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Sunday’s NFL Divisional Round Preview

With the field narrowed now to six teams, Sunday will determine who the Falcons and Patriots play on Championship Weekend

The first day of the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs saw both home teams moving on as the Atlanta Falcons disposed of the Seattle Seahawks and the heavily favored New England Patriots cruised past the Houston Texans. The Falcons and Patriots opponents will be determined after today’s action, as the the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Kansas City Chiefs for the right to play in Foxborough next week ,and the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys play to see who meets the Falcons in the NFC Championship game.

The game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs was originally scheduled to start at 1 p.m. EST, but due to inclement weather in the forecast, the game has been pushed back to 8:20 p.m EST.

  • Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys
  • Sunday January 15, 4:40 p.m. ET
  • AT&T Stadium, Arlington TX
  • Line: Cowboys -5.5

This should be a great matchup as the Cowboys who were the hottest team in the NFL this season welcome the Packers to town who are the hottest team right now in the NFL. The Packers are coming off an impressive 38-13 victory over the New York Giants on Wild Card Weekend.

The Cowboys may have bested the Packers 30-16 earlier in the year, but recent history plays in favor of the Packers. Green Bay has beaten the Cowboys in five of their last six meetings to tie up their all time series at 17 games a piece. It was the Packers who bested the Cowboys 26-21 in 2015 when these two teams met in the playoffs two years ago. The game sparked much debate when the football world was torn on the Dez Bryant non-catch that left the question of what the true definition of a catch was.

Difference is this playoff game is going to go down in the Cowboys backyard, and there are a couple of rookies in Dallas calling the shots, and calling them well. Quarterback Dak Prescott has a phenomenal rookie season, completing 67.8% of his passes for 3,667 yards and 23 touchdowns to just four interceptions. His 104.9 QB rating was good for 4th in the league behind only Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Not bad company for a rookie.

The other half of the rookie craze going on in Dallas is running back Ezekiel Elliott. Not only did Elliott lead all rookies in rushing yards this season, he lead the entire NFL with 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Elliott also added 363 yards receiving and a touchdown reception, making him not only a front-runner for Rookie of the Year honors, but a serious contender for league MVP.

Is there any player in not only football, but the world that is hotter than Aaron Rodgers right now? Rodgers has been absolutely lights out down the stretch, and it has carried over to the playoffs. Over the last eight games, Rodgers has completed 68.7% of his passes for 2,380 yards and 22 touchdowns. The most amazing part of his eight game run is he hasn’t thrown a single interception during that time. Recently he has only gotten better, throwing four touchdown passes and throwing for at least 300 yards in each of his last three games. The only thing not going in Rodgers favor is his top receiver, Jordy Nelson, will not be able to play with fractured ribs after taking a brutal hit at the hands of New York Giants cornerback Leon Hall last week.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 31 Dallas Cowboys 27

Although Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott haven’t played like rookies this season, this game may make the butterflies come out in their stomachs just enough for the experience and streak of Aaron Rodgers to come through in clutch time and deliver the Packers a victory and invitation to play for the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs
  • Sunday January 15, 8:20 p.m EST
  • Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
  • Line: Chiefs -2.5

This game has potential to be the game of the year. Bold statement, but both teams have the ability to be explosive and make big plays. The Steelers looked impressive on both sides of the ball last week against Miami, and the victory over the Dolphins last week was their eighth in a row.

If history is to play a role in this game, the smart bet would be on Pittsburgh, as the Steelers boast a 21-11 all-time record against the Chiefs including taking four out of the last five. In the playoffs Pittsburgh is an impressive 35-23 (.603),  while Kansas City is only 9-16 (.333).

Pittsburgh offense is a well-rounded-,well oiled machine as the Steelers trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are arguably the best trio in the game. Ben Roethlisberger fought through a couple of injuries this season but still managed to average nearly 273 yards passing per game, while throwing 29 touchdowns in 14 games this season. Antonio Brown had his fourth straight season with at least 100 catches for over 1,200 yards. Le’Veon Bell averaged 157 yards from scrimmage a game. In just 12 games this season, Bell found the endzone nine times.

Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell torched the Chiefs defense in the game between these two clubs in week 4. In his first game back from suspension, Bell accounted for 178 yards, 144 of which were on the ground on 18 carries. Antonio Brown only caught four balls against the Chiefs for 64 yards, but two of those receptions were for touchdowns.

Kansas City has a firecracker of their own that has been a huge reason for the success of the Chiefs this season. Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs 2016 5th round pick out of Western Alabama, has been fantastic for Kansas City this year. Hill was responsible for 11 touchdowns this season in four different ways, rushing (3), receiving (6), kick return (1) and punt return (1). The rookie has big play potential every time each touches the ball.

The Chiefs defense will need to force Big Ben to make mistakes in this contest. Kansas City has been fantastic all year long causing turnovers, as they lead the league in takeaways with 32. When the defense provides the offense with takeaways, the offense capitalizes, as they have scored 105 points this season off of turnovers, second in the NFL only to Denver.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Kansas City Chiefs 28

This game is going to be close throughout, but in the end the Chiefs will do enough to hold off the Steelers. The advantage of playing in Kansas City will set the Chiefs up with a trip to New England to take on the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.


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