Thursday, January 05, 2017

NFL Playoff Predictions

* Steelers over Dolphins
My original feeling was that there’s a decent chance of an upset here, since Pittsburgh has a few inexplicable losses on their record this season.  Then I actually went back at looked at their schedule and realized that their only real “inexplicable” loss was a 34-3 drubbing to Philadelphia in September.  The other four losses on their schedule (one to Miami in the game when Jay Ajayi went off for 204 yards) can be written off as either Ben Roethlisberger being not entirely healthy or outright injured, or just a close loss to the world-eating Dallas Cowboys.  Since the Steelers have gone on to win seven straight games and are at home against a somewhat-reeling Dolphins team that will be without Ryan Tannehill, this should be a fairly comfortable Steelers victory.

And now let me undermine my prediction by noting reasons why an upset could still happen.  Pittsburgh’s seven-game win streak includes a lot of close results and two wins over the Browns, so it’s really a five-game win streak and two exhibition games against a local high school team.  Losing Tannehill isn’t *that* big a deal in my view since I’ve never thought the guy was particularly good; the downgrade from Tannehill to Matt Moore is maybe a C+ to a C.  It’s not nearly as bad as…

* Texans over Raiders

…the dropoff from Derek Carr to Connor Cook.  Man, poor Oakland.  They’re enjoying a dream season after years of futility and have legitimate hopes of making the Super Bowl when Carr gets injured in the second-last game and it all goes to hell.  And consider that Cook isn’t even the second-string quarterback, as Matt McGloin got hurt last week too; there’s not much evidence that McGloin is better than Cook, though McGloin’s name is infinitely more hilarious.

So without their MVP candidate quarterback, the Raiders now face the bitter pill of very possible scenario of losing a gimme game.  The Texans are a mediocre team that are only in the playoffs by dint of winning the league’s worst division.  Getting to face them in the first round was a sought-after consolation prize for whichever team didn’t win the AFC West, and yet now the Raiders are Carr-less.

It’s almost enough to write Oakland off entirely, were it not for the $72 million sinkhole known as Brock Osweiler who will be back under centre for the Texans.  Osweiler is back at QB in the wake of a Tom Savage concussion, so Osweiler will have to perform in front of the same home fans who raucously cheered when he was benched a few weeks ago.  Methinks the Houston fans won’t give Osweiler much of a leash.  The first incomplete pass will unleash the boo-birds again, and if the Raiders have a chance here, it’s that Osweiler totally melts down under the pressure (and Khalil Mack being all up in his grill).  For all I know, maybe Cook takes everyone by surprise and pulls a Dak Prescott to lead the Raiders to a victory.  It’s not like there’s a lot of tape on the guy. 

I feel like I went back and forth about three times in that last paragraph, so I’ll just chicken out and pick the home team.  First team to score double digits probably wins the game.

* Seahawks over Lions
Somewhat similar to the Miami/Pittsburgh game, as you have a home favourite that has a couple of notable flaws, yet I’m hesitant to pull the trigger on actually predicting the upset.  Miami has a better chance of beating the Steelers than the Lions do of beating Seattle, though with any Seahawks game, it always comes down to their terrible offensive line.  If the O-line can just be blah instead of outright brutal, the Seahawks have enough overall talent to win.  I’m also not sure if Matt Stafford and his bad finger can handle playing in the noise cauldron that is the Seahawks’ stadium, so that’s another point in Seattle’s favour.

I’m just upset that my buddy Kyle is currently out of the country on vacation.  He and I get together for one NFL playoff weekend every year, and with his beloved Lions making a rare postseason appearance, this would’ve been an opportune time.  Dammit Kyle, I had to watch the Packers get eliminated on your TV for, like, three straight years — surely we’re overdue to watch a Detroit postseason loss together!

* Giants over Packers

To be frank, I’m shocked I’m even writing this post.  I wouldn’t have gone to effort of this many words about the NFL postseason without the Packers’ involvement, and six weeks ago, it looked for all the world like Green Bay had hit a wall.  Six straight wins in #RunTheTable mode turned that right around, Clay Matthews is finally healthy, Aaron Rodgers went supernova and got the offense back on track…all is good in Packerland.

So why am I still so weirdly pessimistic about both this playoff game and the Packers’ season as a whole?  Firstly, it’s the Giants.  Every five years they put together a team with an awesome defense and flawed offense and win the Super Bowl.  It’s going to happen again, “resistance is futile,” says Locutus Of Eli.  Secondly, it’s no secret that I’m not the biggest Mike McCarthy fan.  Part of me was hoping that, if Green Bay had totally bottomed out, McCarthy would’ve been fired.  I entirely realize that repeatedly calling for the firing of a coach who’s taken the team to eight straight (!) playoff appearances either makes no sense or seems like the height of ungratefulness but seriously, McCarthy is a borderline mediocre coach.  I’m tired of watching him get thoroughly out-strategized every postseason (uh, minus the Super Bowl year…man, I sound spoiled) thanks to his signature inability to make mid-game adjustments.

If Rodgers is going to pull a LeBron and single-handedly carry this team to a championship, nobody will be happier than me.  But as great as Rodgers is, I still feel like this team is a few pieces away from being legitimate contenders, and they’re a letdown waiting to happen.  The hangover from running the table will be a bitter one. 

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