NFL Playoff Bracket 2018: Odds, Predictions for AFC and NFC Divisional Round

If the first weekend of the 2018 NFL playoffs served as an appetizer, the upcoming second round of action is a five-course meal few fans of the sport can ignore. 

The divisional-round games aren't just where the big-name teams such as the New England Patriots join the fray. That's part of it, but this round, in particular, features plenty of noteworthy storylines

For example, the Philadelphia Eagles trying to overcome the loss of what looked like a surefire MVP. Or how about the Tennessee Titans trying to pull off the upset of all upsets? There are also two revenge-narrative games on tap after regular-season classics naturally lead to rematches. 

As the odds out of Las Vegas show, three of the four games look like they could be close affairs. Here's everything to know about the schedule. 

          

Divisional-Round Weekend

Game: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles

Date and Time: Saturday, January 13, at 4:35 p.m. ET 

TV: NBC

Odds: Atlanta (-3), O/U 41

Prediction: Falcons 27, Eagles 24

       

Game: Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots

Date and Time: Saturday, January 13, at 8:15 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Odds: New England (-14) O/U 47

Prediction: Patriots 30, Titans 17

       

Game: Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers

Date and Time: Sunday, January 14, at 1:05 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Odds: Pittsburgh (-7.5) O/U 41

Prediction: Steelers 24, Jaguars 20

       

Game: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

Date and Time: Sunday, January 14, at 4:40 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Odds: Minnesota (-4) O/U 45.5

Prediction: Vikings 23, Saints 21

             

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers

Can the Jacksonville Jaguars pull it off again? 

Think back to Week 5, where these Jaguars made a statement while taking down the Pittsburgh Steelers in 30-9 fashion. It was really an announcement advertising what these Jaguars are—a gritty, run-first team with an elite defense. 

Case in point, Leonard Fournette cruised to 181 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Blake Bortles only threw 14 passes, completing eight of them for 95 yards and an interception.  It didn't matter, though, with the Jaguars picking off Ben Roethlisberger five times. 

Granted, one can't expect the Steelers to get caught so off guard again. As NFL Research noted, though, the Jaguars seem like they're in a great situation: 

But it's also worth pointing out the Jaguars haven't looked great as of late, losing two in a row to close the season and just slipping past the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs, 10-3. 

For comparison's sake, the Steelers won two in a row to close the season and would have won every game dating back to that Week 5 loss were it not for a three-point defeat at the hands of the Patriots. Not only does Big Ben figure to have Antonio Brown on the field, he's been red-hot lately, throwing 16 touchdowns against four interceptions over his past six games. 

On paper, these Jaguars are built to shut down a team like the Steelers. But truthfully, Bortles might have to hoist the Jaguars on his back because Fournette has only averaged more than four yards per carry in a game once over his last six games, playoffs included. 

These Jaguars aren't shocking anyone at this stage of the playoffs, especially on the road. Look for Big Ben to get the Steelers out to the lead, which will force Bortles to the air and create mistakes. 

Prediction: Steelers 24, Jaguars 20

             

New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

Like few would have predicted before the regular season, it is the New Orleans Saints looking for revenge over the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs. 

Way back in Week 1, the Saints hit the road to visit the Vikings and went down hard, losing 29-19 while Drew Brees only tossed one touchdown compared to three for Sam Bradford

Of course, this loss went down before the Saints really figured out what they had in the form of rookie running back Alvin Kamara, who went on to rush for 728 yards and eight touchdowns on a 6.1 per-carry average. 

Kamara's development is likely one reason Brees isn't too worried about the prior loss. 

"It's night and day," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said, according to Joel Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate. "You're still trying to find yourself, you're still trying to establish your identity, so that feels like ages and ages ago."

But these Vikings have undergone some noteworthy positive change as well, including getting a 67.6 completion percentage from Case Keenum alongside his 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His defense only allowing 15.8 points (first) and 83.6 rushing yards (second) per game helped, and it casts this playoff encounter in an interesting light. 

It isn't too hard to see why oddsmakers feel the way they do about this one. New Orleans isn't just on the road, it struggled at home against the iffy Carolina Panthers in the first round of the playoffs. There, the Saints coughed up two passing scores, a 4.1 per-carry average to Carolina's ground game and the strong Saints running back duo mustered 1.9 yards per carry on the ground. 

These Vikings won't flinch at a Saints running game that couldn't get it going against the Panthers. Struggles there will force Brees into a predictable attack on the road while the balanced, Keenum-led offense does what it normally does. 

At home, look for the Vikings to sit on the ball and keep the Saints away from the lead all night. 

Prediction: Vikings 23, Saints 21

            

Stats courtesy of NFL.com. Odds according to OddsShark.


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