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NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Recap

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And so, we are down to four.
Another sub-par Saturday for playoff football followed by a thrilling Sunday pretty much sums divisional weekend.
Atlanta and New England rolled into their respective conference championships while Green Bay and Pittsburgh punched their tickets at the last second with thrilling victories. Lets take a look at what went down this weekend…

Atlanta has a VERY dangerous offense
When it looked like Seattle might have enough for a big road upset, a penalty was thrown. Future hall of fame return man Devin Hester was brought to the Seahawks just two weeks ago to possibly duplicate the role Ray Allen gave the Miami Heat a few years back to win an NBA title. Well, Hester nearly took a punt 80 plus yards for a touchdown and it set up Seattle beautifully with a chance to take a 17-7 lead, but a holding call negated the long return and it eventually led to a safety for Atlanta and soon the Falcons never looked back en route to their 36-20 victory.
Quarterback Matt Ryan continues to play at an MVP caliber level as he threw for 338 yards and 3 scores, to all different receivers. Mohamed Sanu, Julio Jones and running back Tevin Coleman all reeled in scores as the Falcons seem to never run out of weapons. Being at home in a dome this coming weekend against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers should result in a shootout.

New England continues to dominate even when playing average
Tom Brady tossed two scores and two interceptions and only 287 yards and the Patriots still covered the 16 point spread against a struggling offense in the Houston Texans. Bill Belichick’s defense also came up big by forcing 3 interceptions of Brock Osweiler as the Patriots will maintain home field advantage when taking on Pittsburgh for the right to go to Super Bowl LI.
The weapons seem to come from everywhere for the Patriots as Dion Lewis, who was lost for most of the season due to injury, scored three touchdowns, three different ways. Lewis returned a kickoff, ran one in, and caught one to display his playmaking abilities that make him one of Brady’s favorite targets on offense. Granted, New England beat Houston and not a team like Kansas City, but if the Patriots can play this well while slumping throughout half the game, just imagine what they can do next week to limit the high powered Steelers offense at home in the AFC Championship.

Green Bay and Dallas gave us the best game of the playoffs and that might stick
It’s hard to imagine a better game being played this postseason as neither team deserved to lose. One just won it in the end. With 40 seconds left, Dak Prescott had led Dallas down the field for the tying field goal by Dan Bailey and we seemed to be heading to overtime. However, that was too much time for Rodgers. An incompletion then a completion set up a first down at the Packers own 42 but then that was followed by a sack of Rodgers and the Packers had to use a timeout with 18 seconds remaining. Rodgers then misfired on a pass and Green Bay faced 3rd and 20. Much like how the Packers will always remember 4th and 26 in a playoff game against Philadelphia in the 2003 season, which they wound up losing, Dallas would remember 3rd and 20. Rodgers seemingly impossibly escaped pressure, rolled to the left and threw across his body to fit the ball in the tightest window to tight end Jared Cook who kept both feet in bounds just inches from the white sideline and it set up the Packers to kick a game winning field goal. Mason Crosby came on and nailed a 51 yarder after being “iced” by Dallas coach Jason Garrett. Packers win.
What an unbelievable finish that saw Dallas trail 21-3 and 28-13. Prescott and Zeke Elliot did not let the spotlight get to them and played as they were all season. That is what I was wrong about and I tip my cap to the fantastic rookies. They were simply just outplayed by a future hall of famer in Rodgers who could be solidifying himself in Top 5 quarterback of all time discussion.

The delay of Chiefs-Steelers was worth the wait
An ice storm moved this game back from 1 pm to 8 pm and the NFL cashed in. Looks like they’ll be looking for Sunday night playoff games in the future. Unfortunately, a penalty basically decided this game. The Steelers kicked 6 field goals and won 18-16. Trailing 18-10, Alex Smith drove the Chiefs down the field and scored what seemed like a tying touchdown. The two-point conversion was successful except, left tackle Eric Fisher held Pittsburgh’s James Harrison and the Chiefs had to retry from the 20 yard line and could not convert. Ball game. An unfortunate end for Kansas City as another one and done playoff exit goes onto the resume of head coach Andy Reid.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is going to have to get some extra reps on offense in practice this week considering they did not score a touchdown and will be going up against the best coach in the league in Belichick.

Picks update:
I had Kansas City at New England and Green Bay at Atlanta. I was close, but that only counts in horseshoes. So, while you can MOSTLY trust me on these picks, there is that off chance I will be wrong (note: this is intended as tremendous sarcasm).
Now, I will stick with my Super Bowl prediction prior to the playoffs and that’s New England and Green Bay. I firmly believe the Patriots are the top dogs in the NFL but Green Bay could be giving them a run for their money.

Looking ahead real quick:
-Atlanta and Green Bay should provide a big time shootout
-Side note: Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Ryan should be fun. LOTS OF OFFENSE.
-New England and Pittsburgh will be a nice follow up as Ben Roethlisberger will take on Tom Brady once again.

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