I usually stink more than usual when it comes to picking playoff games, so I was relieved to go 2-2 last week. And then MDS went 4-0.
So with a two-game lead and only seven games left, I’m already screwed.
I can shave the deficit in half this week if the one game on which we disagree goes my way. For all of our picks for the divisional round, keep reading.
Seahawks at Falcons
MDS’s take: The Seahawks’ defense played well in shutting down the Lions last week, but the Falcons’ offense is a different animal. Matt Ryan played at an MVP level all season, and Julio Jones when healthy is the best receiver in the league. I’d like Seattle’s chances better if Earl Thomas were playing, but as it stands I’m having a hard time seeing the Seahawks’ secondary keeping the Falcons’ passing game in check.
MDS’s pick: Falcons 30, Seahawks 20.
Florio’s take: Seattle’s offensive instantly becomes more diversified with a potent Thomas Rawls and a healthy C.J. Prosise. But will that be enough against a Falcons offense that is as good as it’s ever been, with 9.3 average yards per pass and Matt Ryan performing at an MVP level? Ryan has struggled in past postseasons, but he’s never had a season like the one he had in 2016. With a defense that has improved quickly under head coach Dan Quinn, the Falcons can close out the Georgia Dome (unless Green Bay wins on Sunday) with a victory.
Florio’s pick: Falcons 24, Seahawks 21.
Texans at Patriots
MDS’s take: I can’t remember a more lopsided playoff game. The Patriots blew out the Texans during the regular season, and that was with third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett. With Tom Brady now back at the helm, I’ll be shocked if the Texans even keep this game close into the fourth quarter, let alone win.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 38, Texans 16.
Florio’s take: Yes, Houston lost 27-0 in New England against a Patriots team that lacked Tom Brady. Sure, the Texans are favored to lose by 16. Of course, the Patriots are more determined than ever to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. To reverse those dynamics (and to close the dramatic the talent gap), the Texans need to score early, pressure Brady consistently, and avoid mistakes on special teams. They need to. They won’t.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 31, Texans 10.
Steelers at Chiefs
MDS’s take: This is the toughest game to pick this weekend. The Steelers’ offense is rolling right now, and I’m tempted to pick them on the road in a small upset. But the well-rested Chiefs defense should at least be able to slow the Steelers’ offense down, if not stop it. And in what should be a close game, I think a big play from the Chiefs’ great special teams will be the difference.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 28, Steelers 27.
Florio’s take: The Steelers plastered the Chiefs in Week Four, but that game was at home. Meanwhile, the Steelers lost a couple of road games to inferior teams; what happens at Arrowhead Stadium against a Chiefs team that continues to be overlooked as it continues to win far more games than it loses? The determination of running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown gives the Steelers a championship-caliber team. If quarterback Ben Roethlisberger really is fine after injuring his foot during garbage time of the wild-card round, the Steelers will be fine, too. Barely, but fine.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Chiefs 24.
Packers at Cowboys
MDS’s take: Aaron Rodgers will make some plays with both his arm and his legs, but Green Bay will likely be missing Jordy Nelson, and that’s a huge loss. I like Dak Prescott to put up big numbers against the Packers’ defense and the Cowboys to win a shootout.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 35, Packers 31.
Florio’s take: One of the greatest quarterbacks in history faces the quarterback of the future. It’s a baton that won’t pass easily, not with the way Aaron Rodgers has been playing. But Dallas is good enough that it’s won’t be a duel between signal-callers. It will be a methodical smothering of Green Bay’s defense with an offensive line and a running game that chews the clock and keeps Rodgers in the one spot where he can’t hurt them — on the sideline. Unlike the Giants, the Cowboys will be able to convert any temporary Packers offensive sputtering into significant points, making it even harder for Rodgers to close the gap when he inevitably finds the gas pedal and mashes it.
Florio’s pick: Cowboys 30, Packers 22.