The four home favourites won through in wild card weekend and now move on to face the top seeds in the conference in Divisional round this weekend. The games are as follows

NFL Divisional Round Preview

The four home favourites won through in wild card weekend and now move on to face the top seeds in the conference in Divisional round this weekend. The games are as follows:

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (Saturday 9.35pm)

Thomas Rawls (161 yards) was running at will against an injury-riddled Lions defense, and Matthew Stafford seemed to spend the whole game facing 3rd-and-long, yet the Seahawks didn’t mount a two-score lead until midway through the fourth quarter last weekend. Let a team like the Falcons stay one big play away from beating you, and they will drop three or four big plays on you.
The Falcons lost 26-24 to the Seahawks in Seattle in October. It was a wild game that came down to a no-call on a Richard Sherman-Julio Jones downfield tussle. For two different yet well-matched teams, home-field advantage could make all the difference.

With the Falcons less likely to make early mistakes in their home dome, they will spend less time playing catch-up and more time dictating to the Seahawks on both sides of the ball with their explosive offense. The defensive line should do well against Seattle’s struggling offensive line too.

Markets show Seattle being available +4.5 points on the handicap, in an expected 51 point game. I expect the Falcons to win and cover at 10/11 generally

Houston Texans at New England Patriots (Sunday 1.15am)

Houston +16 44.5

Brock Osweiler only looks confident and credible when throwing between the numbers within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. You can’t beat the Patriots with two-yard handoffs and shallow crossing routes and this will be a far more difficult proposition than wild card weekend when Osweiler faced a struggling Oakland defense.

Houston’s defense was superb against Oakland and now has to face up to Tom Brady on the road. The big plays won’t come as easily for Clowney or Mercilus (who recorded two sacks against the Raiders) now that the Texans aren’t facing a third-string rookie behind a banged-up line. However Clowney and Mercilus remain the team’s only conceivable path to the AFC Championship Game

If the Texans can occupy the niche in the playoff ecosystem as the team that wins with sacks and turnovers, they have an outside shot of playing beyond next weekend. How unlikely this is in reflected in the Texans as whopping 15.5 point underdogs for this game.

Of course the Patriots should progress, but we have to take Houston 15.5 points here in a game that shouldn’t be a blow out

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday 6.05pm)

Pittsburgh opened for this game at Kansas City as small favourites after their high powered win over Miami before news of Ben Roethlisberger’s apparent ankle injury came through. He maintains he is playing but the Chiefs remain 2 point favourites in an expected 46 point game

The interplay of the three offensive Pittsburgh superstars (Big Ben, Brown and Bell) with an assist from a good offensive line and a defense that led NFL in sacks from week 11 -17 definitely gives the Steelers a really good shot here.

Against that Kansas City come off a bye, have a big home advantage at Arrowhead stadium and have added a big play threat to their offense in Tyreek Hill.

This is a difficult game to call. I will go for Pittsburgh +2 at 10/11, just, and expect a really close game

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday 9.40pm)

Green Bay come into the game on a seven game win streak during which Aaron Rodgers has been playing fantastically with 167-240, 2029 yards, 19 TDs, and no Interceptions.

The Cowboys are built to counteract Rodgers’ heroics with a “bend-but-not-break” defense and a ball-control offense with Zeke Elliott and the league’s best offensive line. The Cowboys’ running game neutralises the Packers blitz and uses the team’s defensive aggressiveness against it. The conservative Cowboys defense forces Rodgers to matriculate down the field with flat passes and running plays, causing Packers drives to stall whenever the quarterback is less than perfect.

Rodgers has not been less than perfect often and he is likely to give them a chance in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. The Cowboys will try to keep him off the field and ensure they don’t need 30+ points to win, which has frequently been the case for Packers opponents

At the prices, Green Bay +4 and 51 points expected, I like both Green Bay as an underdog and the over on points here