I hope you’re all over the football hangover known as Wildcard weekend. I went 3 for 4 on my picks and the Packers proved much more resilient then I believed. Let’s jump into the real games as the top 8 teams in the NFL faceoff this weekend. Wooooooooooooooo!
Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons
The Seahawks defense did their thing last week against the Lions and completely shut them down. I was impressed that their secondary limited what was once a hot offense albeit they were sputtering into the playoffs. This week the Seahawks face off against a red hot Matt Ryan who has had a renaissance season and led the Falcons to a great and surprising season.
The Falcons have won four games in a row and their last loss to the chiefs was by 1 point. Matt Ryan just completed his most successful season to date and nearly cracked 5000 passing yards. His passer rating was 117.1 which is good for the 5th best season by a Quarterback since the rating’s creation in 1973. This puts him in company with the best seasons by Aaron Rogers, Payten Manning, Tom Brady and some guy named Nick Foles… member Nick Foles?!
Needless to say the Atlanta offense is about as good as they come. Julio Jones proved again he is among the league’s elite and The Falcons as a whole probably didn’t get enough credit for the season. I think these guys are for real and will give the Seahawks some problems.
On the defensive side Atlanta has been a middle team at best. Their rush defense is mid pack and the pass defense ranks near the bottom so these guys are going to live and die by their offensive sword. It will be interesting to see how they hold Wilson and the Hawks in this winner takes all grudge match.
I was a little surprised that Russell Wilson didn’t use his legs at all against the Lions, but he hasn’t ran a lot this season. Will this change against the Falcons, probably not. He has looked human this year and I’m now doubting he has another gear left in him this season. Thomas Rawls appears healthy and looked great against the Lions. I think he could be a force against the Falcons middle of the pack run defense. However, those middle of the pack numbers probably have more to do with their offense putting up some big leads in games and forcing teams into a throwing game than anything. I think the Falcons will be a bit suspect in this area against The Hawks.
If not for Paul Richardon’s three Beckamish catches against the Lions I don’t think they would have had any success in the air. Doug Baldwin has had a great year but if he is shut down I’m not sure another secondary player will step up. The Seahawks edged the Falcons 26-24 earlier this season and I expect this game to be just as tight. Matt Ryan and the Falcons are due for some playoff success. They have two versatile half backs and a couple key wideouts who could all be primed to put up big plays. I ultimately don’t have faith that the Seahawks sputtering offense will be able to exploit Atlanta’s deficiencies.
Prediction: Falcons 24-20
Fantasy Predictions: Tevon Coleman will be a hero for the Falcons out of the backfield. I have a hunch that Freeman will be shut down but Coleman will step up as the change of pace back and catch a key receiving TD. Russel Wilson will have a mediocre game but Thomas Rawls will rush for a touchdown and 80+ yards to keep this game close.
New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans
I’m not going to waste too much of my time or yours covering this game. Vegas odds opened up as high as -16 on the Patriots and I’ll be surprised if Houston can even cover that. The Patriots spanked Houston 27-0 back in week three without Gronk and Tom Brady; I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar outcome again. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick almost never take the pedal off the medal and have had two weeks to prepare for this game. Will it be a bye week for the Patriots? No, but I think the Patriots completely shut down the Houston’s limited offense. I think the Patriots will consider this game a success if no key players get hurt.
Prediction: New England 31-6
Fantasy Predictions: Tom Brady is going to do his thing and throw for 2 TD’s and 300 yards and the Patriots will get some points early in this one. My bold prediction for this game is that all three of the Patriots half backs score a touchdown each. I will be shocked If Houston even cracks double digit points in this game avoid their players at all costs for fantasy purposes.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Oh boy this is a hard game to call. The Steelers looked pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good against the Dolphins last week. As I correctly guessed Big Ben threw a couple quick TD’s to Antonio Brown. I was surprised by how much Le’veon Bell was featured in a one sided affair but wow he looked great.
The Steelers offense is going to role KC with some swagger. The two squads met up way back in week 4 where the Steelers pounded the Chiefs 43-14. The Chiefs come off their playoff bye week winning 5 of 6 games. Alex Smith has proved to be Mr. reliable aka boring for the Chiefs but he has been the QB they needed. The Chiefs offensive line did a great job protecting Smith this season as he was sacked only 28 times all year long compared to an average of 41 times over the previous three seasons. This gives Smith time do his thing and find short routes for easy completions. Spencer Ware replaced Jamal Charles without missing a beat albeit his effectiveness started to dwindle later in the season either due to nagging injury or fatigue.
The real breakout for the Chiefs late in the season was Tyreek Hill who lately seems like he can do anything. Andy Reid has shown a willingness to use Hill in a variety of rushing and receiving situations and has rewarded the Chiefs handsomely. The Chiefs offense ultimately isn’t very sexy but they manage to giver.
Big Ben appeared to hurt his foot in their Wildcard game but should be fine this Sunday. The secondary offensive players had little role in the Miami blow out but I expect guys like Eli Rogers and Jesse James to play key roles against a solid Chiefs defense.
I don’t think much analysis needs to be written about Big Ben, Bell or Brown. These boys are going to come to play and if they don’t put up some big numbers then the Chiefs will have a good chance to win the game. I do think that the bell cow, Le’veon Bell is going do some damage against a Chiefs defense that allowed him to rush for 144 yards and 34 receiving yards back in week 4.
A matchup I look forward to is Chiefs Cornerback, Marcus Peters, against the Steelers, Antonio Brown. When these two met last time Brown only managed 64 yards but scored two touchdowns which are all that really matter. Which young star will emerge on top this time around? My bet is on Brown.
Prediction: Steelers 33-20
Fantasy Prediction: Bell is going to run wild for 120 yards and a touch down and Antonio Brown will add on 80+ yards and a TF of his own. I expect a secondary receive like Eli Rogers to also contribute. Big Ben will have a great game and get a lot of players involved in the offense. On the KC side I expect Spencer Ware to struggle but Tyreek Hill will create some problems for the Steelers secondary. I also suspect that Steelers kicker, Chris Boswell, kicks 4 field goals.
Green Bay Packers Vs. Dallas Cowboys
Aaron Rogers showed the world once again that he is a generational Quarterback. The touchdown he thew late in the 2nd quarter against the Giants where he stood in the pocket for about 8 seconds and thread a needle to Devonte Adams was a thing of beauty. I was surprised by the game’s final score and that Rogers was able to dismantle the Giants defense so easily in the 2nd half. This bodes well for the Packers chances against the Cowboys awful pass defense. The Cowboys excel at shutting down the run but have been exploited at times in the air. The Packers will still need to mix in some runs in order to create some time and space for their future hall of fame QB, but I expect the Packers to put up some points in a shoot out.
On the Dallas Cowboys side they had a nice week off and appear to be fairly healthy going into their first playoff game of 2017. After a stellar rookie season by both Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys are the top dogs in the NFC. Dez Bryant and Tony Romo were hurt again but it didn’t matter as the Cowboys found a neaw gear through their youthful breakout stars. The Cowboys continue to have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL as over the past three seasons they have been among league leaders in rushing production.
The Packers defense faced a weak running game from the Giants in the Wild card game. This will not be the case against The Cowboys who will run the ball down the Packers throats all day. Dak Prescott has shown tremendous poise all season and has been a great game manager. However, he will be facing another great game manager in Aaron Rogers.
The Packers receiving core will be without Jordy Nelson as he sustained some pretty serious rib injuries against the Giants. As great as Adams has been this year I do expect some extra coverage to be problematic, but I’m sure Rogers will pull a few rabbits out of his hat and find ways to put up points.
Prediction: Cowboys 27-24
Fantasy Predictions: Ezekiel Eliott is going to run wild and score 2 TD’s and break 120+ yards as the Cowboys edge the Packers in exciting matchup. I expect Rogers to throw 3 TD’s to three different receives, and crack 275+ yards but it simply won’t be enough as the Packers defense let’s the cheese heads down.