The NFL playoffs were bad last weekend, but this time we are seeing three terrific matchups, along with one that projects to be a blowout.
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (-5)
The weekend kicks off with the first of four rematches. Atlanta is trying to get to its third conference title game in franchise history while the Seahawks continue their quest for a third Super Bowl appearance in four years. The difference in this game is Earl Thomas. Without him, Seattle will have a tough time defending the Falcons’ arsenal, chiefly Julio Jones.
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Pick: Atlanta 26, Seattle 20
Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-15)
The question isn’t who is going to win this game, but whether or not the Texans can cover the spread. New England would need to lay the ultimate egg at home to lose to Brock Osweiler, something it doesn’t do this time of year. The Patriots simply need to avoid turnovers and the game should be theirs, putting them in another AFC Championship Game.
Pick: New England 30, Houston 16
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (1.5)
This is going to be the best game of the slate. The Chiefs and Steelers are opposites on the surface, but they both have similarities across the board. Both teams have ample experience and coaches that have flaws, but that also can go all the way. The offenses have explosive playmakers from Antonio Browns and Le’Veon Bell to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. When a game is this close, look in the margins. One clear advantage: Kansas City has dominant special teams.
Pick: Kansas City 27, Pittsburgh 23
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (-4.5)
Aaron Rodgers vs. Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas offensive line. That will be the storyline and for once, the narrative is accurate. For the Cowboys to win and advance to their first conference title game since 1995, they need to run the ball often and effectively. If they can’t, Rodgers will have the ball for a large chunk of the game, throwing against a middling secondary. If the Packers win time of possession, they are going to the next round.