Divisional Round Sunday Picks: Packers at Cowboys, Steelers at Chiefs


We’re doing pretty well with picks this playoffs, but then so is everyone else. We’re not the only ones with a 100% record because most games have gone toward the favorites. Will that happen in the two most tricky games to pick in this postseason?

Green Bay @ Dallas

We covered the Packers last week, but they’re hot with a capital H. So they’re Hot. The win against the Giants was their 7th on the spin and another shot in the eye of the doubters who called for Mike McCarthy’s head just 8 weeks ago.

That game was also the 4th in a row that the Packers agreed with the expert consensus – but there’s an interesting dynamic here in that the Packers actually have a couple of upset victories against the Eagles and the Seahawks this season where they have gone against the consensus in the same spot they find themselves in now.

Packers vs consensus

Those two victories are a guide, to a certain extent, as to how the Packers may react in these circumstances.

The Cowboys, we approach with fresh eyes. Are they for real? Almost certainly. This is a team that lost just 3 times all season, and largely managed to perform well despite the crushing expectations of, well, just being the Dallas Cowboys.

Cowboys vs consensus

These Cowboys have actually been more reliable than the Packers over the season as a whole,¬†and we can discount the final game of the season (a push in the expert consensus) where their second string were overturned by the Eagles. The Cowboys have performed well as both favorites and underdogs, including one very relevant game in week 6…

The Cowboys beat the Packers in that matchup in Green Bay, in what was the start of a poor run for the Packers. I said last week, but that team was essentially a completely different one in offensive capability to the one that beat the Giants last week and has ran roughshod over all opponents recently.

There isn’t a great statistical merit for this pick, but I really feel that the Packers will win against both the consensus and as a road team – both of which will be a first in this postseason. They have the best QB in the game, and I feel like Dak and Zeke… they’re great, but maybe this is the game where things implode.

As one writer put it earlier this season ‘why do people root against the Cowboys in the regular season, when it’s far funnier watching them implode on a national scale…’

Picks:

Straight up: Green Bay

vs Spread: Green Bay (+4.5)

 

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City

The delayed game tonight is for me, the toughest choice so far. You have the Steelers coming off a dominant performance, heading into what I consider one of the best atmospheres in football as they travel to Kansas City for a late night game. The inclement weather will actually not be insanely cold, but it will be wet…

Steelers vs consensus

We talked last week, but this is actually better than Green Bay and has flown under the radar. ‘Cheerleader’ Mike Tomlin has presided over 8 victories as favorite in a row, but this is arguably their biggest challenge since that week 10 loss to Dallas. The Chiefs are head and shoulders above the teams the Steelers have faced since then, although in fairness, I will say that the Giants win in week 13 was comparable in the style of the opponent.

Chiefs vs consensus

Wow. This team is tough to predict. Actually, the Chiefs represent the mid-point of 16th in our ranking of all teams by how hard they were to pick in 2016, with 59.85% of all picks for or against them being correct this year. The problem is that they’ve outperformed teams when not favored, and sometimes struggled as favorites. BUT WAIT. That’s not a problem, because the Steelers are that rarity in this season’s playoffs, a road favorite. This is good news for us, because the Chiefs have responded well to this dynamic, beating Denver, Oakland, Carolina and Atlanta this season while underdogs. The Chiefs have a habit of responding and making ‘statement’ victories.

Now, the elephant in the room – the week 4 loss to Pittsburgh on the road. The Steelers were favorites in that game and duly delivered a beatdown, but since then the Chiefs have lost just twice and as mentioned, been much stouter as underdogs. Something tells me that the Chiefs will win this, and I also have a weird gut feeling that this could be the matchup of the round.

Picks:

Straight up: Kansas City

vs Spread: Kansas City (-1.5)


About Shaun Lowrie

Shaun Lowrie is the founder and editor of Pickwatch, a site designed to give you a new perspective on experts in the NFL media by tracking their performance when picking games or predicting draft picks, team performance, or player potential. You can contact him at [email protected] or on twitter at @pickwatch

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