he's not with the Jaguars next season, he will have been a victim of a 'dumpster fire.'"

If you've been present inside the Jaguars facility, you've no doubt heard someone say, "Just get us 2 touchdowns, and we'll take it from there." The question is, who said it? The defense to the offense, or the offense to the defense?"

Chris Boswell kicks 4 field goals, and Le'Veon Bell catches 8 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Steelers win, 23-13.

New Orleans @ Minnesota (-3½)

The No. 2-seeded Vikings are well-rested after earning a bye and are looking for the first of two wins needed to put them in the Super Bowl on their home field.

"Let me just start by saying that Case Keenum is our starting quarterback," Mike Zimmer said. "And that concludes my 'State of the Obvious' address.

"We're excited at the possibility of playing the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium. I can only imagine how hard it will to find a ticket for that. Scalpers should have a field day. It's no telling what kind of 'Skol-duggery' they'll engage in.

"But we don't want to look too far down the road. We're focused on the Saints. They, like us, have a common goal: reaching the NFC Championship Game. And they, like us, saw their fortunes turn for the better when they unloaded Adrian Peterson. I guess he taught us both the importance of making a switch. There was a time when A.P.'s breakaway speed made him most likely to say 'goodbye.' Not anymore. His best days are behind him. You can't call him 'All Day' anymore; His new nickname is 'Yester Day.'"

The Saints leaned on their defense late to preserve a 31-26 win over the Panthers in the Superdome. After a failed fourth down conversion late gave the Panthers the ball at midfield, the New Orleans defense held, punching their ticket to Minnesota for the divisional round.

"We sacked Cam Newton to seal the win," Sean Payton said. "Cam certainly can't blame himself for the loss, mostly because we 'cleared his conscience' for him.

"I made a gutsy fourth down call that we didn't convert. That was a tension-filled moment. Honestly, I couldn't watch, so I did what I do best — I looked the other way.

"The Minnesota defense is a formidable bunch. But I think our defense is just as good. And we're gonna come after Case Keenum. Trust me, he will feel their presence. I don't want my guys to just pressure him, I want them to hit him. As I've said before, I expect my defenders to 'aim high,' like, at the head. And the payoff, I mean the result, will be a New Orleans win. Remember, the last time the Vikes and Saints met in the playoffs, Brett Favre got knocked around so much, he now chooses to prove his mettle with copper and not 'iron.'"

Saints win, 24-23.

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