There is an exciting divisional round in store for NFL fans this weekend. Four good games are on tap with the right to play in the conference championship game on the line. The top four seeds are all alive in both conferences as the home team won all four wildcard weekend matchups. Let’s take a look at the matchups.
Seattle at Atlanta Saturday 4:35 PM ET FOX
This is a rematch from the 2012 divisional round game in which the Falcons beat the Seahawks. Seattle beat Detroit 26-6 in Seattle last week to advance with a rejuvenated running game led by Thomas Rawls. The Falcons led the league by far in scoring by notching 31.7 PPG and Seattle was 3rd in defensive in PPG allowed. Matt Ryan and the Falcons will face a good defense in Seattle. The Falcons have plenty of playmakers with Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel, Mohammed Sanu, Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
The Seahawks still have plenty of defensive playmakers despite losing Earl Thomas for the season. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark can rush the passer which will be a huge matchup against Matthews and Ryan Schraeder for the Falcons at tackle. Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright and Kam Chancellor fly all over the field and cover tight ends and running backs well. We’ll see if Freeman and Coleman can get free and make Wagner, Wright and strong safety Kam Chancellor miss in the open field. Richard Sherman is a shut-down corner who could limit Julio Jones.
Dan Quinn knows Seattle’s defense well because he was the former DC in Seattle. We’ll see if he can help OC Kyle Shanahan exploit the matchups against Seattle with a new free safety and subpar 2nd and nickel cornerbacks. Seattle has the best run defense in the league but Freeman and Coleman ran well this season. If Seattle can stop the run, they can limit the Falcons high powered offense.
This will be a great game. Atlanta has the advantage at home as Seattle struggles on the road. The Falcons struggled on defense and Russell Wilson could work his magic to Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. We’ll see if Seattle can make five miracle catches again this week.
Atlanta offense is too much for Seattle on the road. Falcons win 27-24.
Houston at New England 8 PM ET CBS Saturday
It’s New England. They just win somehow. Tom Brady is a great QB and the Patriots have the number 1 ranked defense in PPG allowed. Brock Osweiler has struggled this year and Lamar Miller has been above average running the ball.
The Texans have a good defense led by Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney, Jonathan Joseph and AJ Bouye, but like Seattle, the Texans struggle away from home. Patriots won the first matchup 27-0 without Brady with two Texans’ kickoff return fumbles. New England wins this game in a rout against former OC Bill O’Brien.
Pittsburgh at Kansas City 1:05 PM ET NBC Saturday
Leveon Bell had a huge game in the wild card round. Big Ben knows how to win but will face a very tough defense on the road. Big Ben notched a 95.4 QB rating with 29 TDs and 13 interceptions in 509 attempts. Bell had 1,268 yards at 4.9 YPC despite missing the first four games of the year from suspension. Antonio Brown added 1,284 yards and 12 TDS as the number 1 WR. Bell added 616 yards receiving and 2 TDS. Eli Rogers nabbed 594 yards and 3 TDs in the slot. Sammie Coats, Jessie James, Ladarius Green and Cobi Hamilton all contributed for the Steelers this season.
Kansas City was 7th in PPG allowed and gave up a 79.8 QB rating (3rd in league) while leading the league with 33 takeaways. The Chiefs allowed 4.4 YPC which was 24th in the NFL which could allow Leveon Bell to have a big day. Justin Houston returns at OLB to bolster the Chiefs already strong defense. The Chiefs only had 28 sacks on the year but Houston’s return gives them a big time pass rusher.
Pittsburgh was 9th in sacks with 38 and forced 23 turnovers. They were 12th in PPG defense and 11th in QB rating allowed (93.9). Pittsburgh allowed a 4.3 YPC (19th) and the Chiefs could have some success on the ground with Spencer Ware returning from injury.
Alex Smith is still a game manager that avoids turnovers with only 489 passing attempts. Smith had 15 TDs and 8 interceptions on the year. Spence Ware ran at 4.3 YPC on 214 carries and Chrcandrick West added 293 yards on 88 carries for only 3.3 YPC. Tyreek Hill is a monster in returns and reverses with 11.1 YPC on 24 carries. Travis Kelce leads the way with 1,125 yards receiving and 4 TDS. Tyreek Hill has 6 passing TDs on 83 targets with 593 yards. Maclin added 536 yards on 76 targets. Chris Conley notched 530 yards on 69 targets. The Chiefs spread the ball around and Maclin, Hill and Kelce are threats.
The key to the game will be turnovers forced and the running day of Leveon Bell. Chiefs have a big advantage at home but the Steelers are more talented. Pittsburgh wins 21-17.
Green Bay at Dallas 4:40 PM ET FOX Sunday
Aaron Rodgers is the greatest QB of all time. The Cowboys defense is overrated despite being 4th in PPG allowed and the Packers get just enough pressure to make Prescott look like a rookie. Green Bay wins easily 34-17 with big days from Adams, Cobb and Cook.