Steelers and Seahawks Will Advance on Wild Card Weekend
Fikkle Fame’s NFL Predictions for January 7-8, 2017
The playoffs are here. Neither team from last year’s Super Bowl made it this far this year, so we’ll have a new champion. The division winners with the best records that earned first round byes were Dallas, Atlanta, New England, and Kansas City. Other division winners were Green Bay and Seattle in the NFC and Houston and Pittsburgh in the AFC. The NFC Wild Cards are Detroit and the New York Giants; the AFC Wild Cards are Miami and Oakland.
Games of Saturday January 7th
Oakland (12-4) at Houston (9-7). Texans favored by 3 ½. The Raiders beat the Texans on November 21st 27-20 in a game played in Mexico City. Back then, Raiders QB Derek Carr was in the midst of a fine season; now Carr is injured and so is backup Matt McGloin. That means rookie Connor Cook, who has will get his first NFL start. No pressure there. The Raiders looked awful without Carr in last week’s loss to the Broncos, and while they made great progress in just getting to the playoffs this year, that’s as far as it’s going to get. Houston has QB issues of its own, but will start Brock Osweiler who, while being mostly a bust, has at least some experience. Texans 20 Raiders 14.
Detroit (9-7) at Seattle (10-5-1). Seahawks favored by 8. The teams did not play each other in the regular season. Both teams tailed off near the end of the season, and while both can win in any given game, they can just as easily play horribly. However, the Seahawks are 7-1 at home and the Lions were just 3-5 on the road. Seahawks 24 Lions 14.
Games of Sunday January 8th
Miami (10-6) at Pittsburgh (11-5). Steelers favored by 10. The Dolphins beat the Steelers 30-15 in Miami on October 16th as Jay Ajayi ran amuck for 204 yards and two touchdowns. The victory jump started the Dolphins, who had lost four of their first five games; it was the first of four straight losses for Pittsburgh. The Steelers then turned it around and finished with seven straight victories. Miami will be without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is out with a knee injury; Matt Moore will start. The Steelers big three of QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell, and WR Antonio Brown is intact. The Steelers are at home, they have the personnel, and the playoff experience to advance. Steelers 31 Dolphins 17.
New York Giants (11-5) at Green Bay (10-6). Packers favored by 4 ½. Probably the best matchup of the first round. The Packers beat the Giants in Green Bay on October 9th 23-16. It was the third loss in a row for the Giants, who then won nine of 11. Green Bay then lost four of five before closing with six straight victories. The Giants have been winning with defense; they’ve allowed an average of just 17.8 points per game, second in the NFL. However, they’ve had a hard time scoring, averaging just 19.4 points per game, while Green Bay averages 27. Giants QB Eli Manning will try to exploit the Packers’ injury depleted secondary. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers led the league with 40 touchdown passes, 14 of which were to WR Jordy Nelson, who missed all of the 2015 season with a knee injury. The Giants have won their last two playoff games in Green Bay with Manning at quarterback (2007, 2011), but the Packers, and especially Rodgers, are playing as well as anyone right now. Packers 27 Giants 21.