Falcons, Patriots Will Advance in Divisional Playoffs
Fikkle Fame’s NFL Predictions for January 14th-15th, 2017
Last weekend was Wild Card Weekend in the NFL playoffs, which resulted in the elimination of all the Wild Card teams. The games were fairly lopsided in terms of the scores, but we should have some closer games this weekend.
Games of Saturday January 14th
Houston (10-7) at New England (14-2). Patriots favored by 15. Well this one probably won’t be close. The Patriots blew out the Texans 27-0 on September 26th in Foxborough, a place where Houston has never won. The Texans defense is lauded as being formidable, and it isn’t bad, allowing 20.5 points per game, and ranking 11th in the league. Which defense allowed the fewest points per game this season? New England’s, which allowed just 15.6. There’s no need to even compare the Tom Brady led Patriot offense to the Texan offense. Patriots 34 Texans 14.
Seattle (11-5-1) at Atlanta (11-5). Falcons favored by 5. The Seahawks beat the Falcons in Seattle 26-24 on October 17th. Seattle has run hot and cold this season, splitting their last six regular season games before having a solid victory at home in over the Lions last weekend. Atlanta has had a history of disappointments in the post season, but finished the regular season winning five of six, with the only loss being a one point defeat against Kansas City. The Falcons offense features QB Matt Ryan, who put up MVP type numbers (4944 yards, 38 touchdowns) and WR Julio Jones (1409 yards receiving). The Seahawks are nearly unbeatable at home, but are just 3-4-1 on the road. Atlanta will advance. Falcons 31 Seahawks 24.
Games of Sunday January 15th
Pittsburgh (12-5) at Kansas City (12-4). Chiefs favored by 1 ½. The Steelers beat the Chiefs 43-14 in Pittsburgh on October 2nd. Pittsburgh has won eight in a row, and while their win over the Chiefs was impressive, it was a long time ago and in Pittsburgh. The Chiefs are very tough to beat at home in Arrowhead Stadium, and also closed out the regular season playing well. The Chiefs have a good defense which will be seriously tested by the Ben Roethlisberger—Le’Veon Bell—Antonio Brown led Steelers offense. Weather could be a factor in this one as Kansas City will be in the middle of a widespread ice storm over the weekend. (Note: the game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern time, but was moved to 8:20 p.m. Eastern time so there would be more time to clear the roads of ice.) We think the Steelers have enough momentum to pull off the upset on the road. Steelers 24 Chiefs 21.
Green Bay (11-6) at Dallas (13-3). Cowboys favored by 4 ½. Dallas beat the Packers in Green Bay 30-16 on October 17th. But the Packers are a much improved team since then and have won seven in a row, including a 38-13 first round playoff victory over the Giants last Sunday. The Packers beat the Giants twice this season; New York handed the Cowboys two of their three regular season losses. The Cowboys offense is led by QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliot, both Rookie of the Year candidates. Green Bay will be without leading receiver Jordy Nelson, who is out with a rib injury. But Green Bay has some things in its favor, most notably the play of QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has thrown four touchdown passes in in each of the last three games, and hasn’t thrown an interception since November 13th. Although Nelson went down, Randall Cobb returned from injury to catch three TD passes last Sunday. We think the Packers have enough going for them right now (they are riding a seven game winning streak) and enough post season experience to propel them past the Cowboys in an upset. Besides, January 15th is the 50th anniversary of Green Bay’s win over Kansas City in the first Super Bowl. To get there, Green Bay beat Dallas in what was then the NFL Championship Game. It was the last Packer post season victory in Dallas (they lost four times there in the 1990s) so they are overdue. Packers 34 Cowboys 27.