And then there were eight. The NFL heads into the Divisional Playoffs with a slate of four key games on tap.

Among the final eight are the Eagles and Jaguars, who both completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons. Half of the remaining eight clubs – Eagles, Vikings, Saints and Jaguars – finished in either third or fourth place in their divisions last year. And with the addition of the Titans, five of the final eight clubs are new teams in this year’s playoff field.

It’s round 2.

The second season of the 2017 NFL season (also known as the playoffs) gets underway in earnest as the four teams that got byes in the first round will be at home. New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota return to play after a week off and now they know who they will play and when.

It’s Divisional Playoff time!

Like we said before, it’s not like the regular season where you lose this week you play next week.

Win this week, you’re in the championship round.

Lose and your next game is next year.

When the 2017 season got underway, 32 teams had hopes and dreams of winning the Lombardi Trophy. Now we’re down to eight teams and when the dust settles Sunday in Minneapolis, we’ll be down to the Final Four.

There are NO do-overs. Mistakes kill.

Bringing your A game is important to the teams that are still in the hunt is a good idea. In fact, it’s a GREAT idea.

For Kansas City, the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo and Carolina, they’ll have an entire off season to second-guess themselves as will their fan base. Let’s not forget the 20 teams that didn’t make the playoff party at all. They’ll be playing the “what if” game as well.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: FROM “WORST TO FIRST”: Philadelphia and Jacksonville both advanced to the Divisional Playoffs after completing “worst-to-first” turnarounds this season. At least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 14 of the past 15 seasons.

In the previous 14 seasons, four teams that went from “worst-to-first” in their divisions have advanced to the conference championship game and two earned Super Bowl berths – the 2003 Carolina Panthers (Super Bowl XXXVIII) and the 2009 New Orleans Saints, who won Super Bowl XLIV.

The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their divisions and advance to at least the conference championship game since 2003:

SEASON – TEAM (RECORD/PRIOR SEASON RECORD, ADVANCED TO)
2003 – Carolina (11-5/7-9, Super Bowl XXXVIII)
2004 – ATLANTA (11-5/5-11, NFC Championship)
2006 – New Orleans (10-6/3-13, NFC Championship)
2009 – New Orleans (13-3/8-8, Won Super Bowl XLIV)
2017 – Jacksonville (10-6/3-13, ???)
2017 – Philadelphia (13-3/7-9, ???)

Five of the remaining eight clubs – the Eagles, Saints and Vikings in the NFC and the Jaguars and Titans in the AFC – missed the postseason in 2016, marking the fifth time since 1990 – and the first since 2000 – that five teams advanced to the Divisional Playoffs after missing the postseason in the previous year.

The seasons which had five teams advance to the Divisional Playoffs after missing the postseason in the previous season since 1990:

SEASON – TEAMS TO ADVANCE TO DIVISIONAL ROUND WHO MISSED PLAYOFFS IN PREVIOUS SEASON
1990 – 5 (Cincinnati, Chicago, Los Angeles Raiders, Miami, Washington)
1992 – 5 (Miami, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco)
1999 – 5 (Indianapolis, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)
2000 – 5 (Baltimore, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia)
2017 – 5 (Jacksonville, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Tennessee)

TOP BILLING: New England’s Bill Belichick has appeared in 36 postseason games as a head coach and has 26 career playoff wins, the most wins all-time by a head coach.

Belichick, who coaches against Tennessee on Saturday night, will surpass Pro Football Hall of Famers Tom Landry (36) and Don Shula (36) for the most postseason games as a head coach in league history.

The most postseason games as a head coach in NFL history:

HEAD COACH – TEAMS (PLAYOFF GAMES)
Bill Belichick – Cleveland and New England (36)
Tom Landry – Dallas (36)^
Don Shula – Baltimore Colts and Mimai (36)^
Joe Gibbs – Washington (24)^
Mike Holmgren – Green Bay and Seattle (24)
Chuck Noll – Pittsburgh (24)^
Andy Reid – Philadelphia and Kansas City (24)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

WHEN IT COUNTS: New England quarterback Tom Brady has 25 career postseason victories, the most playoff wins all-time by a starting quarterback, while Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is tied for sixth with 13 career postseason wins.

Roethlisberger, who plays against Jacksonville on Sunday, can tie Pro Football Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and John Elway and Peyton Manning for the third-most playoff victories by a starting quarterback in NFL history. Brady can also extend his NFL record on Saturday.

The starting quarterbacks with the most career playoff wins in NFL history:

QUARTERBACK – TEAMS (PLAYOFF WINS)
Tom Brady – New England (25)
Joe Montana – San Francisco and Kansas City (16)^
Terry Bradshaw – Pittsburgh (14)^
John Elway – Denver (14)^
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (14)
Brett Favre – Green Bay and Minnesota (13)^
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh (13)
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER: New England’s Tom Brady (40 years, 163 days old on Saturday) and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota (24 years, 75 days old) will face off in the Divisional Playoffs on Saturday.

Brady and Mariota have an age difference of 16 years and 88 days, the largest age difference between opposing starting quarterbacks in a playoff game in NFL history. ​

The largest age differences between opposing starting quarterbacks in a postseason game:

DATE – OLDEST (TEAM)/YOUNGEST (TEAM)(AGE DIFFERENCE; RESULT)
January 13, 2018 – Tom Brady (New England)/Marcus Mariota (Tennessee)(16 years, 88 days; ???)
December 28, 1991 – Steve DeBerg (Kansas City)/Todd Marinovich (Los Angeles Raiders)(15 years, 166 days; Kansas City, 10-6)
December 31, 1972 – Earl Morrall (Miami)/Terry Bradshaw (Pittsburgh)(14 years, 108 days; Miami, 21-17)^
January 3, 2009 – Kurt Warner (Arizona)/Matt Ryan (Atlanta)(13 years, 329 days; Arizona, 30-24)^
December 24, 1972 – Earl Morrall (Miami)/Mike Phipps (Cleveland)(13 years, 186 days; Miami, 20-14)
^Morrall, Bradshaw and Warners are Pro Football Hall of Famers

MATTY ICE IN THE POSTSEASON: Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan completed 21 of 30 passes (70 percent) for 218 yards and a touchdown for a 101.8 passer rating in the Falcons’ 26-13 win at the Los Angeles Rams on Wild Card Weekend.

Ryan, who plays at Philadelphia on Saturday, has recorded a passer rating of at least 100 in five consecutive postseason games, tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana (eight) has a longer such streak.

The most consecutive postseason games with a 100+ passer rating:

PLAYER – TEAM (SEASONS; CONSECUTIVE PLAYOFF GAMES WITH 100+ RATING)
Joe Montana – San Francisco (1988-1990; 8)^
Matt Ryan – ATLANTA (2012, 2016-17; 5)*
Joe Flacco – Baltimore (2012, 2014; 5)
Troy Aikman – Dallas (1992-93; 5)^
*Active streak
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Ryan has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in five consecutive postseason games and can tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman (six) for the longest streak in postseason annals.

The most consecutive postseason games with a 70+ completion percentage:

PLAYER – TEAM (SEASONS; CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 70+ COMPLETION PERCENTAGE)
Troy Aikman – Dallas (1992-94; 6)^
Matt Ryan – Atlanta (2012, 2016-17; 5)*
Warren Moon – Houston Oilers (1991-93; 4)^
Joe Montana – San Francisco (1989-1990; 4)^
*Active streak
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

BIG-GAME BREES: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 376 yards and two touchdowns for a 115.2 passer rating in the Saints’ 31-26 Wild Card Weekend win over Carolina.

Brees, who plays at Minnesota on Sunday, has thrown for at least 375 yards in four career postseason games and can tie Peyton Manning (five) for the most such games in NFL history.

The players with the most career postseason games with at least 375 passing yards:

PLAYER – TEAMS (PLAYOFF GAMES WITH 375+ PASS YARDS)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (5)
Drew Brees – New Orleans (4)
Kurt Warner – St. Louis, Arizona (4)^
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

HUSTLING HENRY: Tennessee running back DERRICK HENRY rushed for 156 yards and a touchdown in the Titans’ 22-21 win at Kansas City on Wild Card Weekend. Henry, who will appear in his second career postseason game on Saturday, can join some elite company with another strong performance.

The players with the most rushing yards in their first two postseason games:

PLAYER, TEAM (SEASONS; RUSHING YARDS)
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh (2016; 337)
Arian Foster, Houston (2011; 285)
Duane Thomas, Dallas (1970; 278)
Terrell Davis, Denver (1996-97; 275)^
Eddie George, Tennessee (1999; 268)
Derrick Henry, Tennessee (2017; 156)*
*Entering second game
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

As was the case last week, every game this week and throughout the playoffs and the Super Bowl are automatically “DRILL WORTHY!” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?) After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 57 last June and dates a 42-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

Of the four matchups this weekend, two are rematches from the 2017 regular season (New Orleans at Minnesota – Week 1; Jacksonville at Pittsburgh – Week 5).

As for last week… 2-2 wasn’t great but it was better than nothing and for the season, we’re 156-105. Four games are in the books, four more are on the docket for this weekend. Here are the Saturday and Sunday picks for Divisional Playoff weekend.

ATLANTA (10-6) at Philadelphia (13-3), 4:35 p.m. Saturday on NBC. The 6th-seeded Falcons travel to the City of Brotherly Love to open the second round of the playoffs as they take on the top-seeded Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

Atlanta enters the contest with a 26-13 first round win over the Los Angeles Rams last Saturday night on the West Coast. The defending NFC champs used a pair of Matt Bryant field goals and a 3-yard run by DaVonta Freeman to take an early lead before the Rams stormed back in the second quarter as WR Cooper Kupp and QB Jarred Goff connected on a 14-yard strike and K Scott Ficken connected on a 35-yard field goal with 3 seconds left before intermission.

Leading 13-10 at the half, the Falcons proceeded to keep Los Angeles in check, holding the Rams to a fourth-quarter field goal by Ficken, using two more Bryant field goals and an 8-yard TD strike from Matt Ryan to WR Julio Jones to seal Los Angeles’ fate. Atlanta outrushed the Rams 124-115, with Rams RB Todd Gurley leading all rushers with 101 yards on 14 carries. Ryan threw for 218 for Atlanta, while Goff threw for 259 for Los Angeles (each man was sacked three times but did not throw an interception). Atlanta was 5 of 15 on third down but found success on fourth down, going 1 of 1 and kept the ball for 37:35, while the Rams were 5 of 14 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 22:25.

The Eagles limp into the post-season after their 6-0 loss to Dallas to close out the regular season. The two teams went scoreless for the first 45 minutes of action before Dallas’ Brice Butler and QB Dak Prescott connected on a 20-yard TD pass with 12:19 left in regulation. Philadelphia had one last chance to either tie things up or take the win at home but could do nothing to make that a possibilty. Dallas, who went 5 of 16 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs, outrushed the Eagles, who had already won the NFC East title, 129-70, as Ezekiel Elliott led all rushers with 103 yards. As for the Eagles, they were 2 of 11 on third down and 0 of 1 on fourth down tries in the loss in the city of Brotherly Love. Dallas ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 30:05, while the Eagles kept the pigskin for 29:55.

Atlanta had two players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: wide receiver Julio Jones and center Alex Mack, while the Eagles tied a franchise record with 13 wins (2004) and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the fourth time since 2002  and had six players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: guard Brandon Brooks, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, tight end Zach Ertz, safety Malcom Jenkins, tackle Lane Johnson and quarterback Carson Wentz.

As far as regular season games go, the Eagles lead the series 16-13-1 and have outscored Atlanta 652-562. In the post-season, the Eagles lead that series 2-1, outscoring Atlanta 60-50. Philly’s last regular season win over Atlanta came in 2016 in the City of Brotherly Love by a final of 24-16, while Atlanta’s last win in regular season action came in 2015 in the Big Peach by a 26-24 final.

Philly’s last win in the post-season against Atlanta came in 2004, as they were 27-10 winners in the NFC Championship Game in the City of Brotherly Love, while Atlanta’s last post-season win against Philly came in the Big Peach in 1978 at Fulton County Stadium by a 14-13 final in the Wild Card Round.

In that week 10 contest, the Eagles led 7-6 at the intermission before they pulled away from Atlanta in the second half. Atlanta led briefly at 15-13 with 13:15 left in the contest when Ryan and Taylor Gabriel connected on a 76-yard TD pass before the Eagles took the lead back for keeps when RB Ryan Matthews picked up his second TD and scored on a 5-yard run with 6:49 left. The Eagles were then successful on their two-point try and added a Caleb Sturgis field goal to take the win. Philadelphia outrushed Atlanta 208-48 and Matthews led all rushers with 109 yards in the contest. Ryan threw for 267 yards for Atlanta, while Eagles signal caller Carson Wentz threw for 231 yards (both were sacked twice and Ryan threw an interception). Atlanta on third down went 2 of 11 and held the ball for 21:50, while the Eagles ruled the clock and kept the ball for 38:10, going 5 of 14 on third down (both clubs were 0 of 1 on fourth down).

Philadelphia covered the 1-point spread in the week 10 matchup, winning by 8 but both clubs missed the 50 over/under, scoring only 40 points. This time around, the oddsmakers like the Falcons and they are favored by 3, with the over/under at 41 1/2. There’s a lot at stake here. The Falcons would like to play their next game in a dome, even if it’s not theirs, while the Eagles would like to stay in the great outdoors. Atlanta takes this one but expect the Eagles to make it closer than the 2 1/2.

Tennessee (9-7) at New England (13-3), 8:15 p.m. Saturday on CBS. Tennessee makes their way to Foxboro for a AFC Divisonal contest with the defending Super Bowl champions at Gillette Stadium.

The Titans scored 19 second half points unchallenged, erasing a 21-3 deficit at Arrowhead to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 in the AFC Wild Card game in the Show-Me State. Kansas City opened the scoring in the contest in the first quarter when rookie RB Kareem Hunt scored on a 1-yard run with 7:25 left in the first, then added a second TD in the quarter when TE Travis Kelce and QB Alex Smith connected on a 13-yard TD strike.

Tennessee ended Kansas City’s bid for a shutout when K Ryan Succop connected on a 49-yard field goal with 1:55 left before halftime. Trailing 17-3 at the intermission, things started to go the Titans’ way in the final 30 minutes when Marcus Mariota attempted a pass on third down deep in Chiefs’ territory that was blocked by Derrell Revis. The ball then fell into Mariota’s hands and he would run it back to the end zone for a 6-yard TD pass to himself. Tennessee would strike again with 14:08 left to play when Derrick Henry scored on a 35-yard TD run but the Titans missed the two-point conversion and then take the lead for good with 6:06 left when Mariota threw a TD pass to someone other than himself when he and WR Eric Decker connected on a 22-yard toss. Tennessee then proceeded to hold off the Chiefs and stopped a late Kansas City rally that would have given the home team the win. Mariota is the only player in NFL history to throw a touchdown pass to himself in a postseason game.

Henry ran for 156 yards to lead all rushers as the Titans outrushed Kansas City 202-69, sacking Smith (264 yards) four times, while Mariota threw for 205 yards for the road win. Tennessee went 8 of 13 on third down tries at Arrowhead Stadium, keeping the ball for 32:28, while the Chiefs, who held the ball for 27:32, went 4 of 11 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down.

The defending champions held the New York Jets to a pair of field goals in Foxboro as they came away 26-6 winners at Gillette Stadium to close out the regular season. New England led 21-3 at the break and held GangGreen in check in the final 30 minutes of play. New England outrushed the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! 147-40 and sacked Bryce Petty (232 yards) four times, including a sack for a safety, while Tom Brady threw for 190 yards with a pair of TDs. New England was 4 of 15 on third down and 1 of 1 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 34:49, while the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! were a dismal 0 of 12 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down and held on to the pigskin for 25:11.

The Pats in regular season play lead the series 23-15-1, outscoring Tennessee 993-778, which includes contests that were played when the Titans were in Houston and known as the Oilers and the Patriots played their home games at Fenway Park. Their last regular season meeting took place in 2015 in Foxboro and the Patriots were 33-16 winners, while Tennessee’s last regular season win came in the Music City in 2002 by a final of 24-7 at Nissan Stadium.

In the post-season, the series is even at 1-1 and the Titans have outscored New England 45-31. Both meetings took place in Foxboro and both were AFC Divisional Playoff contests. The Pats took a 17-14 win in 2003, while the Titans were 31-14 winners in 1978, when they were known as the Houston Oilers.

Tennessee had three players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, punter Brett Kern and tackle Taylor Lewan. The Patriots had four players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: Brady, fullback James Develin, tight end Rob Gronkowski and special teamer Matthew Slater.

Vegas likes the Patriots in this one, making them 13 1/2 point favorites with a 48 over/under. The 47 makes sense. The 13 1/2 is a little steep, even though this is a playoff game. Tennessee’s a lot better than people think they are but the Pats right now are kings of the NFL mountain. The Titans could make it closer than 13 1/2 but New England comes through in Foxboro to take the win.

Jacksonville (10-6) at Pittsburgh (13-3), 1:05 p.m. Sunday on CBS. They meet again in the Steel City. Jacksonville and Pittsburgh square off at Heinz Field in a week five rematch in Sunday’s AFC Divisonal Playoff action.

The Jaguars survived a scare from Buffalo last Sunday at EverBank Field, taking a 10-3 win over the Bills in the Sunshine State in the AFC Wild Card round. After a scoreless first quarter, the second quarter was a battle of field goals as Buffalo opened the scoring with a 31-yard field goal from Stephen Hauschka with 1:49 left before the half. Jacksonville then mounted their own drive, using a 6-play, 27-yard drive that used only 38 second of clock and the legs of starting QB Blake Bortles, who had two runs of 10 yards or more in that drive, to tie things up on a 44 yard field goal by Josh Lambo with two seconds left.

Taking the 3-3 tie into the locker room, the Jaguars took the lead for keeps with 42 seconds left in the third when Bortles and TE Ben Koyack connected on a 1-yard TD pass for the 10-3 lead. Things would stay that way into the fourth quarter and Buffalo threatened twice in the period to tie things up but could do nothing to change things and the Jaguars held off a final Bills’ rally when first they knocked QB Tyrod Taylor out of the contest with a head injury, which forced them to use backup QB Nathan Peterman for the final drive. Jacksonville then sealed Buffalo’s fate with 26 seconds left when CB Jalen Ramsey picked Peterman off. Jacksonville then ran out the clock and took the win at home.

Jacksonville outrushed Buffalo 155-130 and Bortles accounted for 88 of those yards to lead all rushers, while throwing for 87 yards passing. Taylor threw for 134 yards with a pair of sacks and an interception, while LeSean McCoy led Buffalo with 75 yards on the ground. Jacksonville was 2 of 12 on third down and held the ball for 27:23, while the Bills ruled the clock and held the pigskin for 32:37, going 7 of 18 on third down tries (both clubs were 1 of 1 on fourth down).

Pittsburgh comes back to action after they survived a 28-24 scare from Cleveland in the regular season finale for both clubs. The Steelers led 21-14 at the intermission at Heinz Field before Cleveland stormed back in the third quarter to make the contest closer than Steeler fans wanted, outscoring Pittsburgh 10-7 in the quarter (the teams played a scoreless fourth quarter). Pittsburgh outrushed Cleveland 124-102, with Steelers RB Sean Ridley leading everyone with 80 yards and a TD, while Landry Jones, who took over for Ben Roethlisberger, threw for 239 yards and a TD to rookie WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Steeler defense sacked DeShone Kizer (314 yards, 2 TDs) six times and picked him off once. Pittsburgh went 3 of 10 on third down tries, 0 of 2 on fourth down in snowy Pittsburgh (game time temp? 11 degrees with a wind chill of 5) and kept the ball for 29:05, while the Browns, who went 0 for the 2017 campaign, went 7 of 15 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 30:55.

The Jaguars had four players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Malik Jackson. The Steelers had an NFL-best eight players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: running back Le’Veon Bell, kicker Chris Boswell, wide receiver Brown, guard David de Castro, center Maurice Pouncey, Roethlisberger, linebacker Ryan Shazier and tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

In the post-season, they’ve met only once and the Jaguars won that contest, coming away 31-29 winners in the 2007 AFC Wild Card Game at Heinz Field.

Jacksonville and Pittsburgh met in week five in Pittsburgh and the Jaguars won 30-9. Jacksonville led 7-6 at halftime, then outscored the Steelers 23-3 in the final 30 minutes of play. Fournette ran for 181 yards and a pair of TDs, Jaguars outrushed Pittsburgh 231-70, picked off Roethlisberger (312 yards, 2 sacks) five times. Jacksonville was 6 of 12 on third down and kept the ball for 28:52, while the Steelers held the pigskin for 31:08, going 7 of 15 on third down conversions.

Although Jacksonville was an 8 1/2 point underdog in the week five contest in the Steel City, they covered the spread, winning by 21. Both clubs combined for 39 points, missing the 44 over/under by 5. In the revenge match, the Steelrs are once again favored, this time by 7 and the over/under’s 41. For Pittsburgh, it’s revenge; for Jacksonville, it’s a chance to prove that the first time was not a fluke. Revenge wins out. Steelers advance in the Steel City and covers the 7.

New Orleans (11-5) at Minnesota (13-3), 4:35 p.m. Sunday on FOX. Divisional weekend closes out in the Land of 10,000 Lakes as the Minnesota Vikings welcome the New Orleans Saints to US Bank Stadium.

The Saints survived a last-second scare from Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers at home last Sunday in an NFC South rematch, taking a 31-26 win in the Big Easy. New Orleans took a 21-9 lead with them to the break before the Panthers roared back in the final 30 minutes of action, making it a 6-point contest with 4:09 left in regulation when Newton and TE Collin MCCaffery connected on a 58-yard TD pass. The Saints then got the ball back and got as far as Carolina’s 47 yard line before Drew Brees (349 yards, TD) was picked off by S Matt Adams, who brought the ball back to their 31 yard line. Carolina then proceeded to move the ball and got as close as the Saints’ 21 yard line, when Newton (349 yards, four sacks) was called for intentional ground, much to the anger and chagrin of Panther fans. Newton then threw an interception that was intended for WR Darren Funches and then ended Carolina’s hopes of avenging the two earlier losses when Newton was sacked by Vonn Bell. New Orleans ran out the clock and took the win at home.

Carolina actually outrushed New Orleans 107-51 and went 8 of 17 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down, while ruling the clock and keeping the ball for 33:49. The Saints on third down? 2 of 8. Fourth down? They were 0 of 1 and kept the ball for 26:11.

Minnesota returns from their bye week, shutting down Chicago 23-10 in the NFC North season finale. Minnesota led Da Bears 16-3 at the break and never looked back, sacking Mitch Trubisky (178 yards) in the end zone for a safety late in the second quarter. Vikings RB Latavius Murray set the tone in the contest, scoring a pair of TDs in the first half and WR Stefon Diggs chipped in with a catch from Case Keenum to send Vikings fans home happy. Minnesota outrushed Chicago 147-30 and Murray led all rushers with 111 yards and the two TDs on the ground, while Keenum threw for 189 yards in the win. The Vikings were 5 of 13 on third down and held on to the ball for 35:55, while Da Bears were a dismal 1 of 12 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 24:05.

New Orleans had six players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: Brees, running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, defensive end Cameron Jordan, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and wide receiver Thomas. The Vikings had four players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Adam Thielen.

They met in week one in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and the Vikings were 29-19 winners at US Bank Stadium. Minnesota led 16-6 at the half and were never threatened, using four Kai Horbath field goals for the win. Minnesota outrushed New Orleans 129-60 in the contest that saw Adrian Peterson return to face his old team (Peterson was held to 18 yards rushing and traded to Arizona the following week), while rookie RB Dalvin Cook led all rushers with 127 yards, while Sam Bradford threw for 346 yards and three TDs, two to Diggs (Brees threw for 291 yards and a TD; both men were sacked once and neither threw an interception). The Vikings were 9 of 14 on third down tries in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and kept the ball for 31:16, while New Orleans kept the ball for 28:44, going 4 of 11 on third down (neither club had a fourth down try).

As far as the post season goes… they’ve met three times and the Vikings hold a 2-1 lead there, outscoring the Saints 106-57. The last time they met in post-season was in 2009 in the Big Easy in the NFC Championship Game, which was later known as “Bountygate” and the Saints were 31-28 overtime winners; as for Minnesota, their last playoff win over New Orleans came in the Twin Cities in 2000 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs by a final of 34-16.

Minnesota covered the 3-point spread in the Monday night opener with the 10-point win and the two teams covered the 48 over/under exactly (the Vikings were favored in that contest). In the last game of Divisional Weekend, the oddsmakers like the Vikings again, this time as 5 point favorites at US Bank Stadium and the over/under this time around is 46 1/2. Whoever wins this game will have the upper hand toward Super Bowl LII; as for the loser, they will have an entire year to think about what happened and what they could have done to prevent it. Vikings cover the 3 1/2 at home and wins in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Advertisements