*Lines accurate as of Wednesday @ 9 AM
Kansas City (+5) @ New England
Niko: Not particular excited about drawing KC (would have much rather preferred to play the ticking time bomb Bengals or stepping stone Texans…), but I do think the Patriots will win this game and cover the 5. The significance of the bye cannot be overstated, and assuming Edelman, Vollmer, Hightower and the rest of the reinforcements can bring 90% of their normal production, the Pats should have enough at home to beat this red hot Chiefs team. The expected loss of Jeremy Maclin could be crippling to a Kansas City offense that already lacks firepower. Extended thoughts coming in the Roundtable this weekend.
Pete: Out of all the potential opponents for the Patriots, I was most nervous about drawing the Chiefs. With a franchise tying 11-game win streak, the Chiefs are the hottest team in the NFL. In fact, they haven't lost since the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. However, I think that the Patriots will be able to tough this one out. With reinforcements on the way (Vollmer, Edelman, Jones, Hightower, etc.), the Patriots could return to form and start scoring in bunches. The health of Edelman is the most important thing on Bill Belichick's list of keys to the game this week. More thoughts in the Roundtable.
Jordan: The only healthy receiving threat on KC is Travis Kelce. That and Smith's unwillingness to throw downfield, should give the Pats more than enough time to figure out the Chiefs defense and put points on the board. Pats will win and get over the cover of 5.
Green Bay (+7) @ Arizona
Niko: Green Bay looked much better on the road last weekend against a Washington team that was playing well, but let’s not forget the 38-8 beat down the Cardinals placed on Aaron Rodgers and company in Arizona just 3 weeks ago. It’ll presumably be closer this time around, but it’s tough to go against the home team fresh off a bye here. Cardinals cover.
Pete: Green Bay was able to beat down the Washington Redskins last week, but remember that they are the friggin' Redskins. Against a much more formidable opponent, don't be surprised if Arizona wipes the floor with Aaron Rodgers and his band of merry cheeseheads. Arizona in a landslide.
Jordan: The Packers got lucky last week, in my opinion. They were facing a team who's QB had never started a playoff game in his career in Kirk Cousins. For the longest time, though, I felt the Redskins were going to win that game. Rodgers looked sharp, but Arizona is way better. Fresh off the bye week, and already having demolished the Pack a few weeks ago, Cards cover.
Seattle (+2.5) @ Carolina
Niko: In October, Seattle lost to Carolina at home and basically bottomed out (2-4 at the time). In the weeks following that loss, Seattle’s offense changed its identity completely and over the last nine games has scored 29+ points seven times. Cam Newton also struggled that meeting, going 20-36 with 2 interceptions. Going to go with my gut here, because I’ve seen them do it in these moments before: Seahawks get the W on the road.
Pete: After a heartbreaking win last week against the Vikings, don't be surprised if the Seahawks start rolling. The opportunity was there to knock off an extremely tough team in the playoffs, but the Vikes just couldn't get it done. This week, Seattle should be able to have their way with Carolina. I have been saying all year that I think this Panthers team is extremely overrated, and I hope that I am proven right this week. A one-and-done for the 2015-2016 Carolina Panthers.
Jordan: Fresh off the Kam Chancellor saga from the beginning of the year, Seattle lost to Carolina back in October. Since that game, the Seahawks have had a total turnaround on both sides of the ball. They really look like a team that's ready to make another run at the Super Bowl. Seahawks cover in this year's Bandwagon Bowl.
Pittsburgh (+6.5) @ Denver
Niko: I’d feel a lot better about going with Pitt if Roethlisberger was 100% and Antonio Brown was guaranteed to suit up, but I’m going to roll with them regardless. The Broncos D is talented, but has no composure, and does nothing specifically groundbreaking. Just last month the Steelers dropped 34 on Denver in a game Big Ben threw for 380 yards. Plus, does anyone really trust Gary Kubiak and/or Peyton Manning in the playoffs? I know I don’t.
Pete: This game is, conveniently similar to the Patriots game, all about health. If the Steelers were going into Denver with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, I would not hesitate to pick Pittsburgh. However, with the uncertainty and potential severity of injuries, I have to take the Denver Broncos in a crappy, sloppy, boring game.
Jordan: Anyone remember a few years back, when TJ Yates brought the Texans to the playoffs and Matt Schaub got healthy and started? The Texans were really good that year, but lost the game. I see that happening here against the Steelers to Denver. Osweiler is the better option, however, Kubiak doesn't see this. So I'll go with the murdered Steelers team with no Brown and a crippled Big Ben. I think Bryant and Wheaton can step up huge and bring the Steelers to the AFC Chanpionship game.