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NFL picks, predictions against the spread, Divisional round

What does Jesse’s crystal ball say?

Wild Card Playoffs - Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

Last week was not a good week of football. There were no good football games to watch, except the first half of the Giants Packers game. And then, perhaps fittingly, the Packers hit a Hail Mary to end the first half in the lead and never looked back. Perhaps it was karma for the Hakeem Nicks hail mary that ended the Packers season in 2011, but whatever the case hopefully this week we’ll see better football. In terms of picks, throughout the season I tallied 125 wins and a 106 losses (with 7 ties), but started the playoffs 1-3. Simply put, I expected the games to be reasonably close, and they weren't.

Seattle Seahawks (+6.5) at Atlanta Falcons

The matchup to watch here when the Falcons have the ball is the Falcons passing game over the deep middle of the field vs the Seahawks passing defense deep. Prior to Earl Thomas going out this matchup may have even favored the Seahawks. But Earl Thomas might be the league’s best safety and I think it’s fair to say he has the most range in the league so that loss hurts.

Another matchup to watch is Vic Beasley against the Seahawks porous pass blocking. Beasley has been an absolute terror since he entered the league and had 15.5 sacks this year. He can single handily wreck a game.

Perhaps the most important thing in the entire game though is the ability (or inability) for the Seahawks to find a run game. If Thomas Rawls is humming and the Seahawks are in bully mode they are one of the league’s best teams. When they don’t they’re a below average offense with a, right now, leaky defense. I think they’ll be able to run today and all of the recent playoff experience will pay off as the Falcons could take awhile to settle in.

Pick: Seahawks cover

Houston Texans (+16.5) at New England Patriots

I’m looking for a fun angle to this game, but there is not one. The Texans quarterback is awful, the Patriots defense is good. The Texans defense is well above average, but the Patriots score on everybody through scheme and personnel. The Patriots had two weeks to prepare are coming off a bye and are a much better team. I don’t give the Texans any chance to win this game, the only question is can the Texans keep it within 16.5 points?

Ill say they have enough defense to do it. The Texans defense ranked No. 1 overall in yardage, No. 2 overall in pass defense, and No. 12 in rushing defense. They rush the passer with a few different guys (Clowney, McKinney, and Merciless) and have playoff experience. 16.5 is just so many points for a playoff game, even if games do occasionally end up being blowouts, you always expect competitive games.

Pick: Texans stay within the 16.5

Pittsburgh Steelers (+1) at Kansas City Chiefs

This might be the most intriguing game for me in the entire weekend. Andy Reid is historically very good off a bye week and the Chiefs are good at home. This is going to be a very loud, raucous atmosphere in Kansas City Sunday night playoff game. The Chiefs are a legitimately good team. They are winning games right now at a pace that no one else in the league (not named New England) can’t match over the past 30 games. They don’t turn the ball over, they have a few dynamic offensive weapons (Kielce, Maclin, and of course Tyrek Hill) and they run the ball pretty well.

Their numbers don’t look super impressive (only 28 sacks on the year, 24th in yards, 25th in yards), but they have two dynamic pass rushers in Dee Ford and Justin Houston. They have a ballhawk and shut-down corner in Marcus Peters, good safety play in Eric Berry and they are generally well coached.

The Steelers are a team that looks like it has found “it” and it’s mostly due to the return of the league’s best running back Bell, Brown, and Big Ben. It is a dynamic offense, but I think they are going to sputter a bit in arrowhead.

Pick: Chiefs win outright

Green Bay Packers (+5) at Dallas Cowboys

This game is fairly simple to me. Can the Packers stop the Cowboys run game? The one thing the Packers do well on defense is stop the run.

And can anyone stop Aaron Rodgers? Rodgers is playing the quarterback position right now like I’ve never seen anyone play it before. It doesn’t matter if receivers are open, it doesn’t matter if they have a running game, it just doesn’t seem to matter what’s going on, this guy is amazing.

Last weekend the Giants absolutely bullied the Packers in the first half and the Packers still ended up scoring 38 points. I don’t think the Cowboys can stop that. You also have rookie QB, rookie Running back as the most important pieces on the Cowboys offensive team in their first playoff environment.

Pick: I think the Packers are going to win outright so I’ll definitely take the 5.5 points.