After a stinker of a Wild Card Week, things should heat up in a Divisional round of the NFL playoffs that offers up four rematches from the regular season between the league’s best remaining teams. There’s injury intrigue and lots of other factors though this round of games should at the very least offer up some close games and maybe even some upsets. Something that’s been severely lacking in a league that prides itself with its parody.

Our metrics are far from bullish on anyone this week with all our suggested spreads right on the Vegas number with one exception that sees our two metrics – YPP and EW – in disagreement. We dive into it all with lots of adjustments and projections based on recent plays while also revisiting all that happened the last time these teams faced one another.

Taking all that into account we still have two picks for you this week, as you’ll see below.

Our picks of the week

Pittsburgh Steelers +1.5 at Kansas City Chiefs

Dallas Cowboys -4.5 vs. Green Bay Packers

Kansas City seeks revenge

We have to go out on a limb here as we’re hoping Ben Roethlisberger isn’t hindered excessively by his foot injury which will play a big part in this game’s final outcome. The Steelers started out as 1.5 point favorites when the lines came out Sunday night but the spread has since swung the other way with the Chiefs now at -1.5.

Last time these two teams faced each other in Week 4, the game was in Pittsburgh and the Steelers dominated en route an easy 43-14 win. The Steelers have only gotten better since then and are now the hottest team in the league as the defense has made some impressive strides. Roethlisberger’s injury and limitations will play a big part but the greater matchup here is on the ground where Le’Veon Bell has been crucial in Pittsburgh’s eight game winning streak including the playoffs. In that stretch, Bell has racked up 1,002 rushing yards averaging 125 per game. With Big Ben limited by injury since Week 6 Bell has carried the load and shined something he’ll have to continue to pull off the win in KC.

That doesn’t exactly play into the Chiefs hands who have the 26th “best” run defense in the NFL allowing 121 yards per game. Andy Reid’s bunch would much rather see their opponents drop back to unleash their pass rushers.

The other factor here is that offensively the Chiefs aren’t all that scary as the 16th offense per YPP, 20th per total yards, and 19th passing attack. They’re not bad, but they lack some juice in a playoff scenario like this. The Steelers have made great strides defensively and are the 10th best scoring ‘D’ in the league. In the eight-game winning streak, they’ve played at a clip that would put them as the third best defense in the NFL per YPP allowing only 4.9. Last time these two teams went head-to-head Pittsburgh held KC to 87 rushing yards and forced Alex Smith to drop back 50 times, the Chiefs’ true kryptonite.

The metrics originally saw these two teams as basically even giving the Kansas City the edge with the home field advantage. But once we adjust for the Steelers performance in their last eight games they become a 3 point favorite per YPP for a full 4.5 point differential from the actual spread.

Wait if you can for more news to come out on Big Ben’s status, but we’ve seen him play banged up and do an admirable job time and time again. With a much-improved defense and Bell playing at all-time great levels, it might not even matter. The Arrowhead factor does concern us but even when we give the Chiefs 3.5 points as the home team the numbers add up, give us the Steelers.

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference EW Suggested Spread Difference
PIT 0.3 1.5
@KC -1.5 0 0 3.5 -2 0.5 -3.5 2

YPP suggested spread accounting for Pittsburgh’s play in their 8 game winning streak 

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference
PIT 1.3 6.5 -3 4.5
@KC -1.5 0 0 3.5

How will Dallas’ rookies do in the postseason

The big question here is how the Cowboys rookies will do under the bright lights of the NFL playoffs? Considering they’ve passed every test thus far in their young careers their’s no reason to doubt in their poise and preparation now.

Like the Steelers, the Packers are the other truly hot team in the NFL right now though their YPP numbers over that stretch aren’t nearly as impressive. That’s mostly due to the Packers defense that’s still playing at a fairly pedestrian level, which doesn’t bode well against a Cowboys team that ran for 191 yards last time these two teams played in Week 5 with Dak Prescott adding three touchdown passes.

Once again it’ll all come down to Aaron Rodgers creating some magic and he’ll have to do it without Jordy Nelson this week, a big win for the Cowboys. Dallas has the league’s fifth-best scoring defense allowing 19.1 points per game and has also been incredibly stingy versus the run conceding 83.5 yards per contest, best in the NFL.

This will come down to the Packers forcing a few mistakes out of the Cowboys rookie backfield on defense and Aaron Rodgers taking advantage of Dallas’ below average secondary.

YPP and EW both have Dallas as favored by close to a touchdown which we like and after a Wild Card week with only home favorites winning we’re ready to ride that train. Given the state of the Green Bay defense getting over the 4.5 zone to a touchdown advantage shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. Rodgers is great but there’s only so much one player can do. In a matchup of the sixth best team per YPP against the 21st, we’ll take Dallas in this one.

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference EW Suggested Spread Difference
GB -0.2 -1
@DAL -4.5 0.5 2.5 3 -6.5 2 -7 2.5

YPP suggested spread accounting for Green Bay’s play in their 8 game winning streak

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference
GB 0.3 1.5 0.5
@DAL -4.5 0.5 2.5 3 -4

The two remaining bets

Dan Quinn faces off with the defense he helped create

This is a great matchup of YPP’s top two teams going against one another. The Atlanta Falcons have the advantage as the top team in the metric and are at home making our suggested spreads very much in line with the actual spread.

The Seattle Seahawks come into this contest not having played their best and with some major holes with the loss of Earl Thomas in their secondary. The greater issue has been on offense where they’ve struggled to find an identity and their line has such an issue that even Houdini himself, Russell Wilson, hasn’t been able to overcome the problems. Though Seattle did find a terrific performance from Thomas Rawls in the Wild Card round which should greatly help things against Atlanta.

The Falcons on their end have been a juggernaut on offense, playing at historic levels for their offensive output in which they’re the top team in YPP by a good margin. The eye test and metrics all say that Atlanta should be able to come through in their dome here with Seattle having to also travel across the country.

But that 5 point line is pesky and given Seattle’s streaky nature they’re always a hard team to bet against particularly as the underdog.

When we adjust for the Seahawks recent performances without Earl Thomas the Falcons become a slightly greater favorite (6.5) but that’s still right on the line. Last time these two played Week 6 in Seattle the Hawks squeaked out a 26-24 win that was more caused by the Falcons blowing the game than the home team finding a way to win. The rematch should favor Atlanta but be careful with that spread.

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference EW Suggested Spread Difference
SEA 0.6 3 1
@ATL -5 1.1 5.5 3 -5.5 0.5 -4

YPP suggested spread accounting for Green Bay’s play in last 5 games without Earl Thomas

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference
SEA 0.4 2
@ATL -5 1.1 5.5 3 -6.5 1.5

Do the Texans have a chance?

15.5 points in a playoff game and it’s still not a safe bet to take the underdog. That’s the state of the AFC playoffs this season. The line has been back and forth between 15 and 15.5 with the New England Patriots as monumental favorites here no matter how you slice it.

Again Vegas must be reading their BSN ATS columns because EW is in complete agreement wit the line here, which for a metric that rarely suggests double-digit spreads is extremely telling.

The Houston Texans have a fun and talented young defense with a great running back, plus a coach who knows Tom Brady and that offense and still this seems like a done deal for New England. Last time these two faced off in Week 3 Brady wasn’t playing and neither was backup Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots still won by 27 points. Need we say more?

As if this wasn’t hard enough, the Texans could be starting Tom Savage this week and considering he’s played just over two games this season against doormat teams it’s incredibly hard to project how he and the offense would perform. In the two games he started Houston’s offensive YPP production was off 4.7 exactly the same as their season average.

The Texans have only lost by more than 15 points three times this season all in the first half of the season and they’ve been significantly better defensively making it much harder to blow them out.

For the second week in a row, with a gun to my head, I would take Houston for the upset and the points as YPP does like the Texans to cover in this game with the Pats as 8.5 favorites. A risky proposition especially when EW is in such clear agreement with Vegas. After a week of blowouts for the home favorites, we recommend caution.

Teams Current Spread YPP # Advantage Home Field YPP Suggested Spread Difference EW Suggested Spread Difference
HOU -0.4 -2 7
@NE -15.5 0.6 3 3.5 -8.5 -15.5 0

Born in Boulder and raised in Milan, Italy like Danilo Gallinari. Also like Gallo, I moved to the States at 18; unlike Gallo, I wasn’t drafted by the Knicks but came to attend Western State Colorado University (go Mountaineers!). I graduated in 2009 with a major in Communications and Media and two minors in Journalism and Philosophy. After working in the linguistic field for a few years and listening to sports radio ALL DAY at work, I decided to do it myself and it changed my life around. (Now, I can say I couldn’t be happier and am proudly married to the love of my life Kate.) I moved back to Gunnison and started volunteering for the NPR affiliate up in Crested Butte, while also starting to contribute on an NFL podcast for playitusa.com. A 10 minute bit on one podcast turned into being a regular, year-round on three different podcasts on the NFL, College Football, and the NFL Draft. I’ve since started writing on trueblueblog.net and playitusa.com as well as writing in depth Draft analysis for footballnation.it in the past 3 years. I love the Draft and knowing the stars of the future before everyone else. My sports mount Rushmore is Terrell Davis, Patrick Roy, Italian soccer star Roberto Baggio, and John Elway, deal with it! Hit me up at @andresimone to talk NFL, NCAA football, NFL Draft, CSU football, Nuggets or anything else Colorado or Italy sports related.