NFL Playoffs, take two! After one of the worst Wild Card Weekends in the history of the league (that’s not subjective either; there’s data to prove it), we move into the Divisional Playoff round full of optimism, but also sadness. This weekend is the last time NFL games will occupy more than one day of the week until next season. After this, it’s just the Conference Championships and then the big game. So let’s hope to high hell this round is a lot more interesting.
The odds of at least one competitive game are good; Seattle-Atlanta, Pittsburgh-Kansas City and Green Bay-Dallas all have the look of potential all-timers. Heck, maybe even Houston could pull off the upset in New England? Although, as you’ll see below, that’s not much likelier than Aaron Rodgers completing yet another Hail Mary. Check out all of our odds for the upcoming weekend of NFL action!
The Patriots have a walk to the AFC Championship, in which they’ll be favored as the hosts. With their odds of making the dance so high, their odds of winning are naturally heads above the rest. The NFC is a bit more of a toss up. There’s a large push to grab that last seat on the Packers bandwagon after another great Aaron Rodgers showing; but remember, Green Bay will have to win two more road games before they even reach Super Bowl LI.
Of all the potentially intriguing Super Bowls we could have, the Fox brass are no doubt crossing their fingers for a Cowboys and Patriots meeting. There’s no bigger draw than “America’s Team.” If they face the team casual fans perceive as the Evil Empire, it’s sure to be the best ratings the network has ever had.
Not only did home teams run the table last weekend, but they also went undefeated in last year’s Divisional round. Perhaps that means we’re due for at least one road upset?
The odds three road teams win this weekend wouldn’t be too long, but Houston’s David vs Goliath battle in New England makes a road sweep this weekend nearly impossible.
Over the last five seasons, winners in the regular season only have a slight edge in Divisional Round rematches, taking eight of 14. That means at least one of those teams that came out on the losing side should exact revenge this weekend.
A somewhat surprising NFL sack leader, Vic Beasley feasted on weaker opponents, racking up four multi-sack games this season. Against one of the league’s worst tackles in George Fant, he should have another opportunity to go wild. Every other matchup this weekend features good to great offensive lines, so it’ll take a big-time effort from other great pass rushers to make an impact.
Elliott and Bell slaughtered the Packer and Chief defenses, respectively, during the regular season, and are poised to do more of the same. Talented runners that can’t simply be stopped by “game planning” for them, one of that duo should lead the weekend in rushing, but a promising game from Thomas Rawls against Detroit could be a sign of things to come against a leaky Falcon D.
Hauschka has been shaky all season, and it would be easy for him to get rattled in this situation, especially if the game-winning kick comes on an extra point. Bryant and Bailey have both been stellar in clutch situations throughout their career (though one has been doing it nearly three times longer than the other), and both have the advantage of kicking indoors. As for Crosby, he may only be an average kicker during the regular season, but he’s hit 21 straight field goals in the postseason.
There’s a reason a Hail Mary is called a Hail Mary. Rodgers’ recent run of successful bombs (three in his last 24 games) is an anomaly. And now it’s an anomaly that the Cowboys might actually be preparing for. Rodgers is as good as any in terms of giving his receivers a shot to make a play, but the chances of (a) getting another shot at a Hail Mary and (b) connecting for a fourth time are ultra-slim.
You can’t be swayed by the fact that Rodgers is on an eight-game pick-less streak. That has no bearing on this week’s game. He’s not “due.” In fact, he’s facing a Dallas team that had just nine INTs all season. While one of those came against Dallas back in Week 6, it’s safe to say that we’re seeing a different version of Rodgers these days.
Porter was involved in an altercation at a Pittsburgh bar after the team’s Wild Card win over Miami. According to NFL.com, “Porter was … arrested and charged on suspicion of aggravated assault, simple assault, resisting arrest and public drunkenness [… and] booked into the Allegheny County Jail overnight.” The Steelers have now said that Porter has been “placed on leave pending further review.” This isn’t going to be cleared up by Sunday.
I don’t like what it says about our society as a whole that I’m giving DeflateGate shorter odds than Hill’s criminal history. Sigh.
According to the Around the NFL podcast, Watt was shown on camera a whopping 16 times during the Texans/Raiders game. He’s a camera hog because of how emotive he is on the sideline. That said, if anyone can attract attention away from the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, it’s Gronk and all the Gronking that he does.
According to my general sense of things, Jerry Jones is shown on camera once every 34 seconds during Dallas games. I haven’t gone back and double-checked that intuitive figure, but I’m pretty sure it’s right.
Paul Allen is the darkhorse here. He’s not against wearing stupid hats.
Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties aren’t as common as you might think. Per NFLpenalties.com, there was only one all of last weekend. (Miami’s Jay Ajayi picked one up in the second quarter against Pittsburgh, and it wasn’t even deserved.) Players tend to clean up their act in the playoffs, too, knowing how much is on the line. Last year’s Bengals/Steelers game is the exception that proves the rule. We’re not getting that kind of pent-up hatred in any of this weekend’s matchups.
Been there, jumped into that.
The Pats closed as 17-point favorites against the Jets – who had already quit on the season – in Week 16. Their next biggest line was -13.5 against the Rams in Week 13. The Rams! They only narrowly covered that game (26-10). Yes, New England embarrassed Houston in Week 3 (27-0), but this Texans team is still full of solid NFL players at every position but quarterback. Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus are bona fide playmakers in the front-seven; their corners are as good as any group outside of Denver.
Am I saying the Texans are going to win? No. Am I saying the Texans are going to keep it close? Not really. Am I saying the Texans are better than the Rams? Heck yes. This line has to trend down at least a bit.
Photo Credit: Brook Ward (Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/]
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