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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 20 May, 2019

The probable Super Bowl winners are in action and your Sunday Divisional Round preview

The Vikings and Saints will go head-to-head this evening.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Sunday, 6.05pm

Source: UPI/PA Images

How did they get here?

BOTH GAMES ON Sunday feature teams that have already met this season and the week five 30-9 win for Jacksonville over the Steelers — a game that featured five interceptions by the Jags’ defence — put them in the hunt for the AFC South title and they duly delivered.

It was also a watershed moment of sorts for Pittsburgh with Big Ben throwing just seven interceptions in his 10 games since, as his team won the AFC North for the third time in four years.

It’s nine years since Mike Tomlin’s side won a Super Bowl, and they face a huge uphill task if they are to do it again this season.

How do the Jaguars win? 

Source: Simon Cooper/PA Images

Déjà vu. The Jags need to win by playing the same sort of football they’ve been playing all season; namely being really difficult to pass against and hoping Blake Bortles doesn’t make too many mistakes on offence.

So much is made about the five picks the last time these two met, it’s easy to forget that rookie running back Leonard Fournette had two touchdowns and 181 yards against the Steelers back in October too.

How do the Steelers win?

Source: UPI/PA Images

Blake Bortles. If this game boils down to the Jaguars needing to come from behind to win, it’s over for them. Jacksonville have scored just 20 points in their past two games combined and a lot of that comes down to a quarterback who regularly misses three and five-yard throws.

Pittsburgh could also do with handing the ball to Le’Veon Bell whose 5.5 yards per carry in the playoffs ranks as the fourth-highest in postseason history.

Who will win? 

I was in London when the Jaguars put 44 points on the Ravens so I know they are capable of playing well on offence. However, you can’t ask me to trust Bortles over Big Ben in the postseason so, even as seven-point favourites, I’m picking the Steelers.

New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings – Sunday, 9.40pm

Source: Jerry Holt/PA Images

How did they get here?

The Vikings and Saints faced off so long ago this season that there’s very little to take from Minnesota’s week one victory.

The home side have a completely different backfield as both quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Dalvin Cook suffered serious injuries, while New Orleans shipped Adrian Peterson out the door not long afterwards and discovered the pairing of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.

Drew Brees rolled back the years with a big game last week against the Panthers to get the Saints to this stage while the Vikings have had a week off thanks to their number two seeding in the NFC.

How do the Saints win?

Source: Dan Anderson/PA Images

Run New Orleans. After becoming the first running back duo to each top 1,500 yards from scrimmage in NFL history during the regular season, Kamara and Ingram really struggled last week against Carolina, managing just 68 total yards on 21 touches.

They need to be better on Sunday as Drew Brees has, for the first time in his Saints’ career — one that started in 2006 — failed to put together back-to-back 300-yard games this season and he had 376 last week.

How do the Vikings win?

Source: Carlos Gonzalez/PA Images

D-Fence. Home advantage obviously helps — the Vikings are 7-1 in their new stadium this year — but Minnesota have been so tough to break down this season, allowing just 4.1 yards per touch to opposing running backs, the second fewest in the NFL.

And if you’re thinking about passing on them, they have probably the league’s best defensive back pairing in safety Harrison Smith — my pick for Defensive Player of the Year — and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

Who will win? 

Seven times since 1990 has a team with a top two total defence matched up with a team with a top two total offence. The team with the great defence has won six of those games so I’m backing the Vikings to make it eight on Sunday but without covering the five-point spread.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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