NFL Picks and Predictions: NFL Playoffs Divisional Round - Roto Street Journal
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NFL Picks and Predictions: NFL Playoffs Divisional Round

As the divisional round of the postseason gets going this weekend, your fellow degenerate gambler Keegs is sitting at 2-2 for the playoffs. Yes, I said I wanted a perfect postseason, but I say a lot of things. Shit happens, plans change, people move on. The Texans/Raiders game was a bit of a toss up because we had no clue what we were getting from either quarterback, especially Oakland’s, but I’ll be honest: the Packers just downright shocked me. I knew they were coming in hot, knew they were playing at home, and for some reason I just felt real good about the Giants heading into that game. That’s on me.

On the other hand, emphatic covers by the Steelers and Seahawks salvaged a .500 week, and I’m determined to improve upon that come this weekend. It’s gonna be a hell of a slate of games, so here we go.

Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons (-5)

Saturday, January 14th @ 4:35 PM

Coming off a 26-6 drubbing of the 6 seed Detroit Lions last week, the Seahawks now travel to Atlanta to take on the #2 Falcons, who had a bye last week. Seattle looked strong last week against the Lions, particularly defensively, holding Matthew Stafford to just 205 yards and 1st-team All Grit RB Zach Zenner to 34 yards on 11 carries. Offensively, Russell Wilson finished with 224 yards and 2 scores, and was helped greatly with a huge performance out of Thomas Rawls, who ran for 161 yards and a touchdown, converting three 3rd downs and a 4th and short in the process. As for the Falcons, everyone seems to be waiting for what we see as the inevitable: the perennial Atlanta choke. It happens every year, whether it’s a 2-7 finish after a 6-1 start (2015), a loss in the NFC Championship after leading 17-0 in the 2nd quarter (2012), or whatever happens this year. All that said, I don’t think that’ll come just yet. It’s the playoffs so nothing is guaranteed, but I’m willing to bet that Dan Quinn and MVP-frontrunner Matt Ryan have been at least loosely gameplanning to face the Seahawks for about 2 weeks now. The Falcons’ prolific offense will be ready to go, so the question is about their defense. They ranked 27th in scoring this year and 17th against the run, which could obviously be improved upon, but Seattle’s offense isn’t exactly the Greatest Show on Turf, so it doesn’t worry me too much. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will pace Atlanta out of the backfield, Julio Jones will probably finish with 200 yards and 2 TDs, and the Falcons will be back in the hunt in the NFC.

Definitely not a blowout in this one, but expect an Atlanta cover at home.

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots (-15)

Saturday, January 14th @ 8:15 PM

Let’s be honest; who’d you think I was gonna pick? Haven’t gone against my guys yet, and they’ve yet to screw me. And now, the Patriots come off their bye week with a home matchup against the Texans, who topped the Carr-less Raiders at home last week. Houston’s 27-14 win wasn’t exactly a blowout, but they did exactly what they had to do; they held Connor Cook under 200 yards and picked him off 3 times, they held Latavius Murray to 39 yards rushing, and they advanced to the divisional round. Now, Houston and their 1st-ranked total defense draw the short straw and have to travel to Foxborough. To face the Pats. In January. Yikes. Houston’s D has been one of the best in football this year, but they’ll obviously have their hands full with the top ranked scoring offense in the AFC. Tom Brady has continued to defy age at 39, dominating the competition to the tune of a 28-2 interception ratio and a 112.2 passer rating, and Julian Edelman bounced back from a slow start to pile up a career-high 1,106 yards on the year. LeGarrette Blount has missed practice all week with an undisclosed illness, but provided he can play he’ll be a huge X factor for New England offensively. Everyone knows what Brady can do, but Blount’s ability to establish the run game early is going to determine how the rest of this game goes. If he’s cooking early and Brady can utilize the play action like he loves to do (like the absolute BEAUTY at 1:10 in this highlight video from their 2012 matchup), it’s gonna be game over real early. New England’s offensive line has been stout all year, the defense continues to improve, and even Stephen Gostkowski has come around from his early-season funk.

The crazy spread is tempting to go against, but don’t fall for it; Pats dominate and cover.

Pittsburgh Steelers (+1) @ Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, January 15th @ 1:00 PM

Regardless of what direction this one goes in, it’s gonna be a hell of a game. The Steelers killed Miami at home last week and now advance to Kansas City to take on the 12-4 Chiefs. These teams have played once already this year, a 43-14 Steelers home win, but times have changed since then. The Chiefs went into their bye week after the Pittsburgh loss, and since then have gone 10-2 and surpassed both Denver and Oakland to win the AFC West. Part of the reason has been Alex Smith, who set a new career-high in yards this year at 3,502 and completed over 67% of his passes, his best mark since his last year in San Francisco. And not only is rookie Tyreek Hill a downfield threat that can open the field up for Travis Kelce, but he’s one of the most dynamic players in the entire league. The story can be told in his 12 total TDs this year – 6 receiving, 3 rushing, 2 punt returns, 1 kickoff return. But as great as these guys all are, and as important playing at Arrowhead is for the Chiefs, I just can’t pick against the hottest team in the AFC. After a 4-5 start, the Steelers have won 8 straight and have been peaking on both sides of the ball. Ben Roethlisburger suffered a foot injury late in their Wild Card win over Miami, but coach Mike Tomlin said this week that the injury “doesn’t appear to be an issue” and Big Ben will be a go for Sunday. As will Le’Veon Bell, who made his case for best running back in football stronger last week with 167 yards and 2 touchdowns in his first career playoff game. So with these two strong offenses clashing, this game will go down to which defense comes to play. The Chiefs will have to get constant pressure on Roethlisburger and get him uncomfortable to the point of making bad throws, and the Steelers’ secondary will need to cover well downfield and force Kansas City to run, which Pittsburgh is well-equipped to stop.

It won’t be pretty, but Pittsburgh will make it 9 straight. 

Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys (-5)

Sunday, January 15th @ 4:40 PM

Nope, haven’t learned my lesson. Picked against the Pack last week, they pulled out a huge win, and I’m going against them again. It takes something real special to make me do something like this, and that something is the Dallas Cowboys. This team was for real all season, start to finish, and now gets the perfect chance to prove it; a home playoff game, coming off a bye, against one of the hottest teams in football. Ezekiel Elliott’s legs are fresh and ready for a battle with Green Bay’s 8th ranked rush defense, and if he gets going the whole team rallies around it. The Dallas D, who themselves are ranked 1st in rush defense, won’t have to worry about a lot of ground game from Green Bay. Their committee of Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael has gotten them to this point, but Aaron Rodgers is going to have to throw early and often for the Packers to stay in this game. And I don’t want to downplay how lethal Rodgers could be in a closed dome stadium in the playoffs, but the game being played in Dallas is greatly beneficial to Dak Prescott as well. Prescott completed almost 70% of his passes at home this year, compared to about 66% on the road, and threw only 1 pick at home versus 3 on the road. It’s Dak’s first taste of the playoffs as a rookie and I’m sure the jitters will show a little early, but he’s a poised player beyond his years and he won’t have a problem bearing down and doing what he has to do in this one. Rodgers may finish with the better stats after 4 quarters, but the Cowboys are the more complete team and will advance another week.

Dallas by a touchdown at home.

In looking over my picks all together right now, I really hope I’m right. Because I think Falcons-Cowboys and Steelers-Patriots in the conference championships would be best-case scenario for anybody who loves to watch good football. I just can’t look at those two games and not think they have the potential to both be instant classics.

Good luck to all this weekend, and remember to savor the 2016-17 season while you still can; it doesn’t have much time left.

Dad Joke of the Week

What do you call the fear of being trapped in a chimney? CLAUStrophobia. (Few weeks late on this one)