And then there were four. The first two weeks of the playoff’s are behind us, and four teams survived to make it to Championship Sunday. Green Bay invades Atlanta while Pittsburgh tries to do the almost impossible and beat Tom Brady in January in New England. Here are our predictions.
Green Bay @ Atlanta (-5)
Both home teams are decent favorites this weekend, but the NFC title game is the only one I can see being an upset. Here’s how I picture Vegas sports books who are rooting for the under watching this game:
The over/under on this game is a whopping 60.5, but I’d be shocked if we saw anything less than 70 overall points scored. In Green Bay’s case, last week’s game showed us two things: Aaron Rodgers may be some type of human/sorcerer hybrid and Green Bay’s defense can’t hold a lead. Luckily for Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers will still be there QB Sunday. Unfortunately, they’ll also trot out the same defense, except this time they’re facing Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Ryan will most likely win the MVP this year, and for good reason. He threw for 38 TDs against only 7 interceptions while completing 70% of his passes. That was good for a 117.1 QB rating, which happened to be the best in the league. Last week against a Seattle defense that was 8th against the pass this year, Ryan threw for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. Green Bay was 31st against the pass this year, and gave up over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns to Dak Prescott last week. Unless GB can force some turnovers, not even Aaron Rodgers will be able to save them.
Which brings me to Aaron Rodgers. While he finally threw an interception last week (breaking his streak of 22 TDs without a pick) he also did this:
— cнiρ вroωn (@ChipBrown) January 16, 2017
He’s playing out of his mind right now, and he’s the only reason the Falcons aren’t favored by double digits in this game. The bad news for Rodgers and the Packers is that he’ll either be without Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams or they’ll be extremely limited. Coach Mike McCarthy said today that if this were a regular season game both guys wouldn’t be playing, which is never a good sign. Also, Atlanta’s defense looked great last week, picking off Russell Wilson twice. If they’re able to force even one turnover from Rodgers, that could be enough to put away the Packers with the way Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense is playing.
Pick: Falcons 45 Green Bay 34
Pittsburgh @ New England (-6)
Isn’t is funny how teams going up against the Patriots always seem to shoot themselves in the foot before the game even starts? Whether it’s Rex Ryan or Richard Sherman, the way other teams behave when they’re playing the Pats is like clock work. Someone opens their mouth and calls out the Patriots, they play the game and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick move on to the next round or win the Super Bowl. The most recent example we have is thanks to Antonio Brown and Mike Tomlin. Brown decided that going on Facebook live during a postgame victory speech by his coach was a good idea, and caught Tomlin calling the Patriots assholes. In the grand scheme of things that’s pretty minor, but do you really want to give the Patriots more ammo heading into this game? You’re already 6 point underdogs, and earlier in the day you watched Brady and Belichick improve to 119-21 at home in their careers, including 16-2 in the playoffs. Maybe shut your mouth and hope Le’Veon Bell can score you a hundred touchdowns. Anyway, here’s what I think Pittsburgh fans will look like after the game:
There are a lot of stats that prove Brady and Belichick’s dominance, especially at home, but it comes down to one simple point: they just don’t lose. Recently, they haven’t even TRAILED IN A GAME. Check out this stat I found on Twitter:
Stat o’ week @NFLResearch:
Patriots haven’t trailed since 11/27. 6 hrs, 1 min, and 56 secs of game time. Longest @NFL streak in 11 years.
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) January 18, 2017
How insane is that? That’s without Gronk, and without their ‘best defensive player’ Jaimie Collins who they traded away midseason. No matter what happens, the Pats always find a way to win. Most of my friends are Patriots fans, and playing Pittsburgh was their worst case scenario, but that’s only because the other options in the AFC were almost comical. The other four AFC teams that the Pats could’ve played were the Raiders (without Derek Carr), the Dolphins (without Ryan Tannehill), the Chiefs (Andy Reid, play caller. Enough Said) & the Texans. They played the Texans last week and won a very ugly game, but again, they still didn’t trail the entire time. While Pittsburgh might be the toughest matchup for them, they’re only tough compared to the other birthday cake matchups they could’ve had.
As far as Pittsburgh goes, Ben showed last week why his team is so much worse on the road, as he threw for 224 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception. Pittsburgh won that game thanks to Le’Veon Bell, Chris Boswell and Alex Smith being Alex Smith. While Bell has been unstoppable all year, Belichick specializes in taking away your best weapon, and if I’m aware of Ben’s home/road splits, I’m going to assume Belichick is too. He’ll do his best to focus on Bell and make Ben beat him through the air, something Roethlisberger hasn’t proven he can do on the road against a decent defense. Also, if Pittsburgh is banking on Brady playing anywhere near as bad as Alex Smith did, they should forfeit now.
Pick: Patriots 38 Steelers 26
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
For those of you who don’t know, the Average Nobodies are 49er (Ryan) and Buccaneer (Matt) fans, which means that we’ve been sad for a long time. But the NFL season is finally here, and so is fantasy football and Fan Duel and Pick ‘Em leagues, so for the time being, all is right in the world. Here are 4 random predictions we’ve come up with with little to no research to support them:
The Texans Defense Will Still Be Bad
Maybe not the boldest prediction, but any team who spends their No. 1 overall pick on a game changing defensive lineman is looking to improve their defense dramatically. There’s no disputing the Clowney/Watt combo will be ferocious, heart eating monsters, but I think a good defense is more than two guys. The Texans were the worst fantasy defense last year, and that had a lot to do with Matt Schaub giving the other team at least 14 points a game on pick six’s. This year? Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starting quarterback, which means the Texans have somehow gotten worse at the quarterback position. The Texans defense will be playing with a short field all year, which is never good. In time, the Texans could build a solid defense around their two superstars, but for the immediate future, it’s not going to be pretty.
Brandin Cooks Will Break the NFL Rookie Receptions Record (101 catches)
I may be a little biased on this one, since Cooks is on my fantasy team, but he has the perfect scenario brewing in New Orleans. Drew Brees is his quarterback, and Drew Brees throws the ball. A lot. He’s not the Saints primary receiver, which mean he won’t draw the attention of the opposing teams best corner. The rookie reception record is 101 catches by Anquan Boldin, so Cooks would need 102 this year to break it. Pros: he’s insanely fast, in a high powered offense who will score a lot of points & he has one of the top 3 QBs in the game. Cons: he’s on my fantasy team, so he will probably get hurt.
Peyton Manning Will Still Be Really Good & Break His Own TD Record
Did a little research on this one: Peyton threw for 55 tds last year against 10 interceptions and completed 68% of his passes. Holy fuck is that amazing. He lost Knowshon, Decker, and for the first four games Welker, but I see him breaking his touchdown mark again. What he lost in Knowshon he’s gained in Monte Ball as his every down back. What he lost in Decker he’s gained in Emmanuel Sanders. Welker will be back for week 6 (week 4 is their bye) hopefully high on Adderall and Molly and ready to literally run through people’s exoskeletons. Plus he still has the leagues second best receiver and second/third best tight end, and I have a hunch he might have a chip on his shoulder after getting pooped on in the Super Bowl. Remember when he ran down the field in the pre season to talk smack to a defensive back to who hit Welker? This year is going to be the year of angry Peyton Manning. He may throw 100 tds.
The NFL Will Hand Out $5 million+ In Fines This Year
Not sure how this one can be tracked, but with Isray’s $500,000 fine and all the suspensions/pre season fines, it seems like a fair prediction to say the NFL is going to be getting a lot of money from it’s players/owners this year. The pass interference flags have been almost intolerable this pre season, and while I understand player safety is a high priority, you still have to let these guys play the game. With that said, the commissioner of the league is the same guy who suspended a man 2 games for severely beating his wife and another guy four games for having fun at the Kentucky Derby. All bets are off, except the bet that the NFL is going to fine the shit out of everybody.
Our Superbowl Predictions (Who We Want vs. What We Think)
Who I want: Tampa Bay vs. New England
Who I think: Philadelphia vs. New England
Who I want: San Francisco vs. Denver
Who I think: Green Bay vs. New England
– The Average Nobodies