The Falcons defence wasn’t exactly great last week against the Rams, but for all of Robert Woods’ 142 yards, he did fail to find the end zone. Atlanta also recorded six hits and three sacks on Jared Goff, making this week’s match-up against Nick Foles all the more intriguing. If the Eagles are smart they’ll keep things nice and conservative early, which plays into Zach Ertz’s hands quite literally. He’ll be matched up with safety Keanu Neal on Sunday, a bright-eyed 22-year old who has allowed seven catches and a touchdown to opposing tight ends in his last six games. Since this is Foles’ first playoff start since 2014, expect him to be looking for Ertz over the middle of the field early and often. The Eagles’ star tight end scored all eight of his touchdowns in the red zone during the regular season, making this one a safe bet.
It feels like the torch finally passed from DeMarco Murray to Derrick Henry last week. The Titans’ second-string running back exploded for 156 rushing yards and a touchdown in the win over the Chiefs, and against a Patriots defence that struggled to contain opposing backs all season, this could get scary. It wasn’t on the ground where New England struggled though, it was in the air. The Patriots allowed the second most receiving yards (841) and tied for the third most touchdowns allowed (4) to running backs last year. Marcus Mariota will be eager to find a second receiving option to tight end Delanie Walker, a target the Patriots’ defence will smother heavily. Sending Henry out on some screens while Mariota scrambles to make a play seems like a good move that could equal points.
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was sent home from practice with an illness on Friday, and is now questionable to make his return following a Week 15 calf injury. It could be a big loss for Pittsburgh’s offense, especially since the last time these two met, Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. The Jaguars’ defencive line picked apart the Steelers’ front all game long, and if Brown is indeed absent on Monday, Roethlisberger will need to be extra special against the league’s top defence. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Colvin recorded two interceptions during last week’s win over the Bills, and since Big Ben likely has plenty of nightmares from October’s 30-9 loss, expect the Steelers to keep things quite conservative.
Last weekend’s close shave against the Panthers highlighted some grey areas on the Saints’ defence. New Orleans allowed Cam Newton and tight end Greg Olsen to hook up for 107 yards and a touchdown, showcasing just how vulnerable this secondary can be when preoccupied with elite receivers. This week the Saints will face Kyle Rudolph, perhaps one of the NFL’s most reliable tight ends. Rudolph dropped just one catch all season, but with star red zone threat Stefon Diggs likely tied up with top cornerback Marshon Lattimore, it should free up some space for Rudolph on short pass attempts over the middle of the field. The Saints allowed six total touchdowns to the position during the season, but Case Keenum has been electric in the red zone: 16 touchdowns and a 60.78 completion percentage. If New Orleans is caught napping early, look for Keenum to run his patented play-action pass play and find Rudolph in the corner of the end zone.