When it comes to identifying the top dogs on this weekend's betting board, the notion of the NFL being a quarterback-driven league goes head-to-head with the adage that defense wins championships.
However, there could be other surprises.
Alualu put up his most productive year of his career in his first year in Pittsburgh, racking a career highs in sacks with 4 to go with 39 tackles from his defensive end spot.
Even before that there was 2007 when despite the Spygate allegations, the Patriots went undefeated in the regular season before falling to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Those would all pose perhaps more interesting contests. They ran for 208 yards in that game and will have to focus on a similar offensive approach this time around as well. The Titans sneaked into the playoffs with a 9-7 record and needed a miraculous second-half comeback to upset the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round.
Unfortunately, injuries will be one of the major storylines heading into the divisional round.
Of all the games this weekend, I think this will be the closest and most exciting.
Pittsburgh will lean on the ground game.
New England is allowing 5.73 yards per play this season, worse than every team except the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
When Ryan plays in his 10th postseason game Saturday, he'll become one of eight active quarterbacks - along with Brady, Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Brees, Eli Manning and Russell Wilson - with double-digit starts in the playoffs.
To date, there have been a total of 492 postseason games played during the Super Bowl Era dating back to 1966.
Something's gotta give, and if it's any indication DVOA's #1 defense has only been an underdog of a touchdown or more twice in this decade. I like Jacksonville on the road, especially after they handled Pittsburgh during the regular season. The team's good, but not great, defense held the Rams to just 13 points after LA averaged almost 30 points in the regular season.
With only four teams left in the two NFL conferences, football fans are now speculating how the 52 Super Bowl Championship will turn out in early February. But with his ACL tear, Nick Foles is the starting QB and I doubt he manages to pull through this game. And with this being a best bet, there's more to it than that.
Either way, it has been a long time since a team has had the shot that the Vikings do. The Vikings have a great defense with a well managed offense. All four semifinal participants were, more or less, in the southwest quadrant of the country, and the two finalists were driving distance from the finals venue in Atlanta. Yes, Ryan and the Falcons have looked impressive the last two weeks. With Carson Wentz it would be a different story.
- Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is averaging 104.7 receiving yards per game in the postseason, the best average in league history (minimum six games). They beat the Rams by 13, covering the spread by nearly 20 points in the process, so what's the harm in upgrading them and making this line Falcons -3? The Atlanta Falcons have a strong defense, so Foles will have his hands full any way you look at it.
Both teams possess stingy defenses and solid running games, but Brees is much more experienced than Vikings quarterback Case Keenum. But its run defense will get a test from Henry and Mariota, who in the last two games has given a needy offense a big boost with his ability to create plays with his feet. Agholor has enjoyed a 22% target rate with Foles, compared with 16% with Wentz under center.