Seahawks @ Falcons
Despite Earl Thomas’ absence the Seahawks defense is still very good, being able to get after the quarterback and is still able to field a solid secondary. The Falcons’ offensive line can be exploited especially in pass blocking situation and they must keep Matt Ryan upright in order to win the game.
On defense the Falcons are beatable. They can get after the quarterback and their pass defense is actually not that bad (despite surrendering the 5th most passing yards in the NFL this arose mainly from opposing teams throwing a lot seeing as the Falcons actually rank 11th in average yards allowed per pass attempt with 6.9). Their run defense is much poorer though, allowing an average of 4.5 yards per rushing attempt, good for 26th in the NFL during the regular season.
All in all, this is actually not bad news to the Falcons. As stated above Seattle offensive line is not good which means that the Falcons should actually be able to stop or limit Seattle’s run game. I don’t believe last week’s rushing output against the Lions (at home) will be repeated on the road against a Falcons’ team led by a former Seahawks’ defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn.
This puts the game in Wilson’s hands who has spent most of the season running for his life from opposing pass rushers, an evidence that will certainly be exploited by NFL regular season sack leader Vic Beasley Jr. (15.5 sacks) and the rest of the Falcons’ pass rush (Clayborn, Freeney, Garrett, among others).. On the road I don’t suppose this will be any different. He will have to be near perfect for Seattle to have a shot of putting enough points on the board to win the game.
Defensively, though, is where the Seahawks have a chance to win the game. The Falcons look to me like a prototypical great offensive regular season team that can fold in the playoffs. The Falcons’ offense can be stopped if you can get to Matt Ryan whose 1-4 record in the postseason will raise questions about his legacy (despite him being a great regular season quarterback) especially if he drops to 1-5.
The Falcons’ receiving corps and running game is tough to stop if they get the ball on their hands but Seattle’s defensive front is stout and the receivers can’t make plays if Ryan can’t get them the ball. I am not, however, going to suggest that the Seahawks stack the box and force Ryan to throw the ball because he certainly is one of the quarterbacks that I won’t want throwing against my team, even if his playoff record is abysmal.
And this, in essence, is why I’m picking the Falcons’ to win this game. They had probably the best pass offense in the NFL (1st in average yards per pass [by a lot] and 3rd in total passing yards) while also having one of the best running games in the league (ranking 5th in average yards per rushing attempt and total rushing yards). Matt Ryan also copes well when Julio Jones underperforms which adds even another dimension to the Falcons offensive gameplan with the multitude of receivers that can contribute.
The loss of Earl Thomas, on the other, takes away a weapon from Seattle’s defensive scheme and opens up the field even more for Atlanta.
As I said before Seattle still has a great defense and they’re able to get to the quarterback and stop the run which will be key in this game. I just think Seattle will not be able to limit a multifaceted Falcons’ offense enough to give Wilson (playing behind that awful offensive line) a chance to win the game.
Finally, Seattle has been very poor on the road this season which also plays heavily in my decision. Had this game been in Seattle I would have picked the Seahawks because I wouldn’t trust Matt Ryan to go up against a very good Seahawks’ defense in Seattle and win that game. In Atlanta, though, I think he will. Falcons win.
Packers @ Cowboys
Again this week the NFC games are those I am most looking forward too. I really like Aaron Rodgers and believe the Cowboys have been grossly overrated during the whole year which makes me slightly invested in this game.
This is a very interesting matchup because the only way to stop Aaron Rodgers right now behind that offensive line is keeping him off the field (the Cowboys do not have the defensive front to get to Rodgers often). And the Cowboys have the personnel to do that with the best offensive line in the league and the rookie of the year (he will be) running behind it.
Time of possession will be crucial. If the Cowboys are able to keep Rodgers off the field for 35-40 minutes then they have a chance. This means that Green Bay’s 3rd down defense will have to be on point. During the regular season they rank 22nd in the NFL which is not a good sign. However, Rodgers also didn’t play like he is playing right now during the entire season (he was always pretty good but now is playing all-time great).
I think the first half will have a great impact on the decision of the outcome of the game. If the Cowboys go to the second half with a 10+ point lead, I don’t know if the Packers’ defense is good enough to make all the stops they need to make to get Aaron Rodgers the ball, especially during a second half where defensive players get progressively more tired. 6-10 minute drives against your team in the second half when you’re playing from behind are killers and the Cowboys are more than capable to pull it off.
If the score is close by the end of the first half especially if the Packers manage to keep time of possession balanced to get Rodgers the ball and keep their defense rested I believe the Packers will win the game. Rodgers is just too good and if the Cowboys aren’t able to chew up clock they will lose.
If the Packers are in front by halftime I don’t think the Cowboys have a shot, particularly if Green Bay’s defense is fresh. The Cowboys will be forced to throw more and even against a subpar Packers’ defense (that interestingly held up acceptably albeit against a Giants’ offense that was basically Eli Manning doing what he could with little to no help both from his receivers and his running game) and I don’t believe Dak Prescott has what it takes to put the team on his shoulders and carry them to a playoff win. As I said before, I see him as a game manager (which is not a knock on him, he was one of best quarterbacks in the league this year) whose stats were inflated from playing with an incredible supporting cast.
The Packers’ main strength defensively is stopping the run which is a good matchup against this Cowboys team. They ranked 14th in average yards per attempt allowed, 10th in rushing touchdowns allowed and 8th in rushing yards allowed per game.
All the Packers defense has to do is not lose the game. And I believe they will do it. Then Rodgers will do the rest. Packers win.
Texans @ Patriots
The Texans have a mean pass rush. The Patriots have a good offensive line.
The Texans can run the ball. The Patriots can stop the run.
It would probably take 5+ sacks and 15+ QB hits plus 200 rushing yards and 300 passing yards without interceptions or fumbles for the Texans to win this game. I think Brock Osweiler will surprise a lot of people in this game (at least until he has to throw all the time because the Texans are behind) but those stats will not happen.
The Texans have a very good defense. The Patriots have Tom Brady. In a game like this that’s all it’s going to take, in my opinion. Patriots win.
Steelers @ Chiefs
The Chiefs currently seem to have weird aura of being underrated and overrated at the same time. They don’t get talked about as much as they should because they are a very good team but what’s with all this talk that they might beat the Patriots at New England? I don’t even think they will beat the Steelers.
The Chiefs are the Atlanta Hawks of the NFL. A very solid team that will always make the playoffs but that has zero chance to actually win anything (the only teams I see being able to win the Super Bowl are the Seahawks, Packers and Patriots, by the way). They are missing a game changer on offense, in my opinion.
I like Alex Smith, and if I was the GM for a quarterback needy and knew there was a quarterback in the draft that would play like Alex Smith does I would absolutely take him number 1 overall maybe even trade up to get him, if such was necessary. He won’t get you there alone, though (none or very few do, though). I think the Chiefs are missing a Gronkowski type threat on offense. Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the league but this is exactly what I’m talking about: very good but not that next level threat you need to compliment a quarterback like Smith.
Secondly what’s with all the hype given to the Chiefs defense? Sure, they have the main requisite that the media cares about which is highlight reel plays regardless of your actual quality as a player. But when you look at it it’s a good, but beatable defense. Their run defense is nothing to brag about ranking 24th in the league in average rushing yards allowed per attempt and their pass defense and their pass defense ranks 12th in the league in terms of average passing yards allowed per attempt. They’re a good scoring defense (7th at 19.4 points allowed per game) because they know how to stop teams in the endzone (5th in red zone TD% allowed) and they are very prolific at creating turnovers (1st in turnover differential).
This makes for a good, not great defense, in my opinion. How is their defense going to stop LeVeon Bell from running all over them? If they do, is Ben Roethlisberger the quarterback they want throwing against them with the targets he has at his disposal especially one named Antonio Brown?
Big Ben has had a few problems these past games but the common denominator to all of them is that he never cost his team the win (writing this hurt so much). He’s tough, he will certainly play through his injury and even if he’s slightly limited he can rely on Bell running behind that offensive line to carry the load offensively in this game. I genuinely don’t see how the Chiefs (or anybody for that matter) will be able to stop Bell, and even if they invest heavily in doing so, I don’t see Big Ben in that bad of physical state that he won’t pick the Chiefs defense apart.
On the flipside, the Steelers defense will definitely surrender some points against a balanced Kansas City offense that does most things well but nothing superbly. I just don’t think it will be enough given that I genuinely don’t see how the Chiefs can stop Bell without being torched by Roethlisberger. Steelers win.