What a crazy week 17 and the NFL would not want it any other way. Playoff entry and jockeying for position were the names of the game this past week. After all the movement and the drama of the Sunday Night Football game between the Vikings and the Packers, the seedings are in place and everyone knows who they have for an opponent this week.
As teams like the Patriots, Broncos, Panthers, and Cardinals rest and recuperate for two weeks, the rest of the teams that will grace this year’s edition of the NFL playoffs will meet during Wildcard Weekend. Let’s take a look at the game and predict who will move on and who will be lacing up the golf shoes in two weeks.
Wildcard Weekend Schedule
ABC / ESPN
Kansas City Chiefs over Houston Texans
I know it is easy to pick the Chiefs here and I also know that they must play the game and anything can happen. Baring the miracle of epic proportions, it is hard not to find a way that the Chiefs come out on top. The Texans come into this game on a three game winning streak but those wins were against the Jaguars, Titans, and Colts. While they did what they needed to do, that is not a glowing endorsement. Meanwhile the Chiefs are coming in off a 10 game winning streak. While the “down the stretch” wins here not against the top of the NFL, when you win 10 in a row you are cooking.
The Texans have the better defensive player in J.J. Watt and the best wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, who had a career year, but from top to bottom the Chiefs roster is superior in my opinion. Plus I will take Alex Smith over Brian Hoyer in a duel of the quarterbacks and the running back tandem of West and Ware is more effective then Blue in Houston. This should be a close game but I expect the Chiefs to head into Houston and come out on top.
Pittsburgh Steelers over Cincinnati Bengals
The Steelers enter winners of four of their last five including a 33-20 victory in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the Bengals enter winner of four of their last six but no wins were against playoff teams and the losses came against the Broncos and these Steelers.
The status of Andy Dalton is curious at best and if he plays it will be a tough spot to knock the rust off. A.J. McCarron has been serviceable but in a duel it is hard not to give the quarterback nod to Ben Roethlisberger in either setup. The threesome of Brown, Wheaton, and Bryant is hard for any secondary to handle even the talented group in Cincinnati.
DeAngelo Williams was brought in to spell the Steelers at the beginning of the year but has turned out to be more than serviceable. Meanwhile, the expectations of Hill and Bernard have not quite lived up although better than average. I want to pick the Bengals in this game, I really want to pick them but it will be hard to do. I just cannot justify the win, not yet.
Seattle Seahawks over Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings went to the last game of the year to lock up the NFC North. They are on a three game winning streak in total. Their reward for winning the North is the Seahawks coming to town, Congratulations I guess. The Seahawks are coming in winner of six of their last seven. They just finished demolishing a Cardinals team that many considered to be the best in the NFC.
If you look at the heads up comparison of both teams you find a Seahawks team that strolled into Minnesota and systematically destroyed them with a final score of 38-7. Russell Wilson is playing some great football and Doug Baldwin is catching touchdowns quicker than folks in Minnesota can catch a cold. Marshawn Lynch is rumored to return which will only help the team balance.
Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson is looking like A.P. and continues to get the job done. But the last time he faced the Seahawks he managed a paltry eight yards on eight carries. Teddy Bridgewater is getting better as a quarterback but is still more of a game manager and he will be experiencing the playoffs for the first time.
While it is true that the Vikings are at home and that they will be outdoors, neither team is used to playing in bad weather (Vikings normally play in a dome) so that is a wash. I know talking about the Seahawks advancing in the playoffs is like putting a record on repeat but the reality is what it is. There is a reason the Vikings are five point dawgs at home even with the three points Vegas gives the home team. I take the Seahawks and probably by 10 or more.
Washington Redskins over Green Bay Packers
I would have never believed you if you told me eight weeks ago that would be picking the Redskins over the Packers in the playoffs, let alone pick the Redskins to make the playoffs. But that is exactly what I am doing. The Redskins come into this game winning four in a row and only scoring less than 34 points once when they scored 24 against the Bears. Meanwhile the Packer limp into Washington losing two in a row in which they looked bad against the Vikings at home and horrid against the Cardinals on the road.
Aaron Rodgers is literally running for his life after each snap lately and the line is doing him no favors. Even when Rodgers has time to get the ball out of his hands, his receiving is either dropping it or not handling any contact. Eddie Lacy is a key part to the offense but he is hit or miss. It is either a great game or a complete dud.
Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins is throwing it all over the field and has fallen in love with the sure hands of Jordan Reed. DeSean Jackson is still getting the job done since returning from injury and Jamison Crowder is emerging. Vegas is calling this game a “pick” which means Green Bay would have a three point nod if at a neutral field. It feels like Vegas is trying to sway the betting to the team they do not think will win. With that it makes me like the Redskins even more. They are at home and facing a team that slid into the playoffs. The Redskins for the win and yes Kirk Cousins, “I like that.”