Wildcard Weekend could have so easily been called 'Blowout Weekend". The Raiders fell apart against Houston, and as much as many want to blame Cook's first start, the collapse was fairly universal. Both offensive and defensive lines played, if you want to call it that, with no urgency or drive. The Steelers dominated Miami from the start, beginning with two passing drives for touchdown and then just letting LeVeon Bell power all the way down the field for their third in as many possessions. It is rare that you see a team make a statement so thorough. Seattle did not look as invincible as the teams of 2013 and 2014, but they handled the Lions easily. The game most fun to watch was certainly the Giants against the Packers. It looked like it would be a contest until two things happened. Odell Beckham Jr. forget his hands in the tropics, Aaron Rodgers threw a Hail Mary to Cobb that should be refered to as his typical Sunday anymore. From that point forward, Green Bay dominated and did not look back. The price of that win, however, may prove to be extreme, with Jordy Nelson going down to one of the more vicious legal hits seen in recent years.
The Wildcard teams are all eliminated, and the divisional champs advance. With what we've seen from those divisional teams, this weekend could, could mind you, offer some of the best football of the year.
Seattle (3) at Atlanta (2)
These are not the same teams we got used to seeing earlier this decade. The Seahawks are more malleable and actually better at adapting to game dynamics. They no longer rely on impenetrable defense, because the defense can be penetrated. The Seahawk offense is also not as explosive as we have seen even 1 year ago. The Falcons, on the other hand, have one of the best offenses I've seen since the 2013 Broncos broke all records. They simply have little to brag about on defense. Historically, the immovable defense will defeat the unstoppable offense the majority of the time. In my view, this game comes down to one player, Russell Wilson. He showed last week that he still has elite talent, and he will have to show it today if the 'Hawks are going to beat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. I'm just not certain that he can outscore Ryan and the Falcons.
Seattle - 28, Atlanta - 34
Green Bay (4) at Dallas (1)
I always encounter games I really don't want to pick because either choice is wrong until the game is over. This is just such a game. (Truthfully 3 of this weekend's games are of that caliber.) How can one possibly pick against Aaron Rodgers and the magic he has produced in the last 5 weeks? How can one pick against the best offensive line in football (which despite caterwaul IS one of the best ever)? It is cliche to write that the two Pro-bowl rookies running the Dallas offense will wither in the heady playoff atmosphere. It is far too easy to point out the flaws in the Green Bay defense especially against a ball control running and roll out attack. I could rely on the cop-out of the Cowboys having home field, but historically the Taj Majones has not as kind to the 'Boys as you would expect. Instead, I will posit this: Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback currently playing. His confidence, leadership and playmaking ability could take Green Bay straight to the SooperBowl. But he doesn't have his best weapon in Jordy Nelson. The best coach currently in contention (for the NFC) is Jason Garrett. He has his players tight on technique, pursuit, execution, and delivery. This Dallas team is a force to be reckoned with, unless Rodgers can wizard some amazing things out of his butt. I have to go with the Cowboys on this one.
Green Bay - 24, Dallas 30
Houston (4) at New England (1)
Very few quarterbacks currently playing have beaten the BB Empire. Osweiler, strangely, is one of them. But he had Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray, T.J. Ward and the No Fly Zone then. He doesn't now. Even fewer Quarterbacks have beaten the BB Empire in the playoffs, and Peyton Manning is retired. Only two teams have beaten the BB Empire in Foxborough during the playoffs, the Jets and the Ravens. The Hatriots have the best defense against scores in the NFL, a stat that most have ignored because the Hatriots are generally hated. This game is so easy to call, but yet the nation outside of New England still hopes for a miracle upset.
If you will allow me an aside, the Patriots are one of the things that ail the NFL. It is undeniable that Belichick is the best coach in NFL History. There will always be argument about whether Brady is the GOAT QB. But the arrogance of that team and its owner disengages fans. After SB 49, that farting filth-besmirched arsehole Robert Kraft demanded airtime to tell the whole world how unpatriotic we are if we don't hold up the Patriots as The True America's Team. Not one team in the league is so obsessed, on the field and off, with it's own superiority. Any call or missed call (in their opinion) becomes a game crisis. Brady is a great player, but he is detached and condescending. Where Peyton Manning engaged fans with his humor, his class, and his good heart, Brady gets seen on our TVs looking lustfully at a mattress in a private vault below a bank. Almost every fan in the country fully expects the Patriots to win SB 51, and we are all (outside of New England) revulsed by the thought. More speeches telling us what to believe from Kraft. More records pointing to the superiority of the Hatriots over our chosen teams. It's like the asshole who flaunts his trophy wife, telling us how he could have our wife's virtue if he would demean himself to do so. Really, the Patriots are a great team, now. But they aren't likeable, not at all, and the more they demand to be the face of the NFL, the more they will hurt the organization as a whole.
Houston - 10, New England - 42
Pittsburgh (3) at Kansas City (2)
Oh boy, here we go again. Two exceptional teams that if they play their game will move on to the Championship. I cannot express my grudging respect for KC more. They have played the most solid football this season in terms of ball-control, special teams, assignment, and game plan. And still, no team this year has marched onto a field and imposed their will the way Pittsburgh did last week. They didn't come out and mix the pass and run and make the defense question. They came out with two straight possessions of passing for touchdowns, telling the Dolphins that they have no hope to stop the pass. They then came out and ran a straight rushing attack for another score. That was deliberate and total domination. That wasn't a coach making a statement, it was Tomlin writing his signature on these playoffs. Still, the Chiefs are not the Dolphins and they are at home. Tyreek Hill is an X-factor like no other. The Chiefs control the ball better than any team in the NFL. They also don't seem to wear down as the game goes on, which the Steelers seem prone to. Early this week, I was going with the Chiefs all the way, but now ...
Pittsburgh - 27, Kansas City -24