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NFL Divisional picks: At least one home team will do down

We like Patriots, Falcons and Steelers, split on Packers-Cowboys

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins
Tom Brady leads the top-seed Patriots.
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Last week’s four Wild Card blowouts left something to be desired, but hopefully this weekend will provide more enticing matchups. Here’s what you need to know for this weekend’s NFL Divisional Round games.

I will again pick against Jim Buzinski, who went 4-0 last week vs. my 3-1.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons, Saturday, 4:35 EST, FOX

It is very rare for a five-loss team to earn a bye in the playoffs, but this year’s Falcons have done it. Despite their record, this team was very deserving of a bye with the league’s best offense. However, one of their losses came on the road against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6. The team scored 24 points, tied for their third-lowest point total this season. The fact that they only scored less than 24 points twice this season shows how difficult this team is to beat. Quarterback Matt Ryan is an MVP candidate and he doesn’t want to waste his first postseason opportunity since losing in the 2012 NFC Championship Game.

Seattle has been to the playoffs in every season since 2012, and in their first year, their season ended in the Divisional Round, on the road, against the Falcons. If Seattle doesn’t want history to repeat itself, they will have to score early and often throughout the game.

If Seattle wants to compete in this game, their offense will have to play like they did last week. Running back Thomas Rawls will have to contribute another huge game for the Seahawks, and receivers like Paul Richardson and Jermaine Kearse will have to step up behind leading receiver Doug Baldwin. This game will be about offense, and their isn’t an offense better than Atlanta’s, so history will repeat itself, and Atlanta will move on.

Jeremy’s pick: Atlanta 35-31
Jim picks: Atlanta 26-20

Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots, Saturday, 8:15 EST, CBS

Does Houston have a chance in this game? Yes, but how big are their chances? Their chances are probably about the size of an ant. New England has had Houston’s number over the years, including in Week 3 this season, winning 27-0 despite Tom Brady being suspended.

Houston is here in large part because of their defense, which ranks first in the NFL; the top defense in the NFL has made the Super Bowl in each of the last three seasons. However, Houston does not have an offense dynamic enough to balance out.

If Houston were to win on Saturday, it would be their biggest win in franchise history, as they would reach their first AFC Championship Game. However, the team is not quite there as they will lose to the team they achieve to mimic. The Patriots are built to win in the playoffs, and they will be in their sixth straight AFC Championship.

Jeremy’s pick: New England 31-13
Jim’s pick: New England 38-10

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 1:05 EST, NBC

In what is perhaps my favorite matchup of the week, the Steelers take on the Chiefs at Arrowhead.

Luckily for Kansas City, the playoff Chiefs are very different from the Week 4 Chiefs who were blown out in Pittsburgh. Since their loss in Week 4, Kansas City is 10-2, and the two games they lost were by a combined four points. Pittsburgh is riding a lot of momentum just like Kansas City, and if last week’s game against Miami was any indication, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are absolutely lethal.

Ben Roethlisberger, Brown, and Bell make the Steeler offense multidimensional, and Kansas City will have their hands full. But, the Chiefs may have an answer as their defense averages over two takeaways per game. Ultimately, it will be a battle between Pittsburgh’s dynamic offense and Kansas City’s dynamic defense, and in watching Pittsburgh last week, I don’t think the Kansas City will be able to get enough stops.

Jeremy’s pick: Pittsburgh 24-23
Jim’s pick: Pittsburgh 13-10

Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, 4:40 EST, FOX

Dallas has had quite the season, and they definitely deserve home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but their road to the Super Bowl certainly won’t be a cakewalk, as they face the Packers, winners of seven consecutive games.

The main reason why the Packers have not lost since Thanksgiving has to be Aaron Rodgers. He has proven why he is a two-time MVP and has made an impressive case for a third. Rodgers is playing in his sixth Divisional Round Game, and this was the point last year when the team was eliminated by the Cardinals. This was large in part due to the lack of health in his supporting cast.

This weekend, WR Jordy Nelson is unlikely to play with a rib injury, but Randall Cobb exploded with three touchdowns last week, Davante Adams had a career season, and Ty Montgomery was a surprise emergence at running back. Despite Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott absolutely tearing up the NFL as rookies, I think experience will win out on Sunday and the Packers will end the Cowboys’ dream season.

Jeremy’s pick: Green Bay 27-24
Jim’s pick: Dallas 30-20