Alright, finished the year off on a roll. 7 straight weeks of double digit correct predictions. Ended up with a straight up prediction record of 161-93-2, with my worst week being a 6-8 record. It’s not a phenomenal record, but I do think it illustrates the parity of the NFL and the ability of any team to win on any given Sunday.
With that being said let us analyze, look at, and discuss the upcoming playoff festivities…
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans
By far the worst game of the weekend. Unfortunately, that distinction is due to injury. Raiders’ starting quarterback, and potential MVP, Derek Carr suffered a broken leg and is out for the entirety of the postseason. The post-season hopes of the Raiders now rest on the un-tested arm of 4th round pick Conor Cook.
Conversely, the injury to Tom Savage has forced the Texans to go back to their $70+ million man, Brock Osweiler, who has proven to be among the worst starting quarterbacks of any team all season.
So with both quarterback situations in the (drizzling) shits, this game relies on two things: run game and defense. Unfortunately for the Raiders the Texans are better at both. While Latavius Murray is a better all-around back, Lamar Miller is a better pure runner and is better in goal-line situations. But the real difference is the defense. While the Raiders boast the best defensive player in this series in Khalil Mack, the Texans feature the much better squad as a whole and have remained consistently stout despite the inconsistencies on offense.
In short, the Texans are used to overcoming a bad offense, the Raiders are not. I like the Texans to win on a disgustingly low score of 13-6.
Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers
There are a number of issues to discuss here. Terry Bradshaw was uncouth (but correct), the Steelers were (and are) overrated, the Dolphins were (and are) underrated and the overall quality of depth may be the deciding factor.
To start: Terry Bradshaw called Mike Tomlin a cheerleader. While this was certainly rude and uncouth, I am not sure how far off it is. Tomlin took over a Super Bowl Caliber team with an elite quarterback and immediately capitalized on it, but has failed to do anything of substance since. He has consistently played second fiddle to the Ravens and Bengals despite having an elite quarterback, receiver, and running back.
Also, many picked and continue to taught the Steelers as legit Super Bowl contenders. They have no defensive secondary and an extremely mediocre pass rush. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are amazing, but unless they can combine for 30+ points per game, the Steelers will struggle.
The Dolphins have consistently increased their offensive efficiency, which has in turn increased their effectiveness on defense. Adam Gase in a very short time has instilled accountability and a win-at-all-cost attitude. Not to mention Jay Ajayi running as if he were chased by a B-movie serial killer.
But in the end, overall talent decides most games. The Steelers are well-coached and follow a team philosophy…but most of them suck. To put it bluntly, the Steelers are featuring players that wouldn’t make most teams squads and that’s because the Steelers look for people, not players. While that philosophy is a sound one, it often leaves you in an athletic disadvantage. As of right now, the Dolphins have a better defense, a better trilogy of receivers, perhaps a better running back and are allowing less turnovers and sacks.
To hell with the Vegas’ odds, I like the Dolphins for the upset in this game.
Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks
The Lions have lost 3 games in a row for two reasons: (1) Matthew Stafford had a broken finger on his his throwing hand and (2) the Lions lack other viable weapons. Personally, I hope the Lions mop the floor with the Seahawks and I also hope that Pete Carroll gets flagged 89 times for wandering on the field; unfortunately, neither of those things will happen.
The Seahawks finished the season undefeated at home, and in their current state, the Lions have no way to change that. Stafford has been super-human this season, but his kryptonite has proven to be his middle finger and because of that they will like lose.
New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
I have said for years that the Packers are a vastly overrated team propped up by an elite quarterback. Over the past six weeks Aaron Rodgers has shown why he is quite possibly the best quarterback in football; but let us be honest here, their defense still sucks.
Specifically, slot receivers have made the Green Bay Packers their bitch. I expect Sterling Shepard to have a big game. This game should be a shootout, but when you go by position, the Giants are better in every category other than quarterback. And to be fair Eli has two rings as opposed to Rodgers’ one.
Flat out, the Giants will win because they have better receivers, a better tight end, a better run game, a MUCH better defense, and a comparable quarterback. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers and this time, that will not be enough.