NFL divisional playoffs round 1 open thread

Jazz: Normally a push goes to the previous winner, but since both Ed and I nailed both of last Sunday’s games I’ll go ahead and kick off today’s playoff thread. Since we both took the Steelers and the Packers (though I came this close to taking the Giants) I’m up to a 3-1 record for the playoffs. I have a sinking feeling I’m going to have to hit some long shots if I stand a chance of catching up at this rate. But with the frozen weather and the old rule about Any Given Sunday, who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Ed: How does it feel to be 4-0 after the first weekend? An optimist would say that it’s a great way to start the playoffs … but a pessimist would think there’s nowhere to go but down. Who can be a pessimist when your own team is still in the playoffs, though?  The Steelers don’t play today, but there’s going to be at least one good game on tap today.

Jazz: Today’s first game has the Seahawks traveling cross country to visit the Atlanta Falcons (4:35 PM, FOX). These two teams already met once this year and it ended in a controversial play which left a lot of fans enraged when there wasn’t a pass interference call which might have changed the outcome. Seattle took that one by two points, and that was at home when their defense was firing on all cylinders. They’ve still got a tough D, but they’re a terrible road team and Atlanta has been on fire. I’ve got to go with the spread on this one and take the Falcons in a fun to watch romp, 27-22.

Ed: The Falcons-Seahawks game looks like one of those unstoppable-force-meets-immovable-object games, and those are unpredictable. Atlanta’s O scored 33.8 points per game during the regular season, while Seattle’s defense only gave up 18.3 points per game. Neither team performs especially well on the other side of the ball; Atlanta’s D is ranked 27th on defense in points allowed (25.4), and Seattle’s O is 18th at 22.1 PPG. Atlanta won its last four games while scoring at least 33 points, and going over 40 in two — but all against sub-.500 teams. They’re only 2-2 against playoff teams in the regular season, with the most recent being a home loss to Kansas City 29-28 in week 12. Matty Ice got picked twice by Eric Berry in that game, scoring on both plays — one a TD, the other a 2-point conversion pick that won the game for the Chiefs.

On the other hand, the Seahawks didn’t look impressive at the end of the season, going 3-3 and dropping a home game to the Cardinals in week 16 and barely getting past the doormat 49ers in week 17. Their defense looked fine at home against the Lions, but they coughed up 23 points in San Francisco in that final regular-season game, against an offense that ended the season ranked 27th in points scored. Without Earl Thomas and on the road, I wouldn’t bet on them stopping the #1 offense in the league. Falcons 31-20 over the Seahawks — but it should be a lot more fun than the night game.

Jazz: The night game is the dreaded Patriots hosting the Houston Texans (8:15 PM, CBS). I’ll be rooting for the Texans with all my might, but they are pulling against one of the widest spreads in playoff history, coming in as fifteen point underdogs. New England is rested and healthy, and while the Texans have had a good run this year it comes to an end tonight. Pats take it running away, 31-13.

Ed: This one doesn’t require much thought. Houston’s gone about as far as they can go, and probably farther than they deserve. Their defense can’t stand up to Tom Brady, and they’re going to be on the field a lot thanks to their 28th-ranked offense (points scored) going up against New England’s #1-ranked defense (points allowed). Get ready for a blowout of epic proportions, with the Pats cruising to a 35-7 win.

Atlanta Falcons Seattle Seahawks