The Predictions: Divisional Weekend

**Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with the NFL. This article simply contains the opinions of select students.

by Tom Russo and Jason Li

The Games

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons: Saturday 4:35

Houston Texans at New England Patriots: Saturday 8:15

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs: Sunday 1:05

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys: Sunday 4:40

The Matchups

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Quarterback: Even

This game features a match-up between two of the top quarterbacks in the game, and they are arguably the best at their respective styles of play. Matt Ryan is the sit in the pocket, throw a strike passer, while Russell Wilson will be looking to escape the pocket, extend the play, and fire bombs downfield. Both are great at what they do, and it’s difficult to give one side the edge.

Running Backs: Atlanta Falcons

Thomas Rawls continues to show why Pete Carroll put so much faith in him, but the Falcons have double trouble. Atlanta brings both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to the table.  Both backs have breakaway speed, outstanding elusiveness, and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. That combination can prove deadly on Sunday.

Receivers: Atlanta Falcons

Julio Jones was second in the NFL this year with 1,409 yards. He has been truly dominant, and by himself makes this one of the bat receiving corps in football. The Legion of Boom will have their hands full with him.

Defense: Seattle Seahawks

That said, if anyone can stop the likes of Julio Jones, this is the defense. While they may have lost Earl Thomas, Seattle still has Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the secondary to deal with Julio, and  they have Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright too stop the run. Throw in the pass-rushing prowess of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, and this is still one of the greatest defense of all time.

Picks

Tom: Seattle 24- Atlanta 21

J: Atlanta 35- Seattle 28

Houston Texans at New England Patriots

Quarterback: New England Patriots

New England Patriots has arguably had the best QB for a long time. Tom Brady is going to be in the Hall of Fame if his career ends this year. He came back week 4 and puts up numbers to be considered for MVP. On the Texans side, Osweiler has not lived up to his contract ($72 million for 4 years) He has been benched for his second string QB Savage in previous games. Osweiler simply can’t seem to make plays with his great receiving core. Osweiler has been the laughing stock of the league, with the second lowest QB rating in the NFL this year. It is a match-up of the best QB against the worst QB.

Running Backs: Houston Texans

Houston Texans offense has been carried by their RB all year. Due to Osweiler’s incompetence, Lamar Miller has had to move the chains. Talented RB from the Dolphins. He has a tough year due to defensive planning against the run game. Blount on the other hand, he’s a big RB for the patriots. But he isn’t really that good, defenses don’t stack the box against him. Which allows him to run and gain yards. Although Blount has had the better season, Miller is better.

Receivers: Houston Texans

Houston Texans receiving core is talented. With Deandre Hopkins who has had 5 1,000 yard seasons, and rookie Will Fuller who runs a 4.27 40 meter. The Texans can do a lot with the passing game if the Quarterback was more competent. The Patriots Receivers are decent, but none of them are spectacular. Tom Brady simply makes them look good. With Edelman, Hogan, Mitchell and now Floyd. He has many decent targets, but not great.

Defense: Houston Texans

Houston Texans have the better defense. They have been rated #1 defense coming into the playoffs. Houston have great linebackers and corners, and even without JJ Watt, they have had good pass rush. Clowney has been making huge plays for the Texans in Watt’s absence. The Patriots defense is decent, but they haven’t been able to stop TD drives, instead they just end up outscoring teams.

Picks

Tom: New England 28- Houston 14

J: New England 31- Houston 21

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs:

Quarterback: Pittsburgh Steelers

There is no debate as to the capability of Ben Roethlisberger to dominate.  Behind Big Ben’s arm, the Steelers led the league in big plays, i.e. passing plays of 20+ yards this season.  While Alex Smith is a highly accurate game-manager who doesn’t make mistakes, when it’s crunch-time, you want the QB who can push the ball downfield.

Running Backs: Pittsburgh Steelers

While Spencer Ware had a spectacular campaign, this one goes to Bell. He was fifth in the league in rushing with 1,268 yards, and he did it in only 12 games. He was one of only a handful of running backs to average over 100 rush yards per game. He also averaged over 150 total scrimmage yards per game, and is coming off a Pittsburgh record 167 rush yards against Miami. There’s a reason why he is the best running back in football.

Receivers: Pittsburgh Steelers

When you have Antonio Brown, there aren’t going to be many receiving groups than Pittsburgh. Brown was fifth in the league with 1,284 yards, and 12 touchdowns. He’s also coming off a day where he had over 100 yards and 2 TDs IN THE FIRST QUARTER.  Yeah. He’s pretty good.

Defense: Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs defense is good.  It’s good at all levels.  Up front is the run-stopping forces of Dontari Poe. Then you have the downright scary tandem of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, a quaterback’s worst nightmare. Finally, on the back end you have ball-hawking machines in Marcus Peters, who was once again near the top of the league with 6 INTs, and Eric Berry. If anyone can stop the Steeler offense, this might be the team.

Picks

Tom: Pittsburgh 24- Kansas City 17

J: Kansas City 27- Pittsburgh 24

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

Quarterback: Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best QB in the league, he is an experienced QB who has been in playoffs many times and is carrying his team. The Packers high powered offense have been able to beat even the best defenses. Aaron Rodgers pocket patience and his cannon of an arm has been able to come in clutch with even his best Receivers out. Prescott has had a great season. But, this is his rookie year. He has no playoff experience, and he simply is no Aaron Rodgers

Running Back: Dallas Cowboys

The RB for the Dallas Cowboys “Zeke” has the most rushing yards in the NFL. Elliot has speed and crazy vertical. He has hurdled, broken tackles, and burnt linebackers all year long. He also runs behind the best O line in the NFL which only propels him further. The Packers has had RB problems since Lacy’s injury. They have had to convert Montgomery (receiver) to RB. Their run game has been very minimal. But, Christine MIchael may be able to revive it.

Receivers: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have the better receivers due to Injuries. With Jordy Nelson out, it is really just Cobb and Adams left. While Cowboys have Dez Bryant and Cole beasley. I think talent wise, Cowboys definitely have the better receivers at the time.

Defense: Green Bay

Cowboys defense has not been super good this year. The team gets carried hard by its offense. The same could be said about the Packers. But, the Packers has been performing better due to injured players coming back. They have elite linebackers such as Clay Matthews and i believe they can put up more of a fight against Zeke then earlier in the season.

Picks

Tom: Dallas 35- Green Bay 31

J: Dallas 31- Green Bay 28

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