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Spectrum's NFL Playoff predictions

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Michael Akelson

Wild Card Round:

NFC:

(4) Green Bay Packers over (5) New York Giants

(6) Detroit Lions over (3) Seattle Seahawks

AFC:

(3) Pittsburgh Steelers over (6) Miami Dolphins

(5) Oakland Raiders over (4) Houston Texans

Divisional Round:

NFC:

(1) Dallas Cowboys over (6) Detroit Lions

(4) Green Bay Packers over (2) Atlanta Falcons

AFC:

(1) New England Patriots over (5) Oakland Raiders

(2) Kansas City Chiefs over (3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Conference Championship:

NFC:

(4) Green Bay Packers over (1) Dallas Cowboys

AFC:

(1) New England Patriots over (2) Kansas City Chiefs

Super Bowl:

Green Bay Packers 35, New England Patriots 31

It has been an unusual, uneven year in the NFL. More so than any year in recent memory, it feels there are no truly “great” team. The Cowboys, Patriots and Chiefs appear to be the least flawed teams, but none of the three are without fault. The game to watch on wild card weekend will be the one between the Giants and Packers. I believe whoever wins that one is going to go on to represent to the NFC in the Super Bowl.

On the AFC side, New England may be more vulnerable than some think. Without Rob Gronkowski, they are more limited at the skill positions this year than some realize. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick can overcome most roster deficiencies, but a good defense with a good game plan could challenge New England. The Chiefs are balanced on both sides of the ball and would give the Patriots all they could handle if they were to face off for the AFC Championship.

In a year where a lot of teams feel good enough to make the Super Bowl, but none appear to be overwhelming favorites, I’ll pick the teams with the two best players in the sport. The Packers-Patriots Super Bowl matchup has felt destined to happen for years and this is the year we finally get to see it.

In a matchup of two all-time greats, Rodgers outduels Brady to win his second ring as the Packers close out the season on a 10-game winning streak.

Brian Lara

Wild Card Round:

NFC:

(5) New York Giants over (4) Green Bay Packers

(6) Detroit Lions over (3) Seattle Seahawks

AFC:

(3) Pittsburgh Steelers over (6) Miami Dolphins

(5) Oakland Raiders over (4) Houston Texans

Divisional Round:

NFC:

(1) Dallas Cowboys over (6) Detroit Lions

(5) New York Giants over (2) Atlanta Falcons

AFC:

(1) New England Patriots over (5) Oakland Raiders

(2) Kansas City Chiefs over (3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Conference Championship:

NFC:

(5) New York Giants over (1) Dallas Cowboys

AFC:

(1) New England Patriots over (2) Kansas City Chiefs

Super Bowl:

New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17

The playoffs for the NFL this year are very interesting. Derek Carr’s injury really shook things up on the AFC side. Before Carr went down, the Chiefs, Patriots and Raiders all looked like serious Super Bowl contenders. I do think the Patriots will have the edge in advancing to the Super Bowl. The Chiefs have a stellar defense and they are the only real threat in New England’s way. Pittsburgh is a trendy pick but they will have to travel to both Kansas City and New England to advance to the Super Bowl.

In terms of the NFC, there are many good teams, but they all have flaws. The Cowboys look impressive with Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and a star-studded offensive line. However, they also had an easy schedule, with two of their losses coming from a surging Giants defense. The Cowboys defense is also a questionable unit. The Giants and Packers game is an interesting one. Aaron Rodgers has looked impressive, with the Packers offense firing on all cylinders. I do believe the winner of the Giants-Packers game will advance to the NFC conference championship and likely also the Super Bowl.

For my Super Bowl pick, I have Brady losing a third time to the Giants. The Patriots haven’t faced a defense as good as New York’s all season and that will be key when facing off with Brady. The Giants offense has been looking questionable throughout the season, but Eli Manning has proven in the past that he can get the job done in the playoffs. This game will be a close one, but the Giants will give the Patriots a tough time in a very familiar place for the two teams. Eli Manning will win his third ring and remove any doubt that he is a Hall of Fame quarterback.

Thomas Zafonte

Wild Card Round:

NFC:

(5) New York Giants over (4) Green Bay Packers

(3) Seattle Seahawks over (6) Detroit Lions

AFC:

(3) Pittsburgh Steelers over (6) Miami Dolphins

(5) Oakland Raiders over (4) Houston Texans

Divisional Round:

NFC:

(4) New York Giants over (1) Dallas Cowboys

(3) Seattle Seahawks over (2) Atlanta Falcons

AFC:

(1) New England Patriots over (5) Oakland Raiders

(2) Kansas City Chiefs over (3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Conference Championship:

NFC:

(4) New York Giants over (3) Seattle Seahawks

AFC:

(2) New England Patriots over (2) Kansas City Chiefs

Super Bowl:

New York Giants 13, Kansas City Chiefs 10

It may be crazy to think, but the winner of Giants-Packers seems like a lock to win the NFC. The Giants have arguably the best defense in the NFC and the Pack are red hot.

The Giants defense will prove to be too much for the Packers and that will be the story of the Giants’ road to Super Bowl 51, just like it was for Denver last season. The Giants consistently put away teams that most don't give them a chance against. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott couldn't get anything going against them and the Falcons have had issues against strong defensive units, as shown in the Seahawks game.

The AFC is presented with the same playoff question every year: who can beat the Patriots? I believe the Chiefs will. Before Derek Carr went down, the Raiders looked to be that magic on both sides of the field team like Denver was last year. But now the Chiefs have taken the mantle of most well rounded team in the AFC. And when the Patriots meet them in the AFC Championship, it will be fireworks. Though I see the Chiefs inching by them.

And once Super Bowl 51 rolls around, we will see a game that Giants fans have become familiar with: A low-scoring affair with the Giants defense making up for their inconsistent offense. The Chiefs are good, but they don't have the offense to get over the force that is Ben McAdoo’s defense.

Dan Petrucceli

Wild Card Round:

NFC:

(5) New York Giants over (4) Green Bay Packers

(3) Seattle Seahawks over (6) Detroit Lions

AFC:

(3) Pittsburgh Steelers over (6) Miami Dolphins

(5) Oakland Raiders over (4) Houston Texans

Divisional Round:

NFC:

(1) Dallas Cowboys over (5) New York Giants

(3) Seattle Seahawks over (2) Atlanta Falcons

AFC:

(1) New England Patriots over (5) Oakland Raiders

(3) Pittsburgh Steelers over (2) Kansas City Chiefs

Conference Championship:

NFC:

(1) Dallas Cowboys over (3) Seattle Seahawks

AFC:

(3) Pittsburgh Steelers over (1) New England Patriots

Super Bowl:
Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Dallas Cowboys 20

The Lombardi Trophy is truly up for grabs this season. Defense may win championships but the ability to deliver on offense will be the deciding factor in the playoffs this year. Kansas City and Seattle both have great defenses but their offenses won’t be able to keep up. Houston, Miami and Oakland’s lack of quality at the quarterback position will get them eliminated from the playoffs quickly. Even the strong teams have Achilles heels.

Pittsburgh has been hot and will have Le’Veon Bell healthy in the playoffs for the first time. The triple threat of Ben Roethlisberger, Bell and Antonio Brown will be dangerous. The Patriots seem to be the stronger team entering the playoffs with the best scoring defense in the league and Tom Brady playing lights out football. They should march to the AFC championship game easily, but Rob Gronkowski’s absence will eventually catch up to the Patriots and I think the AFC title game will be when it happens. I think the Steelers will exploit the Patriots pass defense and pull off the unlikely feat of walking out of Foxborough in January with a win.

Ezekiel Elliott has been tearing it up on the ground all season and I see that carrying into the playoffs. The Cowboys offensive line is the best in the league and that will be huge in the playoffs. Dallas’ biggest threat in the NFC is the winner of the Packers-Giants game. Aaron Rodgers has the ability to rack up points quick and Dak Prescott would certainly want to avoid a shootout. I think the Giants will be the one coming out of that game though and as hot as they are, they won’t beat Dallas for a third time this year.

In what will be the fourth iteration of this classic Super Bowl matchup, the Cowboys inexperience and inconsistency on defense will catch up to them and the Steelers will win their seventh Super Bowl in franchise history.

Sports desk can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com


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