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NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Preview

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Eight teams left and three wins necessary to hoist the greatest trophy in football.

This is the set up every year for divisional round weekend as we finally get to see the top two seeds from each conference finally take the field in postseason play while wild card teams try to keep the good momentum rolling.

That is what makes this weekend so good considering there are four games and there is a certain sense of tremendous accomplishment when earing a trip a conference championship. One step away from the Super Bowl at the point…what an honor.

Lets take a look at this weekend’s matchups.

Some quick notes first however:

– I correctly picked 3 of 4 games last weekend (yes, as you can tell I am very smart) and my Super Bowl pick is also still alive. Good news for me.

– I will admit that I vastly overlooked Houston and tremendously over valued Oakland without Derek Carr. A Raiders blowout victory does not seem like such a smart proclamation right now

– Man, all four games were so…uninteresting

  • Giants vs. Packers was close until the 4th quarter but it was such a slop fest.

Seattle at Atlanta (Saturday 4:35 pm FOX)

Will this be the Falcons performance of old? Meaning light the world on fire with offense and decent defense but completely collapse in the playoffs? Perhaps not this year. I get Seattle has the experience and did not have a week off as they had to get by Detroit at home last week, but there is something different about this Atlanta squad. Head Coach Dan Quinn, a defensive specialist as he was in his time with Seattle, has brought the defense up to the level he wants to go along with an offense that scored over 540 points this season. I think playing in a dome also helps the Falcons for at least one game as Seattle generally struggles on the road, Russell Wilson still has to play behind a shaky offensive line, and the secondary remains banged up and thin.

Interesting note here: this will be a rematch from earlier this season in Seattle in which the Seahawks won 26-24 in the end after a controversial non pass interference call prevented Atlanta from possibly moving down field to win the game. Also, these two teams and same two quarterbacks, Wilson and Matt Ryan, met in the playoffs in the 2012 season, when Wilson was just a rookie. The Falcons took that one but would lose the next week at home to San Francisco and fell one game short of the Super Bowl. Well, this time, there is no Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick and the Falcons are a more experienced and balanced team. I am sticking with my guns here and maintaining my pick of Atlanta taking this game and advancing to the NFC Championship.

Houston at New England (Saturday 8:15 pm CBS)

The Texans are 16 point underdogs. That pretty much sums up this contest. The Patriots are overwhelming favorites to take this ball game on paper and likely on the field. Bill Belichick had two weeks to prepare for an opponent but considering New England defeated Houston 27-0 with a 3rd string quarterback earlier this year and Belichick will be sure to review that game tape and Houston’s inconsistent offense from last week’s game against Oakland. Brock Osweiler on the road in Foxborough? Not the best situation for Bill O’Briens group. Simply put, expect Tom Brady to put on another show and for this game to be over early. New England might as well save the date for the following week as they will be hosting the AFC Championship once again.

Green Bay at Dallas (Sunday 4:40 pm FOX)

The most anticipated matchup of the weekend resides in Dallas. Cowboys and Packers. Cannot get much better than that. Aaron Rodgers is riding a tremendous hot streak while the Cowboys have been riding their rookies Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliot all season but this will be their first real test of their young careers.

The Cowboys will have to be able to bring the pressure with their front 7 with the least amount of rushers as possible so they can maintain coverage of the Packer wide receivers that won’t feature Jordy Nelson. Limiting the Packers offensive attack would bode well for Dallas, especially if they are able to control the clock with their top ranked rushing attack.

Dallas will look to attack the Green Bay defense that features a depleted secondary but that will be up to Prescott who is known for accuracy but not airing it out. Dallas went 13-3 for a reason: they are a pretty good football team that features the best offensive line and potential future All-Pros in Prescott and Elliot. Don’t count out the Packers however, who have been here before and feature a future hall of famer in Rodgers who knows how to get it done.

Pittsburgh at Kansas City (Sunday 8:20 pm NBC)

This game is only at night due to the weather as an ice storm will be in the area and the NFL decided it would be safer to have the game Sunday night instead of afternoon. Is that really a big deal? Probably not. Ben Roethlisberger, LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown will be looking to take off once again and conjure up another offensive explosion on the road. Andy Reid’s Chiefs however, feature game manager quarterback Alex Smith, a steady ground game, top flight tight end Travis Kelce and dynamic playmaker Tyreek Hill. This matchup looks pretty even on paper considering Kansas City gets to play this one at home. Arrowhead is no easy place to play.

However, the fun might end quickly because the winner will almost certainly be heading to New England for the AFC Championship.

Pittsburgh Head Coach Mike Tomlin has won a Super Bowl but has not seen much playoff success since then. Reid has made one Super Bowl, in 2004 with Philadelphia and is 1-2 in the postseason through his first three years with the Chiefs. It is year four. Can Reid overcome his own postseason flaws? There will certainly be a lot of discussion concerning the losing coach. Both teams will look to make sure that doesn’t happen this weekend.

I’m sticking to my guns and Kansas City will advance.

And so…

My predictions are my own opinion and will likely be wrong. Divisional weekend is one the hardest to predict. All four home teams won last week and all four are favored once again this weekend. A road upset has to happen at some point right?

Be sure to check back next week when we are down to the final four. No, not that final four, but conference championship weekend. Super Bowl LI is coming and it is coming fast. Here’s to hopefully a fantastic week of football.

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Nick is an NFL Analyst at DoubleGSports.com as well as the Philadelphia Soul Beat Writer.
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