The Celtics seemed to have found their groove after stumbling through the first couple games against the Bulls. It’s hard to know if they dropped those first two games because of the circumstances Isaiah Thomas was in or if the Bulls won those games because of Rondo’s play. It feels like the Wizards are the better team, but their struggles against the Hawks make them look more vulnerable and their bench is dismal. Despite their bench, I still think the Wizards are the better team and will pull this one off.
Wizards in 6
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors seemed like they might be better this year than they were last year, and the Cavs seemed like they were worse this year (especially on defense) than they were last year. But despite each game being close, the Cavs still swept the Pacers and the Raptors struggled against the Bucks. It’s certainly possible that the Raptors could beat the Cavs 4 times in a 7-game series. But, the Raptors just seem to tighten and lose games and the Cavs tend to find a way to win, even when it looks like they’ve given a lead away. My guess is the Raptors find a way to win a couple, but the Cavs will definitely take the series.
I think the Celtics will struggle out of the gate. They’ve had poor playoff showings, and the Bulls can be good with enough rest, which the first round provides. I do think they eventually pull it off because they’re definitely the better team. But, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the Bulls pull off the upset.
Celtics in 7
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indian Pacers
It’s that time of year, LeBron will go supernova and make everyone feel silly for doubting they could turn it up in the playoffs. This might end up being a sweep, but I think Paul George wills his team to win at least one at home.
Cavaliers in 5
Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are great, and just having Giannis Antetokounmpo means they have a chance to win every game. In fact, the Bucks winning the series is totally plausible. But, I think the Raptors getting deep into the playoffs last year puts them in a better space and will give them the mental edge they’ll need to win a tough series.
Raptors in 7
Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks
It’s tough to trust either of these teams in a playoff series, but I think the Wizards have shown they’re the more consistent of these two. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been incredible this year and the Hawks have had great flashes, but I don’t think they can win four against this Wizards team.
Wizards in 5
Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trailblazers
The Blazers kept the series somewhat competitive last year, and I think it’s possible they might’ve won one in Portland if Jusuf Nurkic was healthy, but without him, the Warriors biggest weakness isn’t much of a weakness at all against this Blazers team. The Blazers might get hot at the same time the Warriors go cold, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Warriors in 4
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The Spurs and Grizzlies split the regular season series 2-2 this year. The Spurs are definitely the better team, but I think the mostly-healthy Grizzlies will make it a competitive series this year.
Spurs in 6
Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Rockets are the better team, but the “clutch” stats are where the Thunder have a major edge. Also, a lot of Harden’s game is getting to the line for fouls that get called less often during the playoffs. The Rockets could end up blowing out the Thunder and sweeping, but I think the Thunder take this series.
Thunder in 6
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz
I so badly want to pick the Jazz, but they seem to beat up on bad teams and rarely beat good teams. The Clippers can always find a way to blow it, but I think they’ll wait till the 2nd round to do that. I just hope the Jazz put up a fight.
I think these teams are generally pretty evenly matched. The Patriots, despite not having a great defense, are a great all-around team and the Falcons have the best offense in the NFL. Ultimately, I think the Patriots will win because they’ve been able to win so much without Gronk and the Falcons will have a tough time with the injuries to Julio Jones and Alex Mack. Also, the Falcons are still the Falcons and the Patriots have so much Super Bowl experience. But, I would not be totally shocked if the Falcons win, given that they are such a great team.
Logically, the Falcons should win. They’re the better team overall on offense and defense than the Packers. The problem is, they’re the Falcons. Despite the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Cubs have broken curses this year, I wouldn’t put my money on the Falcons overcoming a curse AND beating Aaron Rodgers. The Falcons have the talent to win, but I just can’t bring myself to pick them.
Prediction: Packers win
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots
Sunday January 22 at 3:40pm PST
Neither the Patriots nor the Steelers looked great last year. The Patriots had trouble against the terrible Texans, but the Steelers couldn’t even score a touchdown. On the other hand, this week both teams will facing worse defenses, but much better offenses. My guess is it will be a close one, but I’m more confident in the Patriots. Ben Roethlisberger can be inconsistent and a decent portion of the Steelers’ roster might have the flu. The Steelers certainly have a chance to win, but the Patriots seem like the more likely AFC Champion.
I want to believe in the Falcons, and I don’t want to believe that the Seahawks are back. But, I just can’t bring myself to feel confident in the Falcons, and the Seahawks have been there. On the other hand, the Seahawks haven’t been great on the road this year. Yet, one of their three road wins was against the Patriots, so maybe they’ll get up for a big game. The Seahawks beat the Falcons in Seattle in Week 6 26-24, but the game ended in a controversial Pass Interference no-call. Considering the Falcons offense will be going up against the Seahawks defense on the road without Earl Thomas, I think the Falcons have a good chance to win. But still think they can find a way to blow it. I’ll say Falcons win this, but don’t feel super confident.
This game isn’t the only one that could go either way. But, I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this is actually a blowout either way. The Chiefs have been the more consistent team, by far, but lost to the Steelers43-14 in Pittsburgh in Week 4. The Chiefs have the better defense, but the Steelers’ offensive ceiling is so much higher than the Chiefs, it’s likely the Chiefs just won’t be able to score nearly enough to keep up, assuming Ben Roethlisberger is healthy and effective. The Chiefs definitely have a chance, but I think the Steelers are more likely to get the win.
Prediction: Steelers win
Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys
Sunday January 15 at 1:40pm PST
The Cowboys definitely had the better regular season, and beat the Packers30-16 in Week 6 in Green Bay. That said, I fear the Cowboys should’ve gone back to Tony Romo as soon as he came back from injury. Dak Prescott has had an incredible rookie season and will likely be the quarterback of the future for the Cowboys, but this could be a tough game for the Cowboys to have to lean on two rookies in Dak and Ezekiel Elliot to carry their offense. Maybe the rookies will rise to the occasion (and maybe Dez will have a great game), especially since the Packers’ defense isn’t great. But, I’ll lean towards Aaron Rodgers finding a way to win this game for the Packers against a rookie QB.
Everyone knows this is going to be an ugly game. The starting quarterbacks are Brock Osweiler (Texans) and Connor Cook (Raiders). This is NOT the way the Raiders season was supposed to go. The Texans are likely favored just because neither team will be able to do much offensively and the Texans will have home field advantage. My totally biased opinion has my feeling Connor Cook might be just competent (and confident) to get this done.
Prediction: Raiders win
Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks
Saturday January 7 at 5:15pm PST
This game might not be much prettier than the Raiders/Texans game. The Lions had an ugly end to an otherwise great season and the Seahawks have had major issues on offense (and plenty of injuries on defense). The Lions certainly have a chance, but I think the Seahawks will get it done at home.
Prediction: Seahawks win
Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday January 8 at 10:05am PST
Both of these teams have been unpredictable this season. The Dolphins won the only matchup between these two teams (on their home field). However, Ryan Tannehill played that game (Matt Moore will be starting this Sunday). Also of note, the Steelers won their final 7 games of the season. I’m not confident the Steelers will win, but it seems like the safer bet.
Prediction: Steelers win
New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
Sunday January 8 at 1:40pm PST
By far, the most exciting game of the weekend. Both teams struggledearly in the season, but finished strong. I think it’s likely that the winner of this game wins the NFC (and at least plays in the NFC Championship game). Both of these teams have playoff-tested quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers (Packers) and Eli Manning (Giants). Obviously, Rodgers feels like the more reliable quarterback, but Eli has a way of pulling a win out of his ass in a game like this. Also, both Giants SuperBowl runs included wins atLambeau. Tough call, but after the Packers won 6 in a row, I’m going to bet on them to keep the streak alive.
I can’t point to any legitimate solid reasoning to say the Cubs can’t beat the Indians except that they got shut down in games 2 and 3 of the NLCS. If the Cubs don’t score early, Andrew Miller can shut them down late in the game. Mostly, I’m just doubling down on my belief that the Cubs won’t win because they won over 100 games (and they’re the Cubs).