Russell Wilson and the Seahawks will have to be better than lucky to escape Carolina on Sunday.
By: Elias McMillan
Wild-Card Round: 3-1
Kansas City @ New England – Last week, Houston suffered through horrible QB play and even worst play calling. But still, it is impressive that the Chiefs were able to shut them out at home in a playoff situation. Kansas City will take its win streak to New England this Saturday to take on the Patriots. New England has had an extra week of rest but they are not coming into this game with much momentum. First off, they ended the regular season on a bad note. Because of all the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, the offense really ran out of gas in those last two weeks and it cost them the top seed in the AFC. Tom Brady is dealing with an ankle injury but he is expected to be his regular old self this weekend. WR’s Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola also have been fighting injuries but those two are also expected to be ready to perform at a high level this weekend. Brady’s main target in the passing game, TE Rob Gronkowski, is also dealing with an injury going into the playoffs. New England also doesn’t have the best offensive line or running game. Kansas City’s defense is really good. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali will be able to lead that pass rush to get after Brady. Kansas City is tough to run against and they have a stingy secondary led by safety Eric Berry. I don’t see New England scoring a bunch against these guys. But Kansas City’s offense is going to have to amount something this week against New England’s defense. QB Alex Smith, who probably never gets enough credit, has been playing well but he might without his top receiver on Saturday. WR Jeremy Maclin is dealing with an ankle injury so his status is in the air. New England’s defense has been underrated for most of this season but they can give up some yards from time to time. The Patriots have a top ten rushing defense but I don’t think much of their secondary. I don’t Alex Smith will be able to have a huge game against them but I think Andy Reid’s knowledge and a balanced attack will help the Chiefs offense find success on Sunday. But maybe, Brady will go on a warpath like he has been on for the most part of this season. But I think that the Chiefs defense will seriously limit this limping Patriots offense. I’m going out on a limb but I’m taking the road team in a playoff upset. Prediction: Chiefs 24 – Patriots 20
Green Bay @ Arizona – Green Bay’s offense finally got its house in order last week in Washington but I don’t think that performance changed how good I think this team is. On Saturday, they’ll face a really good Arizona team in the desert. Arizona’s defense will pretty much control the tempo of this game of Sunday. Green Bay’s offensive line and lack of playmakers in the passing game will serve to Arizona’s strengths on defense. Arizona is tough up front against the run and in their last meeting against the Packers offensive line, the Cardinals pretty much lived in the Green Bay backfield. I don’t know what Green Bay can do offensively to avoid a similar fate this weekend. Green Bay’s defense didn’t look all too impressive last week either and they’ll face an Arizona offense that usually scores in bunches. I think this will be the easiest game to pick this weekend. Arizona has been fairly consistent this season and with the extra week off they will keep that momentum going into championship weekend. Prediction: Cardinals 36 – Packers 24
Seattle @ Carolina – Seattle didn’t play great last week in Minnesota and they got extremely lucky when they were able to leave with a victory. Good news for Seattle, even though they played like crap, they will visit Carolina on Sunday and they can play them tough. I think Seattle will be able to be in this game on Sunday because of their defense. I think Seattle will be able to play tough at the line of scrimmage against Carolina’s running attack and the Legion of Boom will be able to limit the Panthers receivers. QB Cam Newton had a heroic moment in Carolina’s last meeting against Seattle. That moment had to happen the way it happened because the Seattle defense made things tough for him for most of that game. I believe that will be the case this week. I think Newton will be able to be effective but the opportunities to do so will not be as often as he will like. Seattle’s offense was really underwhelming last week in Minnesota. Most people will want to blame this on the extreme cold temperatures but really that had nothing to do with it. QB Russell Wilson was not effective for most of that game last week and it told a lot for him to find a way to make the big play that ultimately changed the game. That wont be enough against this Carolina defense. I think the Panthers defense will be able to keep Wilson in the pocket and play tough against their running attack. RB Marshawn Lynch might play this week but I don’t see him having that big of a role or impact on this game. Carolina also does a great job at defending the pass in the secondary and with their linebackers. I don’t see Wilson being able to have the time to find his receivers open in many situations this weekend. I think this game will be close throughout but Cam Newton and the Panther will find a way at the end to pull away. Prediction: Panthers 28 – Seahawks 20
Pittsburgh @ Denver – The Steelers survived a bar fight last week with the Bengals. Or better yet, they won the battle but lost the war. Despite all of the extra stuff involved with that game last week, Pittsburgh didn’t really prove anything that we already didn’t know. It doesn’t matter the circumstances or situation, the Bengals just don’t have the mind set to beat Pittsburgh in a big game. Because of last week, the Steelers will be shortchanged in more ways than just one this Sunday against the Broncos. Denver will not be interested in being in a bar fight with Pittsburgh. Denver’s post-season run last year had such a disappointing ending and I don’t think they have forgot about that. Denver will be extra motivated this Sunday and they’ll be looking to leave no doubt against a hobbled Steelers team. Pittsburgh will be seriously limited on offense obviously. Ben Roethlisberger suffered a shoulder injury last week and he hasn’t thrown the ball around a lot all week at practice. Roethlisberger just isn’t a deep ball QB and he can still run a dink and dunk passing offense. Roethlisberger has found success with the short passing game usually because of WR Antonio Brown and what he can do with the football after the catch. Unfortunately, Brown will be out this week because of a concussion so the other talented receivers on the roster will have to step up. Pittsburgh’s backups at RB will have to step up again this week, as DeAngelo Williams will also not play. Honestly, I find all of the injury talk to be pointless because Denver has a really good defense. Even if Ben, Antonio, and Le’Veon Bell were all healthy, the Steeler offense would still have a tough time against this Broncos defense. Denver has a great pass rush, they are tough against the run, they have great athletes at LB, and their secondary will fully healthy for the first time in a while. I think Denver’s defense will be able to set the tone for this game early and often. Denver’s big question for most of this season has been their offense. Peyton Manning is now healthy and he’ll get the start on Sunday. I think this is a good thing because even though Manning has thrown a lot of interceptions this season, his experience and knowledge of the offense will better serve Denver during this playoff run. It’s hard to gauge how well the Pittsburgh defense is playing going into this game because they were playing against an awful QB last week. I think Denver’s offense will be fired up and they’ll be able to execute big plays through out the day. I think Denver’s receivers will be able to overwhelm Pittsburgh weak secondary. Manning will be able to pick out the correct matchups and the offense will go from there. If Pittsburgh offense were fully healthy, maybe this game would be a thriller to the end. But because of the situation and because of Denver’s motivation factor, I think the Broncos will be able to take care of business at home on Sunday. Prediction: Broncos 32 – Steelers 20