Many words could describe this Wild Card weekend – “exciting” certainly not being one of them. While the Wild Card weekend ended up being as lackluster as Bill Belichick's press conference personality, many are hoping the Divisional Round will breathe new life and excitement into the Playoffs. With Derek Carr’s leg injury hindering the Raiders, the Lion's offense hitting a late-season lull, Miami’s defense unable to contain Pittsburgh’s triple threat, and the Giant’s wide receivers contracting a severe case of butterfingers, the playing field has been narrowed down to 8 teams. While each playoff game is a rematch from the regular season, fans shouldn’t expect the same outcomes given the high stakes that come with being Super Bowl hopefuls.
Seahawks at Falcons
Seattle and Atlanta first met in week 5 of the regular season. While both teams appeared to be in excellent shape, the Seahawks were able to slide by with a 26-24 win thanks to a late “No Call” by the officials. Led by MVP candidate Matt Ryan, Atlanta’s high-flying offense looks to exact revenge on a Seahawk’s secondary without one of their top anchors, Earl Thomas, there to keep the Falcons at bay. To keep their NFC hopes alive, the Seahawks must rely on another big game from Thomas Rawls and for their defense to find a weakness in one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Prediction: Atlanta 27-23
Texans at Patriots
Let’s be honest… It’s hard to see an outcome that involves the Texans beating the Patriots. Playing in week 3, New England obliterated the Texans 27-0. To make the loss even worse, the Patriots won with not their second – but their third string quarterback. But the Texan’s quarterback, Brock Osweiler, is coming off his best game this season, although that isn’t saying much since it has been a year for him to forget. Even if the Texans had J.J. Watt, they would still need to find a way to beat Tom Brady. Since coming off his suspension, Tom Brady has been 11-1 and 8-0 without one of his premiere targets, Rob Gronkowski.
Prediction: Patriots 27-6
Steelers at Chiefs
While many might see the Steelers as the favorites due to their 43-14 win over the Chiefs in week 4, Kansas City shouldn’t be underestimated. The Chiefs not only have one, but an entire defense of playmakers at their disposal. Add home field advantage, NFL’s loudest crowd, with rookie sensation, Tyreek Hill, and the Steelers may find it difficult to move the ball - but that doesn’t mean they will lose. They have won the last eight games with an offense that seems to be an unstoppable force. Let’s not forget Pittsburgh also has Le’Veon Bell, who is arguably one of the top running backs in the sport today.
Prediction: Chiefs 31-27
Packers at Cowboys
Possibly one of the most anticipated matchups of this season, the Packers find themselves behind enemy lines in a week 6 rematch where the Cowboys won 30-16. Ever since Aaron Rodgers’ “Run the Table” press conference, Green Bay has done exactly that, winning their last seven games. On top of his Any Given Sunday speech, Aaron Rodgers has taken command of the offense and led them to an improbable division title run. When it comes to the Cowboys, two names stand out – Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. Although rookies, they have been able to play at the highest level of their respective positions, making each of them a potential selection for the MVP Award. But the question is – can they play up to the level of Aaron Rogers?
Predictions: Packers 23-17
Article by Chris Piner