By Conrad Company
No. 6 Pittsburgh Steelers @ No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals
Six weeks ago this inner-division matchup would be a must watch TV, but with debilitating injuries to both teams this game could turn ugly fast. Losing possibly the best overall running back Le’Veon Bell for the season surly hurt the high powered Steelers offense, but the Bengals have the larger issue in losing starting quarterback Andy Dalton for the final three weeks of the regular season, and potentially all of the playoffs. Both teams have been staggering on offense as of late so I see this being a defensive standoff ending in a lower scoring game. Pick: 24-13 Steelers
No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs @ No. 4 Houston Texans
Two of the AFC’s hottest teams will be dueling it out in a gritty ground & pound matchup that could turn into another defensive grudge match. Both teams losing All-Pro running backs, and with both defenses playing great as of late, this game could easily come down to the final possession. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt will surely have his impact on the game, but in the end Alex Smith makes just enough right plays to pull out the win in H-Town. Pick: 20-17 Chiefs
No. 2 New England Patriots
All Patriot fans can collectively take a deep breath after the MRI Monday morning showed no damage to quarterback/savior Tom Brady’s ankle, only revealing a sprained ankle, but after that dirty hit that Ndamukong Suh laid on Brady a sprain is the best news possible.
No. 1 Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos somehow snuck out the number one seed in week 17 from the help of, wait for it, Peyton Manning. Yes, the former five-time MVP that most people left for dead came in-in the third quarter only to lead the Broncos to a one seed clinching win after Brock Osweiler looked less than average. Now the question is who the starting play caller will be for the playoffs in Denver, but secretly I believe they wanted Manning to take back the reigns for the playoffs anyway.
No. 6 Seattle Seahawks @ No. 3 Minnesota Vikings
This game features possibly the NFL’s hottest team in the Seattle Seahawks, and a team in the Minnesota Vikings who has done nothing but kept winning meaningful games this season with a punishing run game and stout defense. The Seahawks, led by white-hot quarterback Russell Wilson are looking to duplicate what happened in week 13 when they went to Minnesota and routed the Vikings 38-7. With the resurgence on Marshawn Lynch, and constant pressure on Teddy Bridgewater, this game won’t be as lopsided as the first matchup, but not close either. Pick: 27-10 Seahawks
No. 5 Green Bay Packers @ No. 4 Washington Redskins
Are the Green Bay Packers really a good football team? That’s one of the largest questions going into the playoffs. They do have a great quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, but other than that nothing else is really clicking, blame it on the injuries or blame it on poor play calling, regardless they’ve looked mediocre in the second half of the season. With Kirk Cousins (YOU LIKE THAT!!) gun slinging all over the NFC in recent weeks, and leading a team that teams are no longer licking their chops to play, I believe they have a real shot to upset this Packers team who has lost six of their previous 10 games. Pick: 24-21 Redskins
No. 2 Arizona Cardinals
This team has looked like a well-oiled machine all season, and ran away with the NFC West which is one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. They have consistently put up big points throughout the season, and brought the defense to back them up leading to their 13-3 record. They do have a couple key losses in running back Chris Johnson, and up-and-coming star at safety Tyrann Mathieu, but should be able to make it to the NFC Championship game.
No. 1 Carolina Panthers
I don’t ever remember a team who has ran through a schedule almost undefeated, and in the fashion that they did averaging the most points per game in the NFL with 31.3, get so disrespected by the media and so-called experts. This team is the real deal without having any real talent on offense besides this seasons possible MVP Cam Newton, and defense led by studs Luke Kuechly and Josh Norman, this team could make big noise in the playoffs resulting in Carolinas first Super Bowl win.