AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW: The NFL Playoffs (Sunday)

Game 3 – Minnesota Vikings (10-6) v New Orleans Saints (13-3)

Mercedes-Benz Superdome home of the most highly regarded teams in the NFL franchise New Orleans Saints will play host to the men in purple of the Minnesota Vikings for viewers who like to be able to separate jersey colours easily

New Orleans have won the Superbowl once, back in 2009 where they run away with the victory. Since then it’s been a tough task with some strong teams, but to date that is their sole appearance. Minnesota would have to dig deep into their history books and stretch back all the way to 1987 for their appearance. They also made three prior to that but have never won any. The last post season match between the two were in 2017 where Minnesota came out on top but ultimately lost in the conference championship the week after.

It must be said that this season has been a big improvement for The Vikings. QB Kirk Cousins will get his first taste of post season football since joining them back in 2018. However, he will face one of the best all around teams in the league. They may only show up on stats as 11th on defence and 9th on offence, but this is a Saints team who put forty-six points on the board at San Francisco 49er’s and have held some great teams which has made them a match for anyone home or away. The task for visitors at the dome is something to take with the highest regard.

Dalvin Cook’s return after a shoulder injury will be music to the Minnesota fans ears. Without him they have lost back to back and looked a shadow of the team we have seen this season with him. However, one of their other key figure’s cornerback Mackensie Alexander will miss out after a neck injury and DE Ifeadi Odenigbo is questionable after a hamstring problem. Cook has scored 13 TD this year and rushed for over 1000 yards. The big question is will he get past the Saints defence?

New Orleans hugely decorated QB Drew Brees this season was breaking records faster than they could be re-written. He appeared in 11 games and finished with 2,979 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He finished with a completion percentage of 74.34%, which finished second in NFL history to his record from the previous season. Also he now leads the most career passing touchdowns of 547. The talent he possesses against a Vikings team who are seventh worst in QB pressure which will give Brees more time in the pocket than he already has can only be a worrying thought for away fans.

Saints offence consisting of Michael Thomas who has this season led the league in receptions and yardage, along with Alvin Kamara being versatile rushing and receiving, Jared Cook and Latavius Murray provide just a small portion of a roster which is full of strength and depth. Viking will need to play the game of their life to hold their opponents which looks a very difficult task.

Verdict: New Orleans being 13-3 must feel hard done to be playing in the wildcard round, but they can stamp their authority on this side of the draw and show others the force they are. Some may argue it will keep them match fit barring potential injuries and they do win, but the Vikings for as good as they have been this season are too heavily reliant on one or two names which could be shut down by a strong Saints defence. New Orleans have been a big burst of energy and can outscore most when needed but also shut up shop when options become difficult on offence. The lines are about right but there may just be a bit of value in chancing a bigger tally on the board. Once Brees starts firing his arm he won’t sit back and they will want to be out of sight, so a double result can also be played with the idea that New Orleans get on the board early and just keep pressing.

New Orleans Saints -8.5 1/1 – 5pts
New Orleans Saints Double result 8/11 – 5pts
New Orleans Saints Over 34.5 points 9/4 – 2pts

Game 4 – Seattle Seahawks (11-5) v Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

The final game will take place at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. For many fans they consider this a potential match up in the local treatment room and who has the least injuries. When some say you go onto the battlefield, many wouldn’t have envisaged the damage a football field has caused to both teams.

From week one until now The Seahawks have lost seven key men. Things got that bad for Seattle that going into last week they lost their three top running backs and with rookie Travis Homer who eventually had his best game so far, Pete Carroll called Seahawks legend Marshawn Lynch after retiring 445 days ago. As might be expected, Boomtown was back in action and the decibels rose around the stadium to ear-shattering sounds when the opposition were on the field trying to call plays. When Lynch eventually came out for his first snap it was too obvious and he didn’t rush. Shortly after though he did get the ball and it looked like a bull finding his legs for the first time running up and down with his ever-unique style. It took a while to get into action but for a guy who was over a year out of the game looked in pretty good shape. Seattle eventually got down to the goal line and over the top Lynch dived through the air to score a touchdown which set the stadium into pandemonium. The key question is how has the star figures legs held up this week and will he be as key seven days later?

Philadelphia on the other have lost nine players from week one and started out as one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL, getting beaten by some very bad teams. Injuries began to mount, and the teams form was like an etch a sketch board. Carson Wentz in his four seasons at The Eagles has now guided them to the playoffs three times but has yet to play a post-season game after being injured on the other two previous. He will finally get to snap a ball Sunday night. Averaging 301.8 passing yards per game, throwing 10 TD with only one interception which was unluckily picked off in a Hail Mary attempt to get the Eagles to the playoffs. Wentz has seen his offensive options fall by the wayside, but home advantage will be key and will give them the confidence they need.

Last week Seattle potentially had the chance to get a bye and home field advantage with around 50 seconds left on the clock. Catching the ball at the one-yard line the Seahawks struggled to line up with a player down injured but eventually after dragging himself to the line of scrimmage, Russell Wilson spiked the ball. After discussing what play would be used they had forgotten about the play clock still running and had a 5 yard penalty for a delay of game which took them out of rushing range and with four shots at the end zone they failed to pull off what many thought was the unthinkable with a broken team.

It has been a tough season for both with so many injuries. The Eagles will be happy to have given themselves another shot in the playoffs even with a crumbling team, but Wentz has been the key for this team and for a young QB seems to have a cool head on his shoulders. Seattle has one of the pin ups of the NFL franchise in Russell Watson and for most of the early season looked like the MVP until a Baltimore new star arrived called ‘Lamar Jackson’ but his movement in the pocket, natural ability and thinking in pressure situations could steer his team on the road to success. The boost of Lynch can also add to a host of pressure on the home teams defence who will struggle to hold him in a position he will relish with a chance in the playoffs after coming out of retirement.

Verdict: The books have this very close and could barely split the teams. Seattle to win the game at 5/6 for me looks tremendous value. It must also be mentioned that they met back on the 24th November where Seattle came out on top 17-9 and by all standards the Seahawks did not play well. Lynch is a key figure for the running game which could give the Eagles nightmares when the 5ft 11, 215lb powerhouse is charging at them on the goal line. Rookie Homer will also be looking to cement his place in next years roster and can keep the run game ticking over to add to Lynch’s yards.

Seattle Seahawks 5/6 – 7 points
Marshawn Lynch Anytime TD scorer 5/6 – 3 points

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
Back New Orleans Saints -8.5 (Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints) 5pts at evens with
Back New Orleans Saints Double result (Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints) 5pts at 8/11 with
Back New Orleans Saints Over 34.5 points (Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints) 2pts at 9/4 with
Back Seattle Seahawks (Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles) 7 points at 5/6 with
Back Marshawn Lynch Anytime TD scorer (Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles) 3 points at 5/6 with

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