NFL 2017 Divisional Playoff Preview

 

The 2017 NFL Divisional Playoffs are this weekend, hence our 2017 Divisional Playoff Preview. After beating the Detroit Lions 26 to 6, Seattle punched its ticket to a trip to Atlanta to face the second-seeded Falcons. On Saturday afternoon, the Houston Texans make a trip to Foxboro, MA to battle Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Houston beat Oakland 27 to 14 in their wildcard game over the weekend. Also, taking trips are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. Pittsburgh heads to Kansas City to battle the Chiefs as a slight underdog while Green Bay heads to Dallas to take on the number one seeded Cowboys as a close to 5-point dog.

Check out previews for all this weekend’s 2017 NFL Divisional Playoff action.

NFL 2017 Divisional Playoff Preview

Saturday, Jan. 14

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons -4.5 (4:35 pm ET)

Seattle got its rushing attack going versus the Detroit Lions in their wildcard game win. The Seahawks rushed for a terrific 177 yards from 38 carries. It was a fantastic showing by the Hawks. These two teams played against each other during the regular season. In that match up, Seattle couldn’t get its rushing attack going. The Seahawks were good for only 72 rushing yards from 27 rushes. Could the Hawks’ performance on the ground this past Saturday versus the Lions be a sign of what Atlanta should expect?

Not likely. Atlanta’s head coach, Dan Quinn, is the architect of Seattle’s defense. He knows what Seattle does on offense. Quinn’s defense should be more than ready to shut down Seattle’s rushing attack on Jan. 14. In that same game during the regular season, Seattle QB Russell Wilson threw for 270 yards. Wilson didn’t throw an interception.

Seattle is more likely to lean on the passing attack than leaning on the rushing attack in this battle on Saturday. Atlanta’s defense has gotten better overall, though, meaning that whatever Seattle does on offense, it may not be enough.

In the regular season match up, Seattle free safety Earl Thomas played. He recorded a solo tackle and two-assisted tackles. More importantly, Thomas, just due to his presence forced Atlanta QB Matt Ryan into a pick. The Seahawks beat Atlanta 26 to 24. But, Ryan still threw 3 TD passes and for 335 yards.

It’s hard to see Atlanta’s offense not having success against Seattle’s defense in this game. Ryan was effective throwing the football with Earl Thomas in the secondary. How is Seattle’s defense going to find success against Ryan without Thomas in the secondary? I don’t think that they will.

This match up could get out of control in a hurry. Don’t be surprised if Atlanta beats Seattle by 17 or more points in this one.

Houston Texans at New England Patriots -15.5 (8:15 pm ET)

Man, that’s a large point spread, isn’t it? The New England Patriots might be the best team in the NFL, but the Pats’ offense faces arguably the best defense in the NFL on Saturday. Houston’s D only allows 301.3 total yards per game. Of those 301.3 total yards allowed, 201.6 comes via the passing attack.

New England could be more conservative on offense in this game than they have been all season long. Not only is the Texans’ defense designed to take away the pass, but the Patriots have a bruising, tough, running back in LeGarrette Blount. Blount doesn’t rack up a lot of yards. He just racks up the needed yards, meaning that he’s almost impossible to stop when the Patriots need 3 to 4 yards. When the Pats aren’t rushing the football with Blount, QB Tom Brady is most likely going to throw the football for 4 to 5 yard gains. It’s doubtful that Brady forces anything in this game.

He won’t have to because the Patriots’ defense has become one of the better defensive units in the NFL. New England’s D is ranked first in the NFL in points allowed per game. The D only gives up 15.6 points per. That’s fantastic. Not only that, but opponents average 88.6 rushing yards per game against New England’s defense.

Even though the Patriots’ D is solid, it’s hard for me to see how it’s going to stop Houston’s offense from having some success moving the football. If Osweiler plays within himself, just like he did during the Texans’ wildcard win, Houston should get into the red zone a few times in this battle. The Texans won’t do enough in this game to score more than a single touchdown. No worries. A couple of field goals should lead to 13 points.

I see New England beating Houston 24 to 13 in this game, meaning that the Texans cover the spread.

Sunday, Jan. 8

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs -2 (1:05 pm ET)

If you just look at the score, Pittsburgh dominated Miami after beating the Dolphins 30 to 12 during Wildcard Weekend. But, if you actually watched the game, Pittsburgh didn’t play nearly as well as the score might indicate. Sure, RB Le’Veon Bell was excellent, but QB Big Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions. The Pittsburgh defense routinely let the Dolphins drive into the red zone before Miami imploded by making stupid mistakes.

Andy Reid’s team doesn’t figure to make stupid mistakes on Sunday, Jan. 8. The Kansas City Chiefs’ defense showed signs of wear and tear towards the end of the regular season. The week off, hopefully, did wonders for KC’s defenders. The Chiefs have the talent on defense to at least hold Bell to around 100 yards rushing and maybe a TD or two. The Chiefs pass rush should have no trouble collapsing the pocket on Big Ben when Pitt is in passing situations.

Even if the Steelers get it going on offense, I like KC’s match up versus Pitt’s defense more than I like Pitt’s offense versus the Chiefs’ defense. KC wide receiver Tyreek Hill can take it to the house every time he touches the football. TE Travis Kelce is uncoverable. QB Alex Smith completes 67% of his passes.

I see the Chiefs easily covering the spread in this game.

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys -4.5 (4:40 pm ET)

This is the match up where NFL handicappers could make some dollars. Dallas is led by two rookies on offense. That’s not a bad thing when the rookies are QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. But, they’re both still rookies. To me, that’s going to be the difference in the marquee NFL Divisional Playoff game of the weekend.

Both teams should have no trouble moving the football on offense. The Cowboys average 376.7 yards per game on offense. That ranks fifth in the NFL. The Boys score 26.3 points per game. That also ranks fifth in the NFL. Green Bay averages 368.8 total yards per game. The Packers score 27 points per game.

Since both teams are going to move the football, the key is going to be the play of each team’s quarterback. Prescott has been absolutely brilliant this season. He doesn’t play like a rookie. His QB rating is 104.9. Prescott has thrown only 4 interceptions this season. But, I’ve got to reiterate that Prescott is a rookie.

Aaron Rodgers is a future hall of fame quarterback. Rodgers’ QB rating of 104.2 doesn’t tell the whole story of how brilliant Green Bay’s quarterback has been in the past eight Packer games. Aaron’s TD to INT ratio is an unbelievable 22 to 0 in Green Bay’s last eight match ups. Yes, that’s right. The unparalleled Rodgers has thrown 22 TD pass to 0 interceptions in 8 straight games.

Because Rodgers is playing as well as any QB in the history of the NFL in the past two months I’ve got to side with the Green Bay Packers straight up in this. There’s going to be a moment when Prescott does something, it doesn’t even have to be a mistake, that Rodgers wouldn’t have done. Maybe, Dak misses an open receiver or rushes with the football instead of waiting for a play to develop.

That one something could be the difference in this game. I like the Packers to upset the Cowboys in what should be a high-scoring match up on Sunday, Jan. 15.