Will the Green Bay Packers avoid another postseason upset to the New York Giants?
The NFL feels like it’s just finished a bye week. Outside of the Packers-Lions season finale, Washington’s loss at New York and a few battles for playoff seeding, Week 17 featured a number of meaningless games.
There’s nothing meaningless about this week. Eight teams fight it out for a chance to advance to the divisional round. Green Bay—winners of six straight and NFC North champions—host the New York Giants in the final wild-card game.
Oakland travels to AFC South winners Houston, Detroit visits NFC West champions Seattle and AFC North kings Pittsburgh host Miami. It’s all to play for.
Who emerges victorious?
NY Giants (5) at Green Bay (4)
We’ve been here before. If there’s one team to make Packers fans cringe in January, it’s the New York Giants. Like in 2007 and 2011, these Giants boast a talented defense capable of slowing down a red-hot Green Bay offense. Eli Manning knows his way around the postseason, and he’ll be aiming to strike a connection with Odell Beckham Jr. against a decimated Green Bay secondary.
The fact this game is at Lambeau leans me towards the Packers. Aaron Rodgers is on fire and I’m not sure any team can stop this offense while he’s making plays as he is. For all of New York’s defensive talent, they are No. 23 against the pass.
Advantage Green Bay.
Pick: Green Bay
Oakland (5) at Houston (4)
Don’t rush home for the wild-card opener, unless you don’t care for quarterback play. This game is going to be ugly. Oakland are expected to be sending out rookie quarterback Connor Cook, who was their third-string passer just a few weeks ago.
His reward is a road trip on a short week to the No. 1 ranked defense. Yes, Brock Osweiler is back under center for the Texans, and this will give Raiders fans hope of an upset, but Houston advances a step further than it could manage a year ago.
Detroit (6) at Seattle (3)
Talk about stumbling into the playoffs. Once in the hunt for a first-round bye, Detroit dropped all the way to the sixth seed with three consecutive losses. The Lions must now complete the toughest route of any team to reach the Super Bowl, and it all begins with a trip to one of the most hostile environments in the league.
Seattle’s below-par play of late will give Lions fans a glimmer of hope. If they can generate any kind of pressure on Russell Wilson and make this game a low-scoring affair, they’ll have a shot.
Recent form doesn’t suggest it’ll pan out, though. Detroit struggles to rush the passer, can’t run the ball and gives up a ton of big plays on defense. Those aren’t the ingredients to win in Seattle.
Miami (6) at Pittsburgh (3)
Much is said of the Packers’ hot streak, but Pittsburgh too are in fine form, winners of seven straight. Miami is No. 30 against the run, enough to make Dolphins fans cringe at the sight of Le’Veon Bell. Despite missing the season’s first three games, Bell piled up 1,884 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns this year.
The Dolphins will need to control the clock and run the ball effectively to win, but this Steelers offense is far too talented to not see them home.
Last week: 10-6
Final regular season record: 149-96 (.608)