NFL Playoffs Power Rankings: Top seeds get their first tests

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons made the postseason after winning the wildcard, beating Carolina in Week 17.

In what might be a defacto NFC championship game, the Vikings play host to the Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium. Home field advantage is very important during the National Football League playoffs but it is not uncommon for a team home team to lose off a first-round bye. They won six playoff games between 1966 and 2011.

That's why Brady's Patriots and Roethlisberger's Steelers are heavy favorites to oust Mariota and Bortles in their AFC divisional matchups this weekend.

Quarterback Nick Foles #9 (R) of the Philadelphia Eagles warms up as injured quarterback Carson Wentz #11 (L) looks on before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia.

But...this Falcons offense is perhaps more equipped to deal with the Eagles this time around because of its ball-control tendencies.

Wentz performed so well that he ended the year as the NFL's leader in touchdown passes, even though he missed the team's final three games.

But they weren't almost as productive in their final five regular-season games.

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The Eagles' defense will need to carry them here, but that won't be easy against a talented Falcons offense. Meanwhile, Atlanta finished the season third in yards-per-play differential and has the advantage in the passing game, the ground game and possibly in the trenches. Atlanta started out with three straight wins, but then fell into a skid and lost four of their next five.

The interior penetration that Cox gets causes running backs to have to reroute their runs, often times bouncing them outside, where the defensive ends are waiting for them.

While the number in LA was better than the Rams' regular-season average there (a paltry 8.0 figure), it was worse than two earlier games.

The bigger concern, though, is the outside with receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. The offense gets the job done with the trio of Ryan, Jones and Freeman. The Jaguars, who boast strong head-to-head trends - try 4-1 SU and ATS in their last five games on the road against the Steelers - must hope that running back Leonard Fournette can gash Pittsburgh's 10th-ranked run defense.

After last year's Super Bowl run, it's safe to say the Falcons are going into Philadelphia as an experienced bunch. They took care of business in Los Angeles and are favoured to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia. "So it's going to be a challenge just in terms of crowd noise".

The Falcons are two wins away from a second consecutive appearance in the Super Bowl, but must get past the NFC's No. 1 seed in a game that will broadcast on 11Alive and NBC.

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