Friday, January 13, 2017

More NFL Playoff Predictions (Round 2)

* Chiefs over Steelers
The weekend's first twist has already taken place, as this game has been moved from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night due to an ice storm in the Kansas City area.  With weather an issue, you'd think this would favour the team with a power running game, i.e. the Steelers.  But, part of me thinks that home teams generally get a bit of help in bad weather, plus Andy "Why Can't There Be Two Bye Weeks?" Reid is always tough with an extra week to prepare.

I could hedge a hundred different ways in this game since it's a total tossup.  No result here would surprise, even one side totally blowing out the other, as both Pittsburgh and K.C. are prone to those outta nowhere "everything goes wrong" games every six weeks or so.  The Steelers, of course, have been quietly unbeatable for weeks now, while the Chiefs just go about their business, winning games despite never once being taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders due to the presence of a) Reid, b) Alex Smith at QB and c) the franchise's under-the-radar jinx.  Assuming they won't win this year, it'll be 47 years and counting since the Chiefs' last Super Bowl title.  The 13 teams who have never won a Super Bowl at all are playing the world's tiniest violin for the Chiefs' troubles but still, 47 years is nothing to sneeze at.

So, in the spirit of the Cubs and the Cavaliers, I'll very lightly pick Kansas City and be fully prepared to be wrong come Sunday afternoon night.  Then again, The Ice Storm starred Joan Allen and Marcus Allen had some fine years for Kansas City, so I like my pick.

* Patriots over Texans
Oh, what a beating this will be.  The Patriots actually could start Joan Allen in this game and still win.  This is less a competitive matchup than an open question about when Brady will be rested in favour of the backup QB.  I give it halfway through the third quarter than Brady calls it a day and looks ahead to the AFC title game.

* Falcons over Seahawks
You'll notice that I'm picking both Atlanta and Kansas City, two teams with a long history of playoff failure, over the much more reliably "safe" picks of both Seattle and Pittsburgh.  Part of me feels like I'll go 1-1 at best no matter which two teams I pick in these games, so what the heck, let's go with the fresh blood.

As I wrote last week, Seattle's success comes down to whether or not their offensive line manages to be only mediocre instead of outright terrible.  The Falcons don't exactly have a thunderous pass rush (with the major exception of Vic Beasley) or a big defense whatsoever, so the Seahawks could certainly get away with one here.  On the flip side, you also have the somewhat undermanned S'hawks defense that would clearly love to have Earl Thomas in there against the high-powered Atlanta offense.  My vibe on Seattle, however, is that they're a still-dangerous team but desperately in need of a roster reload.  They need to reinvest in the O-line this offseason to really make another proper run in 2017-18, and thus they're ripe for a newer team (i.e. Atlanta) to pick them off.  Don't forget that Dan Quinn is Seattle's former defensive coordinator and knows how his former charges operates; that might be all the difference the Falcons need in this very tight game.

* Cowboys over Packers
For years, "Green Bay at Dallas" was the bane of my existence.  During the Cowboys' glory days in the early 1990's, the quirks of the NFL schedule and Dallas' regular-season superiority meant that for what seemed like seven straight Packers/Cowboys matchups, the game always took place in Dallas.  And, thus, Green Bay always lost.  By the time the Packers finally got to host the Cowboys (in the 96-97 season), Dallas had already started to fall apart, so it wasn't *quite* as satisfying watching the ascendant Packers knock off the old kings.  Not nearly as satisfying as, say, watching the Packers pull off that 30-point comeback in Dallas behind Matt Flynn a few years ago, or watching Green Bay beat the Cowboys in the playoffs a couple of years ago when Dez Bryant made that absolutely no-doubter of a dropped pass (HAHAHAHAHA).

So recent history has somewhat swung back in Green Bay's favour, though the Cowboys did beat the Pack earlier this season in that stretch of time (uh, is ten games too long to be a 'stretch'?) before the lightbulb suddenly came on for the Packers and they started steamrolling everyone.  If my beloved Packers exercised one set of demons in beating the Giants last week, can they keep it going over the Cowboys?

I'm doubtful.  Jordy Nelson's absence is an enormous blow, and it's almost enough to write Green Bay off immediately.  Beyond Nelson, Dallas' grinding offense is almost perfectly-built to run through the Packers' D.  It can't really turn into a shootout since the Cowboys can take forever to score but they'll still score, and this ability to control the clock and keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers' hands is just too powerful.  As much as I hate to admit it, it'll take a miracle for the Packers to upset the Cowboys.  A real Hail Mary miracle.  

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