For One Week, You Will Go Against The Best – The Divisional Round
It’s not often that the home team wins every single wild card game. It also isn’t common that every single game was decided by double digits. Everyone, even the Texans, are feeling good about advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Now they must face the elite, the best of the best.
Seahawks at Falcons
When: Saturday; 1:35pm PST on FOX
Where: Atlanta, GA
This could potentially be the last game played in the Georgia Dome. Yes, we are at that point where stadiums built in the mid 90’s are considered antiquated and need to be torn down. The Seahawks beat the Falcons earlier in the year, but it feels like the game occurred roughly a decade ago. Earl Thomas was still playing, but Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett were not. I expect to see the Falcons attack the deep middle of the Seahawks defense. Thomas’ replacement, Steven Terrell, is terrified of getting beat deep so he ends up playing extremely deep. The Lions tried to exploit this, but lacked the ability to throw and catch the football with any regularity. Atlanta loves to attack the middle of the field, especially off of play action. I expect they will be feasting on those spoils throughout the game.
I don’t think there is a soul on Atlanta that can stop Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin, especially if Wilson has that glazed over look he gets when he’s in the zone.
The Seahawks have a hell of a time starting fast on the road, and Atlanta is a team that goes for the throat early and often. I think Atlanta will get up a couple scores, then Wilson will heat up. The game will be a shootout, but I think Atlanta is going to be moving on.
Houston at New England
When: Saturday Night; 5:15pm PST on FOX
Where: Foxboro, MA
We learned last week that Connor Cook is not a professional quarterback. We also learned that the Raiders without Carr are not a playoff team, especially defensively. Houston deserves credit for not wetting themselves in the playoffs like they did last year and playing excellent defense. Unfortunately, the axe is about to fall on their season.
New England played Houston earlier this year without Tom Brady. They beat the hell out of the Texans. I wouldn’t be surprised if Houston hung in early with their defense. However, the Patriots will keep attacking, and keep scoring. Brock Osweiler will throw a few picks and New England will run away with this one.
Pittsburgh at Kansas City
When: Sunday; 10:05am PST on NBC
Where: Kansas City, MO
This is going to be a good one. Last year the Chiefs broke a 20 year streak without a playoff victory. Now they have another streak to break, they have never won a divisional round home playoff game. Such losses include Lin Elliott missing three field goals in a 10-7 loss to the 9-7 Colts in 1995. In 1997 they lost to Elway and the Denver Broncos, giving up a long touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to lose. In 2003, the Colts never punted and dispatched Dick Vermeil and the Chiefs. The last time the Chiefs won a Divisional playoff game was 1993, against the Houston Oilers, with Joe Montana at quarterback.
Of course there opponent this week is the talented and always dangerous Pittsburgh Steelers. Big Ben, Bell and Antonio Brown are capable of scoring on anybody at any time. The Chiefs come in with a great defense, talented skill players, and a steady quarterback in the vein of Rich Gannon, Trent Green, Elvis Grbac and Steve Bono. They have possibly the best cornerback in football in Marcus Peters, a physical front seven and a creative blitz scheme.
I think this is going to be an incredibly close and dramatic game. I think the Chiefs need to be aggressive offensively to win this game. Andy Reid, in the grand tradition of Chiefs coaches before him, has a tendency to tighten up and go ultra conservative in big playoff games. If he can keep attacking a mediocre Steelers defense, I think the Chiefs can win this game.
Packers at Cowboys
When: Sunday; 1:40pm PST on FOX
Where: Dallas, TX
Despite Dallas being clearly the better team throughout the season, this just feels like a Packers victory. There is a solid chance that Dallas will eat up the clock with long, physical drives behind their excellent offensive line and keep Rodgers and the Packers offense out of rhythm and off the field. However, I think that Green Bay will put 8 and 9 guys in the box and dare Prescott to beat them by throwing the ball downfield. I am inclined to think that Dom Capers will come up with a variety of creative looks and blitzes to make the rookie hesitate when looking downfield. If Dallas can effectively run the ball, Capers won’t be able to get as creative as he will have to stick with simple cover 1 and cover 2 man looks.
Dallas’ defenses plays extremely hard and tackle well, however I think they lack the talent to slow down Rodgers, especially with Rodgers as playing as well as he is. This time of year, teams win with good defense and quarterback play. Green Bay’s defense isn’t special, but Rodgers makes up for it.