NFL postseason predictions
Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a win over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Jan. 1, 2017 in Detroit, Mich. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
The National Football League’s roller coaster 17-week regular season ended Sunday and the postseason begins this weekend with only one certainty: there will be a new Super Bowl champion crowned.
Neither of last year’s finalists, Denver or Carolina, even made it into the tournament this time round. The Broncos and Panthers produced the worst pair of sequels since The Matrix.
This year, there’s a fairly strong favourite (New England) and probably about three to five teams that could realistically win it.
The AFC side – which has been riddled by quarterback injuries – is weaker than the gauntlet in the NFC, which features five strong teams.
Here are the four match-ups on wild-card weekend (all times Pacific):
Raiders at Texans
Saturday, Jan. 7 @ 1:30 p.m.
This is a tossup, as both teams have major quarterbacking problems.
Oakland was one of the feel-good stories of the season until their QBs started dropping like Steph Curry threes.
By the end of Sunday, they were down to third-string rookie Connor Cook, and it’s unknown if coach Jack Del Rio has anymore tricks up his sleeve.
Houston has its own version of a black hole at quarterback: “starter” Tom Savage injured, replaced by Brock Osweiler – and the only award he’ll be up for is “Agent of the Year” but they are at home and that might be enough.
Lions at Seahawks
Saturday, Jan. 7 @ 5:15 p.m.
Detroit is reeling, having lost three straight, and will be outdoors against the loudest fans in the league supporting the enigmatic Seahawks.
If Seattle wins – and they should – they will head to Atlanta for a very tough match-up against the 2-seed Falcons.
Dolphins at Steelers
Sunday, Jan. 8 @ 10:00 a.m.
Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s unknown injury status, contrasted with Pittsburgh’s healthy and experienced Ben Roethlisberger, who has an arsenal of offensive weapons at his disposal, favours the home team.
Watch the ground battle between the Dolphins’ Jay Ajayi (who ran for 200+ yards against Pittsburgh earlier this season) and the Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell.
Giants at Packers
Sunday, Jan. 8 @ 1:40 p.m.
The marquee match-up of the weekend, the current long-range forecast for the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field is good weather but cold (-6 C to -11 C).
Green Bay has won six straight since Aaron Rodgers said they could run the table but they are also running out of cornerbacks. Who will cover New York’s Odell Beckham Jr.?
This promises to be a great one, likely going down to the final possession.
Popping corn and relaxing this weekend: Patriots, Chiefs, Cowboys, Falcons.