The best weekend of the NFL season besides opening week has arrived! I do understand many of you may be surprised by this but the Super Bowl kind of sucks. The best football of the NFL playoffs usually is during the conference finals, deal with it.
What I am excited about is that all four teams left standing feature some of the leagues best quarterbacks. Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Matt Ryan and Big Creepy Ben Roethlisberger. Let’s face it, high flying gun slinging football is the best. I would have probably cried in agony if I had to watch the Houston Texans face off against a team like the Minnesota Vikings and I’m a Vikings fan!
The NFL is the most fun when Quarterbacks are tossing bombs and wide receivers are making ridiculous one handed catches for big plays. This weekend is sure to feature a lot of that and I for one can’t wait! Let’s jump into week 3 of the NFL playoffs with some surefire picks.
Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons
So last week I once again underestimated the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rogers’ voodoo magic. The Packers squeaked by in a high flying all offensive game against the Dallas Cowboys. Does Green Bay have anymore magic in them? Will they continue to run the table as they play what seems to be their millionth must win game in a row?
The Atlanta Falcons offense continued to impress against a usually superb Seattle Seahawks. Matt Ryan and co. are finally in a spot to gain some respect and will face a Packers defense who almost managed to let a game get away from them last week. Julio Jones and the Falcons Halfbacks are going to have a field day over the Cheeseheads. Can Damarious Randall and Ladarious Gunter (Who?!) contain one of the most athletic and consistent big game players in Julio Jones? Dez Bryant managed to torch the Packers for 132 yards and a beautiful touchdown last week. I expect Julio to do the same and to score 2 touchdowns in this game.
As I suspected, the dynamic duo of Devonte Freeman and Tevon Coleman managed to bring some pain against the Seahawks. Primary back Freeman was stuffed a little and managed only 3.2 yards per carry, but did manage a rushing TD and 80 receiving yards. Change of pace back, Coleman was more efficient with 5.2 yards per carry, 57 rushing yards and a receiving TD. What are these guys going to do against the Packers leaky D? Can Clay Matthews stop these guys on 30+ plays? Doubtful.
As I admitted earlier I have consistently doubted the Packers because of their atrocious defense. Defense apparently wins championships but don’t tell Aaron Rogers that because he is playing like a man on fire since his mid season revival.
When the Packers let the Cowboys back into the game last week two things went into my mind. The Cowboys had to score a touchdown and probably could have if they called some different plays. Secondly, do not tie the game up and give Aaron Rogers any time left to throw a few plays. The Cowboys sure enough were forced to kick a 50+ yard field goal and give the Packers the ball back with approx. 35 seconds and a couple of time outs in hand.
Rogers is generational and the Packers O-line is looking great these days. Jordy Nelson is out; no matter because Rogers works with what he’s got and will make sure he has a good look or three down field before making his throws. As I discussed last week Atlanta’s defense isn’t very good and likely no better then the Cowboys. Vegas has recognized this and betting odds for over/under started at 60 for this game.
I really don’t know who will get points for the Packers but Rogers will spread the ball around https://wordpress.com/post/thehoopandtheharmblog.wordpress.com/183and make plays out of nothing with whomever is open. He’s going to get his points but will he be able to get more points then his defense will allow?
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 34-27
Fantasy Outlook: Both Quarterbacks will throw over 300 yards and 3 TD’s each. Devonte Freeman is going to run wild and get 80+ yards and 1 TD. Julio Jones will get 100+ yards and 2 TD’s. On the Green Bay side Devonte Adams will get 100+ yards and 1 TD with lesser plays managing to eat up 50-70 yards each.
New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Patriots managed to cover the spread of -16 against the Texans last week and the Steelers managed to win a game without scoring a single touchdown over the Chiefs. I feel like I nailed both predictions except Houston put up a bit more of a fight defensively then I would have expected.
But who cares about the Texans… this is a game for the big boys! The Steelers and Pats face off for the 2nd time this year, but last time they met Big Ben was hurt and sat the game. Ultimately, the Pats won 27-16.
The biggest story that came out of last week’s games between either the Patriots or Steelers is a Facebook live video that Antonio Brown shot while his head coach was giving his team a post-game victory speech. Was this mature or respectful on Brown’s part? No, but this should not be front page sports news but this is what seems to happen during NFL’s low news cycles.
What’s more concerning to me is that the Steelers offense as a whole sputtered against the Chiefs last week. I predicted that the Steelers would win off of field goals but to rely off 6 field goals?! Come on…
But once again Le’Veon Bell may be the best all around offensive player in football right now. He simply kicked ass against the Chiefs but failed to score. Antonio Brown got his yards but again did not score. Big Ben did not have a good game. He simply has to play better and get it done on third downs and in the red zone. Six field goals will not cut it against the Patriots this weekend.
Now the Steelers D has been playing some tenacious football lately. They managed to cause some major headaches for the stars of the KC Chiefs. The reffing in the game was interesting at time but the same could said for the Cowboys/Packers game. The Steelers D is going to make this one a game but can Tom Brady methodically grind and pick away at their weaknesses?
New England relied on Dion Lewis for what seemed like his biggest workload of the year and left Blount with sloppy seconds. Was this a move to preserve their big bruiser or a changing of the guard now that Lewis is back to full health? His three touchdowns seem to say so and I expect The Patriots to continue leaning on the versatile young running back.
Tom Brady only connected with Martellus Bennett for one measly four yard reception last week. Last time he faced off against the Steelers, Gronk was healthy and went wild with a couple of TD’s. Will Bennett step up this week and exploit what New England was able to do back in November?
Last time these two teams met all the stars who played in the game played well. Brady, Edelmen, Blount, Bell and Brown all put up star stat lines. This game is going to depend on what teams stars show up and get it done. I really expect a great football game that will come down to the wire.
Lastly, word out of Pittsburgh is that 15 players missed practice with the flu. Is Bill Biiiiiiiiileeeeeechuck at it again? We will see?!
Prediction: New England Patriots 24-20
Fantasy Prediction: Tom Brady throws for 2 TD’s and 250+ yards. Dion Lewis will score 1 TD and have 100+ combined rushing and receiving yards. Le’Veon Bell will score 1 TD and break 100 yards as he always does. Antonio Brown will receiving 1 TD but not break 100 yards and this will be the difference maker in the game. Big Ben will also not have a very good game and I expect him to manage less than 200 throwing yards in the game and throw a key interception or fumble.