It’s rare that what was expected actually happens in the NFL. But that’s what occurred last week. For the first time in the history of the wildcard round, all four road teams were victorious. That gives us two 1 vs. 6 and 2 vs. 5 games in the divisional round, which is easily the best weekend of football all season.
Did I mention that this weekend features four former #1 draft picks? That doesn’t even include Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Russell Wilson.
Jamie looks to rebound after last week’s 1-3 start. That’s what you get for actually trusting the Redskins. I went 3-1, my only blemish was my belief that Marvin Lewis could actually win a playoff game.
I’ve talked way too much. Let’s get to our Divisional Round picks.
Chiefs (12-5) @ Patriots (12-4)
Alex: The trendy pick here is Kansas City. However, I’m writing off the last few weeks of New England’s season as the exception to the rule. Bill Belichick is the best at shutting down the opposing team’s best offensive weapon. With Jeremy Maclin banged up, that’s sure to be Travis Kelce. With a lack of alternative weapons, Alex Smith will struggle to put points on the board. Patriots 20, Chiefs 13
Jamie: Even with the Patriots still somewhat banged up, they’re a stronger team than just a few weeks ago. The Chiefs are the hottest team in football, and generally don’t kill themselves. But on the road in New England, there’s no chance I’m picking them…even with some flaws in this Patriots team. Patriots 27, Chiefs 21
Packers (11-6) @ Cardinals (12-4)
Alex: Too much is being made of Arizona’s final week loss to Seattle at home. Additionally, too much is being made of Green Bay’s hammering of a Washington secondary that struggled for most of the season. Simply put, the Cardinals are the best team in the NFC. Although I don’t see a repeat of the Week 16 beatdown, I see Arizona winning again. Cardinals 31, Packers 20
Jamie: The Packers took down a Redskins team that had been hot and great at home, but perhaps myself and many others thought too highly of Washington. Of course, if I thought highly of Washington, I think 10x that of Bruce Arians and the Cardinals. I don’t think Green Bay will find the same success against the Cardinals defense, and Carson Palmer should have a nice day on the flip side. Cardinals 34, Packers 19
Seahawks (11-6) @ Panthers (15-1)
Alex: Let’s not underestimate the toll that last week’s game will take on Seattle. Sub-zero temperatures, fighting back in the 4th quarter, and flying across the country two weeks in a row is exhausting. Carolina has had two weeks to prepare for this game. Russell Wilson will make his usual great plays, but Cam prevails. Panthers 19, Seahawks 16
Jamie: The Seahawks are riding high, but they came just inches (OK, more like yards) from losing on a short field goal. Having to go back on the road, across the coast, is a recipe I’ve never liked. Plus, despite the doubters, I still think this Carolina team is the one to beat until dethroned. I like the Panthers to stifle the Seahawks passing game, and do enough with Cam Newton to win at home. Panthers 24, Seahawks 20
Steelers (11-6) @ Broncos (12-4)
Alex: This is the most interesting game of the weekend. How will Manning play? How will the Steelers do without Antonio Brown? Is Big Ben’s shoulder going to hold up? The key here will be the Broncos defense that slipped a bit in the second half of the year, but is still one of the best. With no Brown, Pittsburgh struggles and the Denver running game carries them to the win. Broncos 27, Steelers 21
Jamie: If DeAngelo Williams and Antonio Brown don’t go this week, then the Steelers chances go from so-so to poor. Add in a banged up throwing shoulder for Big Ben and I’ll go with the venerable Peyton Manning and the emotional lift he should continue to bring to Denver. Broncos 20, Steelers 13