Movie quote of the day:
“There’s no crying in baseball!”
– Jimmy Dugan, “A League of Their Own” (1992)
Week 17 record: 11-5 (68.7 percent)
2016 record: 156-98-2 (61.3 percent)
All-time record: 278-187-2 (59.7 percent)
Wild Card weekend
No. 6 Miami Dolphins (10-6) at No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Line: PIT -10.5
With Matt Moore starting at quarterback for Miami this week, I’m not giving the Dolphins much of a chance to win – even though Moore wasn’t terrible in the regular season when he took over for the injured Ryan Tannehill. However, this is the postseason and the teams with the better quarterbacks tend to move on and win championships. Pittsburgh has been hot – winners of seven in a row. I think the offensive combination of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown will be too much for the Dolphins’ defense. I hate seeing blowouts in the playoffs, but I think the Steelers cruise to a win.
Prediction: Steelers 34, Dolphins 17
No. 5 Oakland Raiders (12-4) at No. 4 Houston Texans (9-7)
Line: HOU -4
I hate to sound mean, but this game is probably going to be the worst playoff game of all time. Not in a blowout kind of way, I mean this game will just be hard to watch because of poor quarterback play. Oakland is down to its third-string quarterback, Connor Cook, because of injuries and Brock Osweiler and has been awful this season. I don’t think Cook is good enough to go on the road and win against a stout Houston defense. Oakland’s defense has been shaky this year, so, I think Osweiler finds a way to move the ball. I expect to see a lot of Lamar Miller in Houston’s offense this week, and I think DeAndre Hopkins will be too much for the Raiders’ secondary in the end. I like Houston to win a close, low-scoring game.
Prediction: Texans 13, Raiders 10
No. 6 Detroit Lions (9-7) at No. 3 Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
Line: SEA -8
Las Vegas thinks Seattle is going to win comfortably, but I really think this game will be another coin flip. Seattle hasn’t been playing well in the last month of the regular season. The Seahawks can’t keep Russell Wilson upright and their defense has been struggling after the injury to Earl Thomas. I really want to take Detroit to get the upset, but I can’t do it. The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, and their offense is one-dimensional because they struggle to run the ball – which is something you need to do to beat Seattle. Plus, Matt Stafford is still suffering from his finger injury and he’s going to have to throw the ball against a Seahawks secondary that is still pretty good even after losing Thomas. Seattle is a crazy stadium atmosphere and I think the crowd noise affects Stafford’s ability to throw. I think he’ll still be able to make plays and keep the Lions in the game, but I expect Seattle to emerge victorious.
Prediction: Seahakws 24, Lions 23
No. 5 New York Giants (11-5) at No. 4 Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Green Bay, Wis.
Line: GB -5
Here’s another game that I see as a coin flip. Eli Manning has never lost a playoff game at Lambeau Field, which concerns me as a Green Bay fan. The Giants’ defense has been stellar since week six – allowing just 16 points per game. However, I think the Giants are relying too much on their defense. Manning hasn’t played well this season, particularly on the road – 10 touchdowns to seven picks on the road, and only three games with over 200 yards – and his bad play has affected the Giants’ offense (No. 26 in scoring). I’ve learned to never trust the Packers’ defense in the postseason, but I do trust Aaron Rodgers. I know the Giants’ defense has been great, but Rodgers is hot right now (18 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last seven games). With the game in Lambeau, I think he’s going to make just enough plays to help Green Bay get the win and move on.
Prediction: Packers 22, Giants 19
No. 4 Houston Texans at No. 1 New England Patriots (14-2)
I think this is the easiest game for me to pick. New England has been the clear-cut favorite to win the AFC all year and Houston is not very good. Tom Brady is playing at too high of level right now to lose this game. I think New England wins this game comfortably and moves on to the AFC Championship for a sixth-consecutive season.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Texans 10
No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 2 Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Kansas City is a great team, but there’s a reason this team has only won one playoff game since 2013, and it’s because of lack of a quarterback. Alex Smith is a very serviceable quarterback, but I don’t think he’s good enough to win in the postseason. Pittsburgh has been in this position before. The Steelers have a two time Super-Bowl winning quarterback and a Super-Bowl winning head coach – plenty of experience for the black and gold. Arrowhead Stadium is a tough place to play, but Roethlisberger has gone on the road before in the postseason and won.
Prediction: Steelers 24, Chiefs 21
No. 4 Green Bay Packers at No. 1 Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
I know that Green Bay is arguably the hottest team in the postseason and it’s hard to beat a team twice, but like I said above, I don’t trust Green Bay’s defense at all in the playoffs. I don’t think the Packers’ defense will be able to slow down Ezekiel Elliott and Dallas’ offense. Aaron Rodgers is going to make plays and keep Green Bay in the game, but I don’t think he’ll have enough opportunities because the Packers’ defense won’t be able to get off the field.
Prediction: Cowboys 30, Packers 23
No. 3 Seattle Seahawks at No. 2 Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Seattle has made a living off playing fantastic defense the last few years, but without Earl Thomas, it’s now incredibly vulnerable. I think the Seahawks’ defense is going to have a very difficult time slowing down Atlanta’s high-scoring offense – which averaged 35 points per game at home this season. I don’t think Russell Wilson will be able to keep up with Matt Ryan.
Prediction: Falcons 31, Seahawks 19
No. 3 Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 1 New England Patriots
I’ve felt all year that Pittsburgh is the only team in the AFC that could contend with New England. Mainly because the Steelers have the offense to hang with Tom Brady. However, I’m not sold on Pittsburgh’s defense – which has been gashed a lot this season but it was playing much better down the stretch. Since this game will be in Foxboro, I have to give the edge to New England. I think Pittsburgh’s defense will struggle trying to slow down the Patriots’ offense.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Steelers 24
No. 2 Atlanta Falcons at No. 1 Dallas Cowboys
I expect this matchup to be a shootout. Neither defense is very good and both offenses are in the top five in the league in scoring. I think it’s going to be a high-scoring affair, but I’ve never believed the Falcons to be a “real” team. I know they can put up a bunch of points, but I don’t trust the Falcons to make the Super Bowl – I have to see it to believe it first. Atlanta’s defense ranks No. 17 at stopping the run. That is not good enough to beat Dallas. I expect the Cowboys’ offensive line to bully the Falcons’ defense and Ezekiel Elliott to run wild.
Prediction: Cowboys 34, Falcons 28
Super Bowl LI
No. 1 Dallas Cowboys vs. No. 1 New England Patriots
I don’t feel confident about it, but I went chalk and picked the No. 1 seeds on both sides to make the Super Bowl – something that has only happened 11 times since the first Super Bowl. Dallas has been a great story, but there’s no way that I’m going to take the Dallas rookies to knock off Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl. New England’s run defense ranks in the top five. I think the Patriots will be able to slow down Ezekiel Elliott and get Dak Prescott into third and long situations – something he has struggled with all year. Tom Brady should have no problem moving the ball against the Cowboys’ defense and I think he manages to get his fifth Super Bowl ring.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Cowboys 17
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