NFL Divisional Playoffs: Steelers star & 4 more key storylines

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Victory for all four favourites in last weekend’s Wildcard games have left us with four extremely strong Divisional Finals in the NFL. And that’s not all – because this quartet of ties are packed with interesting plotlines.

From a Texan homecoming to a perfect head-to-head record, here’s why this year’s divisional duels are unmissable…

Pats could soon be on Cloud Nine

It’s fair to say the New England Patriots have a pretty strong record against the Houston Texans, having won all eight of their meetings with the franchise from the Lone Star State – dating back to 2002.

In fact, the Pats have breezed to victory in recent times, preventing the Texans from recording a touchdown in either of the last two meetings, with Bill O’Brien’s men limited to six points in the last two clashes combined.

With New England also having given up just three points in recent meetings with the New York Jets and Denver Broncos, a Points Spread of New England Patriots -15 looks like good value at 10/11.

It’s rush hour in Kansas

While the Pittsburgh Steelers’ hard-hitting defense have made many of the headlines this season, nobody has been more important to their success than running back Le’Veon Bell.

With the second-highest rushing yards in the entire NFL over the regular season and post-season so far (1,435 and counting), he’s been truly sensational for the Steelers – meaning the 5/1 for him to score the first touchdown looks worth backing.

Meanwhile, Kansas City Chiefs’  improving talent Spencer Ware is looking to hit the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career. Whether or not he can get there against a robust Steelers backline is another matter.

Ty returns to Texas

It’s fair to say Ty Montgomery has been something of a revelation for the Green Bay Packers, averaging a whopping 5.9 yards per carry this season – and chalking up three TD’s along the way.

And the 23-year-old will have extra motivation to perform this weekend, as he returns to his native Dallas – the city where Montgomery first caught the eye as star high-school quarterback at St Mark’s School of Texas.

While this is actually his second visit to Cowboys Stadium, it’s the first time he’ll have been there in a high-pressure, post-season game. So, can he lead the 17/10 Pack to victory?

All eyes on the officials

The biggest pressure as Atlanta Falcons host Seattle Seahawks could actually be on the referee. That’s after Falcons receiver Julio Jones again voiced his frustration on a Week 6 no-call where he appeared to have been fouled by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see whether Pete Carroll’s side rein in their usually feisty defensive game. Either way, the bookies doubt the Seahawks can handle their opponents, with 10/23 for an Atlanta victory.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Dave Burin

Dave graduated with an MA in English Literature at Durham University, and worked in marketing before joining the Ladbrokes News team. A Man United fan and avid groundhopper, he’s also an ardent follower of Rugby League. You can usually find him at a ground near you, clutching a big cup of tea.