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Some predictions, and thoughts:

BUF@HOU - I'm a little biased as I am somewhat of fan of Buffalo. I like they way they are coached, I like their D, and see real potential in Josh Allen, who is already good and had a very good second half to the season. The Texans are already pretty good, especially Watson, they are at home, and JJ Watt will be back (early! Though limited), giving the team an emotional boost. But they are also missing Will Fuller. The issue is if the Texans can't get the ball into the end zone fairly early, the Bill defense may stiffen up and shut them down for an upset. Tre-Davious White will be covering DeAndre Hopkins. White did not allow a single TD in pass coverage all season long, while targeted 84 times. So, without Fuller out, and Hopkins covered by White (TE Akins is also playing hurt), the Texans are going to have a very tough time throwing the ball down field and into the end zone, thus my reasoning for the upset.

TEN@NE - There's no question that the Titans can give the Patriots problems. The weather will be chilly and wet, and they will try to hammer Henry all day long. Tannehill moves well and doesn't make big mistakes. This game sort of feels like we have one team on the rise (Titans) and another in their twilight (Pats). But I also see the Pats being very well prepared and focused, enough to win. A Patriot loss could seem like the beginning of the end of the dynasty.

MIN@NO - The Vikings aren't bad, but I can't possibly see the Saints losing this game. In fact, out of every team playing this weekend, the Saints have the best shot a winning the SB. They are deep, experienced, well coached, with an HOF QB who is still playing great. The only way they lose is if it's close late, a few bounced balls go the wrong way, and the zebras take the win away from them. Out of all four games, this is the one game I'm firmly confident in my prediction (like most people).

SEA@PHI - Seattle is the road team, and the Eagles are playing well, and healing (though Agholor is out, and Ertz playing hurt), but I still like Seattle here. I like Wilson's heroics, the Seahawks had a few dud games, but a few more that were stellar, and they came within inches of getting the bye this week. I think they will run the ball well and pull out the road win. It's raining now there, but tomorrow will be mostly sunny and a little breezy.
 
A lot of people don't seem to be too confident that they will get past the Titans. I am tipping the Titans, I just get the sense that the Patriots are ripe for the picking. I think the Bills will win the other game with their defense.
I honestly don't blame people for picking the Titans. It's just a thought of the Patriots actually playing another game instead of practicing, so the offense gets real reps. Plus with them losing to Miami, which some players could have penciled in the win it'll fire them up. Van Noy already stated they are on a revenge tour, if they get it together they can run the gauntlet.

I think all the wildcard games can end with either team winning.
 
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Some predictions, and thoughts:

BUF@HOU - I'm a little biased as I am somewhat of fan of Buffalo. I like they way they are coached, I like their D, and see real potential in Josh Allen, who is already good and had a very good second half to the season. The Texans are already pretty good, especially Watson, they are at home, and JJ Watt will be back (early! Though limited), giving the team an emotional boost. But they are also missing Will Fuller. The issue is if the Texans can't get the ball into the end zone fairly early, the Bill defense may stiffen up and shut them down for an upset. Tre-Davious White will be covering DeAndre Hopkins. White did not allow a single TD in pass coverage all season long, while targeted 84 times. So, without Fuller out, and Hopkins covered by White (TE Akins is also playing hurt), the Texans are going to have a very tough time throwing the ball down field and into the end zone, thus my reasoning for the upset.

TEN@NE - There's no question that the Titans can give the Patriots problems. The weather will be chilly and wet, and they will try to hammer Henry all day long. Tannehill moves well and doesn't make big mistakes. This game sort of feels like we have one team on the rise (Titans) and another in their twilight (Pats). But I also see the Pats being very well prepared and focused, enough to win. A Patriot loss could seem like the beginning of the end of the dynasty.

MIN@NO - The Vikings aren't bad, but I can't possibly see the Saints losing this game. In fact, out of every team playing this weekend, the Saints have the best shot a winning the SB. They are deep, experienced, well coached, with an HOF QB who is still playing great. The only way they lose is if it's close late, a few bounced balls go the wrong way, and the zebras take the win away from them. Out of all four games, this is the one game I'm firmly confident in my prediction (like most people).

SEA@PHI - Seattle is the road team, and the Eagles are playing well, and healing (though Agholor is out, and Ertz playing hurt), but I still like Seattle here. I like Wilson's heroics, the Seahawks had a few dud games, but a few more that were stellar, and they came within inches of getting the bye this week. I think they will run the ball well and pull out the road win. It's raining now there, but tomorrow will be mostly sunny and a little breezy.
Cousins is overdue for a big win in a high pressure game but his record doesn't look good in that regard. Saints are an interesting one. I don't see them losing to the Vikings but I still think their defense can be suspect against better teams. Some can't see them winning in GB. Not sure why. I'd be surprised to see GB in the SB. I have never been less convinced about a 13 win team. Seattle should win and their road record is 7-1 this season. I'm sure SF would prefer they didn't !
 
Bills have a habit of butchering games. Allen couldn't maintain his composure. Why the Bills didn't run the ball more towards the end of regulation time is a mystery. Allan himself had plenty of opportunities but chose to make wild throws.
And OMG that lateral. Both teams made mistakes but Texans hurt themselves less. I thought Texans shot themselves in the foot going for it 4th and short instead of field goal, I would have went conservative.
 
Josh is young and learned a lot. TX was just a better team even if just barely.

EDIT for game 2:
HENRY!

I don't think that TEN has what it takes to score with BAL. Similarly, I don't think that HOU can score with KC.

GO SEA!
 
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I'm with you for most of what you wrote, including times, but I'd say it's the fans who need the break, not the players. Rarely, if ever, do you find players complaining about the weather. In fact, outside of less games than you can count on one hand players often comment on games played in horrid conditions as "fun". Even the worst weather games in history (Ice Bowl, Freezer Bowl) players later talk about playing in them as a badge of honor.

The sport you are thinking of is basketball. :)

I thought similar. If any team could actually use a game to get it's offense sorted out, it's New England, now. I think each of us can picture the possibility of the Patriots having a very prepared game-plan, followed by a solid offensive performance this week, then the following week, improving more. We already know they have an outstanding defense, but there have been times this season where the Patriots have come alive on offense, and it's plausible they can do that again. I still see them having a tough time getting through either Baltimore or KC on the road, but to rule them out would be foolish.
While I appreciate your humor, the NFL isn't the game that I grew up watching in the 70s, nor 80s or 90s, and not even really the game at the beginning of this century (closer though). Many players make more now than entire teams (even conferences) were worth then. Other $$ aspects are small economies of their own. Yet its OK that the playing filed, literally and figuratively, isn't the same at every game?!

You don't hear players complain because after the game they interview the winning players.
 
Good job to the Titans. They came and ran it down the Patriots throat. Poor performance with the dropped passes and penalties killing drives.
Patriots offense continued as is. Not sure why some people thought one week was going to make a huge difference to something that they have struggled with for most of the season. I knew the Titans had a good shot especially with Henry, and the Patriots scoring issues. The Miami game was no fluke it just summed up the Patriots problems and the timing set the alarm bells ringing even more. Will it be Brady's last game with Bill ?
 
Great start to the playoff games, Bills/Texans game was just pure madness. Both sides had chances to win the game, more so the Bills, in the end it came down to who would mess up the least. Watson just showed that bit more composure compared to Allen when it came down to it.

Didn’t watch the Titans/Pats game, but not surprised by the result, the Brady era is over and the Pats need a fairly big rebuild with some ageing players.
 
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As a pats hater, that loss hurts. Because I think it confirms they absolutely were for the taking last year, if the NFL hadn't put that amateur mcvay into the SB instead of Payton and Brees. Or a lot of other things that went their way.

Obviously they weren't gonna win it this year. They can win one playoff game in ten years away from home, not three in one. But it would have been funny to see Brady get credit for another sb win on this form.
 
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Great start to the playoff games, Bills/Texans game was just pure madness. Both sides had chances to win the game, more so the Bills, in the end it came down to who would mess up the least. Watson just showed that bit more composure compared to Allen when it came down to it.

Didn’t watch the Titans/Pats game, but not surprised by the result, the Brady era is over and the Pats need a fairly big rebuild with some ageing players.
Yes, great start with two close, exciting games. My only criticism is the blindside block rule, or interpretation of it by the refs. In OT of the Bills/Texans game, #70 OT Cody Ford was called for a 15 personal foul for a blindside block that knocked the Bills out of FG range. Kicker Hauschka is pretty reliable under pressure, so that penalty probably cost the Bills the game. It's disgusting when refs determine the outcome of the game. Not just that. There was nothing blind about the block from my view as the Texans LB who was blocked clearly had his head turned in the direction of the blocker, and it was not a block in the back. Good block, bad call by refs, and bad rule or BS interpretation of it.

https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2020/01/04/mike-pereira-terry-mcaulay-disagree-with-blindside-block-penalty-on-bills/

https://www.totalprosports.com/2020/01/04/refs-cost-bills-chance-at-game-winning-fg-after-highly-questionable-blindside-block-penalty-video/

https://www.nflpenalties.com/penalty/illegal-blindside-block?year=2019&view=team
 
Yes, great start with two close, exciting games. My only criticism is the blindside block rule, or interpretation of it by the refs. In OT of the Bills/Texans game, #70 OT Cody Ford was called for a 15 personal foul for a blindside block that knocked the Bills out of FG range. Kicker Hauschka is pretty reliable under pressure, so that penalty probably cost the Bills the game. It's disgusting when refs determine the outcome of the game. Not just that. There was nothing blind about the block from my view as the Texans LB who was blocked clearly had his head turned in the direction of the blocker, and it was not a block in the back. Good block, bad call by refs, and bad rule or BS interpretation of it.

https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2020/01/04/mike-pereira-terry-mcaulay-disagree-with-blindside-block-penalty-on-bills/

https://www.totalprosports.com/2020/01/04/refs-cost-bills-chance-at-game-winning-fg-after-highly-questionable-blindside-block-penalty-video/

https://www.nflpenalties.com/penalty/illegal-blindside-block?year=2019&view=team
Yes, that was one of many questionable calls/no calls yesterday (both crews had questionable spotting issues*). Could it have cost BUF the game? You say probably, I say maybe (probably not too far away from each other).

Also kicker related: I disagreed with sending Forbeth out on first and goal because too many things can go wrong with FG kicks. He nailed it so my 'disagreement' got chucked.

*We can go on and on about the chains and spotting the ball...are they really still doing it by eye (see above I've clearly pointed out that its 2020:). It my contention that a lot of the issues with officiating is because we have old guys who weren't even great athletes when they were younger, trying to keep up with elite athletes. How can they spot the ball from out of position?! Its long past time to have tech do this job.
 
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Watching the Texans/Bills game was fun. Entertaining game. However, both team make mistakes and are still aren't at the top level yet. Both are young and can improve and both teams still need a few more pieces. However, they are close. As for Allen, I think he just needs to learn a little more.
 
Well, I'm 0 for 2 so far in my predictions, but my reasoning was fairly sound in how the games may go at least!

Some good posts here from you guys. I too thought that call against Ford on the Bills for the crackback block was wrong, and while it didn't mean the Bills would have won, it certainly changed the game. I also wondered why the Bills didn't keep running late in the game. Allen made some terrific plays, and I hope you guys saw the potential I do, but he also didn't play as well when the Texan D knew he'd be passing on every single down.

As to Brady and the Pats, my biggest question is this: Do the Patriots and Belicheck think they can win without him? Because if that answer is "yes" then Tom plays somewhere else next season, or doesn't play at all. I personally think Tony Romo is right, Tom still wants to play, can still play, and will be back next year as a Patriot. But the team will surround him with a quality WR, a better TE, and a little better pass protection. Curious of Josh McDaniels takes an HC job elsewhere.

While I see Tennessee able to run some against Baltimore, I see no reason to think their defense can stop Jackson and the Ravens offense. As much as they could grind the clock down with Henry, they will still likely give up 30 points or so.

I could repeat that almost entirely for Houston trying to beat KC. I don't see it happening.
 
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With the biggest struggles for the Patriots offense was:
  1. Gronk retiring and not get any replacement at TE in passing or blocking.
  2. Losing Andrews and Devlin weakening blocking.
  3. Brown, Gordon, and Henry not producing from AB's shenanigans, Gordon not returning to production and the suspension coming, and Henry getting injured.
  4. Revolving door at receiver causing lack of system, route tree, and timing knowledge.
  5. No other receiver Brady trusted leading to Edelman being targeted more and insanely injured. Should have kept Amendola or picked him up.
  6. Dropped passes and penalties killing drives.
  7. No separation leading to tight windows while Brady at moments showed zip on the ball.
  8. Brady's 42 now and can no longer elevate average and below talent it seems and the injuries affect him more.
I don't see any reason Brady would leave and go somewhere else unless McDaniels goes to a team that has good pieces around them. He'll be 43 and have to learn a whole new system and new people, has his oldest son in New York, and Gisele does a lot of business in New York. Belichick is an enigma on if he'll leave though same goes to him as Brady taking his system and philosophy to a new team and implementing it.

Either way it will be the end of the dynasty as we know it in 1-5 years with the AFC East looking to be better and the rise of the mobile quarterback. Come payday time it'll be interesting to see how Ravens, Chiefs, and Texans far after paying their quarterbacks.
 
Sad loss for the Saints. Looks like the young guns will be playing for it all. Good job to Vikings and Cousins getting his win.
Not surprised by the Patriots loss but was surprised by the Saints loss. Cousins gets the monkey off his back. Vikings and 49ers should be an interesting game. The Niners and Seattle seem to know each other almost too well. There is a chance the game next week turns into a grinding defensive game. But both QBs are in good form. Seattle and GB should also be another good one. Think Kansas and the Ravens will win. A Niners/Seattle rematch has an air of inevitability about it but the Vikings will obviously be confident.
 
RE: the not call on the TD (NOLA vs. MIN):

IMO that isn't OPI. That being said, it should have been reviewed. The NFL has come out and said that it didn't 'rise to the level' or whatever of OPI, but review it at the time, not an hour later. EDIT: I guess they took a quick look, but go ahead and take a long look.

The whole "extended arm(s)" rhetoric is stupid! Can that be part of PI? Of course, but it can also just be proximity.
 
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Well, I'm 0 for 2 so far in my predictions, but my reasoning was fairly sound in how the games may go at least!

Some good posts here from you guys. I too thought that call against Ford on the Bills for the crackback block was wrong, and while it didn't mean the Bills would have won, it certainly changed the game. I also wondered why the Bills didn't keep running late in the game. Allen made some terrific plays, and I hope you guys saw the potential I do, but he also didn't play as well when the Texan D knew he'd be passing on every single down.

As to Brady and the Pats, my biggest question is this: Do the Patriots and Belicheck think they can win without him? Because if that answer is "yes" then Tom plays somewhere else next season, or doesn't play at all. I personally think Tony Romo is right, Tom still wants to play, can still play, and will be back next year as a Patriot. But the team will surround him with a quality WR, a better TE, and a little better pass protection. Curious of Josh McDaniels takes an HC job elsewhere.

While I see Tennessee able to run some against Baltimore, I see no reason to think their defense can stop Jackson and the Ravens offense. As much as they could grind the clock down with Henry, they will still likely give up 30 points or so.

I could repeat that almost entirely for Houston trying to beat KC. I don't see it happening.
I don't see McD leaving. I also don't see TB12 leaving, and as you pointed out, who is better than TB12 (that is available)?
 
WOOHOO Seahawks! It wasn't super pretty but a W is a W!
Without Wilson this team goes nowhere though. Too bad Wentz got knocked out of the game with a concussion from the tackle by Clowney, which, after the hit by Clowney, Wentz then hit his head on the turf - a double whammy on one tackle. Even so, McCown played well enough for Eagles to win, & it might have ended different if Pederson had NOT decided to try, and fail, to convert two 4th and 1 conversions when he could have settled for 2 FGs. Then they are only down 1 point in the final minutes. Two other positives for the Hawks: 1) Metcalf is proving his worth at WR, and 2) LYNCH at the goal line. Now, Lynch is not having to contribute much, but in that same situation Homer does not get into the end zone. Lynch can still be a beast.
 
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As a pats hater, that loss hurts. Because I think it confirms they absolutely were for the taking last year, if the NFL hadn't put that amateur mcvay into the SB instead of Payton and Brees. Or a lot of other things that went their way.
C'mon, Hitch, this was sweet, enjoy it. For the entire second half, all they needed to win was a FG, and they couldn't get one. What could have been the last play of Brady's NE career--or even his career, period--was a pick-six, and this is the first time in his entire career that he threw pick-sixes in consecutive games. The last two plays by the Pats were turnovers. If time hadn't run out, TE would have scored two TDs in handful of seconds.

Obviously they weren't gonna win it this year.
Didn't hear anyone saying that at the beginning of the season, though. They were ranked no. 1 in I think all the preseason polls, and when they started out 8-0, they seemed unchallengeable:

The AFC might not have two good teams.

Week 8 provided more evidence that the Patriots might not even sweat in Foxborough this January on their way to another Super Bowl
A healthy Chiefs team is probably the best remaining candidate to beat the Patriots. Maybe it’s the Texans just because Deshaun Watson is insanely good and seems capable of anything. Aside from the old “any given Sunday” cliche, there’s no good reason to believe any other AFC team can come within 10 points of New England at home in the playoffs. Mahomes and Watson are the only reasons those teams even have a puncher’s chance.

And to be clear, the road to the Super Bowl is very likely to go through New England. The only scenario for a team other than the Patriots getting the No. 1 seed, outside of major injuries, starts with a Ravens win on Sunday. \
Well, the last sentence was right.

We’re not even halfway through the season and anyone hoping to avoid the Patriots on Super Bowl Sunday this season should be running out of hope.

As to Brady and the Pats, my biggest question is this: Do the Patriots and Belicheck think they can win without him? Because if that answer is "yes" then Tom plays somewhere else next season, or doesn't play at all. I personally think Tony Romo is right, Tom still wants to play, can still play, and will be back next year as a Patriot. But the team will surround him with a quality WR, a better TE, and a little better pass protection
I wouldn't automatically assume that Brady will be a good QB next year, and that he can start for the Patriots or someone else. He's already an extreme outlier, the benefit of very rare protracted and gentle decline. Even as it is, he's no longer an elite QB, raising legitimate questions about how much better he can make a team. And that's assuming he won't be worse next year, when he easily could be finished entirely, not suitable for any role but a backup. Just because his decline has been gradual so far doesn't mean he can't fall off a cliff. Manning had his statistically best season his second year at Denver, set all kinds of QB records, and two years later he was one of the worst QB s in the league, starting mostly because of reputation and lack of a reliable alternative. The end can come very fast.

Most QBs--not just Manning, but Montana, Marino, Elway, Young--are done by their late 30s. Aaron Rodgers--the best QB of his generation, better than Brady, would have won all those titles if he'd been playing for NE--is 36, and clearly is not the player he once was. It will be very interesting to see how he performs next week. Rivers is 38, and showing definite signs of being close to the finish. Ben is 37, and his days are numbered. Eli is 39, and easing out. Brees, like Brady, is past 40, and everyone talks about how great he is, but what happened today? It really shouldn't be a surprise. He's shown definite signs of decline recently, it's just that he's been inconsistent. Every time he has a great game, people think he's as good as ever. He might be in moments, but at his age he can no longer count on those moments happening all the time.

As long as Beli is coach, NE can be a playoff contender--remember, they won their first three SB when Brady was considered nothing but a game manager--and despite all their offensive problems this year, they were still 12-4. So I think they can win with Brady or without him, so I guess the decision might come down to how much they have to pay him, and whether they can get an adequate replacement cheaper.

MN@SF is not the first time these two teams meet in the postseason. They met in the playoffs three years in a row in the late 1980s, and the first meeting was one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. This is some really interesting history.

The 49ers won 4 SB in the 1980s, but their best team might have been in 1987, when they didn't even get close to the SB. They started out poorly, losing their first game and winning the second only by a miracle, when the Bengals, leading with less than a minute to go and around their own 20, elected not to punt but to try to run out the clock by having the QB take the snap and run around in the backfield, avoiding getting tackled. It didn't work, he got tackled with a few seconds left in the game, and the 49ers had just enough time for a Montana to Rice TD pass that won the game.

After that, there was a strike. The games the following week were cancelled, then games were resumed, but mostly with replacement players, since most of the starters remained on strike. The 49ers won all three of their strike games, helped by the fact that one notorious scab was Montana. When the strike ended, and the regular players returned, the 49ers kept winning, going 9-1 the rest of the way. They finished the season 13-2, and averaging > 30 points a game and giving up less than 17 a game, a historically great point differential.

For those who believe in momentum, the 49ers won their final three games by a combined score of 124-7. The Vikings lost three of their last four games, and finished the season the definition of average: 8-7, with almost exactly as many points allowed as points scored. Yet the Vikings dominated the 49ers on the road, leading 20-3 at the half. Montana was benched in favour of Young, who got the offence going in the second half, but too little, too late.

The 49ers got revenge the following year, beating the Vikings handily in another division game, and blowing them out yet again the year after that. They won the SB each of those years.
 
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I think with Brees the biggest reason we haven't seen as much of a decline is that he has a very good group of wide receivers and he still has his accuracy. The biggest thing we saw today is that his arm strength isn't what it was before. So yes, we are seeing him start his decline as well. However, I think the reasons I mentioned are why we may not have noticed it as much as some of the others mentioned by Merckx Index. However, what I find interesting is many are asking about is Brady retiring, similar for Eli and Rivers and Ben hasn't been immune to that either. Yet Brees has so far escaped those questions as well.
 
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