Day one of the Divisional round was about as exciting as the Wild Card round (which featured three early snoozers and a game that was close halfway through the 3rd but ended in a 25 point blowout). Yesterday, the Seahawks/Falcons game was essentially over with nine minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. It started with some suspense and methodical offensive play with the game’s first two drives ending in touchdowns and taking up more than a quarter. After that, it seemed as though an injury to their right guard completely reversed their offensive confidence as the rookie missed assignments and changed momentum for good by stepping on Russell Wilson and causing a safety.
In game two, at least the Texans/Patriots gave the viewers some unexpected drama until about 12 minutes remaining in the contest. That’s not to say the game was easy on the eye. It was sloppy, filled with five interceptions, special teams breakdowns, a rattled Tom Brady (he was hit often and did throw a tantrum, but held his leg and forearm back just enough to avoid another Ed Reed-like result), an ineffective Brock Osweiler, missed receivers, and dropped passes. In the end, the Patriots clicked on offense just enough, and there defense was too much, at least for an Osweiler led offense.
Green Bay Packers (11-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (13-3), 4:40pm, FOX
The Packers game is again the marquee contest of the weekend, and this time they rumble with the Cowboys led by two rookies. Those rookies are certainly at good on paper, but they can thank a ridiculous offensive line for a decent portion of their success (a unit in my opinion that should collectively get the MVP). That OL wears teams down if their opponents can’t sustain drives.
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (12-4), 8:20 pm (moved from 1:05pm due to weather), NBC
Offensive firepower vs game management and special teams. The game was moved not because of weather, but because KC fans petitioned the NFL to be granted an extra seven hours of alcohol consumption, and petitioned the state for a sick day on Monday.
On to the predictions!
Paul Johansson’s picks (5-1):
Steelers @ Chiefs
The Chiefs defense is similar to the Saints championship D. Very opportunistic (leads the NFL in turnovers and +-), and they bend but don’t break (poor stats but 7th in points against). The difference is the Chiefs have Alex Smith and the Saints have Drew Brees. If Ben is limpy, KC might have a chance, but he will get injected with some substance to numb the pain.
Steelers 20, Chiefs 17
Packers @ Cowboys
Like the Falcons, until the Cowboys prove me otherwise… wait that was with Romo. That said, Prescott has shown some cracks lately, and Green Bay is as hot as any team in the league. My guess is the stadium will be filled with 20% Packers fans, 50% Cowboys fans, and 25-30% other. Something in my gut tells me this is the year Rodgers makes another run.
Packers 27, Cowboys 20
Jack Crawford’s picks (4-2):
Steelers @ Chiefs
I like the Chiefs, who have overcome injuries, an upstart Raiders team, and a defending Super Bowl champ on their way to a division title. I also like their chances of blowing this game at home to a superior offensive team.
Steelers 26, Chiefs 20
Packers @ Cowboys
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is brilliant. He’s awesome. He’s clutch. He’s what every team wants at quarterback. And on the road in a hostile Dallas environment, he’s going to lose.
Packers 24, Cowboys 35