Bing NFL picks – Divisional Round
Seattle @ Atlanta
The last time the Seahawks and Falcons met in the playoffs it was in January of 2013 in a game also played in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 30-28 but went on to lose in the NFC Championship game to San Francisco. This time around, Atlanta has the NFL’s No. 1 offense and will be playing a Seattle defense that will be without its star free safety Earl Thomas.
Seattle has beaten Atlanta in the last two meetings between the teams, including a 26-24 win earlier this season. The game featured a matchup of two of the best at their respective positions – Seattle CB Richard Sherman against Falcons WR Julio Jones. Jones caught seven passes that day for 139 yards and one touchdown. It will be interesting to see how Sherman does this time around without Thomas playing behind him.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was named first-team All-Pro for a regular season in which he completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns. Ryan also recorded a league-best 117.1 passer rating, but now the games mean so much more. Can Ryan win the big games? He has only one playoff victory in five tries.
The Seahawks finally got their running game going last week. Thomas Rawls ran 27 times for 161 yards and touchdown while the Seattle defense shut down the Lions holding them to just 231 total yards. Doing the same to Atlanta will be much more difficult.
Bing and Cortana predict Falcons to win with 73% chance.
Houston @ New England
For the past five seasons, the New England Patriots have advanced to the AFC Championship game. Making it to a sixth appears highly likely. New England will face Houston, a team it beat 27-0 earlier this season, in the AFC Divisional Round on Saturday. The Patriots have only played the Texans eight times in NFL history, but they have won seven including the last five in a row. The two teams met once in the postseason back in January of 2013. That game was also in Foxborough and the Patriots won big, 41-28.
For Houston to have any chance of even hanging with New England, DE Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Whitney Mercilus are going to have to have big days like they did last week against Oakland. Mercilus had two sacks and Clowney batted two passes, had an interception, and pressured Raiders QB Connor Cook all game long. In addition, Texans QB Brock Osweiler must not repeat his poor performance against the Patriots defense from earlier this season. He threw for just 196 yards and tossed an interception in the Texans 27-0 loss to the Patriots.
New England has the NFL’s best scoring defense giving up just over 15 points a game. The Patriots have won seven games in a row and enter Saturday’s game well rested. Quarterback Tom Brady leads the league’s fourth-best passing offense and RB LeGarrette Blount (1,161 yards) is the key to the NFL’s seventh-best rushing attack (117 yards per game). The Patriots will be awful tough to stop especially at home. It is why the Patriots are 16-point favorites heading into the game.
Cortana and Bing picks Patriots to win with 83% chance.
Pittsburgh @ Kansas City
The Pittsburgh Steelers were finally healthy and running on all cylinders with QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell, and WR Antonio Brown all getting involved in a 30-12 win over Miami in the Wild Card playoffs last week. Now, the Steelers will head to Arrowhead Stadium for a Sunday afternoon matchup with No. 2 Kansas City. The Steelers crushed the Chiefs back in Week 4 of the regular season. Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes in a 43-14 rout, but a change of venue might make a difference for Kansas City.
The Steelers have won four of their last five meetings with Kansas City. The only loss was during the 2015 regular season in a game played at Arrowhead. Pittsburgh, especially Roethlisberger, has been much less effective this season on the road. The Steelers QB has thrown just nine touchdowns against eight interceptions and has a completion percentage below 60 percent away from home. The problem for the Chiefs is that they have not won a playoff game at Arrowhead since the 1993 seasons, a total of four playoff games.
For Kansas City to win, they will have to slow down the Steelers’ Big Three – Roethlisberger, Bell, and Brown – and they will have to get production from the speedy Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs wide receiver has scored a touchdown on a play of at least 68 yards in each of Kansas City’s last four games. He can score as a receiver, on jet sweeps, and on punt and kick returns. The Pittsburgh defense will have to know where Hill is on every play. Pittsburgh is hoping that Roethlisberger will not be affected too much by an ankle injury that he suffered against Miami late in last week’s game.
Cortana predicts Chiefs to win with 63% chance.
Green Bay @ Dallas
Green Bay is hoping that history does not repeat when the Packers travel to AT&T Stadium to face the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Playoff. The last four times the Packers have faced the Cowboys in Texas in a playoff game, they have lost. Most recently, Green Bay and Dallas met in the postseason in January of 2015. The game was at Lambeau Field and won by the Packers, 26-21. The two teams actually met earlier this season at Lambeau and the Cowboys came away with a 30-16 win. Green Bay is a much different team than they were at that point in the season.
With their dominant 38-13 win over the New York Giants last week in the Wild Card playoff, the Packers have won seven straight games. If there was one team that Dallas didn’t want to face in the postseason, it was likely Green Bay. The advantage though for the Cowboys lies in playing at home where Dallas was 7-1 this season. Head coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys’ hopes fall squarely on the backs of a pair of rookies – QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott was the NFL’s leading rusher gaining 1,633 yards. He also scored 15 touchdowns for the league’s No. 2 rush offense. Prescott stepped in for the injured Tony Romo and looked like a seasoned veteran the entire year. He wound up throwing for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns, and he threw just four interceptions. Also surprising was the play of the Dallas defense which finished fifth in the NFL in points against (19.1). It will be up to Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, which has scored 30 or more points in four straight games, to carry the Packers on Sunday.
Bing predicts Cowboys to win with 51% chance.
Full table of NFL picks
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons – Atlanta Falcons 73%
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots – New England Patriots 83%
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs – Kansas City Chiefs 63%
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys – Dallas Cowboys 51%