2017 NFL playoff primer and prediction

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Aug 13, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers in a preseason NFL football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 13, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers in a preseason NFL football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

We have now made it through the regular season to be rewarded with 12 teams with the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Well, okay, maybe not 12 but technically 12 teams have the opportunity to make it to the Super Bowl.

As history has shown all fans, literally any seed can win the Super Bowl. With that, it makes it nearly impossible to predict an entire playoffs correctly beginning to end. Usually the hottest team is the one that ends up on top, but not always.

The Lions and Texans are the only two teams looking for their first appearance in the big game; not many give either team much of a chance. The Patriots and Packers both look unstoppable offensively; the Steelers and Giants have both shown the ability to upend a playoff bracket or two.

What kind of playoff run can be expected out of Dolphins’, Raiders’ and Texans’ teams that are dealing with quarterback turmoil? Lucky enough for the Raiders or Texans, one of them will live to fight another day.

Is this finally the year the Falcons or Chiefs make the turn to make a deep run in the playoffs? Both teams have had plenty more ups than downs this season but their downs are usually downright disgusting.

Although they would love for this to happen, no one will sleep on the Seahawks or the Cowboys this time around in the playoffs. The Seahawks are a perennial tough out; the Cowboys a perennial one and out. This may just be the year the Cowboys show America whose team they are once again.

Below will be a prediction of the Wild-Card matchups followed by a quick overall playoff prediction.


AROUND COVER32

Winners and Losers:  NFL Week 16 — Bounce Back Week

QB Rankings:  NFL Week 17 — The last dance

Five Questions:  NFL Week 16 — Jerry’s World is a-rockin’

Power Rankings:  NFL Week 17 — 2016’s Curtain Call

cover32 Exclusive:  NFL Pick’ems Final Results – the tally is in


Wild-Card Round

Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans; Saturday, 1-7-17 at 3:35 PM, Central Time

The opening game of the weekend is usually the least enticing game of the weekend. However this game has plenty of intrigue as the Raiders’ Connor Cook will be the first quarterback to make his first career start in a playoff game.

The Texans have their own quarterback intrigue as big money quarterback, Brock Osweiler will be making the start over Tom Savage while he is in the concussion protocol. Although Osweiler player on the Super Bowl Champion Broncos’ team last season, this will be his first career playoff start.

The Texans will hope to avenge their 27-20 loss they suffered in Mexico City earlier this season at the hands of the Derek Carr led Raiders. This time around, 30 yards rushing will not do it for the Raiders as Cook is not Carr.

Prediction:  Texans 20, Raiders 16

 

Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks; Saturday, 1-7-17 at 7:15 PM, Central Time

The Lions have not been the same since quarterback, Matthew Stafford hurt his hand a few weeks ago. They also limped into the season with three-straight losses and are only in because the Redskins lost their last game. The Lions are about as gritty as any team in the playoffs; winning at Seattle in January may be more than they can chew in this one though.

The Seahawks are 7-1 at home this season and continue to prove they have one of the best home field advantages in all of sports. With the Lions an abysmal 3-5 on the road this season, Seattle is no place to search for fortunes to change on the road.

The “Legion of Boom” is not quite the same without Earl Thomas yet the defense should be stout enough to keep Stafford and the Lions at bay. This game may be close the whole way, yet the Seahawks will pull away in the end as Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin will be too much for the Lions secondary.

Predictions:  Seahawks 24, Lions 17

 

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers; Sunday, 1-8-17 at 12:05 PM, Central Time

According to ESPN staff writer, Jame Walker, Matt Moore is the likely candidate to start the game for the Dolphins but they are not ruling out Ryan Tannehill just yet. The Dolphins will want to run the ball like they did in the earlier meeting against the Steelers when Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns. Most prognosticators are predicting against a repeat performance as the Dolphins are 10-point underdogs at this point.

Most notably for the Steelers is the fact they will have Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell all on the field for the first time in a playoff game. The Steelers are coming into the playoffs red-hot after rattling off seven-straight victories to close out the season.

Even if Tannehill was able to start, the Steelers are just too hot and playing at home, with their three best players. Add to the mix, their defense getting healthy at the right time all equals a blowout that may not even be close by halftime. The Steelers should avenge the 30-15 drumming they suffered earlier by winning when it counts most. 

Prediction:  Steelers 31, Dolphins 17

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers; Sunday, 1-8-17 at 3:40 PM, Central Time

Eli Manning and the Giants will relish a chance to redeem their 23-16 loss at Lambeau Field earlier this season. Manning and the Giants have won the last two playoff meetings in Green Bay; both playoffs ended with the Giants hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Aaron Rodgers had his ups and downs this season; right now is a major up as he is the hottest quarterback in the league. The Packers have seemingly overcome their offensive line woes to become one of the most efficient offenses during their six-game win streak.

Obviously the game of the weekend as these two teams have a mini-rivalry going in the past ten seasons. This is also the first time two former Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks will be facing off in a Wild-Card round. It is widely whispered that the winner of this game could very easily win the Super Bowl. That being said, Rodgers and the Packers are just too hot right now and should get the better of the Giants this time.

Prediction Packers 27, Giants 23

 

The Divisional round

Houston Texans at New England Patriots

In the AFC, the Patriots would then get to breeze through the Texans for the second time this season. Since the Patriot would now get to play the game with Brady at the helm, the game would probably be close to the 27-0 beat-down they gave them in week three this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs

The Steelers would then travel to Kansas City to attempt a duplication of the 43-14 humiliation they awarded the Chiefs earlier this season. It would not be the same score; however, the Steelers still are too powerful of a team for the Chiefs to handle. All guarantees aside, the Chiefs are truly hoping the Dolphins pull the upset this weekend.

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys

In the NFC’s first of two rematches, the Cowboys hope to hold steady to defeat the Packers much like they did earlier this season on the road. The Packers are hardly the same team that lost 30-16 to the cowboys earlier this year and they continue to stay hot and pull off the upset.

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

In a rematch of the game widely known as “the Richard Sherman doesn’t get called for pass interference on Julio Jones” game, the Falcons look to avenge their overtime loss earlier this season. The Falcons seem to be much more steady on defense to coincide with their prolific offense; giving them a slight edge over a defense without their leader, Earl Thomas. The Falcons pull away early and hang on just enough to win.

 

Conference Championships

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

Should the matchups play out as written, the Packers would be playing their third-straight rematch game of the 2016 season. The Falcons defeated the Packers 33-32 earlier this season on a last-minute touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Mohamed Sanu. The Packers’ defense is much better this time around as they head to the Super Bowl with a big road win.

Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots

Yet another rematch; not only between two teams that have played each other this year, but two teams that have been in this position before. The Patriots won the first meeting this season by the score of 27-16 against a Steelers team without Roethlisberger. Although the Steelers are on an incredible run right now, they are no match for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots revenge tour on the NFL.

 

Super Bowl LI

Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots

In a rematch of Super Bowl XXXI played way back in 1997, the two high-powered offenses go toe-to-toe with plenty of haymakers thrown. Joe Buck’s infatuation with Rodgers and the Packers will have to take a backseat to Brady and his vendetta against Roger Goodell. The Patriots get to Rodgers just enough to pull off the 30-26 victory.

As unlikely as it is for the playoffs to shape up this way, it would make for an interesting 11 games with plenty of intrigue. In all honesty, this year feels much like the 2010-2011 playoffs where the Packers ended up defeating the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

Regardless of which team ends up winning it all, the best part of the NFL is upon us and we must brace for any possible outcome.

Justin Ekstrom can be followed on Twitter @thesportscrib21 and wonders what he has to do to make his dream Super Bowl a reality. Be sure to follow, read and comment about cover32 on Facebook and Twitter.

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