Jan. 12, 2017
Playoffs and why This year, is one to remember
This year's NFL regular season has been a rather odd one, well for some people. The Chiefs clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs for the first time since 2003, when they lost that round to the Indianapolis Colts 38-31. What's even more interesting is the Raiders clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, when they went to the Super Bowl and lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who could've had a spot this year for the first time since 2007, which that team lost to the Giants who would go on to win the Super Bowl against the undefeated New England Patriots. Both Super Bowl teams from Super Bowl L took the ultimate "L" this year in not making it to the playoffs, the Browns almost went winless and the Patriots almost went loss-less, even without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski for the first four games (of course also without Gronk for the last seven games). However, the biggest story this year might just be one about the Dallas Cowboys. Critics said they were doomed from the start even with a hot new running back in Ezekiel Elliott, they didn't have a good enough quarterback for this season, then after their first game and first loss to the Giants, rookie QB Dak Prescott out of Mississippi State University stepped up as a leader, and won the Cowboys 11 straight games, and they were ranked #1 for a few weeks over New England, after their loss to the Seahawks. The Cowboys this year have been maybe the most entertaining team to watch play football, with probably the best offensive line and rushing attack in the NFL. They now go into the playoffs with two rookies leading the pack, unusual for most, but they may actually have this under more control than they think. The only thing they have to really worry about in the playoffs are the Giants. The only team who has beaten Dallas (I don't count the loss to Philly in week 17) and they've done it Twice. So moving onto the playoffs, on the NFC: Dallas and Atlanta with the first round byes, this is the first time in five years since Seattle hasn't had a first-round bye week in the playoffs, speaking of which we also have Seattle and Green Bay with the first two home games for the NFC, and the last two teams, the New York Giants (who are great as a Wild Card team) and the Detroit Lions. On the AFC side we have no surprise with New England clinching another first-round bye and home field throughout the playoffs, next are the Kansas City Chiefs who haven't had that first-round bye since 2003, and haven't been past the divisional round of the playoffs since '93. After these two teams we have another playoff-friendly team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, then the Houston Texans, finally we have Oakland and the Miami Dolphins.
This Saturday, the Texans take on the Raiders, who are out their starting QB Derek Carr, to a broken leg; the Texans however, not looking as good they've just lost their starting QB Tom Savage to a concussion, leaving Brock Osweiler to start this week. Osweiler has been the starter for Houston all season, until he threw 2 interceptions in the first half against the Jaguars in a divisional matchup that could've cost them the playoffs, Savage has only started the last two games but has been significantly more accurate than Osweiler has all season, Osweiler has 15 TDs and 16 INTs this season; while Savage hasn't thrown a TD pass, he's had a 63% completion rate, and sadly having no passing TDs he still has a better TD/INT ratio than Osweiler, proving that Brock probably needs to leave Houston, or at least stay on the bench. Oakland QB Matt McGloin has also had 0 TDs and 0 INTs making this game probably the most defensively-important game in the playoffs. Granted the only defense McGloin has played against are Indy's and Denver's, he will definitely have a rough game against the Texans in Houston.
Also this Saturday, the Lions will travel to Seattle in a Wild Card battle. Detroit's chances to win, with a still-injured Matthew Stafford loom low, especially going into the playoffs with a 3-game losing streak. However, the other teams the past 10 years that have gone into the playoffs with 3-game losing streaks, have gone on to win it all- those teams being the 2007 Giants and 2010 Saints. And given Seattle hasn't been who they were early on in the season as of late, the Lions just have that much a better opportunity to upset the Seahawks and begin a run for the playoffs.
Sunday are the other two Wild Card match-ups; first we have the Miami Dolphins traveling to Pittsburgh, a rematch of the week six game in Miami, when the Dolphins embarrassed the Steelers 30-15. Now Pittsburgh is playing for revenge, and a date with New England, and a shot at the Super Bowl. This match-up should be heavily skewed in the Steelers' favor, since not only have all their starters sat out this past week vs the Browns, but Miami is playing behind a young quarterback, Matt Moore. Not only that, the Dolphins are playing against a highly explosive Steeler offense, and will be hard to stop Pittsburgh. Either way the winner of this game should face certain defeat next week as the winner travels to Foxborough to take on the playoff-favorite New England Patriots, who actually have the highest chance to win it all this year at 2/1 odds, the Cowboys tailing the Pats with 7/2 odds.
The second match-up on Sunday to conclude our Wild Card weekend is the New York Giants versus the red-hot Green Bay Packers. However the term red-hot would be appropriate for both teams, the Giants are the only team to have beat the NFC favorite Dallas Cowboys- and they did it twice. Green Bay, on the other hand, has won six straight games, and doesn't intend to stop for anything. Both teams have been in the Wild Card round, and gone to win the Super Bowl in the past, the 2007 Giants and the 2011 Packers. This, by far, will be the most exciting game this weekend.
My picks for this weekend: Oakland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and New York.