Your Average Picks For The NFL Playoffs – Week 2
The wild card round has come and gone, and every team that was expected to advance did so without any real drama. Now comes week 2, and with that comes the best four teams from the regular season entering the fold with a shot at a championship game on the line. Here our picks for the winners of the second round of the NFL playoffs.
Seattle @ Atlanta (-5)
Besides Patriots/Houston later on Saturday night, this weekend’s slate of games should be very interesting. While the spread in this game indicates a clear favorite in Atlanta, Seattle is one of those teams that always seems to play their best football in the playoffs. This is the kickoff to a fun football weekend, so here’s how I picture fans watching this game:
The story of last week’s Seahawks win was the domination of their defense. Detroit had a decent offense during the regular season, and Stafford was clearly hurting, but the Seahawks smothered them all game. They only allowed 231 total yards and 12 first downs, and dominated the time of possession 36:39 to 23:21. Seattle scored first and never looked back, and the most important part of their offensive game was Thomas Rawls. He ran for 161 yards and a TD and was a big reason the Seahawks were able to keep the call out of the Lions hands. That’s going to be even more important as they head to Atlanta.
While Atlanta’s defense finished the year strong, and Vic Beasley dominated with 15.5 sacks, all the talk going into this game will be about Matt Ryan and his offense. Ryan finished the year with the highest passer rating of any QB in the league (117.1) and threw for just under 5,000 yards with a great TD/INT ratio of 38/7. While Ryan has been historically better at home than on the road, it didn’t matter this year. With the help of running back’s Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, plus the combination of old faithful Julio Jones and young speedster Taylor Gabriel, Atlanta had the best offense in the NFL this year, scoring 33.75 points per game.
Pick: Will Thomas Rawls and the Seahawks D keep the ball out of Ryan’s hands, or will Seattle be playing catchup all day? I think this is Matty Ice’s year to improve upon his 1-4 playoff record and win his first playoff game since 2013.
Atlanta 38 Seattle 24
Houston @ New England (-15)
Houston at the Patriots is the most lop sided game of the weekend (and most likely the entire playoffs) and it’s still a little unsettling to see a 15 point spread for a second round playoff game. But that’s what happens when a Brock Osweiler led wild card team heads to Foxborough to take on Bill Belichick and his Frankenstein creation Tom Brady. Here’s my pre-game advice to the Texans:
Here are just a few stats that should help you understand why the Patriots are such huge favorites (H/T boston.com). The Patriots are 4-0 versus the Texans at Gillette, beating them 27-0 in their last meeting back in September. The Patriots played that game without Tom Brady. Texans coach Bill O’Brien is 0-2 in his career versus Bill Belichick (both losses coming this year). Tom Brady has the most playoff wins, completions, passing yards and touchdowns for a QB in NFL history. Brady is 22-9 in the postseason, five more wins than any other QB. Overall (including the postseason) Brady and Belichick have a career record of 205-61, including an otherworldly 118-21 at home. Brady and Belichick are 15-2 at home in their respective careers in the playoffs. Conclusion: the Texans are going to chalk this one up as a loss.
Pick: New England 45 Houston 21
Pittsburgh @ Kansas City (-1.5)
This game is the closest game of the weekend spread-wise, and it’s the only game out of the four where I can realistically see the visiting team winning. While Seattle and Green Bay could definitely win on the road, they would absolutely be upset wins. If Pittsburgh and their supremely talented offense win in KC, I wouldn’t consider than an upset. Here’s how I picture fans of both teams watching the game:
Pittsburgh lives and dies with it’s offense, especially against a team like KC who’s going to use time management to win or keep the game close. While Le’Veon Bell continued to prove that he’s matchup proof, a playoff road game in Arrowhead is going to be a huge test for Big Ben. It helps that he has the best receiver in football in Antonio Brown, but it’s tough to brush off his home/road splits. Ben’s QB rating drops 38.3 points on the road, and his TD/INT ratio changes dramatically from 20/5 to 9/8. I don’t think this game will be a blowout on either end, and the Steelers haven’t lost a road game since November 6th in Baltimore, so this game has the potential to go either way.
The Chiefs have two main weapons: their defense and Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs defense hasn’t given up more than 21 points at home since week one and forced 18 turnovers in their 8 home games this year. That number is skewed by the Jets game in week 3 where they committed 8 turnovers, but the Chiefs had three other games where they forced three or more turnovers as well. Turnovers are going to important in this game, especially when you take into account Ben’s struggles on the road. Weapon X for KC, also known as Tyreek Hill, has transformed their offense this year. Hill has six receiving touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns on the year, but where he’s really had an impact is in the kick return game. He’s run back one kickoff and two punts this year, and even when he’s not scoring TDs, he’s giving the Chiefs solid starting field position by either gaining yards or forcing the kicker to alter his game plan. Hill is a weapon very few teams have, and good starting field position for a team like KC who likes to milk the clock is incredibly important.
Pick: There’s a reason this game has a 1.5 point spread, as it’s almost a toss up. I’m going with the more talented squad.
Pittsburgh 27 Kansas City 24
Green Bay @ Dallas (-4.5)
The outlook of this game changed dramatically when it was announced that Jordy Nelson wouldn’t be playing, and that might be a blow that Rodgers and Green Bay are unable to overcome. Green Bay won last week thanks to Aaron Rodgers continued resurgence and the human dumpster fire known as Eli Manning, but this week’s game might be a little different. Here’s how I picture Ezekiel Elliot’s dad watching the game:
Green Bay has now won seven games in a row, and most of that credit has to go to Rodgers. All he’s done over the Pack’s seven game win streak is throw 19 TDs and ZERO interceptions. He hasn’t thrown a pick since November 13th versus the Titans, and for any Cowboys fans hoping that Rodgers will suffer on the road, I have more bad news for you. While Rodgers has been sacked 7 more times on the road, he has a passer rating of 101.9 and an 18/3 TD/INT ratio. How could someone who’s been this good possibly lose? Enter the Cowboy’s rookies.
As impressive as Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot have been, I think the best thing they do is take care of the football. The Cowboys only turned the ball over 13 times this year, with 9 of those belonging to Prescott and Elliott. While the two rookies got lucky at certain points (they fumbled 14 times total, however 9 times the Cowboys recovered) 9 turnovers for two guys who handled the ball as much as Dak and Zeke is a very low number. They both take care of the ball, and they both have no trouble scoring touchdowns. Elliott scored 16 total touchdowns this year while Dak added 29 more, which means their touchdown to turnover ratio was 45/9. Also, Dak finally got on the same page with star receiver Dez Bryant towards the end of the year, so this could be a long, painful day for the Packers.
Pick: Cowboys 35 Packers 27