Atlanta Falcons 36, Seattle Seahawks 20
Nick Bair: I was wrong. I thought Seattle was primed for an underdog run back to the Super Bowl, but clearly I have been underestimating the Falcons too much. After surviving a few early blows, Atlanta took charge of the game and never let it go. For Atlanta, they now get one more game at the Georgia Dome. With a win and trip to the Super Bowl, it will clearly become the biggest moment for the Falcons there (yeeesh what a rough list). For Seattle, they will have to focus their offseason on rebuilding that terrible offensive line and trying to keep this core together for one more big run.
Jordan Curet: Falcons, Rise Up! It was a deserved win for this Atlanta team that has looked the part of a contender most of the season. Julio Jones is a monster and Matt Ryan has found a level of consistency that eluded him earlier in his career. The Seahawks, on the other hand, found the limits of their offensive line when another man, Germain Ifedi, went down injured. That combined with a banged up defense was no match for the Falcons on either side of the ball. Looking ahead, we are all in for some fireworks when the Packers arrive in the Dome this coming weekend.
Randy Haines: Man this Falcons offense is scary. Even without Earl Thomas the Seahawks still have a really good defense, but that didn’t stop Matty Ice and company from being able to consistently move the ball down the field all game. Some sports books have the early over/under for the Atlanta vs Green Bay game at 60 and I’m really tempted to take the over. This weekend should be a blast.
New England Patriots 34, Houston Texans 16
NB: This game was never really in doubt. The Texans’ defense did come to play as I thought they would, but you can’t win in New England with Brock Osweiler. I think Bill Belichick is ecstatic that his team “struggled” this week in an 18 point victory. He now has bulletin board material to rip into his guys to get them revved up for Pittsburgh Sunday. For Houston, they should really retain my guy Bill O’Brien and give him another chance with this overachieving team. I also can’t wait for JJ Watt and JaDeveon Clowney to play together at full strength next year. Get your popcorn ready.
JC: Called it. The Patriots are the best team in the AFC and the Texans, which lack a team on one side of the ball, never stood a chance. It’s actually very impressive they managed to score 16 points considering how bad the offense has been, but then you remember the Patriots really don’t have a great defense and the scoreline makes a little more sense. That achilles heel might cost them next week against the Steelers who have the offensive fire power to light up the Patriots.
RH: The Pats played maybe their worst game of the season and still won easily. America had to put up with Houston an extra week then we deserved, but thankfully they are gone. I expect New England to clean up some of the issues they had this past weekend as they could be in real trouble against the Steelers if their mistakes from Saturday night continue.
Green Bay Packers 34, Dallas Cowboys 31
NB: Why do I keep picking against Aaron Rodgers? He is un-friggin-believable. Major props to the Dak Prescott though for leading his team back after a big deficit and not getting shaken up by the moment. If I’m a Dallas fan (which of course I’m not, because LOL), I have to be asking why Zeke wasn’t fed the ball more. Only 22 carries against a below average defense? That could have swung the game in hindsight. Alas, the Pack keep marching on and Dallas has a long offseason to decide what to do with Tony Romo.
JC: The best game of the weekend saw Aaron Rodgers continue to cement his legacy. My own bias aside, it is undeniable Green Bay played a great game against an excellent Dallas offense. Rodgers continues to put the team on his back but got two huge assists Sunday from Mason Crosby. The cojones level to hit both of those fields goals is off the charts. More impressive was, despite letting Dallas back into the game, the Green Bay defense held them to field goals at key moments. They did just enough to allow Rodgers to win it and that seems like a replicable recipe.
RH: What a game this was. Having said that why is anyone surprised by the outcome? This is what the 2000’s Cowboys do. Get overhyped in the regular season and come up short in their first playoff game. The Cowboys defense that was smoke and mirrors all season was finally exposed when it mattered most. The good news for Dallas is any questions that may have remained about Dak were answered, he is legit and that is something to build on. If the Cowboys want to do anything more than one and done in the playoffs they need to add impact players on defense because what they currently have is a huge pile of nothing special on that side of the ball.
Pittsburgh Steelers 18, Kansas City Chiefs 16
NB: This outcome was not super surprising. Vegas had this as the closest game of the weekend, and the final score showed that to be correct. This was a gutsy win by Pittsburgh, but that’s what good teams do in the playoffs. Win when they don’t play their best (see New England on Saturday). Its tough to bet against the Patriots, but the Steelers are a team that can beat anyone on the right day. For KC, is it finally time to cut bait with Alex Smith? The ceiling for this team seems to be an early playoff exit unless they can upgrade to a more dynamic signal caller. I don’t know what the answer is for the Chiefs, but I know it’s not Alex Smith.
JC: Andy Reid did it again. And by that, I mean mismanaged the clock in order to choke away the game. At least Tyreek Hill isn’t in the playoffs anymore. The Steelers are actually my pick to upset the Patriots next week, given how deadly their offense can be when it’s clicking. The three headed monster of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell should be more than enough to dismantle the New England defense.
RH: As an Eagles fan, I’ve seen Andy Reid at his best. A great offensive mind and the rare ability to get the most out of all of his players whether it’s his star player or the 53rd guy on the roster. I’ve also seen what makes Andy Reid frustrating as hell. Big red is a good, but not great coach, and that is all the little things that show up in the biggest moments. On the other side, Pittsburgh has the talent to be in the AFC title game, but the way they’ve played throughout this season they have to feel a little fortunate to be here. They are just not that impressive on a consistent basis.
-Nick Bair, Jordan Curet & Randy Haines
Photo Credit: Seattle Times