NFL Wildcard Weekend – Recap and Predictions

by John Newman

The first round of the 2017 NFL Playoffs is over, but it wasn’t your typical playoff week. From the Chargers announcing their move to LA, the Giants wide receiver boat controversy, and Tom Coughlin joining the Jaguars as the VP, there was a lot of things to discuss. Aside from the beginning of the Giants/Packers game, and parts of the Texans/Raiders game, the games weren’t very close. The average margin of victory was 19 points, which led to a lot of disappointment for viewers. With being said, here is a recap of last week’s games.

 

Raiders 14 @ Texans 27 – In the Raiders’ first trip to the playoffs since 2002, they couldn’t get it done, losing by 13 in Houston. This was a game of the backup QBs, and Brock Osweiler, the $72 million paid player who lost his job a few weeks ago, actually looked pretty good. The Texans were able to get out to a quick 3-0 after a made field goal, and an incredible one-handed interception by Jadeveon Clowney lead to a TD for the Texans to extend their lead to 10-0. Later in the first quarter, Latavius Murray was able to put points on the board for Oakland with a rushing TD. Houston was able to make another FG in the beginning of the 2nd quarter, to extend their lead 13-7. After some defensive stops by both teams, the Texans had the ball around the 2 minute warning. Osweiler was able to lead his offense down the field, which ultimately ended in a Deandre Hopkins receiving TD. The 3rd quarter was also a defensive battle between these teams. However, Brock Osweiler was able to put the game away, with a TD run that put Houston up 27-7. Connor Cook was able to throw his first career TD to Andre Holmes a few minutes later, but the Texans already had the game locked up.

 

Lions 6 @ Seahawks 26 – Matt Stafford led the Lions to an incredible run this season, but it was spoiled with a 4 game losing streak to end it. Seahawks WR Paul Richardson looked a lot like Odell Beckham Jr in the Seahawks’ demolition of the Lions last week. He hauled in 3 catches for 48 yards, but all 3 of them were highlight reel worthy. His first catch of the game came in the second quarter, in a phenomenal one handed no-look TD grab. Although offensive PI definitely should’ve been called, it was still an amazing catch nonetheless, and it deserves to be in contention for catch of the year. Richardson’s second catch was caught with two hands this time, but he was able to use his body to catch it over a Lions DB. Seattle would end up scoring a FG on this drive, to push their lead to 10-0. The Lions were able to score 6 unanswered points on two made FGs, but that’s all they managed to score all night. From that point on, it was the Thomas Rawls show. Rawls rushed his way to 161 yards and a TD in an impressive game from him. Baldwin was able to score a garbage time TD, and Hauschka made another field goal to help the Seahawks finish on top, 26-6.

 

Dolphins 12 @ Steelers 30 – The Steelers’ Big Three put on quite the show in a 30-12 win over the Dolphins. Their 1st quarter offense consisted almost entirely of Antonio Brown. He took a screen pass from Big Ben 50 yards to the house for a TD. Later in the quarter, he also was able to maneuver his way past a Dolphins safety on a slant for a 62 yard TD. Miami was able to get on the board for 3, after a big catch by Kenny Stills put them in FG range.  On the following drive, Bell was able to stumble and fight his way to the endzone for a rushing TD, putting the Steelers up 20-3. On a 4th down for Miami a few minutes later, they were able to convert on a fake punt run. They were able to manage a field goal from this drive. In the beginning of the 2nd half, the Steelers connected on their first FG of the game to go up 23-6. Pittsburgh was able to secure the game with a TD rush by Le’Veon Bell once again, extending their lead to 30. Miami was able to score one last time late in the 4th quarter, with Damien Williams notching a meaningless receiving TD. Miami wasn’t able to make defensive stops all game, but after seeing Pittsburgh dominate offensively like that the last couple of weeks, who could blame them?

 

Giants 13 @ Packers 38 – It was a tale of boats, woes, and drops for the Giants last week in their loss to Green Bay. All-Pro CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie went down with a thigh injury after just the second snap, which would turn out to be a big loss to the secondary. However, the Giants’ D still performed very well in the 1st half, holding the Packers’ offense to just 24 yards in 3 drives. Despite this, the Giants’ offense had a hard time finding the end zone. Eli Manning seemed to be locked in from the start, but crucial drops from Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard meant that they had to settle for field goals. What could’ve been a 14-7 lead going into the half for New York turned into a 14-6 lead for Green Bay, after another signature Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary© to Randall Cobb. Going into the second half, things didn’t get much better for the Giants’ D. They were able to stop Green Bay on 4th and inches, which lead to a Tavarres King TD, but that was about the end of all the positives for New York. Aaron Rodgers responded right back with a TD pass of his own to Davante Adams. Giants HB Bobby Rainey decided to step out of bounds on the 3 yard line, which lead to a 3 and out, and great field position for the Packers. After a made field goal, the Packers lead by 2 possessions, and it was clear that the Giants weren’t going to recover from this deficit. Green Bay continued to run up the score, adding two more TDs on their way to a 38-13 win.

 

Predictions for NFL Divisional Round Games

Seahawks @ Falcons

Seattle was able to get it done at home against Detroit last week, but can they do the same on the road? They are a mediocre 3-4-1 when playing away this season, and they’ll be facing a tough Falcons team. Matt Ryan has emerged as a MVP candidate this season, and he is a big reason why the Falcons were able to go 11-5 this season. With Julio Jones returning from a toe injury, Atlanta’s offense should be ready to go. The Seahawks have had success running the ball as of late, and their offense is starting to click together, but with Earl Thomas being out due to injury, I think they’ll struggle to contain Julio on the deep ball.

My Pick: Falcons win 24-17

 

Texans @ Patriots

Does anybody actually think the Texans will win this game? If you answered yes to this question, you’re lying to yourself. The Patriots are favored by 16 points, and that seems too close. When the Texans faced the Patriots earlier this season, they were shut out

27-0 by backup QB Jacoby Brissett. With Tom Brady playing the best football of his career, I’ll be surprised if the Texans manage to keep it within 20. Houston just doesn’t have enough firepower in their offense to consistently drive down the field. Their defense, however, is ranked number 3 in DVOA by Football Outsiders. I expect a low scoring game in the first few drives, but once Brady adjusts and makes the reads he’s capable of making, it’s over.

My Pick: Patriots win 34-13

 

Steelers @ Chiefs

The Steelers have been red hot, winning their last 8 games. They demolished the Chiefs in Kansas City earlier this season, so can they do it again? Le’Veon Bell is continuing his amazing season, and he’s managed to gain at least 100 combined yards in 12 of the 13 games he’s played this season. The Chiefs defense is loaded with star talent, from Marcus Peters, to Justin Houston, to Dontari Poe. However, they are without All-Pro MLB Derrick Johnson, which will severely hurt their chances at stopping the run. Rookie WR Tyreek Hill has been the number 1 playmaker for Kansas City this season, and he’ll have to make some big plays if they want to defeat Pittsburgh this weekend.

My Pick: Steelers win 27-23

 

Packers @ Cowboys

Aaron Rodgers has been unstoppable the past few weeks, ever since he made his “run the table” remarks. He tore apart the number 2 ranked defense in the Giants last week, and he’ll try to pick up where he left off. Dallas’ offense is among the best in the league, with the help of Ezekiel Elliott and the best o-line in the league. The Packers do have one of the the best run stopping defenses in the NFL, so look for Dak Prescott to attack their depleted secondary. Although Green Bay does have some matchup advantages, I can’t see them shutting down Dallas’ run game effectively. This should be a close matchup regardless, and if the Cowboys lose, we’ll have suffer through an entire offseason of Pro-Romo fans talking about what could’ve been if Romo played.

My Pick: Cowboys win 34-31

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