Tag Archives: Jay Ajayi

NFL Playoffs: 2018 Conference Championship Sunday Predictions!

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In the AFC, the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to “steal the show”.

By Elias McMillan

 

Divisional Round: 2-2

Playoffs: 3-5

Conference Championship Sunday

AFC Championship Game

Jacksonville @ New England – The Jacksonville Jaguars are looking like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens right now. The Jaguars went into Pittsburgh last Sunday and punked a Steeler team that may have been over looking them. Jacksonville took it too Pittsburgh and didn’t let up. I was impressed with how QB Blake Bortles ran the offense against a shorthanded Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers scored 42 points and their QB threw for a bunch of yards but don’t buy into those numbers. Jacksonville got off to a 21-0 start and Pittsburgh was just playing catch up for the entire game. I don’t think the stat sheet tells the story of how good the Jaguars defense is. The Jaguars have one more hurdle in their Cinderella Super Bowl run: the New England Patriots. New England survived a sort of slow start against Tennessee last Saturday and was able to put their opponent away in the 2nd half. The Patriots will be hosting yet another AFC Championship game but this one could be a much greater challenge in comparison to past recent years. The Patriots are great again this season for all the same reasons. They have QB Tom Brady. He leads an offense that can score a lot of points when called upon. No one can cover TE Rob Gronkowski. The defense isn’t great but they over achieve at times. And they are lead by a master football mind in Bill Belichick. Despite all of this, like in season’s past, I still feel that the Patriots are very beatable. In terms of this Sunday, Jacksonville matches up well against them. To stop the Patriots offense, you better have a defense that can rattle the QB. Jacksonville has strong play up front. They have excellent LBs. And their secondary is usually good despite giving up all those yards last week. Brady may also be dealing with a bum hand so, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is tough sledding for the New England offense. Bortles played a game last week where he wasn’t going to be the reason why Jacksonville would lose. I’m not sure if the Jaguars offense will be able to be so successful this week. I think they were aided by the absence of LB Ryan Shazier. I said earlier that New England’s defense is suspect but they did defend the run quite well last week and Tennessee was barely able to get into the end zone for the second time until after the game was out of reach. Despite how well the Jacksonville defense may play, they will still need the offense to score points and I don’t think I trust them to perform well enough again in two straight weeks on the road. The brain trust in New England is still strong and I believe the offense will find a way to consistently get down the field. I think Gronkowski and the different RB’s from out the backfield may create some bad matchup for Brady to exploit. New England is the safe pick. No picked Jacksonville last week and I think they have a real chance to shock everyone again. But I’m not brave enough to pick it. Business as usual in the AFC. Prediction: Patriots 30 – Jaguars 22

NFC Championship Game

Minnesota @ Philadelphia – The Eagles did a great job at home last week grinding out a victory against Atlanta. I shouldn’t have been as shocked that the Falcons under performed, again, but I feel they still could have won that game at the end. It came down to Julio Jones miss timing on a jump ball in the end zone. Julio Jones. Not some rookie. Regardless, we have to give Philadelphia’s defense credit for limiting Atlanta’s scoring chances. They will now host the NFC Championship game on Sunday against a Minnesota team that is coming off a miracle victory. As awesome was Minnesota’s triumph was last Sunday, the Vikings have to erase it from their memory and focus up on the task at hand. Both of these teams are very similar. They both offer good defenses, solid running games, and receivers that are capable to creating big plays down the field. Its hard for me to read how good Case Keenum is but he has done a great job at running this offense this season. He could be the difference in this game because honestly, I’m not expecting much form Nick Foles. Foles didn’t make any mistakes last week but he will face a much tougher defense in this game. Minnesota and Philadelphia both have solid defenses but I think I’ll give a slight edge to the Vikings. They are much younger at key positions and I believe that they have a stronger secondary than Philly’s. I think Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen will have their chances to make plays if Keenum is able to stand in the pocket. Playing at home will definitely serve as an advantage for the birds but I think Minnesota has the better team on paper. Honestly, this game is a toss up. I’m not sure how strongly I feel about it but I like Minnesota to end their misery in conference championship games and therefor becoming the first team to advance to the Super Bowl in their host city. Prediction: Vikings 26 – Eagles 20

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NFL Playoffs: 2018 Divisional Round Predictions!

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Philadelphia will have to ride their top ranked defense if they hope to advance pass Atlanta.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Wild-Card Round: 1-3

Playoffs: 1-3

Divisional Round

Atlanta @ Philadelphia – I guess I should be embarrassed for taking the Rams last week. The Falcons showed their experience and pretty much shut down L.A. on the road. Now, come a big test in the number one seeded Eagles. It is a big test for Atlanta because they are the favorites and now everyone is expecting to see the Atlanta team from last post season. I think Atlanta is different from a season ago but chances are they will probably get to their second straight NFC Championship game on Saturday. Atlanta brings to the table an offense with a ton of potential in the passing or running game. Philadelphia has been able to lean on its defense this season so that will be a key matchup in this game. I feel confident that the Eagles defense will do everything in their power to try to win this game for the home team. The Falcons have a pair of good RB’s but Philly is strong against the run. The Eagles are vulnerable in the secondary and it should be interesting to see if Matt Ryan can figure out a way to make Julio Jones a big factor in the game. I think this game will turn on the Eagles lack of offense. I have no reason to have confidence in QB Nick Foles. Especially when Atlanta’s defense is playing well. The Eagles were one of the top running teams on offense in the league this season but Atlanta did a really good job limiting Todd Gurley a week ago. I don’t think they will let Jay Ajayi or LeGarrette Blount get off too many big gains. I think Atlanta will be able to ride their defense and just get enough out of their offense to advance to next week while ending Philadelphia’s season. Prediction: Falcons 21 – Eagles 16

Tennessee @ New England – The Titans were a nice surprise last weekend as they came back from a 21-3 hole to win in Kansas City. They will have to get it done on the road again this week against top seeded New England. I think Tennessee stands a better chance in this game than most people are giving them. Really, I do. New England is New England. But they can be knocked off their game. They are beatable. I don’t have much faith in the Titans defense though. Shutting out Alex Smith for one half is one thing compared to going up against Tom Brady. New England has so many weapons and so many ways to attack. Tennessee will have problems with the Patriots balanced attack. Tennessee is really physical up front on defense so I want to see if they can defend the run well again this week while putting heat on Brady. I big part of last week was that Travis Kelce was knocked out of the game. The Titans will have to account for another dominant, pass catching TE in Rob Gronkowski. I think New England will have an advantage their. The main reason why New England is beatable is because of their defense. Marcus Mariota had a strong second half last week in Kansas City but he has been wildly inconsistent this season. Mariota has Derrick Henry to lean on and Tennessee has a pretty good record with him as the main option in the run game. Outside of Henry and TE Delaine Walker, Tennessee really doesn’t have a lot of reliable players at the skill positions for Mariota to go to. Tennessee may have a “fighter’s chance” but New England should be able handle business at home. I can see Brady having his way with the Titans secondary and Mariota will over extend himself trying to keep up. Prediction: Patriots 38 – Titans 23

Jacksonville @ Pittsburgh – Jacksonville’s win over Buffalo last week sure wasn’t pretty but it was definitely better than losing. The Jaguars will take their strong defense to Pittsburgh on Sunday to face a Steelers team they defeated earlier this season. Week 5 was a long, long time ago but I think Jacksonville can take a lot from what happened in that game and maybe find themselves with a chance to score a big upset on Sunday. There is a lot of talk about the Jaguars having to deal with playing in the cold weather on the road. But playoff football usually comes down to two things: defense and the run game. And Jacksonville has both. The Jaguars have studs on the defensive line that can stuff the run and pressure the QB. They have a talented group of linebackers. And their secondary is close to what Seattle had a few years ago, led by standout Jalen Ramsey. All that being said, Pittsburgh has a really good offense. We all know what Ben Roethlisberger is capable of in January. I do have questions about how WR Antonio Brown will look, as he will be returning after dealing with a lower leg injury. Even if Brown is rusty, Pittsburgh’s WR core is solid. RB Le’Veon Bell is one of the best at his position in the game but Jacksonville did such a great job against him earlier this season. I think this will be a game where the Steelers offense cannot abandon the run. Bell can lead this offense when called upon. I know that the Steelers are not a run first offense anymore but Bell need at least more than 25 touches. For the Jaguars, their offense is a point of weakness but they can at least run the ball. RB Leonard Fournette is ready for another heavy workload. He had a strong performance in Pittsburgh in Week 5 and this time around, he’ll be facing the same defense without its starting middle LB. I believe Pittsburgh could be vulnerable defending the run in this game but unfortunately Jacksonville can’t run it every play. Eventually QB Blake Bortles will have to try to look like a NFL QB in this game. I don’t think Bortles is the worst starter in the league but the Pittsburgh secondary will have to be really off their game for him to be able to do anything substantial. Much like in 2007, I think the Jaguars have the tools to upset the Steelers on Sunday but I’m not brave enough to pick it. It will be tough sledding for the Pittsburgh offense but they’ll find a way to outscore a Jaguars team that may have problems on their own scoring points on the road. Prediction: Steelers 23 – Jaguars 13

New Orleans @ Minnesota – New Orleans clearly outclassed Carolina at home last week. They didn’t add any “cool” points with the way they finished but they at least got the job done. I believe they will face a tall task this week in Minnesota. The Vikings are very tough at home and the Saints should remember that. Minnesota opened this season beating the Saints at home. New Orleans will be looking to reverse that result on Sunday. I like Minnesota in this game because of their defense. I think Drew Brees will not have the passing windows that he had last week against Carolina. Minnesota does a great job at limiting the run with their front seven. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram found it hard to find space last week and I think that will continue in Minnesota. The Saints also bring into this game a good defense. New Orleans has a legit secondary this year and they are coming off a game where the pass rush made a big impact. But I think the Vikings offense will be able to excel by just playing at their own pace while not trying to do too much. QB Case Keenum will use the running game to keep Brees on the bench but he will also take his shots down field as he has a top-notch group of receivers. I think Brees has an edge over Keenum but Minnesota’s defense has an edge over on New Orleans’. Prediction: Vikings 29 – Saints 21

NFL 2017: Week 14 Predictions!

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It may not being saying much but Baltimore is playing its best football of the season right now. On Sunday night, they visit division rival, Pittsburgh.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 115-77

Big Five Games of the Week

New Orleans @ Atlanta – You know, I’m a uniform nerd so I have to mention that this week’s color rush match-up features two of the best sets in the league. But I digress. Atlanta had problems scoring points last week against Minnesota’s defense despite having a healthy Devonta Freeman back. This week, they’ll face New Orleans at home and they have an improved defense this season. New Orleans may not be as stout as Minnesota defensively but they can get the job done upfront and in the secondary. The real star of the Saints emergence as a contender is their run game. RB Mark Ingram has been steady and rookie RB Alvin Kamara has been as good as any rookie RB this season. Kamara offers great speed and toughness in the red zone. I don’t think the Falcons defense will be able to bottle the Saints run game. Atlanta will want to protect the home turf in this NFC South matchup but I don’t see them matching New Orleans unless their offense can get it figured out. Prediction: Saints 28 – Falcons 18

Oakland @ Kansas City – Oakland crawled to a victory last week at home against a bad Giants team. That may not seem like much but maybe that can keep that rolling into this week when they face a slumping Chiefs team. Kansas City is falling apart. Last week against the Jets, QB Alex Smith played out of his mind and they still lost. The fact that the Jets were able to put up the points they were able to, its time to realize that Kansas City is a poor defensive team. And even worst, they suspended their best corner for this game. I know the Chiefs are usually good at home but I think the Raiders may have advantage in this one. If David Carr is able to run his offense and hit his receivers down field against a poor secondary, the Raiders should have a great chance at taking this one. Oakland has been a disappointment this season but a win here on the road will put them firmly in the playoff conversation. I think Oakland will step up on the road and Kansas City’s woes will continue. Prediction: Raiders 24 – Chiefs 21

Philadelphia @ Los Angeles Rams – After a loss in Seattle, the Eagles stayed on the west coast in preparation for a matchup on Sunday with the NFC West leading LA Rams. The Eagles will need to come out this week with a little more urgency on offense. The Rams have a tough defense under Wade Phillips. Their whole game is based on limiting the opposing offenses chances to score, as their offense isn’t going to win them any games. The Rams offense will face an uphill battle in this game against a Philadelphia defense that is also pretty decent. I have a hard time believing that the Rams will be able to outscore the Eagles and if they are able to, it will take a tremendous effort from their defense. I think the Eagles are starting to look stale on both sides of the ball. I’m going out a limb and taking the home team in an upset. Prediction: Rams 23 – Eagles 16

Seattle @ Jacksonville – The Seahawks had a classic strong performance last week at home. I didn’t see that coming with all the injuries they are going through right now. QB Russell Wilson is doing a great job at keeping his team competitive and he might be good enough to carry Seattle to the post season. Jacksonville has been as inconsistent this season as Seattle without all the injuries. This should be a great defensive matchup. If I had to trust one offense to make a game deciding play, I’ll go with Wilson over Blake Bortles. I’ll give Bortles some credit as he hasn’t put in a poor performance recently but I think Seattle’s defense will present him with some issues. Prediction: Seahawks 24 – Jaguars 17

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh – I really liked the way Baltimore looked last week at home. Defense continued to play well but the offense finally showed up as well. QB Joe Flacco had his best performance of 2017 and the run game is starting to show some consistency. Pittsburgh is coming off some poor performances despite maintaining their winning streak. They didn’t look great at home against Green Bay and they were down three scores last week in Cincinnati. I think it does mean a lot that they were able to win those games but I’m starting to worry about their defense. And things could get worst before they get better with the injury last week suffered by defensive leader Ryan Shazier. This could be a classic, drag ‘em out, AFC North, Ravens-Steelers game, per usual. Though the Steelers defense is struggling, I don’t think I’m ready to believe that the Ravens are ready to maintain a consistent threat in the passing game yet. Baltimore’s defense is good but Pittsburgh just has better players. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell will give them fits. Flacco has had some big moments at Heinz Field. He will have to be the one to match what Pittsburgh can do offensively on Sunday. I think Pittsburgh will keep it rolling in a tough contest. It won’t get as ugly as it got last week. But who knows. Mike Mitchell might be returning. Prediction: Steelers 29 – Ravens 17

The Rest of Week 14

Colts over Bills – Buffalo failed to upset New England last week and even worst, they suffered through a few injuries in that contest. Indy stinks but they should be able to take full advantage of a banged up Bills team.

Bears over Bengals – Marvin Lewis still has a job? How? Chicago must help put the nail in that coffin. The entire Cincinnati franchise is a joke.

Packers over Browns – Green Bay is keeping hope alive as Aaron Rodgers could be returning soon.

Giants over Cowboys – Here’s an upset. I still feel that the Cowboys will find a way at ended their chances at the playoffs in an embarrassing fashion despite ending their skid last week. The Giants have nothing to lose. They fired their coach. A lot of alumni will be at the stadium this week. And they’ll have Eli Manning to rally behind. The Giants stink but they be extra motivated to put a stake thru Dallas’ playoff hopes. Dak went 11-22 passing last week. I don’t trust that he is back to the form he had last season.

Buccaneers over Lions – Matt Stafford has a hand injury and Detroit’s backup is garbage. I’m taking Famous Jameis to eat the “W”.

Vikings over Panthers – If Cam Newton can beat the Minnesota defense, I would be surprised and very impressed.

Texans over 49ers – Jimmy Garoppolo got a win last week. This week, he’ll face a tougher road test in the Houston defense.

Jets over Broncos – Denver looks awful. How did it get so bad so fast for them? Meanwhile, Todd Bowles is winning games with Josh McCown. What a time.

Cardinals over Titans – I don’t trust the Tennessee defense.

Chargers over Washington – Washington looks like they are ready to fast forward to the offseason. Meanwhile, the LA Chargers are in the middle of a three-team race in the AFC West.

Patriots over Dolphins – New England won’t need Gronk this week. He’ll be fresh next week in Pittsburgh.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: David Carr (Raiders) – Kansas City is giving up a lot through the air.

RB: Frank Gore (Colts) – Gore is quietly having a strong season.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – How about a vintage Larry Legend performance at home this week and a poor Titans secondary?

TE: Travis Kelce (Chiefs) – Oakland doesn’t have a great secondary. Alex Smith will look to continue last week’s success by looking 87’s way.

DEF: Minnesota – The Vikings defense will be a tough chore even on the road for Cam Newton.

NFL 2017: Week 9 Predictions!

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David Carr and the Raiders need to rebound after an unfavorable start to this season.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 12-1

Season: 71-48

Big Five Games of the Week

Buffalo @ New York Jets – The Jets are cranking out great efforts week after week. That’s a good sign for head coach Todd Bowles. The Jets will attempt to empty the tank on a short week against a red hot Buffalo Bills team at home. The Bills were thought to be tanking in September but now they are thinking about how they can keep this going and end one of the longer playoff droughts going in the league. New York will play tough at home and their defense will keep them in it. But the Bills seem to have a lot going for them right now. They have the better QB in Tyrod Taylor and they’ll take the extra rest after this win to accumulate newly acquired WR Kelvin Benjamin. Prediction: Bills 27 – Jets 13

Denver @ Philadelphia – Philadelphia’s remaining schedule isn’t very strong. They just have to keep the wins rolling and stay healthy going into the post season at this point. I think Denver’s defense will provide a good test for the Eagles offense. Von Miller and the Broncos defensive line could provide problems for Philly’s offensive line and their top running attack. Even if Denver is able to limit what Philadelphia can do on offense, I do not trust the Denver offense amounting to much especially since they are turning the offense over to Brock Osweiler. Prediction: Eagles 22 – Broncos 10

Atlanta @ Carolina – The Falcons are continuing to under perform this season. Atlanta still has the ability to put up points with that offense, forcing the opposing team to attempt to outscore them. Atlanta can’t afford to sleep walk this week in Carolina. The Panthers offense is in disarray and things won’t be getting better as they just traded away Cam Newton’s number one receiver. Carolina is still playing well defensively but their offense is missing the spark that rookie RB Christian McCaffrey was suppose to provide. This one will be a heated NFC South contest and I don’t see Carolina amounting enough offensively to beat Atlanta. Carolina may waste another good effort from their defense. Prediction: Falcons 24 – Panthers 19

Kansas City @ Dallas – The Ezekiel Elliott suspension has finally gone through and that is bad news for the Cowboys. Zeke has clearly been the Cowboys best player the last two week and now they will go without him for 6 weeks. I think Alfred Morris and a fresh (but old) Darren McFadden could prove to serve the Dallas rushing game well but it shouldn’t be enough to make up what Zeke can do for the offense when he is in the lineup. Kansas City is really good this year so Dallas will have to play their best game at home to beat them. The Cowboys defense is very beatable so, I can see them having a tough time with WR Tyreke Hill, RB Kareem Hunt and TE Travis Kelce. Kansas City’s defense can give up big plays on occasion as well. QB Dak Prescott has to figure a way to attack the Chiefs defense with confidence in this one. Without Zeke to lean on, Prescott will have to make the Chiefs defense respect the passing game and with the weapons he has, I believe that he can. The Chiefs will be strong upfront defensively with Justin Houston and the return of Tamba Hali. I think the first one without Elliott will prove to be a tough one for Dallas. Prediction: Chiefs 35 – Cowboys 29

Oakland @ Miami – The Raiders are in a rut. They were suppose to be a Super Bowl contender but now it is looking like they may miss the playoffs al together if they don’t get things turned around in a hurry. Miami might be a great place for that turn around to begin. The Dolphins have been wildly inconsistent this season and their head coach is fed up. Case in point, they traded away under performing star RB (from last year) Jay Ajayi. For whatever reason, Miami hasn’t been able to get their running game going and that was such a key to their playoff run a season ago. QB Jay Cutler will return for this game but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. I mean, the Raiders do have a weak secondary but they should be able to get after Cutler with Khalil Mack and their pass rush. Miami’s defensive front seven is tough but they also struggle in the secondary. I think David Carr and the passing game will be able to make some big plays down the field for Oakland. This game could provide the Raiders with some confidence going forward as Miami begins their journey to the bottom of the AFC East. Prediction: Raiders 30 – Dolphins 21

The Rest of Week 9

Ravens over Titans – I know Tennessee is coming off the bye but Baltimore’s defense played really good last week.

Saints over Buccaneers – New Orleans is the sleeper team in the NFC that many thought Tampa would be at the beginning of this season.

Rams over Giants – New York is coming off another week of locker room drama. LA can’t blink as they are chasing a realistic playoff berth.

Jaguars over Bengals – The Jacksonville pass rush will be all over Andy Dalton in this game. Many are excited about the return of the teal jerseys for the Jags. They really just need to go back to having one helmet color.

Texans over Colts – Houston lost last week but they have to be feeling pretty confident about their rookie at QB.

Cardinals over 49ers – This one is truly a toss-up. San Fran is winless and they might have a good chance if they can close out in the 4th quarter.

Seahawks over Washington – It is too bad that the Washington defense and offensive line has suffered so many injuries.

Lions over Packers – Detroit was pathetic at home last week. I don’t think much of the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers but they actually have a great chance of winning with their home field advantage.

 

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Deshaun Watson (Texans) – After ripping the Seahawks secondary, going up against the Colts could be a walk in the park.

RB: Adrian Peterson (Cardinals) – The 49ers can’t stop the run and Arizona will have to lean on the run game with Carson Palmer out for the season.

WR: Mike Evans (Buccaneers) – Tampa will attack the Saints secondary in an attempt to out score Drew Brees and company.

TE: Jason Witten (Cowboys) – With no Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott will turn to one of the most reliable players in the league.

DEF: Jacksonville – Cincinnati doesn’t have an offensive line. Another 10 sack day on the horizon?

NFL Playoffs: 2017 NFL Wild-Card Weekend Predictions!

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Miami’s run to the playoffs started in Week 6 against the Steelers. On Sunday, the Dolphins will meet them again in Pittsburgh.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 14-2

Final 2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Weekend

Oakland @ Houston – For the second straight year, ESPN gets stuck with coverage of a playoff game in Houston that no one really wanted to see. Oakland was such a great story this season until about 2 weeks ago. Within that time, they have lost their starter and backup QB in rout to already being clinched for a post-season berth in the playoffs. Where Oakland goes from here is anyone’s guess. Houston has had its QB troubles recently too. Houston’s 72 million dollar man, QB Brock Osweiler, was bench about 3 weeks ago but because of a concussion suffered by his replacement, backup Tom Savage, Osweiler will be back in the starting position this Saturday. We have to imagine that Osweiler isn’t feeling too confident about his standing as the leader of the offense or as a competent QB in this league. The fact is that Osweiler hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. I’m not sure if Houston is going to need Osweiler to be great to win this playoff game. Houston has other weapons on the team that will make them a tough out for the Raiders. RB Lamar Miller had a good first season with the Texans. He was held out from the last two games of the regular season and he should be fresh and ready to go this weekend. Oakland will have to find a way to account for Miller as they ranked 23rd in the league in run defense. Houston is going to have to run the ball effectively in this game in order to control the clock and to keep Osweiler from making a mistake. Oakland doesn’t have a strong run defense but their defense can affect the game in other ways. Edge rushers, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, have made a living this season at creating chaos in the opponents back field. Oakland allows quite a few yards through the air but I like the way safety Reggie Nelson has been playing lately. Oakland doesn’t have the best defense in the playoffs but they have the ability to create turnovers that can change the game. After being down two QB’s, the Raiders will have to start QB Connor Cook on Saturday who is making his career debut as a pro. Cook is a real wildcard in this matchup because no one knows what to expect from him. Oakland’s offensive line has a huge task ahead of them as they will have to protect their young QB against a pretty good Houston defense. DE Jadeveon Clowney has finally emerged as a difference maker on the field with the absence of J.J. Watt. Oakland has had a serviceable running game this season so with Cook starting, we may see a steady dose of RB Latavius Murray. Houston has one of the top pass defenses in the league so it will be interesting seeing how Cook want to attack them with Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree. In their matchup earlier this season, Houston outplayed Oakland really but they were on the wrong end of a couple of bad calls. I bet Oakland thinks that can play better than what they did in the last matchup but Houston probably has the bigger revenge chip on their shoulder. Oakland won 12 games this season and I think their playmakers on defense will be the difference. I’m taking the Raiders in a low scoring affair. Prediction: Raiders 18 – Texans 14

Detroit @ Seattle – In the second game on Saturday, we’ll see two teams that don’t look like they are ready to make a run towards the Super Bowl. Detroit squandered their lead in the NFC North to the Packers in a matter of 3 weeks. Seattle wrapped up the NFC West earlier but since the injury to Earl Thomas, they haven’t looked the same. Detroit still has its work cut out for them if they hope to upset Seattle who is usually a monster at home. But with the way Seattle has been playing lately, they are definitely vulnerable right now, even with the home field advantage. If Detroit can keep Seattle from controlling the clock on offense, they’ll have a shot at winning this game. Detroit has been inconsistent at stopping the run on defense but Seattle’s run game has been inconsistent as well. I don’t know how well Russell Wilson will play but Detroit will have to find a way to pressure him in order to keep him from making big plays. Last year in the playoffs, Wilson struggled in that first game at Minnesota but was still able to make the big play late to help Seattle get the victory. With the state of the Seahawks offensive line, I believe the Lions will be able to get after Wilson. Seattle is still pretty good defensively even without Earl Thomas. The Seahawks have a good pass rush and one of the top run defenses in the league. Detroit should have a hard time getting the run game going which will open the door for QB Matt Stafford to try to win the game with his arm. The Legion of Boom isn’t quite that without Thomas in the lineup so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stafford find the matchups that will help him get his team down the field. TE Eric Ebron has emerged recently and WR’s Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin are more than familiar with the Seattle secondary. I think this game will be closer than what many people think. Detroit hasn’t won in a month and I don’t think I have faith in their defense to totally shut down Seattle offensively. A wildcard in this game will be TE Jimmy Graham who can destroy a defense’s game plan at any moment. I’m going with the home team. Prediction: Seahawks 26 – Lions 21

Miami @ Pittsburgh – Miami starting the season with a 1-4 record going into their Week 6 matchup at home against the Steelers. Who would have known that game was the start of a 9-2 run in the post season? Miami has had a remarkable and unlikely run to the playoffs this season and it is fitting that they’ll be in Pittsburgh on Sunday for this Wildcard matchup. People see the city name “Miami” and think, “Oh. There’s no way a team from Miami can win in Pittsburgh in January!” That thinking is common but couldn’t be more false. Miami is a ten-point underdog this weekend but I think they could stand a chance in Pittsburgh. Miami was able to beat Pittsburgh in their first matchup this season because of RB Jay Ajayi and the Miami run game. A great coach once said that a good run game is one thing that is guaranteed to travel with teams no matter which stadium they’re playing at. If Miami brings their running attack and is able to control the clock, they’ll be able to limit Pittsburgh’s scoring chances on offense. QB Matt Moore will be starting for the Dolphins and I don’t see him coming out with the goal to just air it out against the Steelers secondary. Pittsburgh’s defense as a whole has gotten a lot better since Week 6 so Moore will have to be careful and be selective about the shots to take down field. Miami does have more than capable WR’s in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills. This game will feature two defenses that can allow both offenses to put up a lot of numbers but again; I see where Pittsburgh’s defense has improved. Not so much with Miami. I don’t have much confidence in Miami limiting Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, or Antonio Brown on Sunday. For Miami to stand a chance on defense, they will need to bring the pressure towards Roethlisberger for all 4 quarters. The Steelers have a decent offensive line but they’ll have a huge chore ahead of them on Sunday in the shape of DE Cameron Wake and DT Ndamukong Suh. I think too many things would have to go right for Miami for them to upset Pittsburgh on Sunday. Miami could slow the game down with Ajayi or harass Roethlisberger behind the line of scrimmage. But the Steelers just have too many weapons for Miami to account for. They wont be able to stop Bell on the ground and with time, Roethlisberger should be able to find big plays down the field against the Dolphins secondary. Miami could make it interesting but I like the Steelers at home. Prediction: Steelers 36 – Dolphins 28

New York Giants @ Green Bay – The second matchup on Sunday features two of the hottest teams in the NFC. Green Bay rode their hot streak into winning the NFC North last week. The Giants have looked impressive down the stretch and many believe that they could be gearing up for another championship run. I have to give Green Bay credit for catching up with Detroit and winning the division but on Sunday, they might match up poorly against the Giants. The Giants have done a tremendous job defensively recently and they might present some issues to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. New York may not have the same pass rushing abilities they had when Jason Pierre-Paul was healthy but they playing well against the run and the secondary is also playing out of its mind right now. If the Giants can’t get after Rodgers, he will have time in the pocket but many QB’s have found it tough recently against the Giants secondary. Green Bay is going to have to figure out a creative way to get receivers open down the field. Another thing I don’t like about this matchup for the Packers is that their defense really isn’t good. They have had their issues this season at stopping the run and they are recently faced with multiple injuries in the secondary. The Giants don’t have a strong rushing offense but they do have some talented backs that might be able to find some space against the Packers front seven. And with a hurting secondary, the Giants and their talented trio of receivers should be able to make big plays down the field. Rodgers is the hot QB right now and he has powered the entire Green Bay squad during their run into the playoffs. Green Bay has been an overachiever in recent weeks so; I think they’ll be able to put up a good fight especially at home. But with the way that the Giants defense has been playing recently and with the state of the Packers secondary, I can see the Giants winning this one by the skin of their teeth. Prediction: Giants 24 – Packers 21