WATCH: Fox Sports’s Colin Cowherd and FF-Winners AI Computer in Full Agreement on Divisional Playoff Bets

Colin Cowherd is an excellent  (though sometimes annoying) NFL analyst. We are pleased he agrees with all 4 of our picks this week!

AFC Divisional Playoff Forecast

Houston Texans at New England Patriots: Texans QB Brock Osweiler surprised a lot of people in a win over the Oakland Raiders a week ago. Osweiler was 14 of 25 for 168 yards with 1 TD and no INTs, he also ran for a score. The conservative, do not make mistakes mentality allowed the Texans to score just enough points to get the win in the wild card round. The Raiders were without their star QB Derek Carr and the Texans defense, which ranked 1st in total defense, shut down the Raiders offense. This week, Osweiler will have to continue to not turn the football over as he faces his toughest challenge yet, the red hot New England Patriots and their 8th ranked total defense. We expect the Texans to try and run the ball and keep Tom Brady off the field, but eventually Osweiler will have to hit some big plays downfield if the Texans want a chance for a massive upset. We think the key will be how the Texans defense will play against the league’s 4th ranked offense. They can rush the QB with Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus off the edge, and if you can continue to harass Tom Brady you give your defense a chance to get stops. I believe it will be closer than people expect, as the Texans defense will keep them in the game but eventually the Patriots will force Osweiler into mistakes and too many 3rd and longs which will ultimately decide the game. The Texans inability to hit big plays on offense will wear the defense down as they will be on the field for too long and the Patriots should run away with it in the 4th quarter.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs: These are the two teams with the chance to upset the New England Patriots this postseason. This is the first time the Steelers have had a fully healthy “big three” in QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, so that will definitely be a major factor. The Dolphins could not stop Brown as he had 5 catches for 124 yards and two TDs in their win last week. We believe the Chiefs star CB Marcus Peters will do a much better job of limiting what Brown can do in the pass game, and force other WRs to beat them. The Chiefs defense has been susceptible this season, as they rank 24th in total defense, but they make up for it with a league leading +16 in turnover differential. The Chiefs defense forces you into mistakes and their offense does not make very many mistakes. The Chiefs are a completely different team with an emerging star in WR Tyreek Hill, who led the league in 60 plus yard TDs this year. He is explosive and a great complement to WR Jeremy Maclin and the All-Pro TE Travis Kelce over the middle. RB Spencer Ware has done a nice job filling in for the injured Jamaal Charles, and we believe the Chiefs will have great balance on offense. The biggest key to this game is QB Alex Smith, he has been called a game manger in the past but he has the ability to rip it downfield. The key will be his legs, which are vastly underrated. Smith runs the read-option and is far more athletic than people think, he can convert big third downs on the ground if the defense plays man across the board which will be a huge factor in sustaining drives. This game is a toss up, but I think that the Chiefs defense will get enough stops, force some turnovers and allow the offense to manage the game, while hitting a few big plays. The Chiefs should get the win with the help of their home-field advantage, but it will be a great game!

[Analysis by NFL expert Preston Rowe]

NFC Playoff Picture Still in Flux

Usually, Week 17 of the NFL’s regular season is mostly meaningless. The teams with nothing left to play for usually play out this last game as nothing but a formality, while those teams in contention have usually solidified their spots in the postseason race.

However, heading into Week 17, while we do have a good idea of who’s most likely to be in this year’s NFC playoffs, there’s still plenty at stake for the participants to play for, and fans of those teams to watch for.

The Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, and New York Giants have all clinched postseason berths. We know that the Cowboys have secured the top seed in the conference, meaning they’ll have home field advantage for any game leading up to the Super Bowl. We also know that the New York Giants have secured the fifth seed (the top Wild Card spot), meaning they’ll play against the division winner with lowest win-loss percentage in the playoffs.

But after that? It’s all up in the air.

With the Detroit Lions losing to Dallas on Monday evening, the two biggest “must watch” games for Week 17 are the Washington Redskins hosting the New York Giants, and the Green Bay Packers traveling to Detroit; the latter game was flexed into the Sunday Night prime time spot, due to the playoff implications of the game. If Washington wins, they’ll almost automatically clinch the last playoff spot (the #6 seed). The only scenario in which the Redskins win and still get left out of the playoffs is if the the Lions-Packers game ends in a tie; more on that in a second. But for all intents and purposes, Washington is pretty much in a “win and in” situation.

The interesting wrinkle to the Redskins-Giants affair will be whether the Giants decide to rest their starters in the game. New  York can do no better or no worse than the fifth seed in the playoffs regardless of the outcome of the game, so it bears watching as to whether they’ll still have their star players — like Odell Beckham Jr., among others — participate in this meaningless match up.

If Washington wins, the game between Detroit and Green Bay will not only bear the implications of the NFC North division winner, but will also be a “loser goes home” scenario. Midway through December, Detroit had a 9-4 record. But after losing their last two games, combined with the hard-charging Packers currently riding a five-game winning streak, the Lions grasp on the NFC North title is tenuous at best. But, in an interesting twist, the Lions and Packers can actually both make the playoffs if their game ends in a tie. If that happens, the Packers would win the NFC North, and the Lions would get the last playoff spot in the NFC, as they would have the same record as the Redskins but own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The other two games that could potentially alter the NFC playoff landscape involve the Atlanta Falcons hosting the New Orleans Saints, and the Seattle Seahawks playing the San Francisco 49ers in the Bay area.  The Falcons presently hold the second seed in the NFC playoffs, meaning they’d get the highly valuable first-round bye and host the playoff semi-final game. However, if Atlanta loses to New Orleans and Seattle beats San Francisco, then Seattle would secure the second seed in the NFC playoffs. But, both the Falcons and Seahawks will be favorites entering the game, so it’s hard to see the current seeding of both teams changing.

With Green Bay entering the game as three point favorites over the Lions and Washington entering their game against New York as eight point favorites, if we assume that the Packers, Redskins, Falcons, and Seahawks all win in Week 17, we would have the Cowboys with the top seed in the NFC playoffs, the Falcons with the second seed, and the Redskins taking on the Seahawks as well as the Giants traveling to Green Bay to take on the Packers in the NFC playoffs.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]