By Johnnie Shaw
Gateway Staff Writer
The first week back to school is a drag, but one positive draw coming off syllabus week is the National Football Association NFC and AFC divisional playoffs Saturday and Sunday.
Here’s the breakdown of this week’s divisional matchups, as well as predictions as to which teams have a chance to compete in this year’s Super Bowl Championship.
Seattle Seahawks v. Atlanta Falcons
The first matchup pits Seattle’s third ranked defense, led by Richard Sherman and the “Legion of Boom,” against the Falcons top scoring offense, which includes the current leading MVP candidate Matt Ryan and top receiver Julio Jones. Although the Seahawks defense is currently short staffed due to the season ending injury suffered by starting safety Earl Thomas this regular season, expect them to meet expectations against a Matt Ryan and company, who have averaged over 33 point per game.
Prediction: This game will be won or lost by how much success the Falcon’s defense has in stopping Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense.
Houston Texans v. New England Patriots
Barring some sort of divine intervention, expect to see a Patriots victory this Saturday. Most fans don’t predict to see much competition for Tom Brady against a Houston defense that has been lagging since its loss of Pro Bowler JJ Watt earlier in the season. Also, despite his 1-0 record against the Patriots, don’t get any high hopes of another winning performance by Brock Osweiler, who the Patriot’s defense has been preparing for since before the Texans’ wild card game against the Raiders.
Prediction: Look for a blowout win in Belichick fashion.
Pittsburgh Steelers v. Kansas City Chiefs
The closest matchup of the weekend kicks off late on Sunday between conference rivals Pittsburgh and Kansas City. After a blowout loss to the Steelers in October, the Chiefs have set their sights on payback, and have quietly won 10 of their last 12 games. On the other side, the Steelers seek to keep their dynamic offense of Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and ‘Big’ Ben Roethlisberger on the path to what continues to be a record breaking season. Football fans, make time in your schedule to watch this one.
Prediction: Expect to see a close, back and forth battle between these two strong Super Bowl contenders.
Green Bay Packers v. Dallas Cowboys
The last time Aaron Rodgers played in AT&T stadium was in 2010 during Super Bowl XLV when he won his first championship. Having thrown 18 touchdown passes without a single interception in his last seven games, Rodgers is looking to start another historic playoff run this Sunday. However, he will be hard-pressed to outscore what might be the greatest offensive rookie duo to ever play the game in Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott, especially with his top receiver Jordy Nelson sidelined. Even with the return of Randal Cobb, who had three touchdowns last weekend, the Packers will have to contend with a Cowboys defense that is returning a number of key starters from injuries.
Prediction: Expect to see ‘Zeke and the boys keep eating and advance to the next round of the playoffs.