Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Even More NFL Playoff Predictions?!

* Patriots over Steelers
I was about to say, “familiar matchup here,” except this is only the fifth time these teams have met in the postseason, and the first time since 2005.  Also, the Patriots are 9-3 against Pittsburgh in the Belichick-and-Brady era.  Look at Mark with all the fancy research!

Recent pwnage aside, I still have to favour New England since it doesn’t *feel* like they’re going to lose this game.  (Look at Mark with all the fancy going with his gut!)  The narrative of the Pats overcoming the Brady suspension to get to the Super Bowl, win, and force Roger Goodell to hand the trophy to a smug-as-humanly-possible Bob Kraft is hard to overcome.  As threatening as Pittsburgh is with the Killer B’s (Ben/Brown/Bell) attack on offense, I’m not sure their defense is particularly threatening.  The Pats at least have better cornerbacks who can slow down the Steelers’ offense, while Pittsburgh may not have much of a curtain at all (let alone a steel one) to halt Tom Brady and company.  It sounds weird to be so confident of a result yet equally confident of a close result, though I’d be surprised if the margin of victory is more than seven points. 

* Falcons over Packers
That win over the Cowboys took years off my life but man, what a win!  Aaron Rodgers’ toss to Jared Cook is just the latest in a series of jaw-dropping signature throws for Rodgers, and best of all, this one actually came in a win!  (Pour one out for the hail mary against the Cardinals last year in the playoffs.)

If that Dallas game wasn’t bonkers enough, the NFC Championship is going to be a shootout par excellence.  These teams can both put a lot of points on the board, particularly Atlanta.  Put it this way; the Seahawks have a better defense than both Green Bay and Dallas, and the Falcons carved Seattle up something fierce last week.  Given how the Packers’ D wilted badly in the second half against the Cowboys, it doesn’t bode well for this game.  Dom Capers seemed completely unable to adjust beyond a swiss cheese zone defense when Dallas started running the ball last week, and that absolutely won’t cut it against a Falcons team that can more or less score at will.  Keep in mind that Dallas basically spotted the Packers 30 minutes thanks to lots of dumb penalties and seemingly being unprepared for a big playoff game.  The Falcons won’t make that same mistake.

Jordy Nelson expressed some confidence in being able to return from bruised ribs, though if he’s still out, the Packers are probably done.  I have visions of Green Bay’s 2009 playoff loss to Arizona dancing in my head, when Rodgers was scoring points like mad but an overextended Pack defense couldn’t keep the opponents off the board.

I mentioned narrative earlier as a reason to pick New England, so here I’m going in the opposite direction and ignoring Green Bay’s great “run the table” storyline in favour of the Falcons’ quiet dominance.  Atlanta just kept flying under the radar, putting up mad points, going from “hey, the Falcons look pretty good this year” to “hey, the Falcons are making the playoffs” to “wait, the Falcons got a first-round bye?” to “holy smokes, the Falcons might bludgeon their way to a Super Bowl!”  In a season that has seen so many of the NFL’s national-fanbase teams (the Patriots, Steelers, Raiders, Packers and Cowboys) all enjoy big seasons, it would be ironic if a fairly unheralded franchise won it all.  That might be the upending storyline of an overall pretty weird NFL season.

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