6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6) at 3. Green Bay Packers (11-5)
In the early 2000s, the Buccaneers had trouble winning cold-weather playoff games, losing in Philadelphia in consecutive playoff appearances. This all changed when Jon Gruden came along, though Donovan McNabb's injury helped matters. This is a hump this new Tampa regime may have to overcome. It's quite difficult to imagine Jameis Winston, in his first postseason start, beating Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau.
Packers 27, Buccaneers 20
5. Dallas Cowboys (11-5) at 4. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
These teams may both be 11-5, but the road they took to get here was much different. The Seahawks won a horrible division, while the Cowboys just lost a tough battle to the upstart Eagles in a division in which only one team had a losing record (Giants, 7-9). Dallas is the superior team, as it has the better offensive line. David Irving will no longer be suspended, so he'll harass Russell Wilson enough to give Dak Prescott his first playoff victory.
Cowboys 24, Seahawks 16
6. Houston Texans (8-8) at 3. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
The Texans are only in the playoffs because the AFC is such a thin conference. There are two elite teams (Patriots, Raiders), and three second-tier squads (Steelers, Titans, Chiefs), and that's it. The sixth spot seems wide open, but Houston managed to squeeze into the final seed. This was initially Baltimore, but with Joe Flacco's troublesome back and Kenneth Dixon's meniscus injury, I had to choose someone else. The Chargers were considered, but I don't trust them to stay healthy. Thus, I went with the Texans. Either way, this should be an easy victory for the Steelers, though I do expect better things from Deshaun Watson in the future.
Steelers 24, Texans 13
5. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at 4. Tennessee Titans (11-5)
The Titans have the better offensive line and quarterback. Kansas City's defense is superior, but not by much; Tennessee has a solid stop unit of its own. Still, these teams are close, so home-field advantage will help the Titans. Besides, it's not like Alex Smith hasn't failed in the playoffs before.
Titans 19, Chiefs 16
2017 NFL Playoff Predictions - Divisional Round
5. Dallas Cowboys (11-5) at 1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
The Falcons have the better quarterback and offensive line, thanks to the departures of Ronald Leary and Doug Free. However, the real difference between these two teams are the stop units. Atlanta has a young, talented defense that continues to improve by leaps and bounds. That will prove to be the deciding factor in this divisional round matchup.
Falcons 34, Cowboys 24
3. Green Bay Packers (11-5) at 2. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
This might seem like a game in which Aaron Rodgers brings his playoff experience into Philadelphia and shows Carson Wentz how to perform in the postseason. However, the Eagles have the better offensive line and pass rush, and Wentz seems sharp enough not to fold in his first postseason appearance of his career. He should be able to torch Green Bay's woeful cornerbacks with the help of his improved receiving corps. The Eagles will continue to make their shocking run, advancing to the NFC Championship.
Eagles 30, Packers 27
4. Tennessee Titans (11-5) at 1. New England Patriots (14-2)
The Titans have a chance to make a lot of noise this year, and under the right circumstances, they could advance to the AFC Championship. Not if they have to go through New England, however. Tom Brady can whisper, "Oh sweet, summer child" into Marcus Mariota's ear as he schools the young quarterback.
Patriots 26, Titans 16
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) at 2. Oakland Raiders (12-4)
The Raiders had no chance in the playoffs last year when they lost both Derek Carr and Donald Penn to injury. If they have better luck with health this upcoming season, they should be able to make a deep run in the postseason. The Steelers managed to defeat an AFC West team in the second round of the playoffs this past January, but they won't have the luxury of going up against Alex Smith this time. Derek Carr, unlike Smith, has what it takes to reach the Super Bowl.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4) at 1. Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
The Eagles reached the NFC Championship with Donovan McNabb in his second full season as a starter. That's exactly what's happening here with Carson Wentz leading the charge. However, McNabb fell to a superior offensive team when the Rams defeated Philadelphia. The Falcons are also superior offensively, and their defense is pretty solid as well. The Eagles will have an even better shot at the Super Bowl in 2018 when Sidney Jones returns from injury, but for now, Atlanta will move on to Minneapolis.
Falcons 31, Eagles 27
2. Oakland Raiders (12-4) at 1. New England Patriots (14-2)
Here's another instance in which a young, extremely talented quarterback is going up against a signal-caller with much more experience. The result could be different, however. The Patriots have improved from last year despite being 14-2, but they were very lucky in 2016. They ripped through a very easy schedule, then had the luxury of beating up on a Steeler team that lost Le'Veon Bell in the opening quarter. They were down 28-3 in the Super Bowl, but the Falcons choked and gave up their lead. I'm definitely not saying that New England can't reach the Super Bowl, obviously, but it could be time for a new dynasty to begin, and Derek Carr has the talent to be the face of the NFL's new dominant power.
Raiders 27, Patriots 23
2017 NFL Playoff Predictions - Super Bowl LII at Minneapolis
Atlanta Falcons (13-3) vs. Oakland Raiders (12-4)
The Falcons might be relieved not to see the Patriots in the Super Bowl again, as I imagine that they're scarred from last year's comeback. Unfortunately for Atlanta, the end result could end up being the same.
These teams are very close in talent, so picking a winner is almost a coin flip. Both the Falcons and Raiders have elite quarterbacks and top-tier offensive lines, with some intriguing talent on defense. In the end, I'm going to side with the team that didn't blow a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl.