We've already blown through the first round of the 2016-17 NFL postseason, and the field that began with 12 teams is down to eight. After this weekend's divisional round, we'll gut that number in half and get our final four.
One could argue that the postseason won't get truly exciting until we do have those final four teams. After all, the College Football Playoff only consists of four teams, and Monday night's title win by Clemson capped a pretty amazing tournament.
Still, we do have some pretty intriguing matchups on the immediate horizon, which will, in turn, produce that final four that some football fans are waiting for. Today, we're going to make our predictions for not only the final four teams in the tournament but also the final two.
We'll also examine the full postseason schedule, television information and odds—courtesy of OddsShark.com—along with some of the latest playoff-related storylines.
NFL Postseason Schedule
|Day, Time (ET)||Game||National TV||Line|
|4:35 p.m. Saturday||Seattle at Atlanta||Fox||ATL -4.5|
|8:15 p.m. Saturday||Houston at New England||CBS||NE -16|
|1:05 p.m. Sunday||Pittsburgh at Kansas City||NBC||KC -2|
|4:40 p.m. Sunday||Green Bay at Dallas||Fox||DAL -4.5|
|3:05 p.m. Jan. 22||NFC vs NFC||Fox||TBD|
|6:40 p.m. Jan. 22||AFC vs. AFC||CBS||TBD|
|Super Bowl LI|
|6:30 p.m. Feb. 5||AFC vs. NFC||Fox||TBD|
Atlanta Falcons defeat Seattle Seahawks
New England Patriots defeat Houston Texans
Kansas City Chiefs defeat Pittsburgh Steelers
Green Bay Packers defeat Dallas Cowboys
New England Patriots defeat Kansas City Chiefs
Green Bay Packers defeat Atlanta Falcons
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Atlanta's Chance at Redemption
You might find it interesting that all four divisional games are rematches of regular-season contests. The Atlanta Falcons appear to find this fact motivational.
When the Falcons last took on the Seattle Seahawks, they did so at CenturyLink Field. They ultimately lost 26-24, but they really fell just a couple of plays short of securing the victory. Depending on who you talk to, the Falcons actually could have been in a position to win that game if not for a supposedly missed pass interference call at the tail end of the game.
Atlanta, though, isn't making excuses for the loss, only lamenting it.
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn recently explained the feeling, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com:
That's the hard part of sleeping on Sunday nights, when you go back and you rehash the game. Maybe not nailing it quite like you want at Seattle. We played terrible in the first half. And then to come back and battle back and take the lead and not finish like we wanted to, those are scars that mean something now. But when you go through them, they're painful to say, 'Shoot, we could have nailed that one and we didn't.'
Atlanta will have an opportunity to put that loss firmly in the past by beating Seattle in the rematch and moving on to the NFC title game. There are a few key reasons why the Falcons should have a good shot at accomplishing the feat too.
The first is that the Falcons have home-field advantage. There will be no hostile crowd or possible home-cooking from the officials to worry about.
Secondly, this isn't the same defense the Falcons faced the last time around. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is out for the year and the Seahawks defense hasn't quite been the same without him. On the year, Seattle allowed just 18.2 points per game defensively. However, they allowed 24.5 over the final month of the regular season without him.
If everything goes well for the Falcons, there will be no room for last-minute controversy.
Fractured Ribs for Jordy Nelson
We've been tracking the rib injury suffered by Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson ever since he exited the game against the New York Giants on Sunday and did not return.
On Monday, we learned just how serious the injury is. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Nelson has two broken ribs at a minimum. He isn't expected to practice until Saturday at the earliest:
We still believe that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers can find a way to upset the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round, but they may have to find a way that doesn't involve Nelson.
"If he doesn't practice Saturday, then he won't play in the game," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy explained, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
The potential absence of Nelson is certainly big. The Kansas State product racked up an impressive 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns on 97 receptions in the regular season. Still, it is worth noting that Rodgers was able to pass for 362 yards and four touchdowns against the Giants, largely with Nelson on the sidelines.
The difference here is that the Cowboys have a full week to adjust their defensive game plan to one that doesn't necessarily involve stopping Nelson.
Houston, Roethlisberger Both Looking Likely to Play
The Kansas City Chiefs got a big boost to their pass rush when star defender Justin Houston returned from his knee injury in Week 10. He ended up playing in five games for the Chiefs and producing 4.0 sacks in those five games.
Houston finished the season rated 40th among all edge-rushers by Pro Football Focus.
Unfortunately, the Chiefs had to play without Houston for the final two games of the regular season because of swelling in his surgically repaired knee. There was, for a time, some fear that he would have to miss the postseason as well.
The good news is that it appears Houston—along with running back Spencer Ware—will be good to go this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. At least, this was the message being conveyed by Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on Monday.
“Everybody that was banged up is good to go now,” Reid said, per Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star. “Justin and Ware, they’ll be ready to go.”
This is good news for the Chiefs, who will be facing one of the league's more dangerous quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger was himself injured during Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins. He was tackled awkwardly on his last pass attempt of the game and was spotted afterward in a walking boot.
Roethlisberger told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette on Monday that he should be good to go by the weekend:
This means that football fans should be treated to plenty of back-and-forth between Roethlisberger and a Houston-led Chiefs pass rush.