Only 8 teams remain!
The NFL season is quickly winding down as we are just four weeks away from Super Bowl 50! Before that game takes place though, a few more games need to be played (7 games to be exact, including the Pro-Bowl) and let’s hope that they are more exciting than last week’s wild-card games.
While the wild-card games lived up to their names and produced some wild moments (I’m looking at you Blair Walsh and Vontaze Burfict), for the most part they weren’t terribly great games. The divisional games this weekend though, could be a completely different stories.
All 8 teams could easily win the Super Bowl this season and all 8 teams could also get blown out this weekend and I wouldn’t be surprised either way. That’s just the type of crazy NFL season we are having this year. That being the case, but upon closer inspection, I honestly believe that three out of the four games this weekend should be easy victories, with only one game being truly competitive. I know that seems like the opposite of what i just wrote above, but roll with me for a minute and hear me out!
While all 8 teams have the strengths of a Super Bowl Champion, they all have fatal flaws too. As a matter of fact, most of the team’s biggest flaws are who they have to play! That is why if you look at all 8 teams objectively, they all have championship pedigrees no doubt, but when you look at them with the facts (aka injuries, who they have to play, where they have to play, etc) it becomes clear that three teams have almost no chance this weekend.
The only game that features two teams that both could win this weekend is in fact, the first one played today, when Kansas City travels to New England. At the beginning of the week I kept thinking, “oh the Pats have this one easy” but as I’ve had time to review this matchup more and more, this game is much closer to a tossup than a blowout to me.
For starters, the Chiefs are coming in on an 11-game winning streak. Even if most of those wins were against terrible teams, that is an incredible streak that only great teams can put together, plain and simple. The assumed lose of star wideout Jeremy Maclin to a high ankle sprain will hurt alot as the Chiefs hope to spread the field against the Pats, but it doesn’t destroy their chances!
In fact, the best thing for Kansas City is the ever improving health of pass-rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali… and the Patriots laundry list of injured players.
The Pats will start today’s game with Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Chandler Jones and nearly the entire offensive line not at 100% as they are all dealing with some kind of aliment! Plus, we don’t even know how effective Tom Brady will be after hurting his ankle two weeks ago against Miami in the regular season finale. He certainly was hurt that day and did not play well at all. Now you have to assume after two weeks off he should be fine, but we will have to wait and see to be sure.
The best case scenario for Kansas City is that early in the game, Houston or Hali gets through the Pats Swiss cheese o-line with ease and makes Brady uncomfortable in the pocket all day. As a result, New England will have to get the ball out quickly through the air or rely on an aging Steven Jackson and co. to lead them to victory on the ground.
The major problem for the Chiefs with that game plan though, is that while they have a ball-hawking secondary with players like Eric Berry and Marcus Peters, they can be very boom-or-bust when it comes to making plays! Meaning that it could lead to a few picks for the Chiefs’ defense, or it could lead to huge touchdowns for New England. Most quarterbacks struggle with getting the ball out fast and when their rhythm is messed up so it could end up being great for the Chiefs if they can do that later on today, except most quarterbacks aren’t Tom Brady.
As such, I think Brady, being the G.O.A.T that he his, will be able to handle the pass rush and secondary of Kansas City, while making enough plays to get his Patriots the win. It won’t be easy and if the team gets healthy soon, I could easily see them bowing out in the AFC title game next week, but before that happens, I do have them getting the win in Foxboro today, 24-21.
As for the rest of the games this weekend, as I stated earlier, I don’t see them being very competitive games. The night game tonight, between the Packers and the Cardinals is a rematch of a week 16 game that ended with a 38-8 scoreline in Arizona’s favor. Not much has changed since then.
The Packers got by Washington last week sure, but the Redskins weren’t a great team, and certainly aren’t as good as Arizona! The Packers lack an identity on offense still, which is unbelievable to write about an Aaron Rodgers lead team. Green Bay might make the score respectable in the end, but Arizona will move on easily, as they have a great offense and defense to give them a perfect balance. The Cards win, 35-20.
Then on Sunday, the day kicks off with a matchup between the Panthers and the Seahawks as we get another rematch of a regular season game. The two teams clashed in Seattle back in week 6 as Carolina got a late touchdown to escape with a win, 27-23.
Therefore with the Panthers winning the previous contest and tomorrow’s game being played in Carolina this time, where the team was 8-0 during the regular season, it should be an easy win for them right?
Not only will it not be easy, but I expect the Seahawks to come in and put a beatdown on Carolina. That isn’t even a knock on the Panthers, who any other season would be my Super Bowl favorites, it’s just a sign of how much I believe in Seattle right now. I know they barely got past the Vikings last week, but this team is the two-time defending NFC Champs for a reason.
The offense has looked better than it ever has during this remarkable three year run and they are getting a healthy Marshawn Lynch back this weekend. Then you add in the fact that they have one of the greatest defenses of all-time and I just simply don’t see them losing. Plus they have the added chips on their shoulders of A.) knowing what it’s like to win the Super Bowl and B.) knowing what it’s like to lose it. This team NEVER wants to lose like they did last year in Glendale and as a result, losing is no longer an option for this time as they want that Super Bowl XLVIII feeling back again. The Hawks win, 31- 17.
The last game of the weekend is the one I am most interested in because I am a Broncos fan! My Broncos will host the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday afternoon in the Mile-High City in what could have been a great game. I say that, not as a homer, but as a disappointed sports fan.
The Steelers honestly should have no chance in this game because of major injuries to star players. Antonio Brown and DeAngelo Williams are both going to miss the game and Ben Roethlisberger is battling a major shoulder injury on his throwing shoulder. Add in the fact that when these teams battled a few weeks back in week 15, it took a miraculous second half comeback in Pittsburgh to give the Steelers the win, 34-27. While all that certainly could happen again, I feel like that was a perfect storm for the Steelers and it seems very unlikely history repeats itself.
The Broncos had the top-rated defense this year and as a result, during that huge comeback win, the Steelers were the only team to embarrass the Denver D all season long. Injuries or not, the defense will be hungrier than ever before to prove that was a fluke and look to make big plays at the expense of Big Ben’s injured arm.
As long as the Broncos offense doesn’t turn the ball over and can score some points, they should be able to secure this victory over Pittsburgh, 28- 17.