2017 NFL Playoffs, divisional picks: Packers upset Cowboys, Chiefs dump Steelers

My plan is to carry over a little hot streak from the wild-card round (3-1) into the divisional round. Unfortunately, I love all these lines after hating all the lines last weekend, so we'll see how that works out.

This weekend is different than Wild Card Weekend because seven of the eight remaining teams are good, whereas maybe half of the teams playing last weekend were good. Actually, Seattle is probably good. Green Bay and Pittsburgh are definitely good. The Giants are ... good? The Raiders, Texans, Dolphins and Lions? No thanks. Not good, and not necessarily their fault, because ...

On to the picks, and don't forget to check out all our CBSSports.com Expert Picks right here.

Note: Numbers indicate conference playoff seeding.


Saturday, Jan. 14

No. 3 Seattle (10-5-1) at No. 2 Atlanta (11-5)

TV: 4:35 p.m. ET (Fox)
Line: Falcons -5

This is pretty great matchup for the Seahawks, considering the quality of opponent we expect in the divisional round. That's not to say Atlanta isn't good, because the Falcons are very good. Except they rank 29th in rush defense according to Football Outsiders, which opens up an opportunity for Thomas Rawls to continue his strong postseason.

Rawls ripped off a 161-yard day against the Lions last Saturday, eclipsing the Seahawks' single-game postseason record. He runs like a souped-up version of Sonic the Hedgehog, a delightfully violent and spastic approach that is Marshawn Lynch-lite.

The question heading into Atlanta is whether Seattle's offensive line magically flipped a switch or if the Lions were overwhelmed. I lean a little bit more toward the latter.

And, of course, there's a HUGE gap between what the Falcons and Lions can do on offense. Detroit was on the road with a banged-up Matthew Stafford. Atlanta is playing at home with a fully rested Matt Ryan -- and Julio Jones. The diversity of weapons for Atlanta is substantially greater; Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman would immediately start at running back for Detroit (no offense, Zach Zenner).

The Seahawks have played well in the Georgia Dome, though Seattle is simply a better team at home. So is Atlanta, although it's not as noticeable.

Ryan threw for 335 yards the last time these two teams met (a 26-24 Seahawks victory n at Seattle on Oct. 16), and that was with Earl Thomas patrolling Seattle's secondary. Atlanta wins by a score.

The pick: Falcons 31, Seahawks 24


No. 4 Houston (9-7) at No. 1 New England (14-2)

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
Line: Patriots -16

The good news: This game is on Saturday night, so if you need to get out of the house to do something fun, you may only miss four or five Tom Brady touchdowns. The better news: You can sign up for CBS All Access, get a free one-week trial and watch live on your phone while you're out having that fun.

Look, there's probably some way to sell this as a game Houston can keep close. The Texans' defense looked good against the Raiders, and when J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus are on the same field next season, they're going to be terrifying.

But there's no way Houston keeps this close. The Patriots understand they are three wins away from hoisting a Super Bowl trophy if they take care of business. They will take care of business.

The line becomes interesting, though, because 15 points is way too many for a divisional game. It's the biggest playoff spread in 20 years. There have been only six instances in the past 10 years of a team favored by 10 or more points in this round.

Year Team Opp Spread Score Won/Covered
2014 @SEA CAR -11.5 31-17 Y/Y
2011 @NE DEN -13.5 45-10 Y/Y
2010 @CHI SEA -10 35-24 Y/Y
2008 @CAR ARI -10 13-33 N/N
2007 @IND SD -11 24-28 N/N
2007 @NE JAX -13.5 31-20 Y/N

These games are kind of interesting because three instances where the heavily favored team didn't cover featured:

  • The 2007 Patriots beating a good Jaguars team by 11 points but not covering an absurdly inflated spread.
  • The 2007 Colts losing straight up at home to the Chargers in a game where Philip Rivers tore his ACL (and then played the next week).
  • The 2008 Panthers all-time meltdown, when Jake Delhomme threw five picks and Larry Fitzgerald caught six passes for 188 yards as the Cardinals stomped Carolina 33-13.

The three more recent games, in which the heavily favored team did cover featured:

  • The 2014 Panthers losing in Seattle by double digits after a Kam Chancellor pick-six off Cam Newton flipped the spread late.
  • The 2011 Patriots absolutely destroying Tim Tebow and the miraculous 2011 Broncos 45-10.
  • The 2010 Bears and Jay Cutler hanging 21 first-half points on Seattle before Matt Hasselbeck put up 21 fourth-quarter points to make this game look closer than it was.

Before the games on this list, the previous five double-digit divisional-round faves covered.

We've seen decent and even good quarterbacks fail to cover big spreads, but we almost never see a horrible quarterback cover a huge spread against a great quarterback. This is not a decent or even good quarterback facing Tom Brady. It's much closer to the aforementioned Tebow situation.

The pick: Patriots 35, Texans 10


Sunday, Jan. 15

No. 3 Pittsburgh (11-5) at No. 2 Kansas City (12-4)

TV: 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Line: Chiefs -1.5

I covered most of the fascinating aspects of this game, at least from the Andy Reid angle, in Sorting the Sunday Pile after the wild-card round.

Here's the gist of it, though: Reid is really good after the bye, which everyone knows, but that also holds true after the bye in the playoffs.

It has happened three times -- in 2002, '03 and '04 -- and Reid's Eagles faced off against a really talented offense each time. He got Michael Vick and the Falcons in 2002 (25.1 points per game, fifth in the NFL), Brett Favre and the Packers in 2003 (27.6 points per game, fourth in the NFL) and Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and the Vikings in 2004 (25.3 points per game, sixth in the NFL).

And here's the kicker: Reid's defenses gave up 37 points total to those teams.

Those three teams averaged a combined 78 points but totaled only 37 in three playoff games. Even though it was a long time ago -- Reid hasn't had a bye in the playoffs since 2004, when Jim Johnson was his defensive coordinator and Sean McDermott (named Bills coach Wednesday) was an assistant DBs coach -- that success after a bye should not be discounted. As explosive as Pittsburgh looked against Miami -- and, man, they looked good with Ben Roethlisberger lighting up the defense deep to Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell racking up rushing yards -- Kansas City is a balanced team capable of advancing.

The pick: Chiefs 27, Steelers 24


No. 4 Packers (10-6) at No. 1 Dallas (13-3)

TV: 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
Line: Cowboys -4.5

It stinks that Jordy Nelson is unlikely to play, because it would be swell to have the Packers at full force for this rematch at Dallas. On Oct. 16, the Cowboys hammered the Pack 30-16 in Green Bay.

There was chatter -- as there was all season -- about Tony Romo taking over for Dak Prescott, even though the Cowboys were sitting pretty at 4-1.

They were about to go into the bye, Romo was supposedly ready and if Dak struggled they might make a switch. Prescott promptly outplayed Aaron Rodgers, completing 18 of 27 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns.

Rodgers threw the ball 42 times for 294 yards and didn't look very good. The Packers fell to 3-2 and heard rumblings about a lost season. The eventually fell to 4-6, when Rodgers laid down his now-famous run-the-table challenge, and the rest is history.

Watching him play in the second half last Sunday, it's hard to imagine the Packers getting run out of this game. Rodgers won his only Super Bowl in AT&T Stadium when Jerry World first opened, and the Packers played well after Nelson went out vs. the Giants.

I have concerns about whether the Cowboys can run all over Green Bay again, and Rodgers is going to put up points. I think Dom Capers dials up enough pressure against the rookie quarterback to influence a couple of mistakes and Green Bay pulls it out late in an incredible game.

The pick: Packers 34, Cowboys 31

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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