Ed: So far, so good! Sticking with the home teams yesterday paid off. Oakland rode a series of bad breaks at the end of the season to a road loss yesterday in Houston, putting a heartbreaking end to what had looked like a charmed season. Detroit’s woes in Seattle looked more self-inflicted than put-upon, but the Seahawks didn’t look terribly sharp either. They took their sweet time putting the game away, leaving the Lions within a TD for most of the game. Nevertheless, Houston and Seattle will go on the road, Oakland and Detroit go home to watch the rest of the playoffs on TV, and I start off with a 2-0 record.
Jazz: I suppose it could have been worse. I really had high hopes for Oakland yesterday, not because I’m some long time fan of the franchise, but rather for the fairy tale idea of the untested quarterback stepping into the playoffs and putting on some sort of legendary show. It’s the stuff of movie legend. Sadly, it remains in the realm of fiction. Still, I went 1-1 and to begin the playoffs so we’ll have to see if I can catch up today.
Ed: For our first game, I’m sticking with the home-team pick … for obvious reasons. I’m breaking out my Hines Ward jersey and my Terrible Towel when Pittsburgh welcomes Miami to Heinz Field (1:05 pm ET, CBS). The line has the Steelers as 12.5-point favorites, and it’s not tough to see why. They’ll have Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Big Ben healthy and rested, coming off of a seven-game winning streak. Miami got trounced at home by the Patriots last week, and today they’ll have snow and 18º weather. The Dolphins embarrassed the Steelers in Miami earlier this season, and the defense will want to prove that a fluke. Steelers 31-19 over the Dolphins.
Jazz: I’ll be rooting for the Steelers today (and through the playoffs) as my fallback team with the Jets out of the picture. And it shouldn’t be hard to cheer for Pittsburgh under these conditions. When I woke up this morning it was five degrees outside and it won’t be too much better at Heinz Field at game time. Throw in a Miami team which has played well, but not spectacularly in the home stretch and you can see why Big Ben’s crew is a prohibitive favorite. I’ll take the frozen home field advantage and go with Ed on this one. Pittsburgh wins it 27-12 in a game where they are slowed more by the field conditions than the Dolphins defense.
Ed: Today’s second game pits the New York Giants against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field (4:40 pm, FOX). The temperature will be even lower than in Pittsburgh at 14º but no precipitation expected. The cold will matter less with the Giants, but home field will loom just as large. So will momentum; the Pack has won six games in a row, including three games against playoff teams. The Giants have won three of their last four, but their two wins over playoff teams came at home, not on the road. The Giants’ defense gives up seven fewer points a game than the Pack’s, but Green Bay scores eight more points a game than New York. This may end up as the closest game of the weekend, but I’ll pick the Pack for a narrow 24-21 win.
Jazz: I’m not so sure about the predictions for this game as some of the experts. The Giants (unlike that, er… other New York team) consistently produce solid, if not championship seasons. There are some seasons where you can just feel the magic curling around them, such as in 2012 where they weren’t exactly prohibitive favorites when they rode that train all the way to crushing the Patriots in the Superbowl. Do they have it this year? If this game were being played in New Jersey I’d have to take a chance on them, but Lambeau Field in January is a cruel mistress. Also, the Giants haven’t put up 28 points in a single game in I don’t know how long and they may have to do that to keep up with the Pack. I’m going with Green Bay also, 27-20.
For a bit of perspective on the historical nature of this game, check out this tweet and picture from Elliot Harrison.
Grounds crew prepping Lambeau Field (City Stadium) the night bef the '61 Championship between the Giants and Packers. pic.twitter.com/A6BCnb2J6r
— Elliot Harrison (@HarrisonNFL) January 5, 2017