All right, here we are, it is playoff time and it is time to find out which team is truly the best in the NFL. I just reviewed my pre-season picks for each division, which I posted on this blog back in September, and I did pretty well. My predictions for all four AFC division winners were correct and I predicted that the Patriots would have the best record and secure home field advantage. Check and check.
In the NFC I did not fare quite as well. I only went 2 and 2. I was right about Green Bay and Seattle winning the NFC North and West, respectively, but I did not see the Cowboys winning the East or Atlanta dethroning the Carolina Panthers in the South. I always thought NFC East would be a real dogfight and that the Redskins would win the division again. I thought the Cowboys would struggle to take the division after they lost starting QB Tony Romo for the first half of the season. I knew Dallas had a lot of weapons on offense and a terrific O-Line, but I did not think rookie RB Zeke Elliot and rookie QB Dak Prescott would be truly great as they were. Both were real stars this season and they will make the Cowboys a Super Bowl contender for years to come.
As for the Giants, they delivered an unexpected Christmas present by making the playoffs. I must admit they exceeded my expectations. I never thought they would do any better than 8 and 8 this season, but the D and Beckham carried them to playoff!?! I have to give GM Jerry Reese some credit this time around. He bet big on the FA’s he signed for the defense and won.
I did predict the Panthers would suffer more losses this season as the rest of the league focused on them, but I was surprised by their really poor start (1-4). They never recovered from that. Atlanta, on the other hand, made a marked improvement in HC Dan Quinn’s second year. Hawks QB Matt Ryan was masterful this season and he would be my choice for league MVP this season.
Now, who will win the NFC? It appears to me at least 3 or 4 teams could win the conference, but there is no question that Dallas should be considered the favorites with home field advantage at AT&T Stadium.
Back in my pre-season Blog post I ended up picking Green Bay to win the NFC and face the New England in the Super Bowl. I must admit I really questioning myself when the Packers still under .500 at the 10 game mark, but then they got their act together and ripped off 6 straight victories to end the season 10-6 and Packers that we saw at the end of the season was the team that I expected. I’m going to stick with the Packers. I think they are the one team in the NFC that can take out both the Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons.
However, winning the NFC is one thing, winning the Super Bowl is another. I predicted that Patriots would win Super Bowl this season and I see no reason to change that prediction.
OK, on to the first round games.
Oakland at Houston
The Oakland Raiders would have been a real threat to win the AFC, but the loss of QB Derek Carr effectively ended their hopes to reach the Super Bowl. Houston wasn’t very good this year, in large part because new QB Brock Osweiler has been a big bust. So, we have two teams here that will be offensively challenged. I think the Raiders will win, but I don’t see them to winning any more playoff games after this one.
Oakland 21 Houston 17
Detroit at Seattle
Detroit had a pretty decent season, going 9-7, and gave the Packers some serious competition for the NFC North. However, the Lions still seem like a work in progress and I don’t think the Lions have enough weapons to defeat the Seahawks at home, where they are extremely tough to beat.
Seattle 31, Detroit 21
Miami at Pittsburgh
I think it fair to say Miami exceeded expectations this season, going 10-6 with rookie head coach Adam Gase. Well done, welcome to playoffs. The Fins are now taking a big step up facing a veteran Steelers team in cold, snowy Pittsburgh. The Steelers were up and down at various points this season, but when they bring their A game they can complete with any team in the league.
Pittsburgh 27, Miami 14
NY Giants at Green Bay
Green Bay -4.5
This is the definitely the best of first round games. I’m conflicted here because I am a big NY Giants fan, but predicted that the Packers would go all the way to the Super Bowl. The Giants excellent defense gives them a chance against any team in the league, but they catching a Packers team that is peaking at the right time. Giants WR O’Dell Beckham will be a problem for Green Bay, but I don’t see the G-Men putting up enough points to win this game. I won’t be real disappointed if I’m wrong because that will set-up a very interesting 3rd game vs the Cowboys. The Giants, of course, were the only team to beat the Cowboys during the regular season,
Green Bay 24, New York 17