Sky Live: Road to Super Bowl continues with divisional round
Jaguars @ Steelers live on Sky Sports Action from 5.30pm on Sunday, followed by Saints @ Vikings
Last Updated: 14/01/18 11:15pm
Divisional Round time!
Sunday night kicks off from 5.30pm on Sky Sports Action, with the AFC re-match between the Jacksonville Jaguars (No 3) and Pittsburgh Steelers (No 2), after the Jags got the better of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers on their regular season visit. Then, the weekend's final action sees Super Bowl hosts Minnesota Vikings (No 2) welcome the New Orleans Saints (No 4) into town, from 9.40pm.
Here's a look ahead to what's in store on another thrilling night of playoff action in the NFL...
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sky Sports Action (407), Sunday, 5.30pm
In a tweet...
The Steelers look to avenge their embarrassing defeat to the Jaguars earlier this season, where quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions.
What's the latest?
Jaguars wide receiver Jaydon Mickens (hamstring) is questionable to play against Pittsburgh on Sunday, while in better news for the team, linebacker Paul Posluszny was taken off the injury report and should be good to go come game time.
As for the Steelers, receiver Antonio Brown's expected return from a calf injury is suddenly in doubt after he was sent home from practice on Friday with an illness. Brown is officially listed as questionable with both the illness and calf injury. But, cornerback Artie Burns (knee) and defensive end Stephon Tuitt (elbow) were full participants in practice and are set to play on Sunday.
The Jaguars beat the Steelers 30-9 in Week Five in Pittsburgh. Only one team in NFL history has ever beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh twice in the same season. That team was the Jaguars, in 2007.
Recent history does not suggest the Steelers will get revenge in the playoff rematch. The last six teams to earn a playoff rematch against a team they lost to by 20+ points during the regular season all lost the rematch too, being outscored by 11.7 points per game in those losses.
How does Roethlisberger fare this time around against the Jags defense? The Steelers QB has been much improved since that Week Five horror show, helping the team to nine wins in 10, throwing for 298.2 yards per game, with 22 TDs to only seven interceptions, and a passer rating of 102.7.
But, let's not forget that this Jacksonville defense was No 1 against the pass this season, and in his career against the top unit at stopping the pass, Big Ben has won only one of four contests, throwing just four TDs to 11 picks. After throwing those five in Week Five, Roethlisberger said: "Maybe I don't have it any more. I'm not playing well enough." It prompted rumours of retirement, ones which are likely to resurface if he fails to get the better of Sunday's outing.
Antonio Brown. The Steelers star receiver is set to return to action - illness permitting - for the first time since picking up a calf injury in the defeat to the Patriots in Week 15, and Pittsburgh will be hopeful he can be the difference-maker against this potent Jaguars defense.
Jacksonville allowed the fewest receptions (51) and second-fewest receiving yards (652) to opponent's No 1 wide receivers this season, but the one that racked up the most was Brown, hauling in 157 yards in that Steelers defeat in Week Five.
New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings
Sky Sports Action (407), Sunday, 9.40pm
In a tweet...
Super Bowl hosts Minnesota begin their quest to be the first team in NFL history to play at home in the big game as they take on Drew Brees and the firing Saints.
What's the latest?
Vikings cornerback Terence Newman (foot) is questionable to play against Saints after missing out practice altogether on Thursday, before then being limited on Friday.
As for the Saints, they have placed left guard Andrus Peat and defensive tackle Tony McDaniel on injured reserve, adding offensive tackle Bryce Harris and defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton to their active roster. The decision to place Peat on injured reserve had been anticipated after he was carted off the field against Carolina last Sunday with a fractured fibula. McDaniel's injury has not been disclosed.
The NFL's No 2 total offense (Saints) meets the league's No 1 total defense (Vikings). Since 1990, top two outfits on offense and defense have met in the playoffs only seven times. Six of those seven match-ups - including the last three - were won by the defense, with the only exception coming when the 49ers beat the Cowboys in the 1994 NFC Championship game.
Drew Brees (72.0 per cent) and Case Keenum (67.6) were the NFL's top two quarterbacks in completion percentage this season, with Brees setting a new single-season record. The last time the top two players in completion percentage met in the playoffs was in Super Bowl XLIV, when Brees and the Saints beat Peyton Manning and the Colts.
Michael Thomas versus Xavier Rhodes. Saints receiver Thomas has the most receptions (196) by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history and is coming into this one on the back of a strong showing in the Wild Card win over Carolina, where he had eight receptions for 131 yards. He will have a tough time on his hands though against Vikings cornerback Rhodes.
Drew Brees. Devastating run duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for only 68 scrimmage yards in the Wild
Card win over Carolina - the fewest in any game this season - and so it was left to Brees to show he could still carry the offense on his shoulders. The veteran QB delivered, passing for 376 yards and two touchdowns.
This Vikings defense has allowed the fewest scrimmage yards in the NFL to running backs this season (1,584) and so it will likely be left to Brees to get get the job done again if Ingram and Kamara are again left quiet. He has a stellar record against top 10 defenses this season though, throwing 10 TDs to only three interceptions across seven games, with a 110.1 passer rating.
Watch the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, live on Sky Sports, continuing with Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers, on Sunday from 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports Action.