NFL Playoffs First Round: Three Main Storylines to Watch

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The Philadelphia Eagles tanking it, in full view of a national audience on Sunday Night Football was the lead story in the National Football League this week. While this was a story that dominated all the sports news website homepages, it’s destined to fade by the end of the weekend.

Why? Well, the NFL Playoffs will be here before you know it, and with it the focus will now shift to the one-and-done tournament that is the football postseason. Here are five storylines to keep an eye on this weekend, the very first with an expanded postseason format.

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Game of the Week: Baltimore at Tennessee

With the exception of the LA Rams vs the Seattle Seahawks, this is the only game with an extremely close spread. That NFC contest sees the Seahwawks favored by just a field goal while the odds are favoring the Ravens by 3 points against the home team Tennessee in what should be a very close game.

Upon further inspection though, it looks like Ravens-Titans is probably the true won to watch, at least given the match-ups of strengths vs. strengths and strengths vs weaknesses. This his how it all compares on paper, but of course, games are not played through statistical simulations, but in real life.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Perennial Losers Bowl

The American football team owned by the Glazers (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) is nothing like the English football club (Manchester United) owned by the same ultra-rich family. United is the European capital of trophies and they have 20 league titles. The Buccaneers are ending a 13 year postseason drought with this game.

If they win, the Bucs will end an 18 year run of seasons without a playoff victory. As for their opponents, the Washington Football Team, they don’t have a new nickname yet, but at least they have another division title, their first since 2015.

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The bad news is it’s a crown in what is quite possibly the worst division in NFL history, and that’s not hyperbole.

Washington has only made the playoffs six times since they won their last Super Bowl, way back in 1991. They only have three division titles during that span. But hey, someone here will be winning, and moving on.

Bet on the team doing a New England Patriots last hurrah on the gulf coast of Florida.

Last Dance for Trubisky, Nagy and Pace?

Speaking of once proud franchises that have fallen on their faces now- I give you the Chicago Bears. Mitch Trubisky isn’t the answer, by any means, but the Bears’ quarterbacking history is so overwhelmingly awful that he’s not far off from some very high-esteemed positions in their franchise passing record book.

Since Trubisky isn’t the guy, well the buck stops with the guy who sold out in order to get him, while passing on some much better options that were available in that draft (2017). That’s GM Ryan Pace, who could ultimately be on the hot seat, just like his QB, and just like his head coach Matt Nagy. The New Orleans Saints are one of the most talented and deep teams in the NFL this season.

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Really don’t see this ending well for the visiting Monsters of the Midway.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of  “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB NationFollow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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