Atlanta Falcons 10 – 15 Philadelphia Eagles

The NFL divisional weekend started with last years Super Bowl chokers runners-up, the Atlanta Falcons travelling to Philly to take on the Eagles.

The Atlanta Falcons looked good on their first drive and I had hopes that we could be in for a Falcons win but they could only end the drive with a FG to take a 3-0 lead.

There seemed to be a few nerves or bye week rust that had set in amongst the Eagles as they struggled to do the basics, like hand the ball off and keep hold of it. Jay Ajayi fumbled the ball in the early stages of the game but aside from that looked like he was set to have a good game only for his performance to fade as the game went on. He did reappear in the 4th quarter when he caught a swing pass from Foles and took it 32-yards, but other than that, he didn’t look like a game-changer even though he went for 54-yards on the ground and 44-yards through the air. Between Ajayi and Blount, I don’t think the Minnesota Vikings have much to worry about in the Conference game.

Blount did get the first TD of the game, though, as he rumbled in on a run to the right from half a yard out. Kicker Jake Elliot missed the following and his only extra point attempt of the game. This failure was followed by more mishaps by the Eagles as they seemed to be trying to gift the Falcons the game but they didn’t want it. Even when they gave the Falcons good field position after the Atlanta teams punt, they still held on to only be down by one point at the half.

I did laugh out loud at the pass deflected back into an Eagles receivers hands at the end of the first half as it kinda summed up the quality of the game. The tweet by the NFL below shows it.

The game wasn’t brilliant to watch in my opinion but did get exciting at the end as it came down to one play to decide the winner. The Falcons had got to the Eagles 2-yard line and Matt Ryan wanted to hit Julio Jones in the right corner of the endzone to get the win. Jones slipped on the surface that had been giving the players trouble all game so Ryan extended the play by rolling out to the right. He was determined to hit Jones and tried to force the pass but failed.

It ended up 15-10 to the Eagles who progress to the Conference game to face the Vikngs on Sunday at 11:40pm GMT. It’s going to be another late one!

Tennessee Titans 14 – 35 New England Patriots

This was the most one-sided game of a good weekend of football as the ever-ready New England Patriots wiped the floor with the Tennessee Titans.

I do like the Titans and cheer for them whenever I watch them, but in this one, it was easy to see that they were outclassed.

They actually went up by seven after a beautiful one-handed catch by rookie Corey Davis from Marcus Mariota in the back of the endzone. Davis added the Titans only other points when he made another good catch in the endzone in garbage time. He’s definitely going to be a good player for them.

The Patriots just shut Derrick Henry and the Titans running game down as he could only manage 28-yards on 12 attempts for a lowly 2.3-yard average. Ex-Cleveland Brown Dion Lewis, on the other hand, had a great day as he went for 62-yards on 15 carries as well as 79-yards off 9 receptions for the Patriots.

The real Super Bowl 51 MVP, James White, also chipped in with 2 TD’s — 1 on the ground and 1 through the air. Between Tom Brady, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Dion Lewis and James White I think the Jacksonville Jaguars defence is going to be tested thoroughly. Not only do they have to look for them in the flats and across the middle, they have to keep an eye on Brandin Cooks going deep.

This game was done and dusted before the half arrived. At the half, it was 21-7 to the Patriots and they were looking well in control.

The Titans must have missed the excellent RT Jack Conklin more than I thought they would as Marcus Mariota was sacked 8 times for 52-yards lost — not bad for a defence that’s had its doubters all season.

Dion Lewis New England Patriots

Jacksonville Jaguars 45 – 42 Pittsburgh Steelers

What a game this was to start off a fantastic Sunday of NFL Divisional football. Before this game, I really didn’t know who to pick as the winner although I obviously wanted the London Jacksonville Jaguars to win seeing as I’m a Cleveland Browns fan.

Blake Bortles was his usual average self as he completed just over half of his pass attempts but managed to complete the more important ones. He wasn’t picked off or sacked once and his offensive line only allowed 4 pressures on 140 pass plays, according to PFF. Looks like Brandon Linder is earning that good contract he signed earlier in the season.

The brilliant Leonard Fournette played well again even though he suffered an ankle injury on a play where he tried to spin past a tackle only to, seemingly, get his foot caught in the turf. He returned to the game and ended up with 109-yards from 25 attempts and helped himself to 3 TD’s! This guy is an absolute game-changer for the Jaguars and is a big part of why they’ve become the contenders that they are.

Can you imagine how great this team would be with a franchise QB at the helm? I’d love to see Kirk Cousins as the Jaguars QB for the next 5 years but I doubt they can afford him, cap-wise, with what they must be paying that D-line. Add to that the fact that Robinson and Lee will need new contracts if they’re to be retained.

The highly regarded Jaguars defence played well even though they gave up 42 points, but A.J. Bouye got schooled a couple of times by Antonio Brown on fourth downs for touchdowns. This was the stuff of playoff football.

The Three B’s for the Steelers all played well and led the fight back, but it just wasn’t enough, what a shame….not! Brown had 132-yards receiving and 2TDs whilst Bell had 155-yards total and 2TDs.

New Orleans Saints 24 – 29 Minnesota Vikings

I must admit that I kinda stopped watching this one closely after the Vikings went up 17-0 after I’d been looking forward to it all weekend. I soon got focused again once the Saints scored on a Brees to Thomas pass for the TD with 1:18 left in the 3rd quarter. I thought, “Aye up, ‘ere we go!”.

Brees then connected with Thomas again two minutes into the 4th to make it 17-14 to the Vikings — this was getting exciting.

The lead changed hands five times in the last 10-minutes of the game as Kai Forbath battled Brees for a bit on the scoreboard.

Will Lutz hit a FG from 43-yards to make it 24-23 and I had my congratulatory tweet typed in and ready for the Saints on their victory. Then it happened…Keenan lobbed up a pass to the right sideline and just hoped  Diggs would catch it a get out of bounds. He did more than that as rookie safety Marcus Williams messed up big time by lowering his head and missing the certain tackle. No one was more surprised that he hadn’t been hit than Stefon Diggs himself. He couldn’t believe his eyes as the field in front of him was empty and he took it 61-yards to the house for the last second Vikings win and a showdown with the Eagles next week.

It has to be one of the best finishes to a game that I can remember after looking like it was going to be a blowout.

Looks to me like the Vikings will be the first team to contest a Super Bowl in their own stadium as I think they’ll beat the Eagles comfortably.

So, after a fairly slow start to the NFL Divisional round of games, we ended up with some fantastically entertaining games.

Here’s to more of the same next Sunday as the final four go to battle to represent their respective conferences in the big one.