Eagles in Atlanta’s sights

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Philadelphia Eagles NFL

The Philadelphia Eagles will need to overcome several obstacles, the biggest of which will be the absence of quarter-back Carson Wentz, when they face the in-form Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round of the NFL play-offs on Saturday.

According to ESPN, the Eagles will be the first No.1 seeded team to start their opening play-off game as underdogs having been priced at 27/20 to advance to the NFC Championship game.

That is down to the season-ending injury Wentz suffered back in mid-December, meaning the unreliable Nick Foles will quarter-back for Philly on Sunday.

Foles is a serviceable QB but has not looked good enough to win a play-off game and an improved Falcons defence is likely to give him a torrid afternoon.

Atlanta were very impressive when taking care of the LA Rams in the wildcard round last week and are well on course to avenging last year’s agonising Super Bowl loss.

Philly’s only hope is if they can establish a strong running game but the Falcons will be well prepared for that and at 5/8 are the choice for this one.

The other NFC match-up is much tougher to call as the Minnesota Vikings look to maintain their bid to become the first team to compete in a Super Bowl at their home venue when they face New Orleans.

This one  is the definition of a ‘pick em’ game given how well these two match up with both having great balance on either side of the ball.

The Saints showed last weekend that if you take away the run option then quarter-back Drew Brees has the skills to take you apart in the passing game so the Vikings will need to plan carefully.

If you forced me to choose then I’d take the value on offer with New Orleans at 37/20. However, my preferred bet for this one is under 46 points at 25/27 given how strong the defences are.

The outcomes of the AFC divisional matches appear a little clearer with Pittsburgh likely to gain revenge on Jacksonville for their Week 5 humiliation.

The Jaguars humbled the Steelers on home soil on that occasion, intercepting Pittsburgh quarter-back Ben Roethlisberger five times and their defence would give them a chance of causing another upset. However, Jags QB Blake Bortles cannot be trusted.

Bortles was all over the place in last week’s win over Buffalo and should be exposed on Sunday.

Despite Bortles’ deficiencies it could still be a close game so the Jags to cover the seven point spread at 25/27 is the top bet.

Finally, the Tennessee Titans will hope miracles come in pairs when they head to Foxboro Stadium to face 6/4 Super Bowl favourites New England.

The Titans came back from the dead to see off Kansas City in the second half of their wildcard match-up last week but are unlikely to repeat that trick against the Patriots.

Off-field rumours have disrupted the Pats preparations and this could be closer than some think with Tennessee starting with a generous 13.5 handicap at 50/59.

The 7/5 on offer for running back Derrick Henry to score a touchdown at anytime looks a sound choice as well given how he bullied the Chiefs last week.

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