The NFL 2017 Divisional Playoffs just finished this past weekend. Unlike Wildcard Weekend, two out of the four Divisional Playoffs underdogs won both against the spread and straight up. Those two dogs, per oddsmakers, have a huge shot in both the AFC and NFC Championship Games. See below for our 2017 Divisional Playoffs recap!
NFL 2017 Divisional Playoffs Recap
Seattle Seahawks 20, Atlanta Falcons 36
The Seattle Seahawks garnered a lot of attention after their rushing attack dominated the Detroit Lions in the Seahawks’ 26 to 6 win over Detroit. All season long, football analysts had bagged on Seattle for having a bad offensive line. Per those analysts, there was no way that the Seahawks had a shot in the playoffs because the offensive line wasn’t good enough.
But versus Detroit, Seattle appeared to have straightened out their offensive line issues. Running back Thomas Rawls rumbled for 161 yards, breaking a Seattle playoff rushing record. The Seahawks, many analysts assumed going into their game with Atlanta, would control the line of scrimmage with their powerful rushing attack. That didn’t happen.
Instead, Atlanta dominated in every facet of the game over the weekend. The Falcons defense allowed only 101 rushing yards from 21 carries. That’s not enough rushing yards to control the clock against the best offense in the NFL.
Soon to be NFL MVP Matt Ryan seemingly took advantage of every single Seattle mistake. Ryan threw for a huge 338 yards. He tossed 3 TD passes. As to be expected, Matty Ice was brilliant at the line of scrimmage. He changed plays when needed to allow both Atlanta running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, to be effective rushing and catching the football. Coleman rushed for 57 yards. He caught 3 passes for 22 yards and a TD. Freeman caught 4 passes for 80 yards while rushing for 45 yards and a TD.
Atlanta looks like a team on a mission. We’ll see this Sunday when they battle hot-handed Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Houston Texans 16, New England Patriots, 34
The betting line had gone up to New England -16.5. Instead of going the other way, which I thought it might, pro bettors had jumped on the Patriots at -15 points. Unbelievably, the Patriots covered the huge betting spread.
I write unbelievably because based on what happened in the first half, there was some discussion on whether Houston might pull off one of the greatest upsets in NFL history. No football handicapper believed that the Patriots had a shot of covering the spread.
At halftime, the score was New England 17 and Houston 13. The Texans had found a way to keep it close versus the Patriots. The number one ranked defense in the NFL based on yardage stats was dominating Terrific Tom Brady and New England’s vaunted offense. Could Houston pull off a modern sports miracle? It appeared that they could.
But, then, the second half started. New England is so difficult to beat because not only do the Patriots have the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL in Tom Brady, they also have one of the greatest coaching staffs ever assembled in football.
No coaching staff adjusts at halftime the way that Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, and offensive coordinator Josh McDonald do. Those adjustments are what led the Pats to outscoring the Texans 17 to 3 in the second half. It led the Pats’ defense to exposing Houston QB Brock Osweiler for what he is, an excellent lifetime back-up QB in the NFL acting as a starter. It led the Patriots to yet another AFC Championship battle.
Pittsburgh Steelers 18, Kansas City Chiefs 16
Pittsburgh versus Kansas City was one of the most frustrating football games that I’ve ever seen. Neither offense stuck to a game plan that appeared to be working. Pittsburgh, for some crazy reason, failed to give the ball to the best player in the NFL, running back Le’Veon Bell, while in the red zone on numerous occasions in the first half. The Steelers ended up converting on 4 field goals in the first half while Kansas City scored the first of only two touchdowns in the game in half one.
No team made the necessary adjustments at halftime. Pittsburgh converted two field goals for 6 points in the second half. KC was good for a TD late in the fourth quarter but they failed to convert on a 2-point conversion.
What’s interesting is that Bell rushed for 170 yards on 30 carries. Pittsburgh could have jumped to a 21 to 7 lead on their first 3 possessions of the game if they had just fed the football to Bell. Bell rushed with authority throughout the game. But, he was particularly effective on Pitt’s first three possessions. Pitt could have put this game out of reach early instead of having to hold on for dear life in the final 3 minutes of the contest.
The Chiefs, inexplicably, played as if they had no clue what to do on offense. Slash player Tyreek Hill, the only reason that the Chiefs won the AFC West over the Oakland Raiders in the regular season, saw only 3 carries. He saw only 6 targets in the passing attack. By the time Kansas City had figured it out, late in the fourth quarter, they had to rush to get the 6 points against Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh’s win was ugly. But, the strategy turned out to be effective for the win. Still, not sticking with Bell in the rushing attack could be a harbinger for things to come for the Steelers on Jan. 22. Pitt needs a much more effective offensive strategy versus New England’s defense in order to win the AFC Championship.
Green Bay Packers 34, Dallas Cowboys 31
By the time they kicked off Packers versus Cowboys, the betting line had gone from Green Bay +5.5 to Green Bay +5. Pro bettors jumped on Dallas to push the line up from Green Bay +4.5 to Green Bay +5. The pro bettors almost pulled it out. It took a 56-yard field goal from Mason Crosby for Green Bay to break a 28 to 28 tie in the fourth quarter. Then, it took a last second 51-yard field goal by Crosby for the Packers to beat the Cowboys straight up.
What’s concerning if you are a Green Bay fan is how the Packers allowed an 18-point lead to slip from their grasps. That can’t be a good sign going into the NFC Championship against Atlanta. Green Bay’s defense was perfect early in the game. But, then, the Packers fell apart.
At the end, Green Bay’s D had allowed Dallas rookie QB Dak Prescott throw for 302 yards and to toss 3 TD passes. He routinely went to Dallas’s top wide receiver, Dez Bryant, who had 9 catches from 12 targets for 132 yards and 2 TD catches.
On offense, Aaron Rodgers remained hot. Rodgers threw for 356 yards and 2 TD passes. He went to tight-end Jared cook on numerous occasions. Cook caught a team high 6 passes for 104 yards and a TD.
It was a nice win for Green Bay. But, the Packers have an uphill climb in this Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. Can Green Bay get it done versus the favored Atlanta Falcons? Or, will the Falcons take a trip to Super Bowl 51?