Initial Thoughts about Divisional Round of NFL Playoffs (Sunday games only)

I love this weekend. Not just we get Monday off but we get 4 NFL playoff games! You can get stuff done on Saturday morning and then lounge on the couch all Saturday afternoon and evening. Then you can continue your laziness into Sunday and maybe do something nice with your significant other Sunday night. That leaves you with Monday to take care of household chores! :-)

OK, so we shared our thoughts about the Saturday games in a previous article. Let's focus on the Sunday games.

  • Pittsburgh at Kansas City
    Vegas Line: KC -2.5 , O/U 45
    GE line: KC -2.70, O/U 44.67

This is a very tough game to prognosticate. Since these teams met in Week 4, the Chiefs have gone 10-2 with two of their losses by 2 points each. The Steelers struggled a bit by going 1-4 after that Week 4 game with KC but since then has rumbled off 7 straight victories. The Steelers definitely had some injuries, especially to Big Ben, during that 4 game losing streak but now they are healthy and look at what they did to Miami last week with both Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown at full strength. It's fair to say that the Steelers have the best RB and WR combo in the league right now and probably the best RB/WR duo in NFL history.

The Chiefs pretty much had their asses handed to them at Heinz Field back in the fall. However, this team has played much better since then and they are at home. They also had a week off and Andy Reid is famous for his nearly flawless record after bye weeks. In fact, he is 3-0 in the postseason after a bye week and 19-2 overall after bye weeks. One of those two losses was in 2012 when the Eagles were 4-12 and Reid was mourning the loss of his son due to a heroin overdose. The other one was in 2013 in Denver and that was when Peyton Manning had his record breaking year. Otherwise, Reid's teams are virtually unbeatable after a week of rest and preparation. That is a clear sign of excellent coaching.

The Chiefs have also discovered creative ways of using Tyreek Hill. The undersized, 5th round rookie out of West Alabama has taken the NFL by storm with the myriad ways he can score touchdowns. We will be curious to see how Hill will be used in this game and we would not be surprised if he has 2 - 3 big plays on Sunday.

Travis Kelce has also come alive and has realized his full potential with five 100+ yard receiving games in his last 7 games. Spencer Ware is healthy as well as Justin Houston. The Chiefs also have terrific defenders in Marcus Peters and Eric Berry. The Chiefs clearly have the personnel to somewhat limit the damage Bell and Brown can inflict and a talented offense to keep pace with the Steelers.

The Steelers, still are not a team to be trifled with. It seems that what has stopped them in the past few postseasons has been injury. Big Ben apparently was hobbled after the game against Miami but seems to be OK now. He didn't have a full practice on Wednesday but should Thursday and Friday.

Still, it's hard to pick against the home team here, especially in a venue that can get very raucous. This will be the Chiefs first postseason game at Arrowhead since 2010 so there will be a lot of energy in the stadium. Alex Smith has proven that he can play well in the postseason and should be up the task this Sunday. Through 5 playoff games, Alex Smith is 2-3 and lost three of those games by a combined total of 11 points. He has 1309 passing yards, 11 TDs, and 1 INT for a 60% completion percentage and a QB rating of 99.1. He also has 29 carries for 198 yards and a rushing TD. Over the course of a 16 game season, that would be over 4000 passing yards, 35 - 36 passing TDs, just 3 - 4 INTs, 600+ rushing yards, and 3 - 4 rushing TDs. Those are amazing numbers!

The Steelers did play some rather weak competition during its 7 game winning streak including Cleveland twice, Colts without Andrew Luck, and mediocre teams like Baltimore, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. The New York Giants were the only decent team the Steelers beat in that stretch. The combined record of their opponents in that 7 game run is 42-69-1 and the Steelers won those games by a margin of 9 - 10 points per game. On the other hand, the Chiefs face better competition in their last 12 games with a combined record of 100-92 and with a average point differential of little bit more than 7 points per game.

Basically the Chiefs played better competition and won those games by roughly the same margin the Steelers won their games during their 7 game winning streak but against significantly worse competition. The Steelers are 1-3 against teams with a winning record since they beat the Chiefs but the Chiefs are 5-2.

Finally, the Chiefs lead the NFL in turnover ratio at +16. While the Steelers were not far behind with +5, Big Ben's road numbers are not great. 20 TDs and 5 INTs at home but 9 TDs and 8 INTs on the road.

We will have to roll with the Chiefs but the game will be close. For fantasy purposes, avoid Bell and Brown. They are too expensive and may not realize 3x value this weekend. Hill and Kelce are possible but Ware is probably the safest option. He is at $5200 on DraftKings and Reid has a strong history of feeding the rock to his #1 RB in the postseason. Just look at the numbers with Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Brian Westbrook, Duce Staley (remember him), and so on during the wild card and divisional round for Reid's teams. They are super impressive so a RB under Reid is the way to go.

  • Green Bay at Dallas
    Vegas Line: DAL -4.5 , O/U 52
    GE line: DAL -4.98, O/U 50.14

Just like the Chiefs - Steelers game, this is also a tough to call. We will most likely roll with the home team but there is a lot to like about the Packers.

First off, the Aaron Rodgers is in a whole other world. WOW! Since he put his teammates on blast after falling to 4-6, they have won 7 in a row. In that stretch, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 22 TDs and 0 INTs. He did lose Jordy Nelson early in the game last week but that didn't seem to matter, even against one of the best pass rushes in football. One has to think that the hail mary Rodgers threw to Randall Cobb to end the 1st half and give the Packers a 14 -6 lead at halftime had to galvanize the Packers as they proceeded to outscore the Giants 24 - 7 in the 2nd half.

Also, one has to think that beating the Giants twice and the Giants beating the Cowboys twice would mean that the Packers should be fine against the Cowboys. Well, the Cowboys did dominate the Packers earlier in the season but a lot has changed since then with this Packers. Not much has changed with the Cowboys, however. They have been a model of consistency and now they are well rested and host. Their game against the Packers earlier in the season was in Green Bay and the Cowboys won that game 30-15 by winning the war in the trenches. Logic would dictate that the Cowboys will dominate again in the trenches with the best offensive line in football.

The one knock on the Cowboys is the lack of experience. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are rookies and for the most part, the Cowboys are kind of new to all of this postseason hoopla whereas the Packers have been there and done that. Still Dak and Zeke both played for strong college programs in very competitive conferences. They had big game experience in college with a national stage so they should be fine on Sunday.

One interesting thing to take note of is that the last time the Packers faced a young, up and coming QB who was very mobile, they got torched. Remember Colin Kaepernick's first playoff game in 2012?! Kaepernick wound up breaking he NFL record for most rushing yards by a QB in a playoff game. His stat line was good for 50 DraftKings points if you were playing DFS back then! Prescott is quite the dual threat and seems to be unfazed by all of the pressure. He does have a great offensive line to protect him as well as one of the best RBs in the league this season.

Dez Bryant, however, might be the player the Packers should fear the most. The Packers secondary is in shambles and Bryant has a bone to pick after the controversy that ensued in the Packers - Cowboys playoff game 2 years ago. Cole Beasley and Jason Witten are also two players you can't ignore. Dallas should be able to move the ball just fine.

The Packers definitely have talent on offense but the best way to beat a good offense is to hog the clock which Dallas can do well. On the flip side, the Packers don't have much of a run game. Ty Montgomery has been a nice surprise but his tenure at RB will be coming to a close soon given his small frame. Christine Michael is officially a journeyman and won't be expected to do much in this game.

Game might be close but we can see Dallas winning by at least 10. For fantasy purposes, anyone on the Dallas offense is great, especially Dak and Dez. Zeke is pricey but could be worth it. You should be fine with the Packers players, especially Jared Cook. Cobb and Adams are solid but Cobb is at a better value. I would refrain from Rodgers given his high price but again, he is on a roll right now.