Jesse Pantuosco (@JessePantuosco): After a two-week hiatus, the Roundtable is back and so are the playoffs. Let’s dig right in and throw out some predictions. For the two Saturday games, I’m going with Kansas City over Houston and Pittsburgh over Cincinnati. The Texans were lucky to make it and should be one-and-done against a Chiefs squad that hasn’t lost a game since October 19. Now that they’re in, I think the Steelers are a serious threat in the AFC and I think they’ll take care of business against the Dalton-less Bengals.
In the NFC, I’m going chalk. The Seahawks looked like they were onto something against the Cardinals last week and I think that momentum will carry them to a win over Minnesota. We can all agree the Packers underachieved this year but I have to think they’ll have enough to beat Washington, a team that needed to win its last four games just to finish over .500. How are you guys feeling about the Wild Card matchups?
Evan Silva (@evansilva): I like the Chiefs and Steelers on Saturday, as well. I think I'm going to go with Minnesota to upset Seattle. The Seahawks are a better team, but I think the Vikings can keep the game close and perhaps pull out a late win. The Packers-Redskins game is another tough one. Green Bay's offense has been horrible but I think there's reason to believe this could be a get-well matchup for them. I also think Kirk Cousins and Jordan Reed could have a lot of success against the Packers. Maybe a sneaky shootout. On what's projected as a low-scoring, tightly-knit slate, I think the only winner I have some level of confidence picking is Pittsburgh, and that's far from a lock. Should be a fun, challenging Wild Card round.
Nick Mensio (@NickMensio): I think I'm going with the Texans in the Saturday afternoon tilt over the Chiefs. It should be really close, but I just like the idea of J.J. Watt and the underrated Whitney Mercilus wreaking havoc on the Chiefs' 28th-ranked pass-protecting offensive line (via Football Outsiders' DVOA). I also think Johnathan Joseph will lock down Jeremy Maclin on the outside. Joseph was Pro Football Focus' No. 4 cover corner in the regular season and has been No. 1 overall since Week 10. The Texans' run defense has also played well. Houston will lean on its defense and DeAndre Hopkins on the offensive side in what will likely be a low-scoring affair. It just seems like a spot for Andy Reid and Alex Smith to fail. For Steelers-Bengals, I also like the Steelers in what could turn into a shootout. But I like Big Ben's chances of out-dueling A.J. McCarron in his first playoff start. However, I do expect A.J. Green to have a monster game.
On Sunday, I really want to pick the Vikings, but Adrian Peterson's back injury scares me a bit. I think it could be tough for him to get loose in sub-zero temperatures. Jerick McKinnon has played well in extended looks down the stretch, but I just can't get behind Teddy Bridgewater doing enough to carry this team to victory. It feels like it could be a 13-6 or 17-13 type of a game with neither offense having a ton of success. In the nightcap, I'll roll with the Redskins. Kirk Cousins is white-hot, and this Packers defense is overrated, while the offense is pure garbage. Cousins at home has been money all season, and the Redskins' pass rush should be able to get after Aaron Rodgers behind an injury-ravaged offensive line. DeSean Jackson and/or Jordan Reed could be looking at big statistical outputs.
Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat): It's an extremely unpredictable slate. As someone paid to have an opinion about everything, I really don't have strong feelings about any of these games. I think I will go with the home team in Houston/Kansas City. I think the Chiefs are better, and Cecil Shorts/Nate Washington being at less than 100 percent will make things tough for Brian Hoyer against a great defense, but I just can't see an Alex Smith-led offense beating what's been a rejuvenated D on the road. I know the Chiefs throttled Houston in Week 1, but this is a completely different team now. At night, I’m going with the Steelers, but they are not the same team on the road. Losing DeAngelo Williams really hurts, too. I think what should have been a shootout if both teams were at full health will now be a low-scoring affair.
Sunday, I have to go with Seattle. This isn't going to be another blowout – the Vikings were at an absurdly low injury ebb for the sides' first meeting — but like Nick said, is Teddy really going to carry his team past the 'Hawks as A.D. battles a balky back? I'm expecting Seattle to win 13-10. I think Washington will beat Green Bay fairly easily. The Packers' offense has been a joke for two months now. Aaron Rodgers is going to have to go ballistic and carry his team all by himself for the Pack to have a chance. The Redskins are fairly vulnerable on the ground, but there hasn't been any rhyme or reason to Green Bay’s backfield.
Raymond Summerlin (@RMSummerlin): With all four road teams favored, this sets up to be a crazy week. I want to bet against Kansas City because I believe they are the most overrated team in the playoffs, but it is tough with Brian Hoyer on the other side. The Chiefs’ offense has not worked for the last month, and their defense can only lead them so far. If Alex Smith keeps making the mistakes he has the last couple weeks, Houston could snatch a win, but it’s one of those coin-flip types of games.
I see Green Bay getting run out of Washington. The offense does not work, and Kirk Cousins has played his best at home. I want to believe in Minnesota, but I see no way they move the ball effectively against Seattle. Russell Wilson is not going to have the same day he had last time out, but he should be able to create enough offense with Marshawn Lynch back to squeak out a win.
The most interesting game on the board is Pittsburgh at Cincinnati. The Steelers easily won in Cincinnati less than a month ago, but that game was dramatically altered by Andy Dalton’s injury. A.J. McCarron looked as dangerous as he has at any point this year in the second half of that game. He has basically been put on ice since then, but I am not terrified if McCarron has to make a couple plays late in the game against a vulnerable defense. On the other side, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown multiple interceptions in three straight including some rookie-level mistakes, and Cincinnati has the third-most interceptions in the league this year. Without the running game, everything will fall on Roethlisberger’s suddenly shaky shoulders. I expect Cincinnati to force a couple big turnovers and eke out a close game at home.
Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield): I guess I'll be the contrarian of the bunch and side with Vegas. I sort of like Green Bay to beat Washington on the road. The Packers’ offense isn't good by any stretch of the imagination, but neither is the opposing defense. If anything, I think this game has the most shootout potential from a DFS angle. Sam Shields (concussion) missing another game would be a nice boost for Kirk Cousins' projections.
I understand the weather concerns in Minnesota, but I think the Seahawks will smash the Vikings. Seattle is back to playing stout run defense and they are still the best team in the league at erasing boundary receivers. Where is the offense going to come from with the Vikings?
As for the AFC games, I'm rolling with the Chiefs over the Texans. I just have zero faith in the Texans' offense to move the ball routinely outside of Nuk Hopkins. It should be a close one, though.
Finally, I think if any non-Patriots team is going to run the table in the AFC it will be Pittsburgh. It's unlucky we won't get to see the Steelers offense at full strength, but the Big Ben-Antonio Brown combo is currently the most lethal in the league. I'm also not abandoning Martavis yet. Heath Miller has averaged 10-85.5 in two games against Cincy and even Markus Wheaton has played reasonably well this year.
Jeff Brubach (@Jeff_Brubach): My pesos will be with Seattle, Washington, Houston, and Cincinnati this weekend. Like a couple guys mentioned previously, the fact that four road teams are favored this weekend means we will undoubtedly get a couple surprising results, which should make for an exciting weekend.
In the NFC, I don't think that Teddy Bridgewater has enough fire power to keep up with Russell Wilson and Seattle will roll easily over Minnesota. I think Green Bay is going to get hammered by Washington as Kirk Cousins continues his roll and the Packers continue their offensive slump.
I feel like the AFC games will be pretty close, so I'll be siding with the home teams. Houston's defense is on fire and I think they edge Kansas City. A.J. McCarron should be able to keep the Cincinnati offense moving against the Pittsburgh secondary. The loss of DeAngelo Williams will slow the Steelers enough for the Bengals to squeak out a victory at home.
Pantuosco: I know they've played well lately but I'm having a hard time getting behind the Redskins. Who did they really beat this year? The best team they won against was Buffalo, who finished 8-8. They played just three teams with a winning record and lost all three by a combined 59 points. Only San Diego and Indianapolis averaged fewer yards per carry, which means the offense lives and dies by Kirk Cousins. That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone who’s never started a postseason game. Washington hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005 and personally, I think it's going to stay that way.