The Divisional round of the 2017 NFL playoffs has some compelling showdowns. And also a rematch of a Texans-Patriots game New England won by 27 with its third-string quarterback.
So they’re not all winners.
As expected, SB Nation’s experts aren’t giving Houston much of a chance in Saturday’s matchup. The picks against Brock Osweiler are unanimous, paving the way for Tom Brady to make his sixth straight appearance in the AFC Championship.
The Falcons are nearly as big a favorite with our panel. Only one writer, the intrepid Joel Thorman, thinks Seattle has what it takes to escape Atlanta with a victory. Potential MVP frontrunner Matt Ryan has put together the finest year of his career, posting the league’s highest quarterback rating and yards per pass number for the 2016 regular season.
He’ll have to be on top of his game to lead the Falcons to victory in a rematch of a Week 6 showdown. The Seahawks squeaked out a 26-24 win thanks in part to a dubious late no-call on Richard Sherman. However, that win came in the raucous confines of Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. Atlanta can keep a four-game winning streak alive by dispatching Russell Wilson Saturday afternoon.
The other two games on the docket get a little tougher to pick, but not by much. Only two writers think Aaron Rodgers’ late-season surge will be enough to dethrone the Cowboys from the top of the NFC. Dallas already has one win over the Packers, and that came at Lambeau Field. While offensive leaders Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott could one day look like nervous rookies, it doesn’t appear Sunday will be that day.
Our panel was split down the middle on the last game in the bunch, a Missouri-based clash between two of the AFC’s hottest teams. Pittsburgh was won eight straight games to establish itself as one of the league’s most dangerous Super Bowl contenders. However, the killer-B trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown will have to create room to operate against a dynamic Kansas City defense.
The Chiefs have won five of their last six games and held opponents to 19 points or fewer seven times in their last 10 contests. If that defense can’t hold up Sunday, veteran passer Alex Smith will have to step up his game. History suggests he’ll be ready — his postseason passer rating of 99.1 is nearly 14 points higher than his regular season mark.
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Ohio State-Nebraska: 3 keys, game picks, score predictions
By Ryan Ginn - Land of 10
Posted: 11:14 a.m. Friday, October 13, 2017
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Can Ohio State football cover the spread against Nebraska on Saturday?
Despite the fact that Ohio State’s offensive line is in flux after starting right guard Branden Bowen broke his leg, the Buckeyes are big favorites against the Cornhuskers. They will get back defensive tackle Michael Hill after a six-game suspension and defensive end Nick Bosa has been a beast lately.
Here are three keys for the Ohio State-Nebraska game, followed by predictions from our three Land of 10 Ohio State writers.1. The weather
It looks as though thunderstorms will be present at some point Saturday, which wouldn’t be ideal for Ohio State. It may not impact the Buckeyes’ ability to win going away, given that they dominated Tulsa and Oklahoma despite rain delays last season. But it could affect their style of play, forcing both teams to run the ball more. That would be true even if the rain comes earlier in the day, because 20 mph winds are forecast to follow the storms. While the Buckeyes would be just fine in a ground battle, they likely would enjoy one last opportunity to work on their passing attack and pass defense before Penn State comes to town. Would that happen in bad weather? It’s not likely. The good news, though, is that if it rains before the teams play or if lightning forces a delay until the rain is done, Memorial Stadium has artificial turf, so the game wouldn’t be played in a mud pit.2. Turnover margin
Quarterback Tanner Lee was supposed to be a game-changing addition for Nebraska — at least based on reports of his play in the offseason — but it hasn’t quite turned out that way. Instead, he’s been a human JUGS machine for opposing defenses, throwing 10 interceptions along with his 11 touchdowns. Obviously, he can’t play against Ohio State the way he did against Oregon and Northern Illinois, when he tossed seven interceptions in two losses. If he does that, the Cornhuskers are toast.
It also will be imperative for the Buckeyes to avoid turnovers. As Michigan showed against Michigan State, turning the ball over repeatedly in bad weather is a great way to get upset against a lesser team. As long as Ohio State takes care of the ball, everything should be fine in Lincoln.3. Filling holes
The Buckeyes lost Bowen to a broken leg, and he likely will be replaced on the offensive line by Matthew Burrell or Demetrius Knox. Ohio State cannot afford to have a liability on that side of the ball, especially with Isaiah Prince’s inconsistency at right tackle.
It’s also worth monitoring the interior of the defensive line, where Hill will play for the first time this season after serving a six-game suspension. It’s likely that Ohio State will work him back in slowly, but he could be needed against Penn State. Likewise, this will be the first game back for defensive tackle Dre’mont Jones after missing two games because of a laceration on his leg.Ohio State-Nebraska picks, score predictions
Ohio State is 3-3 against the spread this season, and the Buckeyes will have their work cut out for them as a 24-point favorite on the road. Four of the Buckeyes’ six games have gone over the point total, which is set for 58 points on Saturday. Nebraska is 2-4 against the spread and has split the over/under total thus far with three apiece.
Jeremy Birmingham: Ohio State 38, Nebraska 14
Ryan Ginn: Ohio State 49, Nebraska 9
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Since the Nebraska Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011, they have enjoyed a decent amount of successful seasons. Sprinkle in a couple bad losses and the firing of a coach, but other than that the Huskers have been a reasonable pick year and year out to compete for a Big Ten West title.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, their quest for a West title has not gone so great, thanks in large part to newly acquired rival, the Wisconsin Badgers. Since 2011, the Badgers have beaten the Cornhuskers in all but one game, including a Big Ten Championship shellacking of Nebraska in 2012, scoring 70 points en route to a 70-31 victory.
The stage is set for Nebraska to pull off a much-needed upset on Saturday as the team is off to a 2-0 start in conference play after wins against Rutgers and Illinois. Wisconsin on the other hand, overcame a shaky start in their conference opener and used a big defensive play late to go 1-0 in league play with a 33-24 victory over Northwestern.
Wisconsin is currently 5-1 against the Huskers since Nebraska joined the conference, but has only seen just two games in Lincoln, posting a 1-1 record on the road. Saturday night has been a date many Nebraska fans and players have been looking forward to all year and with a “Black Out” taking place in a night game atmosphere, Memorial Stadium should be electric.Keys to Victory
The Badgers’ offense came off a bye week looking sloppy and unenthused in last week’s victory over Northwestern. In the first two touches of the game, the Badgers saw fumbles by Jazz Peavy and A.J. Taylor– fortunately just one was lost. Wisconsin will need to take care of the ball much better in a tough, road environment on Saturday and take the crowd out of the game with their run game.
Hopefully for Wisconsin, they will return preseason All-American Troy Fumagalli– who missed last week with an injury. His presence will help alleviate the pressure from quarterback Alex Hornibrook and make the run game much more effective.
The same applies for the Huskers. Looking at their two losses to Oregon and Northern Illinois, turnovers were killers for the offense and ultimately the whole team. Two pick sixes against Northern Illinois proved to be the deciding factor and the four turnovers against the Ducks put them in a hole too deep to climb out of.
Wisconsin’s defense is tough enough to score on as it is, so the Huskers will need to play smart and try to wear down the Badgers’ defense with long, methodical drives.Prediction
Nebraska will enter Saturday night’s matchup as double-digit home underdogs for the first time since 2008, but the hype surrounding the game will make you think otherwise as the pre-game student excitement and night game feel will be a lot to take in for both teams looking to make a statement win in a competitive Big Ten conference.
Tanner Lee and the Huskers come out fired up and get on the board first, keeping it close at half. But as proven all year, the Badgers come out in the second half focused and use strong defense to take over the game for good. Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor bounces back and grabs another 100 yard game and Fumagalli secures a big second half touchdown to ice the Badgers win.
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