VIKINGS OUT TO RAID THE NINER GANG
Game 1 – Minnesota Vikings (6) (10-6) @ San Francisco 49ers (1) (13-3)
Saturday nights first game up on a heavy weight weekend card, sees Minnesota Vikings march just under two-thousand miles west to San Francisco bay into the Levi’s Stadium. Undoubtedly the biggest upset from wildcard weekend was when the Vikings went south on the road again to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and pulled off what was not too dissimilar to the Minneapolis miracle of the 2017-18 season. After a tied game, with twenty points each put on the board, Minnesota received the ball and needed a touchdown to win the game. Kirk Cousins received that ball and led them down the field in one of the loudest stadiums in the world in under five minutes with a glorious play.
Another road trip for the Vikings will be a huge task as it would be for anyone on a quick week. However, with a near fully fit Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen it will mean that the offence can field a full stable of weapons. Included will be the likes of Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and Kirk Cousins who finally won a play-off game. You could also argue with many that they even boast a better offensive line than the 49ers. Whatever San Francisco want to throw at them it looks like they will have an answer, after last week holding the leading wide receiver to only seven catches for seventy yards, and holding Alvin Kamara who often gives defences headaches for only twenty-one yards rushing with thirty-four yards receiving. It would be all too easy to overlook this team with how the 49ers have stacked up this campaign with a 13-3 regular season record.
San Francisco looked a new force to be reckoned with after a stellar season which has put them up at front end of the market to get back to a Superbowl for the first time in six years. To show how far they’ve come, it has been twenty-four years ago that they last won the main event. This season for the 49ers has seen the growth of QB Jimmy Garoppolo who has excelled with an over one-hundred passer rating. One of the stars of the season has been George Kittle on offence though at Tight End who is very hard to keep tabs on. Defence has seen big plays from Richard Sherman and De Forest Buckner which is how when you look at the league rankings San Francisco finished the season fourth on offence, second on defence and even second on rushing with the likes of Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman.
In big games, you need to make big plays and Kirk Cousins for The Vikings did that in fine style last week. There is no reason why he can’t do that again. If we learnt anything from the first week of playoffs is that sometimes form can go out of the window and mistakes can be made at crucial moments. The question is which 49ers defence will turn up. This team were 8-0 at the start of the season matching up with New England Patriots but finished the season on 5-3. We know what happened to New England. To note, two of the 49ers losses were at home.
They have also allowed forty-six points to the Saints, twenty-nine to the falcons, thirty-one notched up by the Rams, and twenty-one against the Seahawks in the last four games before the play-offs. So, there is no reason to believe that the Vikings will not be able to keep up with the niners.
Minnesota will have to change a few of the recent historical data if they are to book their spot in the conference championship. Firstly, by winning a second game on the road in the playoffs after their first one in fifteen years last week. Also, their record of losing nine of their last ten games at San Francisco stadium will need addressing. San Francisco can lead their charge with tight-end George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk as once they get into rhythm it is very hard for defenders to track both.
Verdict: San Fransico 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has designed some brilliant plays this season but with mainly a rushing offence. As mention though the 49ers defence stalled towards the end of the season which may be due to injuries as well as fatigue which could give The Purple and Gold who have come to the party, with a full roster at near full fitness who are making plays when it matters. They may not match up on stats but can certainly score points. Vikings key men are Dalvin Cook who rushed for ninety-four yards last week with two touchdowns after being out for two weeks with shoulder injuries where the Vikings lost back to back games. Also, Adam Thielen who received one-hundred and twenty-nine yards, his most since week five but more importantly more than his three-playoff appearance combined are two explosive offence options.
Minnesota Vikings +6.5 20/21 – 5 points
Minnesota Vikings Over 17.5 20/23 – 8 points
RAVENS OUT TO HUNT DOWN TITANS!
Game 2 – Tennessee Titans (6) (9-7) @ Baltimore Ravens (1) (14-2)
The team the NFL has been waiting to see in the playoffs after their first-round bye. Ante post favourites to win the Superbowl, Baltimore Ravens. With MVP elect Lamar Jackson at quarter back, who was a first-round draft pick in the 2018 season, Jackson began his career after Joe Flacco became injured halfway through the season. He then went on to be the youngest QB to start a playoff game. This year a sign of invincibility shone over him where he has led the league with thirty-six touchdown passes and holds the Ravens franchise record for most TD in a season. Also, the most rushing yards ever by a QB. To realise the true brilliance of his all-around ability. Below is a clip of him supposed to be looking for a pass, but instead runs forty-seven yards for a touchdown
Top seeds Baltimore Ravens will be looking for a thirteenth straight victory when they host for the AFC divisional round. The twelfth was questionable prior to the game with a much-weakened team as the star men sat out not chancing injury but they still got the job done.
Remarkably they have gone 12-0 after losing to Kansas and Cleveland in the back end of September. They will expect to win this and be the new Kings of the AFC when they walk into their home ground, the M&T Bank Stadium with the best AFC league offence all thanks to Lamar Jackson, but it was complemented on the other side with one of the league’s best defences. It must also be remembered that the Ravens players have had at least an extra week rest.
Tennessee Titans on the other hand come into this on the road again, after playing last week when travelling East to Boston. With a big shift of momentum after upsetting New England Patriots last week at home. That is not to be taken lightly. Star man and highlighted last week, Derrick Henry with his distinctive hair style was a wrecking ball which the Patriots defence ranked the best in the whole of the NFL could not stop. He rushed for one-hundred and eighty-two yards and scored a touchdown. Also add another twenty-two yards receiving to that. As much as the Titans will come into this with their standard thinking on offence of getting the run game going charging at defence’s, it is not to be overlooked at catching weapons for Ryan Tannehill who took over from Marcus Mariota in week six and has not looked back. He will look to target the likes of A.J.Brown, Corey Davis and the very athletic Jonnu Smith. It must be seen that they will be trying to tackle a secondary that picked off twelve passes and only allowed fifteen touchdowns this season.
Derrick Henry may be the key figure for Titans chances, much could be the same on other side of the fence of Lamar Jackson for Baltimore. The leading candidate to take home MVP since a record break one-thousand two-hundred and six yards rushing and amassed an incredible forty-three touchdowns. What is interesting is that Tennessee have allowed two-hundred and fifty-one yards rushing to quarterbacks on only sixty-one carries. You can then look at other options for Lamar Jackson, with Mark In, the other major force to a well-oiled machine on rushing offence. There is concern that he did not practise on Wednesday and will be monitored closely. On stats, Baltimore averages 206 yards per game on the ground rushing and Tennessee only 138.9 per game with all that mainly down to Henry. The Ravens have multiple weapons. It’s not to be ignored that Lamar Jackson can certainly sling a ball. With Mark Andrew up field he will certainly be looking to switch up the playbook.
Sometimes though the stats can go out the window, but Tennessee finished the regular season yielding just 99.4 rushing yards per road game. It certainly didn’t recognise that last week against the best defence. Will the Ravens hold the key to stopping Henry? The same could be said for Tennessee stopping Lamar Jackson.
Verdict: Derrick Henry will be key for Tennessee Titans and he will look to run over a strong Baltimore defence. If he gets matched and plays are not made, it could be a long night for them. The Ravens have some wonderful options but again the key lies to the run game but they hold more pieces to the incredibly complex puzzle than their opponents and they could find the key when it matters most, the line is currently at -9.5 which they should breeze past. It will be interesting to see what the rushing yards are set at for a few players in this game on the specials as these could add some interest.
Baltimore –9.5 10/11 6 points
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Minnesota Vikings +6.5 5 pt at 20/21 with starsports.bet
BACK Minnesota Vikings Over 17.5 8 pt at 20/23 with starsports.bet
BACK Baltimore –9.5 6 pt at 10/11 with starsports.bet
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