WhatIfSports.com’s NFL simulation engine generates predictions and box scores for every NFL game for the coming week. Our highly sophisticated algorithms simulate every play of every game to produce each team’s likelihood to win. Each matchup is simulated 501 times.
To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating games on Thursdays through the season.
Note: Our predictions use the latest available team and player information, while NFL SimMatchup includes all players that were or will be available at any point during the 2016 season so that theoretical and “what if” scenarios can be simulated.
In a Wild Card matchup against the Detroit Lions, the Seattle Seahawks saw a return to form and looked as dangerous as ever behind a dominant defense and a resurgent running game. Thomas Rawls rattled off 161 yards and a touchdown while the defense completely shut down Matthew Stafford en route to a 26-6 win.
The Atlanta Falcons should pose a tougher test. The Falcons boast the league’s highest-scoring offense, averaging 33.8 points a game. The marquee matchup of Julio Jones against Richard Sherman should provide plenty of fireworks, as the Falcons will look to avenge a close 26-24 loss during the regular season. Potential MVP Matt Ryan has only one postseason win under his belt during his career, but it came against Seattle back in 2012.
Our NFL simulation engine has the Falcons squeaking by the Seahawks 57.1 percent of the time by an average score of 26-24.
The Texans are coming off a 27-14 Wild Card round victory over the Oakland Raiders thanks to a dominant defensive performance and a passable one from QB Brock Osweiler. To beat the Patriots in New England, though, Osweiler will have to be much better than he’s shown all season. In Week 3 against the Patriots, the Texans were shut out completely by the Patriots as Tom Brady watched from his house.
The Patriots are big favorites for a reason in this one. New England has reached the AFC Championship game in the last five postseasons and has owned Houston in head-to-head matchups as of late.
Our simulations have the Patriots winning by an average score of 24-21, 61.3 percent of the time.
After blowing out the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round, the Steelers will travel to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs. The Steelers are coming in hot, and may have a psychological edge after beating the Chiefs 43-13 in Pittsburgh earlier this season.
Pittsburgh will once again be led by Le’Veon Bell, who became the first running back to ever average 100 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards per game for a season. The Chiefs have been soft against the run all year, which could lead Pittsburgh to really pound the ball. The Chiefs will hope for more of a shootout behind offensive weapons like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and a healthy Jeremy Maclin. Alex Smith struggled mightily during the regular season matchup, but the Chiefs are typically much more dangerous at home than on the road.
Our projections have this as the closest game of the Divisional Round, with the Steelers winning 51.5 percent of the time by an average score of 24-23.
AFC Divisional Prediction: Pittsburgh at Kansas City
The Packers are fresh off a convincing victory over the Giants in the Wild Card round, but now face a Cowboys team that could easily be considered the favorite to win it all after finishing the season with the best record in the NFC. The Cowboys may have to depend on Dak Prescott in his first postseason start to beat a Packers defense that has loaded up against the run and been much more beatable through the air all season long.
The Cowboys beat the Packers earlier this year 30-16 behind Ezekiel Elliott, but Aaron Rodgers wasn’t in the groove he is now. Rodgers was near-perfect in the Wild Card round and hasn’t thrown an interception since early November. The Cowboys have struggled to stop the league’s best passing offenses, which could lead to an interesting clash of styles in this week’s marquee matchup.
We’re projecting a narrow victory for the Cowboys, with the home team coming out on top 54.7 percent of the time, by an average score of 25-23.