Only one week remains in the NFL regular season which means the playoffs are quickly approaching. While the two Texas teams, the Cowboys and the Texans, are currently locked into their respective seeding, both squads still want to enter the postseason with some momentum on a winning note. Assuming my Week 17 predictions are accurate, this is how both the NFC and AFC playoffs will look like:
No. 1 Seed: New England Patriots (14-2)
Week 17 Opponent: @ Miami (Prediction: Win)
Despite currently being 13-2, the Patriots could still miss out on home-field advantage if they slip up against the Dolphins and the Raiders defeat the Broncos on Sunday. Last season, New England got waxed by Miami in the final week of action and surrendered the first seed to the eventual Super Bowl champion, the Denver Broncos. Miami is 2-0 with their backup quarterback, Matt Moore, under center, but his wins came against the Jets and the Bills, both teams who currently have losing records and quarterback controversy. The Patriots have neither of those issues. Tom Brady will look to beef up his MVP resume in the final week.
No. 2 Seed: Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
Week 17 Opponent: @ San Diego (Prediction: Win)
Although the Chiefs are currently a Wild Card team, Kansas City can clinch the AFC West and a first-round bye with a win over the collapsing Chargers and a Raiders loss. This game should be closely contested, as it was when the Chiefs completed an epic comeback to beat San Diego in overtime in Week 1, but the Chiefs should take care of business against their inferior opponent with an explosive offense and a stifling defense. Meanwhile, no team will benefit more from Derek Carr’s injury than Kanas City, as the Raiders fall to the Broncos in the final week without him.
No. 3 Seed: Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Week 17 Opponent: vs. Cleveland (Prediction: Win)
The Steelers are locked into the third seed and have nothing to play for, but they can still beat the Browns in their sleep. No matter who plays or rests for this game, Pittsburgh will walk all over their pathetic division rival, who didn’t win their first game of the season until last week. The Steelers are getting hot at the right time and can pose a serious threat to anybody they oppose. New England is the team to beat, but Pittsburgh, with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell, is the team nobody wants to play in January.
No. 4 Seed: Houston Texans (10-6)
Week 17 Opponent: @ Tennessee (Prediction: Win)
Just like Pittsburgh, the Texans are locked into their current seeding and have nothing to play for to that respect. However, Houston can finish the season with a flawless 6-0 record against division opponents with a win against Tennessee on Sunday. The Titans, who lost Marcus Mariota for the season with a broken fibula last week, will look more like the 2014 and 2015 Titans on Sunday without him. It’s worth mentioning Tennessee also has nothing to play for except pride. Tom Savage will look to get more reps under center so he can be more experienced for the following week when Houston takes on either the Raiders, Chiefs, or Dolphins in the Wild Card round. However, if Savage takes a hard hit in the game, the Texans may choose to rest him to preserve his health. Houston’s No. 1 defense and punishing run game should put this game away regardless of who the signal caller is.
No. 5 Seed: Oakland Raiders (12-4)
Week 17 Opponent: @ Denver (Prediction: Loss)
Derek Carr’s fibula injury came at the worst possible time for Oakland. Now, the Raiders will have to play against a vaunted Broncos defense without his services in the thin Mile High air with the division title on the line. Carr’s value to the team will show when Oakland falls on Sunday. Denver, who got eliminated from postseason contention last week, would love to play spoiler over their hated rivals, as they must be 50 shades of livid from their embarrassing loss on Christmas day. Denver will not make the postseason, but against a Carr-less Raiders, they will have an impact on it.
No. 6 Seed: Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Week 17 Opponent: vs. New England (Prediction: Loss)
Bottom line: the Patriots are a better team and have more to play for than the Dolphins. The best Miami can do is clinch a fifth seed, but they also need the lowly Chargers to knock off the Chiefs for this to occur. Neither are these outcomes are likely, much less both of them happening. Also, without Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins may want to consider resting starters to go into the playoffs as healthy as possible.
No. 1 Seed: Dallas Cowboys (14-2)
Week 17 Opponent: @ Philadelphia (Prediction: Win)
Although Dallas has home-field advantage already locked up, they can win a franchise-best 14 regular season games with a victory on Sunday. Neither the Cowboys or the Eagles have anything on the line in this game except pride. Expect Dallas to start resting key starters later on in this game. However, the Cowboys’ backups are still capable of beating the Eagles, who have posted a 3-9 record after starting the 2016 season 3-0. It will be interesting to see if Ezekiel Elliott can break Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record. Zeke needs to rush for 178 yards against Philly if he wants to rewrite history.
No. 2 Seed: Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Week 17 Opponent: vs. New Orleans (Prediction: Win)
Expect this game to be a shootout. Neither defense is great, but both offenses are. Both team’s secondary’s will get torched all day, but Atlanta’s high-powered offense will find a way to come out on top and secure a first-round bye. Altanta’s offense has potential to give opponents nightmares in the playoffs and is one team the Cowboys would rather not face in January in a do-or-die situation. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones make the Falcons a dark horse to win it all this season and a quietly good ground game only makes the Falcons more dynamic.
No. 3 Seed: Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
Week 17 Opponent: @ San Francisco (Prediction: Win)
If Seattle loses to the 2-13 49ers, who have only been able to beat the dreadful-to-watch Rams in 2016, this would be truly embarrassing. Seattle will rebound from last week’s soul-crushing loss to the Cardinals at home and will trample San Francisco, a team that has been awful since Jim Harbaugh’s departure. The Legion of Boom won’t allow Colin Kaepernick to carve them up on Sunday and Russell Wilson and friends will help put the final nail in the coffin. Seattle is banged up, but the 49ers don’t stand a chance in this game.
No. 4 Seed: Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Week 17 Opponent: @ Detroit (Prediction: Win)
When Aaron Rodgers told the media Green Bay would “run the table” after falling to 4-6, he meant it. Winners of five-straight, Green Bay will run away with the NFC North as long as Rodgers continues to play at a high level. This Packers team looks a lot like they did in 2010, when they won Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas. Dallas is the team to beat, but Green Bay is the team nobody wants to play as they are getting hot at the right time. On a side note, does anybody else remember what Rodgers did the last time he played in Detroit?
No. 5 Seed: New York Giants (10-6)
Week 17 Opponent: @ Washington (Prediction: Loss)
The Giants have clinched the fifth seed and have nothing to play for on Sunday. Meanwhile, their opponent, the Redskins, need to win on New Year’s Day if they want to join the postseason dance. Expect New York to rest starters at some point in this game, which should result in a Washington victory. At this point in the season for the Giants, they need to focus on their health rather than momentum. How bad would it stink if a key player, such as Odell Beckham, Jr., fell victim to injury in a game that didn’t matter?
No. 6 Seed: Washington Redskins (9-6-1)
Week 17 Opponent: vs. New York Giants (Prediction: Win)
As long as the Redskins beat the Giants and the Lions and Packers don’t tie on Sunday, Kirk Cousins will get another shot to win a postseason game. If Washington pulls away in the Wild Card round, they will be set for a round-three showdown with their arch rival, the Cowboys. Dallas, who has already beaten Washington twice in 2016, may have to beat the Redskins for a third time if they want to win the Super Bowl. As the Cowboys learned in 2007, it is very difficult to beat the same team three times in one season.
So, what does all this mean to Houston and Dallas?
Under the assumption all of these predictions come true, I have also ranked the teams in order from one to five as far as who has the best shot at ending Dallas’ and Houston’s seasons:
Top threats to beat Houston:
#1 – New England Patriots
The Patriots may be the best team in the NFL and Houston has virtually no shot at beating New England unless Tom Savage turns into Tom Brady this postseason. Earlier this season, the Patriots shut out the Texans 27-0 with their third-string quarterback. Let that sink in.
#2 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Houston may have No. 1 defense, but Pittsburgh’s three-headed monster on offense will be tough to stop. If these two teams meet, it will be in Pittsburgh and we all know Houston has been a different (in a bad way) team on the road this season.
#3 – Kansas City Chiefs
The Texans beat the Chiefs earlier this season with Brock Osweiler taking the snaps. However, if Kansas City wins the AFC West (as I predicted), this game would take place in ArrowHead Stadium, which is a tough place to play. The Chiefs will also get an extra week off. Their explosive offense and brutalizing defense could take them to the Super Bowl if they play their cards right.
#4 – Miami Dolphins
Miami should be taken seriously, but if they face Houston in the playoffs, the game will be in Houston, a place where the Texans are 7-1. Houston’s secondary and pass rush should be too much for Miami to overcome.
#5 – Oakland Raiders
No Derek Carr means no Super Bowl chance for the Raiders. It’s hard to see Matt McGloin leading this team to the promise land considering the defense isn’t top-notch. Houston may be responsible for Oakland’s elimination in the postseason.
Top threats to beat Dallas:
#1 – Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers caught fire at the right time, and that should not only scare Dallas, that should scare the rest of the NFL, too. Aaron Rodgers is also experienced in the postseason. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are not. Experience is vital to postseason success.
#2 – Atlanta Falcons
If these teams meet in January, Atlanta’s offense has a legitimate shot to take the top off of Dallas’ secondary in order to edge out a win. Atlanta is more dangerous than some experts are giving them credit for.
#3 – Seattle Seahawks
Not only are the Seahawks experienced in the postseason, they are also equipped to take down the Cowboys’ mighty offense. Dallas’ offense is so good because they have a great ground game and they protect the football well. What is Seattle good at? Stuffing the run and creating turnovers.
#4 – New York Giants
The Giants are the only team to beat the Cowboys so far this season and they did it twice. New York is also responsible for half of Prescott’s four interceptions in his short career. Cowboys fans want to see New York get eliminated from the playoffs as soon as possible for this reason.
#5 – Washington Redskins
Although it is a tall task to beat a team three times in one season, the Cowboys are capable of doing it. Dallas proved on Thanksgiving day they are a superior team to the Redskins as Kirk Cousins threw for over 400 yards and still lost. The Redskins have to find a way to generate turnovers if they want a prayer at taking down the Cowboys.
Burning question for Texas football fans: How likely is it for the Texans and the Cowboys to meet in Super Bowl LI in Houston?
Dallas has a legitimate shot at going, but Houston doesn’t have a fighting chance at making it this far unless Tom Savage becomes a Hall of Famer out of nowhere. If these teams did happen to meet in the Super Bowl by some crazy stroke of luck, Houston would get annihilated. Any Houston-Dallas Super Bowl talk is a bad case of wishful thinking. If you desperately want to see this matchup happen, go buy yourself a copy of Madden NFL 17.