What a first round! We got strange finishes, dominant performances, and some history in the process: it was the first time all four road teams won. Now we get to see the top 8 do battle. Can the road teams carry over the good feelings from Wildcard Weekend? Or can the top 4 seeds get to the Championship games?
I picked three of the four games from last week correctly, as I took the Chiefs, Seahawks and Packers all to win on the road. I nearly got the last one when the Bengals almost came back from 15 down, but late mistakes doomed Cincy again and they went home after the first round yet again.
- Chiefs (5) @ Patriots (2): The win streak has hit 11 for the Chiefs, and they had the easiest time advancing to the second round. The Kansas City defense made easy work of Houston, and the game felt over to me as soon as Knile Davis started the game with an 108-yard kick-off return. They’re clicking on all cylinders and are the hottest team in the league. New England is coming off a week of rest, and for once got an offensive weapon back as opposed to losing one to injury. Danny Amendola is back for the Pats this week and it’s sure to be a welcome sight for Tom Brady. That being said, New England has had a lesser second half after starting 10-0, mostly due to injury. And against this Chiefs defense, even Brady will need help, and I don’t know if he’ll get enough. I’m going with the upset for the Chiefs and saying the Pats don’t make their 5th straight Conference championship. KANSAS CITY WINS
- Packers (5) @ Cardinals (2): After backing into the playoffs, Green Bay found themselves again on the road against Washington last week. The run game got back to respectability, and Aaron Rodgers found the passing game in the second half. Feeling good about themselves, the Packers head to Arizona to play the number 2 seed. Before the season I picked the the Packers to win the Superbowl, and after their hot start the season, I felt good about it. But the Packers are truly the fourth best team in the NFC right now, and while they are more than capable of winning on the road, I don’t see it happening. The Cardinals are 19-3 in the past two seasons with Carson Palmer under center and had a week to recharge themselves after a blowout loss in week 17. Larry Fitzgerald has had a renaissance season, and their run game exploded towards the end of the season with David Johnson. I’m going with the consistent Cardinals at home to make it to their first NFC Championship game since 2008. ARIZONA WINS
- Seahawks (6) @ Panthers (1): Seattle is lucky to be here after the Vikings missed a game winning chip shot late last week. The Seahawks defense was great a week ago, and while the Vikings did a great job stymieing their offense, Seattle was able to get the passing game going in the fourth. They face another tough defense in the 15-1 Panthers, though they did start to slip a bit towards the end of the season. That’s not surprising as they were so good all season. Marshawn Lynch should be back for the Seahawks, making this another game prime for a ground and pound battle. Possessions will be hard to come by, but there will be more action in the air than a week ago. As much as I like how good Seattle has been in the second half, and despite the success they’ve had in the playoffs in the past few years, I think we’re looking at a 1-2 match-up in the NFC. Give me the Panthers in a one score game. CAROLINA WINS
- Steelers (6) @ Broncos (1): Pittsburgh survived their first round match-up, but as was the story of their season, they suffered heavy losses. Ben Roethlisberger suffered an AC Sprain and torn ligaments during last weeks Wildcard win. With his status up in the air, the Steelers are already without another huge weapon in Antonio Brown, who suffered a concussion. The Broncos had a week to rest up for this, and a week to get Peyton Manning back in game shape. Manning hasn’t played a full game since November 8th, but it must be a good feeling to know you have a guy in Brock Osweiler to go to at the first sign of trouble. Denver has been superior on defense all year, the running game got going late and they have the home crowd on their side. DENVER WINS