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VOL. 41 | NO. 2 | Friday, January 13, 2017

Divisional playoff predictions

By Terry McCormick

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We managed to go 3-1 in last week’s predictions with the Oakland Raiders – desperate at quarterback by having to start rookie Connor Cook – falling to the Houston Texans, who coaxed a decent game out of Brock Osweiler.

There were blowouts all around as Seattle, Green Bay and Pittsburgh all won in convincing fashion. Now comes what might be the best weekend of playoff football there is – the divisional round.

The pretenders (except for the Texans) have all be eliminated and any of the other seven squads still standing you can make a legitimate case for them winning the Super Bowl.

So let’s get started.

Seattle Seahawks (11-5-1) at Atlanta Falcons (11-5), Sat., Jan. 14, 3:35 pm., FOX

This game features an interesting matchup of Seattle’s defense against Atlanta’s high-powered offensive attack. For those not on the Dallas Cowboys’ bandwagon, the Falcons are a trendy pick to win the NFC. But it won’t be easy on Saturday, facing a playoff-seasoned team in Pete Carroll’s Seahawks.

While most of the focus will be on how the Legion of Boom tries to slow down Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, the game could come down to how well the Seahawks offense can ground and pound against the Atlanta defense. This one should be a good game. Falcons 27, Seahawks 23.

Houston Texans (10-7) at New England Patriots (14-2), Sat., Jan. 14, 7:35 p.m., CBS

On paper, at least, this is the only mismatch of the weekend. The Texans’ hopes are anchored in the league’s top-rated defense, one that has played well despite losing J.J. Watt at the outset of the season.

The Texans defense might keep it close for a while, but there is no way Brock Osweiler can keep up with Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Texans have historically folded in Foxborough, and this one should be no exception. Patriots 37, Texans 7.

Green Bay Packers (11-6) at Dallas Cowboys (13-3), Sun., Jan. 15, 3:40 p.m., FOX

The Cowboys have been making believers out of doubters all season with their sensational rookie tandem of Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. The offensive line is probably the best in the NFL, and the defense is underrated.

However, slowing down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers won’t be easy. The Packers have won seven straight after stumbling to a 4-6 start, straightening things out after being blasted by the Titans in early November. The big question here might be whether or not the playoff stage is too big for a young Cowboys team that dominated the regular season. Our upset special: Packers 30, Cowboys 24.

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-4), Sun., Jan. 15, noon, NBC

The Steelers have a high-powered offense and a good mix of run and pass, featuring star receiver Antonio Brown and the rushing of Le’Veon Bell. And, of course, they have Ben Roethlisberger, who is no stranger to big games.

Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t what it once was, but still has talent. The Chiefs are solid top to bottom in all three phases and now have the explosiveness of Tyreek Hill in the return game to change field position and even change games. Kansas City is vulnerable to the run, which could be a big edge for Bell and the Steelers. Steelers 27, Chiefs 24.

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