Joey P’s NFL Divisional Picks

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The top two seeds in each conference take the field to see if they – and I – can prove their worth.

Wild Card Weekend provided a mixed bag for me. I got both Saturday games wrong but then hit on both Sunday contests, including a very close score on the Saints’ win over Carolina.

Saturday’s Games

(6) Atlanta 19, (1) Philadelphia 13: When it comes to starting quarterbacks, all four of this weekend’s games have a wide disparity between the competitors. Nick Foles hasn’t had a post-season baptism by fire. Matt Ryan has. And the Falcons boast a defense that went on the road and clamped down on a good Rams’ offense in the Wild-Card round. Put the two together, and Atlanta should keep the Eagles at bay.

(1) New England 27, (5) Tennessee 10: The Titans’ magical run – aided and abetted by Kansas City’s continuing home playoff drought – will end on a cold Saturday night in Foxborough. MA. Sure, this Patriot team doesn’t look nearly as dominating as some of its other title-winning squads, especially on defense. But New England has enough to beat the up-and-down Titans. And let’s not question (for even a minute) how the Pats will respond to those bombshell headlines about its intra-team conflict. I expect New England to circle the wagons … again.

Sunday’s Games

(2) Pittsburgh 23, (3) Jacksonville 20: The Jaguars will come to Heinz Field with a lot of confidence. Jacksonville has a young, fast defense and an early-season win in Pittsburgh under its belt. But this January, where the rubber meets the road. Even with a leaky run defense, the Steelers know how to steer through the playoff traffic jam. But I still think the Jaguars will make a game of it, putting a fright into Steelers’ partisans. It’s just not their time … at least not yet.

(4) New Orleans 31, (2) Minnesota 24: Entering the postseason it was obvious that the NFC had more good teams than the AFC. Is it any surprise, then, that I’m picking both home teams to lose? That includes Minnesota. Yes, Case Keenum and a good Vikings defense have written an incredible story this year. And, yes, this team has gone farther than any potential Super Bowl host in recent memory. But the Saints are balanced and have the best, overall team that they’ve fielded in a very long time. A victory sends them home to the Bayou for the NFC title game. That’s why I like the Saints in a close one.


About Joe Platania

Veteran beat writer, Joe Platania, is entering his 39th year in Baltimore media. He covers sports with insight, humor, and prescient eye. A former longtime member in good standing of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and the Pro Football Writers of America, Platania manned the CFL Stallions beat for The Avenue Newspaper Group of Essex (1994 and ’95) and the Ravens beat since the team’s inception — one of only three local writers to do so — for PressBox, The Avenue, and other local publications and radio stations. A sought-after contributor and host on talk radio and TV, he often appears on “Inside PressBox” (10:30 a.m. Sundays) and he can be heard at 10 a.m. Saturdays on the “Purple Pride Report,” WQLL-AM (1370). He has also appeared on WMAR-TV’s “Good Morning Maryland” (2009), Comcast SportsNet’s “Washington Post Live” (2004-06), and WJZ-TV’s “Football Talk” postgame show — with legend Marty Bass (2002-04). Platania is the only sports journalist in Maryland history to have been a finalist for both the annual Sportscaster of the Year award (1998, which he won) and Sportswriter of the Year (2010). He is also a four-time Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association award winner. Platania is a graduate of St. Joseph’s (Cockeysville), Calvert Hall College High School, and Towson University, where he earned a degree in Mass Communications. He lives in Cockeysville, MD.

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