This could be one of the more exciting NFL playoffs in a long time. Even the weak link team, Houston, offers some excitement with a smothering defense (somehow…without Watt). I’m really looking forward to this weekend’s slate of games.
- Seattle at Atlanta – Seattle has a way of making big plays at big moments. And on top of being a decent team, they have had a undeniable streak of good luck. But most frustrating to me (and part of why I just don’t like the team), they get more help from the officials than any other team – especially at home. But this game isn’t in Seattle where Seattle has enjoyed not just a 12th man advantage with the crowd, but a 13th man advantage with the officials. This game will be different. Atlanta’s offense is really hard to stop. Yes, if anyone can stop them yet in these playoffs it may be Seattle’s D or Houston’s D – but I don’t see it happening. I think the deserving MVP Matt Ryan finally sheds his poor playoff reputation with a big game today. The fact is, Seattle is a different team without Earl Thomas. He is one of the best 2-3 safeties in the game today and him being off the field just changes the dynamic here. Couple this with Atlanta having the best WR in the game and 2 top tier RBs – just tough to match up. Falcons 34, Seattle 23.
- Houston at New England – The only way Houston has a chance in this game is if Osweiler has a game 3x as good as the best game of his career. Defensively, New England will obviously focus on shutting down Lamar Miller and force Osweiler to beat them. And I think there is about a 4% chance of that happening. If he doesn’t perform, which is what I expect, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tom Savage come in and at least be competent. Despite Houston having an amazing defense (somehow with Watt out), and despite the assumption that Bill O’Brien should have a decent understanding for what New England might be up to today (having coached there not long ago), Brady and New England at home will be too much. Nobody does a better job of featuring different players and mixing things up offensively and making adjustments than the Patriots. There is a reason the most frustrating players to have in fantasy football are Patriots – they do a brilliant job of highlighting and featuring different players every week. Will it be James White? Julian Edelman? Bennett? Blount? Chris Hogan? Dion Lewis? Will it be a run heavy offense of a pass heavy offense? It’s impossible to say. I don’t like Houston here. Even though it may take a half for the Pats to get going, I think this will be a blowout. Patriots 37, Houston 16.
- Green Bay at Dallas – Ugh. This could be a tough game for our Packers. I am not excited about facing Ezekial Elliott. I think he’s THAT good. His physical strength isn’t super obvious just looking at him but he’s incredibly strong, fast, has good moves and more than anything, he has better patience and vision than any rookie RB I’ve ever seen. Throw in a really good offensive line led Wisconsin’s Travis Frederick and slowing down Elliott is a tall order. Prescott has also been fantastic a rookie. And Dallas actually has some really difficult guys to defend in the passing game too: Witten, Bryant, Williams and perhaps hardest to defend of all, the diminutive Cole Beasley. While I think our Run D will do a better job on Elliott than most people are thinking right now, my concern tomorrow is 3rd downs. Nobody on the Packers is quick enough to stay with Beasley on third and short. But I think the single play that will hurt the Packers most will be Dak Prescott getting yards with his feet. He is a smart player and knows when to run. I can see situations where we do a decent job in coverage but then Prescott gets those tough first downs with his legs – the kind of first downs Rodgers often gets – and the kinds of first downs that just drive opposing defenses crazy. The key tomorrow will be starting hot and putting the fear of Rodgers into the Dallas D. The Dallas D-Line has been surprisingly good this year and they could get pressure on Rodgers. But our O-Line has been masterful pass blocking the last 7 games. Should be a great match-up there. But if Rodgers gets going and gets a bunch of different receivers involved early on and we put some points on the board, we could put Dallas into a place mentally where they really don’t want to go. I can see the Packers putting up 37 points even without Jordy. But if we come in tepid and sort of unprepared-looking (like last week against the Giants), Dallas will could actually blow us out. Here is what I think will happen: The Packers will finally come into a game prepared, start hot and put Dallas on their heels. Dallas is not a mentally strong team. This year they’ve been very good, but still, over the last decade, they have shown themselves to be mentally vulnerable. They have a coach who is prone to making errors and turning conservative at the wrong moments (not unlike McCarthy). And on top of it all, I see playing in Dallas as a disadvantage for Dallas. They have not been great there until this year but when things go sideways at that monstrosity of a new stadium, teams seem to be able to go in there and get wins. I see that happening tomorrow. Packers 33, Cowboys 27.
- Pittsburgh at Kansas City – Another great game this weekend. Pittsburgh is exciting for obvious reasons. They have an elite QB, probably the #2 best WR in the NFL in Brown and in my opinion, the best RB in football in Bell. They are super talented. But the KC defense is also fun to watch. Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson are top LBs in the league, Eric Berry is a top 5 safety and Marcus Peters is a talented CB. On offense, I think the most exciting player in the NFL is Tyreek Hill. He is the fastest football player I have ever seen. Period. Nobody hits the hole with the kind of acceleration that Hill does. He is a threat to score a TD every single time he touches the ball. Pittsburgh can be tough to predict – when they show up they seem unstoppable but sometimes they just don’t show up. If this game were in Pittsburgh, I’d go with the Steelers. But at Arrowhead, in front of a success-starved, rabid, home crowd, I think the Chiefs win this game (and possibly win their next game as well.) Chiefs 24, Steelers 20.