09 Jan NFL Divisional Round Playoffs Preview
By: Lou Landers
With the wild card weekend behind us, one can only hope that these upcoming games will be more exciting than last weeks. None of the games were close, they were anti-climactic and certainly did not live up to what the fans expect to see come playoff time. Let’s now get into what we have to look forward to this weekend.
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons:
Seattle: They are perennial Super Bowl contenders every season. Russell Wilson has proven to be one of the more clutch QB’s in the NFL, and has shown the ability to carry his team on his back. The Seattle defense has been known to be one of the tougher defenses in the league; however, with the loss of safety Earl Thomas, they have not been that top notch team. The Seahawks continued their success Saturday night at Century Link Field man-handling the Lions 26-6, improving to 8-0-1 on their home turf. In a juxtaposition, Seattle has struggled on the road during the regular season going 3-5. With that being said, they will head to Atlanta where a well-rested Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and company await. Lastly, the under .500 sub-par Seahawk team will need to bring their A game if they want to stifle the well-oiled machine that is the Falcons offense.
Atlanta: They were the unprecedented top scoring offense in the NFL this season and have one of the most balanced attacks in the league. With a healthy Julio Jones, Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Falcons will make it very tough on the Seattle defense. This team is well positioned to move onto the NFC championship game. The only weaknesses for the Dirty Birds is their mediocre-at-best defense, coinciding with their head coach being inexperienced when it comes to playoff football. It is easy to foreshadow Matt Ryan out-playing Russell Wilson and the Falcons defense stepping it up when it matters most.
My Pick: Atlanta Falcons (27-23 final)
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots:
Houston: The only reason why they are even playing in this game is because the Raiders were without QB Derek Carr last week. Yes, the Texans have the leagues top ranked defense, but their amusingly equally as horrific on offense. Brock Osweiler was a huge $72 million dollar mistake, and if it were not for Tom Savage getting injured in Week 17, he would not even be the starter for Houston. Furthermore, if they did not benefit from playing in the uninspiring AFC South, we may not even be talking about the Texans dim playoff aspirations.
New England: There are not enough good things that can be said about this Patriots organization. For those who do not know, not only do I dislike this team, but I genuinely HATE all Boston area sports teams. With that being said, they have the best head coach of all time and the greatest QB of all time. This of course makes for a very scary proposition for any team who has to face them come playoff time. Not to mention, Tom Brady just does not lose at home. For the first time in a while, the Pats actually feature a very balanced attack on offense. Even without Gronk, Brady put up tremendous numbers this year and RB LeGarrette Blount had 18 rushing TD’s (no thats not a typo). New England already beat the Texans this season by 27 points, and that was during Brady’s four game suspension eluding to an offense being led by an injured Jacoby Brissett.
My Pick: New England Patriots (30-13 Final)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs:
Pittsburgh: It was A walk in the park last week for the Steelers when they hosted the Dolphins. WR Antonio Brown gave them a 14-0 lead early by hauling in two 50+ yard TD’s and RB Le’Veon Bell provided more than enough production on the ground to put the Dolphins away. The Steelers have one of the more explosive offenses in the league so this should not have come as a surprise to anyone. This week however, will not be the cake-walk that was Miami. The Steelers now have to go on the road, a place where Big Ben has seen his numbers drop dramatically and they will be going up against a Kansas City team that lead the NFL in take aways. On a positive note, the Steelers defense has really improved towards the end of the season matching up with the Chiefs offense who have been known to sputter at times, something Pittsburgh could take full advantage of.
Kansas City: They may be rested but this could actually hurt the Chiefs rather than help them. QB Alex Smith is not a game breaker and he relies more on repetition and consistency than most QB’s. This of course may pose a problem because the Chiefs have not played in two weeks. KC also is very reliant on boom or bust players like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. If even one of these guys has an off game (similar to OBJ for NYG last week), it might be a long day for the Chiefs and their fans. On the other side of the coin, the defense plays much better at home and is good enough to win them this game on their own. Big Ben can be susceptible to turnovers and Kansas City’s defense is capable of taking full advantage.
My Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers (24-20 final)
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys:
Green Bay: The Packers entered the post season as the hottest team in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers seems like the MVP favorite and is arguably playing the best football of his life. Although, he got off to a slow start last week against the vaunted NYG defense, Rodgers pulled a vintage Rodgers by getting hot when it matters most leading his team to victory. This game was of course in GB, where the weather conditions are not friendly to anyone, especially visiting teams and players. This week they will go on the road to face a team in the Cowboys who may be young and inexperienced, yet they are a team who has already beaten the Packers once this year, proving that they can score at a very similar alarming pace as Green Bay.
Dallas: Rookies Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliot will of course be making their NFL Playoff debuts this weekend. Not only are they both in the running for NFL Rookie Of The Year, but many people have them as MVP favorites as well. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, none of this matters. Dallas has a hard task in front of them no matter how you slice it. Green Bay is more experienced on both sides of the ball and they have a Super Bowl winning coach in Mike McCarthy. The Packers offense seems unstoppable right now and the Cowboys defense while under-rated, still are league average at best. What Dallas fans can hang their hat on is the ideology that the only way to stop Aaron Rodgers is by not giving him the ball a lot. This can be accomplished by Dallas controlling the clock thanks to their elite offensive line and running back. If the Cowboys can execute their game plan, they may emerge as the victor when its all said and done.
My Pick: Dallas Cowboys (30-27 Final)
Who do you have winning each game?