PICKS WILL BE UPDATED FOLLOWING EACH ROUND!
GOOD NEWS: Last week, I got three of the four Wild Card games correct.
BAD NEWS: None of the games were really that good. All four higher-seeded teams won and none of the games were close.
Oh… and the Giants lost.
But even with my team out of the playoffs, the show must go on! So let’s break down the divisional matchups set to take place this weekend!
SATURDAY, JAN. 14
No. 3 Seattle Seahawks at No. 2 Atlanta Falcons, 4:35 PM ET, FOX
Seattle’s defense played very well last weekend against the Detroit Lions, holding them to just six points. However, remember that Matthew Stafford was playing with an injured throwing hand and only completed 18/32 passes for just 205 yards.
This game will be highly centered around Atlanta’s offense, led by quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones, and Seattle’s defense, led by cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive end Michael Bennett. With that being said, can Seattle’s offense put up enough points against an inconsistent Falcons defense?
To win this game, Seattle will likely need to eclipse last week’s 26-point mark to compete with Atlanta’s offense. Fortunately, running back Thomas Rawls is coming off an excellent game in which he ran for 161 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries. This bodes well for Seattle, since the Falcons are 26th in the NFL in yards allowed per rush.
On top of that, the Falcons are the fifth-worst team in the league in terms of points allowed. Despite their 11-5 record, the defense managed to concede more than 24 points in 11 of their 16 regular season games. Sure, they did hold three of their last four opponents to under 20 points, but who were those three opponents?
The Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers.
On top of that, they gave up 32 points to the New Orleans Saints in Week 17. With all of that in mind, how can one trust the Atlanta defense?
Look for the Seahawks to run the ball as much as possible to keep Atlanta’s offense off the field.
THE PICK: Seattle Seahawks
No. 4 Houston Texans at No. 1 New England Patriots, 8:15 PM ET, CBS
Look for Houston running back Lamar Miller to get A LOT of carries in this game. If Brock Osweiler can play mistake-free football and the defense can continue to come up big, maybe the Texans can hand in there and…
Oh, who am I kidding? It’s Brock Osweiler.
THE PICK: New England Patriots
SUNDAY, JAN. 14
No. 4 Green Bay Packers at No. 1 Dallas Cowboys, 4:40 PM ET, FOX
This is probably the most intriguing game of the entire divisional round.
The Packers have won seven straight games, dating back to November 20. During this run, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has yet to throw an interception, while the Green Bay defense has forced 17 turnovers.
Unfortunately for Rodgers, he will be without top receiver Jordy Nelson after he injured his ribs in last week’s game against the Giants. Granted, Nelson left in the second quarter and Rodgers still proceeded to score 38 points without his top receiver against a very talented New York secondary.
As for the Green Bay defense, their secondary will be the key in this game. Will they be able to limit big plays and potentially force some turnovers? You would think a veteran defensive coordinator like Dom Capers is capable of finding weaknesses to exploit, since one of them is Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
This is the game in which the rookie sensation needs to prove skeptics, such as myself, that he is an MVP-caliber quarterback.
Don’t get it confused… Tony Romo is STILL the best quarterback on that roster. Why? Well, Prescott has played like a rookie quarterback on many occasions this season. He’s left plays on the field, missed wide open receivers and failed to consistently convert on third down at times (i.e. Week 14 against the Giants). The Cowboys must score points, and if Prescott starts to play like that rookie quarterback, the Cowboys will lose this game.
Fortunately, fellow rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot should run the football with success against the Green Bay defense. However, it won’t matter if Prescott is unable to make the necessary throws needed to beat the Green Bay defense.
In what will likely be the most-watched game of the weekend, it would not be wise to bet on a rookie quarterback over arguably the best player in the National Football League.
THE PICK: Green Bay Packers
No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs, 4:40 PM ET, FOX
This is another tough game to predict a winner.
On one hand, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell believes he is “changing the game” with his patient approach to running the football and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown are firing on all cylinders. Coming off a 30-12 victory over the Miami Dolphins last week, the Steelers are happy and full of confidence.
As for the Chiefs, it’s safe to say that they have been confident since Oct. 25 of last season. Since that date, they have quietly posted a 23-5 record (postseason games included). On top of that, the defense led the league in interceptions, forced fumbles and takeaways in the regular season.
However, there’s nothing else that the Chiefs are really good at except for forcing turnovers. They are 16th in yards per passing attempt, 16th in yards per passing attempt on defense, 16th in yards per rushing attempt, and 24th in yards per rushing attempt allowed. The reality is that the Chiefs are an average football team that has capitalized on forced turnovers and big plays on special teams from rookie return sepcialist Tyreek Hill.
Oh… and did I mention that Alex Smith is their quarterback?
Now, Smith has moved the ball a lot better this season than in earlier years, but can he do it in the playoffs? Will he be able to convert on third down and move the chains? It’s the postseason, which means throwing windows get a lot smaller and passes must get to receivers a little quicker than usual.
Sure, Kansas City may have the home-field advantage at Arrowhead Stadium, but does that really matter to a player like Roethlisberger and an experienced team like the Steelers? Against Pittsburgh’s high-powered offense in the postseason, forcing turnovers will be very difficult.
THE PICK: Pittsburgh Steelers
Let me know what you think in the comment section below or send me a tweet (@danny_shin131). Who do you think is going to advance?