To succeed in your predictions 100% is nearly impossible – though I’m satisfied with a few of my guesses – I got the NFC East exactly right, while I had all but two division winners correct. Of course, I predicted Minnesota would survive the Teddy Bridgewater injury and Carolina would continue a stellar run under Ron Rivera and Cam Newton coming out of last year’s Super Bowl. The two biggest mistakes I made were considering Arizona to be better than they turned out (they were good, just slower and injuries got to them) and that Cincinnati would finally break through and make it to a Super Bowl for the first time since 1988. I was considerably wrong there, as I chose them to win and they couldn’t even come close to .500. In any case, here’s my wildly admirable choices for this year’s playoffs:
Detroit at Seattle
For once I’ve gotten accustomed to Seattle making it to the postseason. Unfortunately for fans of the Seahawks, I actually have to pick against them for a few reasons – the underestimation of the Detroit Lions and the imbalance of the Seattle offense. For a team that put up scores in the single digits a surprising three times, as well as ekeing out most wins with point differentials of 6 or under 5 other times – they’re not exactly Super Bowl shoe-ins. However, with Detroit’s general inexperience, many tout this match-up as a sure thing for the PNW football stars. I’m usually of the opinion that I shouldn’t bank on my favorite teams making it in the playoffs, and I have been shouting about Detroit’s surprising dominance this year, so I’m putting my faith behind Matt Stafford. Detroit 30-27.
New York Giants at Green Bay
The Packers were my choice to win the NFC in this preseason, showcasing Aaron Rodgers return to form alongside rejuvenated stars like Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson. Interestingly, it took a rotation cast of characters like James Starks and Don Jackson to push the team just inside the playoffs and a midnight showdown with the divisional rival Detroit Lions in order to secure the title and home field advantage. Lucky for them, right? Well, they’re hosting an equally rejuvenated New York Giants team that found their way back to relevance under rookie coach Ben McAdoo and no longer injured Victor Cruz. I still maintain the Packers will succeed, despite this second-half brilliance by both teams, that will prove to allow for the most exciting match-up of the wild-card weekend. Packers 22-17.
Green Bay at Atlanta
This is where the Cheeseheads’ luck runs out, as they face off against the potent offense of the Atlanta Falcons. As long as Julio Jones stays healthy through the whole game (he has extra time to heal up anyway) and the running tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman put up their average numbers, the output will be explosive. Green Bay’s defense has been nothing to sniff at, but they won’t be able to contain the other surviving MVP candidate Matt Ryan (who will lose to the injured Derek Carr). Look for Ryan to have his best postseason game ever. Atlanta 45-10
Detroit at Dallas
It’s too easy to choose Dallas over the Lions, but they shouldn’t really struggle mightly against a team known for choking. I do worry that overconfidence could be rookies Dax Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott’s undoing, but they have Tony Romo there to guide them from the sidelines. I think he wants this as much as them, even if he isn’t in the lead position. I am plenty excited to see what Stafford does, but I fear this will be revenge from Thanksgiving. Dallas 25-12
Miami at Pittsburgh
Poor Miami. For their first appearance in the playoffs since 2008 they get the opportunity to play against a rough and tumble offense still led by Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and LaGarette Blount, as well as superstar Le’Veon Bell. I had the Steelers slipping past the Jets in my prediction format, and while I still think they’ll dominate the Fish, I hope that Miami will put up a classic fight against Pittsburgh. They managed to get through all those injuries and disappointing games against division rivals only to squeak into a wild-card slot, and will they just roll over? Probably not. Look to see a high-scoring firefight. Pittsburgh 42-38
Oakland at Houston
It would have been easy to say Oakland two weeks ago, even with the surprise divisional win of Kansas City – but the comeback kid Derek Carr broke his leg in San Diego that day. So with the Raiders banking all their chips on back-up Matt McGloin rookie Connor Cook, it’s appealing to hedge your bets on Brock Osweiler and the lucky Houston Texans. However, the Raiders aren’t without star runner Latavius Murray and one of the great solid defenses we’ve seen in 2016. While it’s easy to think Osweiler won’t lay a rotten egg of a performance, I’m going to gamble on the Raiders continuing their remarkable run one more week, even with the crazy choice to lead with Cook. Oakland 17-16.
Pittsburgh at Kansas City
The matchup of the second week will find fairly evenly matched teams Pittsburgh and Kansas City square off in what could be the most defensive battle of the postseason. Andy Reid has formed a formidable squad in the heart of Missouri and he intends on seeing through what he could not finalize in Philadelphia. He has a hunger for the Lombardi trophy, and he hates his old cross-state rivals. It’ll be tight, but the Chiefs will be on top mid-January. Kansas City 23-20
Oakland at New England
The way I’ve set it up, Oakland under a rookie back-up will have no chance against the titans that are the New England Patriots. Honestly, this season I don’t suspsect a solid Derek Carr-led team would have much to say either. Watch for the blow-out of the season as Brady dances on the Raiders’ graves. New England 50-21
Obviously this is a what-if, but I imagine these two matchups will be crazy fun and not too far off from reality, given the dominance of the top four teams during the season and especially leading up to week 17. Atlanta will be the toughest defense Dallas has faced, and their offense is one of the highest-scoring in a long time. Dallas has their best team in decades, however, and despite the youth factor, will come out on top of the Falcons to create a new hope for Texas based football fans.
Kansas City-New England
New England has always been a tad cocky when it comes to their dominance. Sure, they proved us all wrong when they won yet another dumb Super Bowl two years ago, but that was iffy given the size of their balls. Here they face off against players that have longed for a Super Bowl for as much time but never tasted it, and the Chiefs will simply push through the sloppy New England defense to overcome the larger plays by Brady. Kansas City 38-32
As usual, I will update this as each postseason week has their slate lined up, but for fun I wanted to predict all the way up until the Super Bowl. In my imaginary Super Bowl LI, we find a fight between the Dallas Cowboys and the original Dallas team, the Kansas City Chiefs (they were the Dallas Texans from 1960-1963). I would normally hate to pick the Cowboys to win, so I’m going to have them just miss out on a surprising Cinderella run to a championship by giving it to Andy Reid and his Chiefs. Hey, I said before this would likely be more of what I want than what I expect. Oddsmakers have the Cowboys (7-2) second behind the Pats (7-5) and the Chiefs at (10-1). Say what you will, but it’s almost always a toss-up as Any Given Sunday rules.
Tune in next week to see what I think for week two of the 2017 NFL playoffs!