The Divisional Round of the playoffs, despite its stupid name is usually the best weekend of football for the entire season. Four games across two days to determine the final 4 of the NFL season. Some of the most historic moments in NFL history have happened in the divisional round. The Immaculate Reception, The Epic in Miami, the original Hail Mary, Edelman to Amendola, the list goes on. It's a marquee weekend for football. By like 8 pm Sunday we'll know the match ups for Conference Championship Sunday next week.
In a wide open year for the NFC honestly no combination of teams coming out of this weekend alive would surprise me. These are the four best teams in the NFC (sorry Giants fans). It's how it should be. Same can not be said in the AFC as the Houston Texans are one of the last four standing. Mainly because Derek Carr broke his fibula, but hey that's football.
So since I'm retired from gambling (for now). The only way to give my predictions any merit is to put on the blog to either be blasted or revered. So let's have at it. This is how I think the weekend will play out. Feel free to fade me.
NFC Divisional Game: (3) Seattle Seahawks 10-5-1 @ (2) Atlanta Falcons 11-5
Saturday January 14th 4:35 pm FOX
In rematch of one of the most controversial endings to a game this season, the Seattle Seahawks travel to Atlanta to play MVP favorite Matt Ryan and the Falcons.
Seattle has been a very weird team this year. You still respect them off their name and the stars on the roster, but this Seattle team is the most bipolar team in the NFL.
Are they frauds?
Are they legit?
We'll know after tomorrow.
They lost to the LA Rams 9-3 earlier this year. But they're the only team to beat a Tom Brady led Patriots this season. They also scored 5 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Very hard to know what you're going to get from this team away from Seattle. One week they look like the best team in the NFL and the next you're shocked they've won a game this year. After losing safety Earl Thomas it's no secret their defense has not been the same. They got torched by the Packers in week 14. A game where Wilson threw 5 INT. But last week in the wild-card round they looked god as they didn't allow a touchdown to the Lions.
Then you have the Falcons. A team that has been on my fraud list for years. Matt Ryan is the king of one and dones. I personally like him a lot and loved him at BC but I don't trust him in the big moment. In his playoff career he is 1-4 but his lone playoff victory (tied with Tim Tebow) was against this very franchise, the Seahawks in the 2012 divisional round. A 30-28 win thanks to a Matt Bryant field goal as time expired. That was also the last time the Falcons made the playoffs. Despite throwing a career low 7 INT this year...8 if you count his costly "pick 2" against the Chiefs I still am expecting Matty Ice to melt when the moment is hot.
To me this game is all about Matt Ryan. Can he perform in the playoffs? I really want to say yes, but Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor make it hard for me to believe. However the Falcons got hosed in Seattle on a non call that should've extended the game and given them a chance to win in the closing seconds. They played the Hawks very well in that game. Since it's in Atlanta, I'm going to give the slight edge to the Falcons. This game is huge for Matt Ryan's legacy IMO. The difference between 1-5 and 2-4 with two conference championship appearances is huge. The Falcons had the league's best offense in the regular season with nearly 34 points per game. Can they prove that they can do it in the postseason? I'm going to say yes for this week. I think this is a BIG Julio Jones day.
The Final: Falcons 31 Seahawks 27
AFC Divisional Game: (4) Houston Texans 9-7 @ (1) New England Patriots 14-2
Saturday January 14th 8:15 pm CBS
Patriots Texans games have been about as competitive as the hammer v. the nail. Bob Mcnair does not own the Houston Texans, Tom Brady does. I hate to be a cocky Pats fan because it has burned me in the past but the true question with this game is will the Patriots cover -15?
With 3rd string QB Jacoby Brissett the Patriots won 27-0 in week 3. Both teams are a lot different from that game but in a way they're still the same. It's still the Patriots against the lowly Texans. While I hate the narrative that the Patriots have a cake walk to the Super Bowl because the Chiefs and Steelers are both great teams, this game should be a breeze. I don't see how the Texans can out score the New England Patriots in the playoffs at the razor. Especially with this defense and despite no Gronk, the healthiest a Patriots team has been all year.
Next week will be a battle, but this week is almost a forgone conclusion. Should the Pats lose I think it would be the biggest upset in Patriots history. More than Super Bowl 42. The only way the Patriots lose is if they all die in a pile up on the drive to the Stadium tomorrow.
Be like water.
The Final: Patriots 37 Texans 13
AFC Divisional Game: (3) Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5 @ (2) Kansas City Chiefs 12-4
Sunday January 15th 1:05pm NBC
This is the game I want to see the most. Well should the Patriots win, because if they get upset Saturday night there's no way I watch. I may end up dead in a ditch somewhere, but assuming all goes to plan this is the game I really care about to see who we'll be playing in the AFC Championship Game.
These two teams met up way back in week 4 in Pittsburgh. The Steelers absolutely destroyed Kansas City 43-14 on Sunday Night Football.
I missed that game because I was on my way back from Big Papi's "final" regular season game. NBD. I really thought that was going to be a great game but the Steelers dominated. I think this time around in KC it will be a lot closer. This matchup is very interesting to me because these two teams couldn't be more apart. The Steelers have a scary good offense with two of the biggest play makers in the NFL in LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown, but a pretty pedestrian defense. This is not your older brother's Steelers defense.
Then you have the Chiefs, who's offense is pretty boring. They play 1960's football with Alex Smith and just hope Kelce or Tyreek Hill can break one open. They also have Andy Reid at the helm who despite being an NFL head coach for basically my entire life, does not know how to manage the clock. But the KC defense is legit, despite their performance earlier in the year. Also having a return guy like Tyreek Hill in the playoffs is lethal and could be the difference maker for Kansas City. He is a touchdown waiting to happen any time he touches the ball. It's like Devin Hester in 06 when he's back there returning kicks.
It's not a very bold take, but this game to me is all about LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown. If they're running wild like they did against Miami then the Chiefs are screwed. They don't have the fire power to win shoot outs. We'll know pretty early how this game is going to turn out. If the Steelers can get up two scores at any point it's probably over.
I've gone back and forth on this one a ton. Both teams scare me in different ways but I really think the Chiefs find a way to pick up their first home playoff win since the 1993 season. They have the guys on defense to keep the Steelers in check and Big Ben has been horrible on the road this season. He's two different QBs on the road and at home. I just love Alex Smith and the style of football KC plays. It's very cool to see such a different style of football be successful in 2016 (17 now).
The Final: Chiefs 26 Steelers 24
NFC Divisional Game: (4) Green Bay Packers 10-6 @ (1) Dallas Cowboys 13-3
Sunday January 15th 4:40 PM FOX
The Dallas Cowboys have had a fantastic year. Everybody thought that Zeke Elliot would be a monster in the NFL. Not many thought he'd be the best RB in the league after one season. While the title may not be entirely his, he did lead the NFL in rushing yards as a rookie, no easy feat, even with the best offensive line in football.
Dak Prescott on the other hand is shocking to me. I watched a lot of Dak in college. I didn't think he'd make it in the NFL. His accuracy in college never impressed me. I always called him the right handed Tebow but this year he did what he had to do. He helped lead the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC and probably will get some MVP votes. 23 touchdowns to 4 INT. Not bad for a 4th round pick who was expected to be Tony Romo's backup.
Then you have the Green Bay Packers. At one point they were 4-6 and it looked like they'd miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Aaron Rodgers said after their final loss that they'd the table and make the playoffs. He was right. As the Packers won 6 straight to close out the regular season and made it lucky 7 in a row against the Giants in the wild card round.
Despite no Jordie Nelson I expect the Packers to put up a lot of points, as I also expect that from Dallas. Even though it's not Romo I still have a hard time picking the Cowboys in the playoffs. They've won 1 playoff game since the 90's. ONE.
Rodgers is on fire right now, what he's been doing reminds me so much of their 2010 Super Bowl run it's scary. I expect this to be a very fun game to watch in a back and forth affair. I believe whoever wins this game will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. I feel like a loser picking all the home teams up until now so I gotta switch it up. I think this magical ride for Green Bay lasts at least another week.
The Final: Packers 34 Cowboys 31
Next week I've got Chiefs @ Patriots in the AFC and Packers @ Falcons in the NFC. So I hope everybody enjoys Texans @ Steelers and Seahawks @ Cowboys.