Analysis: NFL Divisional Round 2017

The steaks can be no higher than Divisional Round weekend: eight teams trying to prove its championship worthiness. Two games on Saturday, two games on Sunday, and no overlapping. If you’re a true NFL fan, you’re glued to the television all weekend; seething competition is on display.

This year, the Wild Card Round was weak. The teams that got blown out (Dolphins, Lions, Raiders, and Giants) deserved to be embarrassed; those teams did not play well. In the Divisional Round, three out of four games should be closely contested, and maybe all four if Houston decides…ummm…at New England…it’ll be a miracle.

Another year has passed; we’re psyched for another Divisional Round. Here’s the breakdown:

Seattle Seahawks (3) at Atlanta Falcons (2), Jan.14, 4:35 p.m. ET, FOX

Something about Seattle in the playoffs makes us nervous. Actually, plenty of things: smart quarterbacking, great coaching, nasty receivers, stout defense, and a shit load of playoff experience. The Seahawks always get hot during the playoffs (recently, at least); no team wants Seattle coming to town.

Atlanta quarterback, Matt Ryan, doesn’t create as many opportunities as Russell Wilson, Seattle’s quarterback, but he did throw for 4,944 yards with 38 TD’s and a 70-percent completion percentage. Ryan will need to target Julio Jones often; building a running game with Devonta Freeman could free up some space in Seattle’s secondary on play action.

The Falcons have five losses this year, one of which is to the Seahawks, 26-to-24, on the road on Oct. 16; what a coincidence. The rematch is in Atlanta; there’s much more on the line. But Seattle will not be pushed over in the playoffs. We see some sort of controversial call or play happening near the end of the game that pulls much weight for the final outcome; people will be upset. This game will be very entertaining, setting the stage for an amazing weekend.

The Seahawks advance, 28-to-27, in a Divisional game for the history books.

Houston Texans (4) at New England Patriots (1), Jan. 14, 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS

The Patriots already dismantled the Texans once this year — 27-to-0 on Sept. 22 — and Tom Brady wasn’t even there; we can only imagine the atrocity that lies ahead. New England is fresh off a bye-week and ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

Houston’s only chance is to have an impeccable defensive plan. And it starts with making Tom Brady uncomfortable; the Texans did give up the least yards-per-game (301.3) as a defense during the regular season. But it’s not going to be enough unless Houston sacks Brady at least 10 times while forcing him to throw at least three interceptions; the Patriots have too many offensive weapons. When we meant an “impeccable” game plan, we meant an almost impossible game plan. Good luck, Texans!

It’s Brock Osweiler versus Tom Brady; Bill Belichick versus Bill O’Brien; Julian Edelman versus whoever catches the ball for Houston. The Texans might be the lowest underdog of all-time in an NFL playoff game, and no one is really rooting for them.

The Patriots kill, 38-to-10.

Green Bay Packers (4) at Dallas Cowboys (1), Jan. 15, 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX

Surprising how the Packers aren’t favored in this game. Green Bay handled, with ease, the Giants, a team that beat Dallas twice during the regular season. At the end of the day, that may not matter much, but it matters some.

Green Bay at Dallas is very different than Dallas at Green Bay; it’s not five degrees and crazy Cheeseheads are not giving the players anxiety. But the Packers have won seven straight games and show no signs of not getting eight. It’s tough to pick a winner, which makes for great football theater. Expect offensive trickery and bone-crushing hits.

Green Bay prevails, 24-to-21, in overtime, after another amazing scramble and throw by Aaron Rodgers.

Pittsburgh Steelers (3) at Kansas City Chiefs (2), Jan. 15, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

Originally to kickoff at 1:05 p.m., this game was pushed back because of the impending ice storm hitting Kansas City over the weekend. We didn’t want to stay up all night and be dead at work on Monday morning, but we will; this game will be a ridged rambler.

Kansas City is like New England: it doesn’t have a lot of big names, but it has a deep core of proven winners. Pittsburgh is just good, especially during playoff adversity. Antonio Brown will catch the ball, Le’Veon Bell will have some big rushing gains; it’s up to the Chiefs’ deadly front seven and cohesive secondary to keep those guys in check. And then there is Ben Roethlisberger, who always seems to make something out of nothing. However, Alex Smith is a dark horse at quarterback.

Kansas City is doomed if Brown and Bell both gain 100 yards. Pittsburgh is in trouble if its frustration turns into sloppy aggression and missed tackles. We’re better off flipping a coin.

— Jordan J. Michael




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