By Hamish Girvan
The divisional playoffs hit another gear this weekend. Winners advance to the divisional championship games
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons 10.35am Sunday NZ time
Seattle comfortably in the end accounted for the Detroit Lions last week with some home call help from the referees. Here though they face a different prospect in a red hot Atlanta team led by Matty “Ice” Ryan. Atlanta are a team no one is talking about however they have been offensively hot and have ex Seattle defensive guru, Dan Quinn, as their head coach. (An interesting side note to the match up). They have two key running backs in Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman and also have rock star receiver Julio Jones. Their offence should be too much for Seattle’s defence which looks like its declining a bit mainly through injuries this season. A 4.5 favourite Atlanta’s home advantage should be too much for Seattle however the Falcons have been known to choke – this will be close but Atlanta should get it done
Houston Texans at New England Patriots – 2.15pm Sunday NZ time
The Texans are on paper one of the worst teams in the playoffs and going to New England with a 15.5 pointv start is one of the largest lines this writer has seen in any NFL playoff. Much maligned Texans Quarterback Brock Osweiler looked OK in parts last week in beating a depleted Raiders team and he has beat the Patriots before, albeit as a Denver Bronco. Meanwhile Patriots quarterback Ton Brady has been promoting his new line of pyjamas so to say they are relaxed is an understatement. The Patriots will win this – no question. Whether by 15.5 points though is another matter. Tough line to call – especially with a number Texans coaching staff coming off of the Bill Belichick coaching tree. They will know what to expect – just a matter if they can keep it close
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs – 7.05am Monday NZ time
As soon at the Steelers demolished Miami last week they opened as a 2 point favourite against the Chiefs. Things have swung now – and the Chiefs are a 1.5 point favourite. The toughest of the games to pick this week there may be one key factor – Chiefs coach Andy Reid off a bye week. Whether regular season or playoffs his record is impeccable – currently 3-0 in the post season. This is a career defining game for Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. A former no.1 pick in the NFL draft he’s never really had a post season record to write home about. Here he has the chance to lead his team to the AFC Championship game. The weather forecast is for icy rain at Arrowhead stadium – conditions that both teams ae use too. Home advantage should see Reid and the Chiefs through.
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys – 10.40am Monday NZ time
This match up brings two of the hottest teams in the NFL. Green Bay easily accounted for the New York Giants last week with quarterback Aaron Rogers playing some lights out football. Momentum is everything in the NFL and here Green Bay will be looking for their 8th straight win. They come to Texas to face the Dallas Cowboys who are riding the rookie quarterback Dak Prescott wave. Desperate for a Superbowl they have an offence that Green Bay will struggle to contain with another rookie, running back Ezekiel Elliott, creating havoc amongst all defences he’s faced. This is the game of the playoffs this weekend and Dallas have a 4.5 point start which may be a point to much however a win by a field goal is a good prediction – this will be a close one – take Green By if you think they can get within 5.
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