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What We Learned From the NFL: Week 17 Edition

Connor Cook (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Connor Cook (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

That was fun wasn’t it?

Now that the regular season has concluded, it is time for the playoffs and the 32-team field has been narrowed down to just 12 fighting it out for the Lombardi Trophy.

Before the postseason starts however, lets take a look at what happened in an otherwise mostly meaningless Week 17. Seedings were finalized in the AFC but the NFC featured the drama: 4 teams for 2 spots.

Now, onto the observations…

Green Bay was never losing to Detroit

Sure, it’s easy to say that now AFTER the Packers defeated the Lions on the road Sunday night to capture their 5th division title in six years. However, just based on history and the eye test, the Packers could not possibly lose that game last night. Sure, Matthew Stafford has looked fantastic this season even without Calvin Johnson at receiver, but the Lions were reeling and ended their season with three straight losses. If it weren’t for a loss by Washington, Detroit would have been bounced from the playoff picture.

The Packers were rolling right along with Aaron Rodgers playing his best football and although they won 31-24, the game was not that close in the end. A late Hail Mary touchdown closed the gap and gave a slim chance to win the game for Detroit. Green Bay has owned this division and the Lions are the only team to not win the North this century. Green Bay, as usual, will ride the hot streak of Aaron Rodgers and will host a playoff game next week where they will take on perhaps the only team who can beat them in Lambeau, the New York Giants.

With Seattle struggling, don’t sleep on Atlanta making noise in the playoffs

The Seahawks were 6-2-1 through nine games then proceeded to slump their way to a 10-5-1 finish with losses at Tampa Bay, at Green Bay and home against Arizona, who they tied on the road earlier this season. With a struggling offensive line, comes a banged up Russell Wilson. Seattle is 7-1 at home this year and it does help they won a weaker NFC West this season and will host Detroit next week in the Wild Card round. However, 3-4-1 on the road is not appetizing and it has been no secret in years past that the Seahawks struggle on the road in the playoffs and made back-to-back Super Bowls through home field advantage.

So here comes Atlanta. Yes, the Atlanta Falcons have a chance this postseason with that high flying offense and a first round bye certainly helps by getting them one step closer to Houston. In their four game winning streak to end the season, their lowest point total was 33 points when they beat Carolina on the road in week 16. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones teaming up is something to marvel at and a dual threat running game with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman also helps out with either running back capable of breaking off big plays and rushing for well over 100 yards. Unfortunately, that four game winning streak does not look THAT good considering the wins were over Los Angeles, San Francisco, Carolina and New Orleans. All of those teams are missing the playoffs. However, two divisional matchups to end the season is no easy task and the Falcons did have to go to the west coast to take on the Rams. Not the best, but Falcons thoroughly dominated the first three opponents by scores of 42-14, 41-13, and 33-16 respectively. Also, when you win a shootout with Drew Brees and the Saints indoors, I think Atlanta offense is pretty good. The big question will be can Head Coach Dan Quinn keep his defense on the positive side come playoff time?

Connor Cook could be starting for the Raiders in the Wild Card Round…and that might be a good thing

Matt McGloin? I get he has been there, but that’s a bad sign when his first start ends with a shoulder injury and a rookie quarterback must come in a losing situation where the Raiders missed out on getting the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. Connor Cook has been in big spots before. The former Michigan State QB unfortunately had a dud in last years shutout loss to Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semi-Finals, but I mean, who can really beat Alabama? This is Cook’s time to shine with the Raiders and show he is a capable backup to injured MVP candidate Derek Carr or prove his worth to other teams who might be inclined to take a chance on a trade with the young gunslinger. Without Carr, the Raiders are not winning the Super Bowl but the future is bright for a team that finished 12-4.

The Raiders take on the Texans in Houston next week and have a good shot at winning. The Texans are a mess and what better for Cook, despite being a rookie, to come out and show what he has? It’s tough to make your first career start in a playoff game but after a 14-21, 150 yard showing on the fly against a tough Denver defense, I like Cook’s potential. When you look at it, there is a bigger chance of production from Cook who has more to prove as a young quarterback. McGloin seems destined for the career backup role. Cook could be a future starter for the Raiders or on another team (more likely).

Miami was looking ahead to the playoffs with…or without Ryan Tannehill

I know, Miami was blown out by New England at home and only beat the Jets and Bills with Matt Moore, but he is a capable veteran with the ability to aid Miami’s chances at upsetting Pittsburgh at Heinz Field in the Wild Card round. Without a doubt, Ryan Tannehill will give the Dolphins a better chance to win a playoff game but his status is still up in the air for this weekend and in all likelihood, it will be Moore getting the start.

Regardless, the Dolphins have something to build on. First year Head Coach Adam Gase has done wonders with this Miami team and they have a lot of young pieces to possibly taking down the might Patriots in the next few years. Well maybe. Speaking of which…

Who stops New England?

I will keep this short and sweet, the Patriots are flat out dominant. 3-1 WITHOUT Tom Brady, 11-1 with him. Pair the best coach with the best quarterback and a revolving door of hidden gem skill position players and it somehow always works. Brady, LaGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Martellus Bennett: just a few names that will be leading the Pats to the top. Oh yeah, and whoever else they have.

My Illustrious Championship and Super Bowl Picks

Here they are in their final form (until they are wrong going into the divisional week and will need modification).

NFC Championship pick:

Green Bay over Atlanta

AFC Championship pick:

New England over Kansas City

Super Bowl LI pick:

New England over Green Bay

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Nick is an NFL Analyst at as well as the Philadelphia Soul Beat Writer.
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