One week of the NFL Postseason has been completed. Gone are the Cincinnati Bengals, the Houston Texans, the Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings. Eight teams remain in the chase for the Super Bowl, and the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Here at Better Live Than Dead, five writers compete for… I don’t know, a sandwich?
Either way, here is a nice little one-liner from BLTD founder/editor/hockey writer Ryan Wolfe, who went a perfect 4-0 in picking the Wild Card games from last week:
“I know the #sprotz, and football the worst.”
Let’s see if the rest of the BLTD staff can claim the lead as their own. Before the staff’s picks, here is a quick look into the 4 games of the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs:
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Denver Broncos
The Steelers are heading into Denver, to take on the top seed in the AFC, a little more than banged up. Already without their top running backs Le’Veon Bell (for most of the year) and DeAngelo Williams, the Steelers lost wide receiver Antonio Brown to a concussion. Brown will not play this weekend, which is a huge detriment for Pittsburgh. In addition, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a shoulder injury that may limit him in this game. The best chance for Pittsburgh will be from their young defense… Denver had a week off, but not all is right in Mile High. The Broncos are returning to Peyton Manning over Brock Osweiler for the first postseason game for Denver. Usually, that is great news, but in 2015, Manning has been awful. Manning had 17 interceptions through only nine weeks of the season, which led the league until the final week of the year. Despite this, Denver went 7-2, thanks in large part to their defense. The Broncos had the best defense in the NFL this year, and has been absolutely suffocating. Their stellar defense gets a break, facing an injured Steelers offense… This game will fall on Manning, and if he can overcome his rough season, as well as his usual postseason demons.
Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots
Kansas City has won 11 straight games, yet should be perceived as underdogs still. The largest reason: wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is questionable to play with an ankle sprain. Maclin has opened a new aspect to the usually boring passing game of the Chiefs. Without Maclin, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith will have more issues with finding receivers open and more attention will be paid to tight end Travis Kelce. Good news for Kansas City, their defense has been very effective and face a more depleted Patriots team than usual. Add in that Kansas City’s running game, led by Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, has been great and New England’s run defense isn’t very stellar… Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been here before: team sliding into the playoffs with a cold streak, critics suddenly question the team and there are injuries. Bad news for critics, they still have head coach Bill Belichick and QB Brady. Furthermore, the Patriots are expected to have healthy returns of tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman… The only way for the Chiefs to keep up is to control the clock on offense and get aggressive and creative with their defensive game plan.
Seattle Seahawks @ Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks got quite lucky that the Vikings missed a gimme 27 yard field goal. Lucky or not, they head to Carolina to face the Panthers, who beat Seattle back in Week 6. Seattle’s defense has fixed its issues from that game, where they let go of a 4th quarter lead and lost the game. As well as the defense has played, the Vikings may have created a blueprint to slow down Seattle’s offense. But Minnesota didn’t face running back Marshawn Lynch, who is probable to play this weekend… Carolina’s defense has been silently great this season. They now have a blueprint to slow down Seattle, by running their pass rushers deep and contain Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson into the pocket by collapsing it from behind. Add in that cornerback Josh Norman can lock down Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, and Carolina can play a tight defensie game. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has made the most of a lack of weapons, tight end Greg Olsen aside. Newton will need to rely on Olsen and the relatively unknown wideouts in Carolina to win this game… It’s going to come down to Newton and Wilson making the most plays and limiting mistakes against two very sharp defenses.
Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals
Green Bay bounced out of an offensive funk last week, but some of that may have to do with Washington’s soft defense. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers knows that his team faces a much tougher task here, a Cardinals team that beat Green Bay 38-8 and thrashed Rodgers for 9 sacks. While Green Bay has more confidence, they need production from running back Eddie Lacy to help keep an aggressive Arizona defense from pinning their ears back and teeing off on Rodgers. Defensively, Green Bay needs to figure out where Arizona is going with the ball, as there are many weapons they need to address… There may not be a more complete team in the NFL than Arizona. Led by quarterback Carson Palmer, the Cards have an offense with many weapons: running backs David Johnson and Bruce Ellington and wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd. Arizona can move the ball at will, and will look to do so here. Add in that the defense has been a top-10 unit that sacked Rodgers 9 times, and can create turnovers almost at will… The Packers are a better team than the one that lost by 30 a couple of weeks ago, and need to play like how they did against Washington, without the slow start.
Will Ryan be able to hold on to his lead? Will anyone go perfect this week? Only one way to find out, games start Saturday with the Chiefs and Patriots at 4:35PM EST.
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