Daily Fantasy NFL Playoffs: Divisonal Recap and Look Ahead to the Conference Championship Round FanDuel and DraftKings 1/15/17
We are headed into the Conference Finals weekend of NFL action with arguably the worst group of quarterbacks (collectively) to vie for the Super Bowl. Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Nick Foles join Tom Brady (the only guy saving the group) will headline Championship Sunday following a crazy Divisional weekend in the NFL. Oh, what a weekend it was, capped off by one of the most memorable endings to a playoff game in recent memory. Let’s take a look at a quick thought or two for each team heading into this coming Sunday.
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Philadelphia Eagles 15 - Atlanta Falcons 10
No Wentz, Kind of No Problem
This is something of an overstatement of course considering the Eagles snuck out of a home win against the Falcons on Saturday. It came down to a terrible play call by the Falcons in which they cut the field down by two thirds on the Matt Ryan rollout and still had the ball slide through Julio Jones’s hands in the end zone. But a win is a win and the Eagles clearly had a game plan heading into this matchup. Their strategy was to run the ball as much as possible and limit the times Nick Foles had to make any real high leverage throws. Folks was adequate, if unspectacular, though did clearly improve as the game went on. He completed 77% of his passes but only two were for 20 yards or more and one of those was a screen to Ajayi.
The Eagles stuck to the ground game, running the ball 32 times with Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount combining for the majority (24 carries total). That’s going to be a taller order this weekend against the Vikings who ranked 5th in DVOA against the run this season and just held the top yards per carry team in the league to a 24/80/0 line. The Eagles will almost definitely have to open the offense up this weekend if the ground game can’t gain any real traction early. But it is encouraging that Foles at least seemed competent, if unspectacular.
New England Patriots 35 - Tennessee Titans 14
Down 7-0? Who Cares, these are the Patriots.
For about 15 and a half minutes, Titans-land had a feeling of “Oh man, we might be able to do this” running through their veins. That is until Tom Brady and the Patriots actually started playing and blew the doors off Tennessee. The Titans went into the start of the second quarter with a 7-0 lead after an impressive 95 yard, five minute drive in which Marcus Mariota looked like his legs were going to cause the Pats real problem. But this is New England and after the second quarter began, the game was basically never in doubt.
Brady settled into his usual self, throwing for 337 yards and three touchdowns while spreading the ball into plus matchups all over the field. Four Patriots’ receivers had nine targets or more with Danny Amendola exploiting under routes all day long. This kind of balanced approach is vintage Pats and is one of the many reasons they are so difficult to deal with. They were effective on the ground as well with Dion Lewis/ Brandon Bolden/ James White group averaging 4.3 yards per carry and also causing fits running routes out of the backfield (Lewis and White combined for 17 targets). They are huge -9 home favorites going into this weekend against Jacksonville and should be punching a ticket to the Super Bowl.
Jacksonville Jaguars 45 - Pittsburgh Steelers 42
Blake Bortles, Career 2-0 in the playoffs
We are in legit LOL territory here. Bortles will enter the Conference Championships on the back of his team’s defense and their run game. Because man, his playoff numbers are really something. In the two games, he’s 26-49 for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Again, that’s two games combined. He’s made hay with his legs, running for a combined 123 yards and bailing out the Jaguars late in downs. That’s going to be a tall order in a game against the Patriots in which Jacksonville could be playing fro behind. But that was supposed to be the case this weekend on the road against Pittsburgh, and we saw how that turned out.
Considering the Jaguars’ defense though, we don’t need to expect the world from Bortles. They stymied the Steelers early, forced a turnover, hit the ground running and allowed Jacksonville to play their ground and pound offense to an early lead. This changed the narrative of the game and allowed Bortles to play from a position of strength. The Steelers were forced on to their heels in catchup.
Seemingly, the only chance Jacksonville has this week is for Bortles to play out of his mind, greatly improving on what he’s done early in these playoffs. It could be a bridge too far, though we have seen New England susceptible on defense. And remember, Blake is undefeated in his playoff career. That has to mean something, right?
Minnesota Vikings 29 - New Orleans Saints 24
Wow. Just, wow.
Now that, my friends, was a game. 20 points were scored in the final three minutes of fourth quarter action, punctuated by a play that will likely go down as one of the most exciting endings to a playoff game ever. It’s a shame that Marcus Williams’s angle at the tackle comes as the focal point (it was clearly a mistake*) in what ultimately was a fantastic last ditch effort drive by Case Keenum and company.
Minnesota is now in the driver’s seat on the road to the Super Bowl as a -3.5 road favorite against the Eagles. The Vikings have such a balanced team that it’s quite difficult imagining them losing this game to Philly though if these playoffs have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is predictable.
*Williams missed the tackle for sure. On the other hand, the angle he took would have likely landed Diggs in bounds and ended the game had he clipped even a tiny portion of his leg. Had Diggs done out of bounds Forbath is lining up for a very makable (though not assured) 50 yard field goal.