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NFL Playoff Picks 2017: Wild Card Weekend

The always engaging tournament to determine the Super Bowl Champion is set to begin with the Wild Card round. Let's take a look at all of this weekend's Wild Card matchups.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Playoffs are upon us, and unfortunately the New Orleans Saints are not part of this year's playoff field yet again.  The league rolls along though, and the 2017 Playoffs should be as intriguing as always.  Now we begin the playoff season with Wild Card weekend, where some team may see their "Cinderella run" to the title begin.  Let's take a look at which teams Who Dat Nation may be begrudgingly pulling for and rooting against.

Last week I went 10-6

I told you so: Packers over Lions!

What do I know: Cowboys over Eagles?

WILD CARD WEEKEND

AFC - #5 Oakland Raiders (12-4) at #4 Houston Texans (9-7)

Saturday, January 7th - 3:35pm CST - ESPN

Rookie quarterback Connor Cook takes the reigns of one of the AFC's most potent offenses, but one that lost its confidence when it lost its leader in Derek Carr.  Oakland's Super Bowl dreams were shattered when Carr sat injured on the field a week before their spectacular regular season came to an end.  Now their rookie quarterback makes his first start not only on the road, not only in the playoffs, but also against the NFL's #1 ranked defense.  That is a lot to ask Cook to overcome.

Houston, let's face it, they're probably worse off at quarterback than the Raiders are right now.  The good news for Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler is that he's not only backed up by his own top defense, but he's facing one of the worst defenses in the playoff field (followed by Miami and Atlanta).  This will be the key in Osweiler having a surprisingly good outing (for one fleeting week) in leading the Texans to victory over the Raiders, who fell from the potential of homefield advantage throughout to losing to one of the worst teams in this historically poor AFC field.  Tough break, Oakland.  Houston wins 24-16.

Pick: Texans

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NFC - #6 Detroit Lions (9-7) at #3 Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)

Saturday, January 7th - 7:15pm CST - NBC

This Seattle team, without Earl Thomas, without "Beast Mode", and without a functioning offensive line, are not as good as they've been over the past three postseasons, but they have drawn the perfect first opponent to regain their confidence for these playoffs.  The Lions are the remedy for what ails these Seahawks.

The key player in this game will be Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.  His Detroit counterpart, Matthew Stafford is very good, but Wilson is on a completely different level.  Wilson will make the plays that aren't there and extend plays even when his poor offensive line fails him.  The Lions defense will be frustrated all night long.

Detroit comes into this game riding a 3-game losing streak and they haven't won a game away from home since their December 4th win in New Orleans.  Now the struggling Lions enter Seattle's den of sound and fury, where their 3-game losing streak will extend to 4, making for a quick playoff exit.  Seattle wins 21-17.

Pick: Seahawks

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AFC - #6 Miami Dolphins (10-6) at #3 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

Sunday, January 8th - 12:05pm CST - CBS

Miami's got one on Pittsburgh this season, and they got them good, winning at home in Miami, 30-15.  They also roughed up Ben Roethlisberger pretty good, forcing Big Ben to miss the week following that game.  Miami's Jay Ajayi also went off for a career-high 204 rushing yards in that game, scoring two touchdowns.  Considering all of this, it would stand to reason that the Dolphins have every opportunity to do it again.

The Dolphins won't do it again, though.  There are some big differences in this game, first is a healthy Big Ben.  Roethlisberger playing through a knee injury from the second quarter on, made a big difference in the first matchup.  The second factor is venue, as this game shifts from 80º Miami to 20º Pittsburgh, in January no less.  Lastly, all of the playoff experience rests firmly with Ben, Mike Tomlin, and the Steelers.

I'm not even taking Ryan Tannehill's loss into account as he is in the Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton class of trash QB's.  Miami's actually better off without him.  The surprisingly good Steelers defense will key-in on Ajayi and keep Miami's top weapon from dominating them as he did before.  Miami will get some good shots in, but not enough to topple the Steelers.  Pittsburgh wins 30-23.

Pick: Steelers

***

NFC - #5 New York Giants (11-5) at #4 Green Bay Packers (10-6)

Sunday, January 8th - 3:40pm CST - FOX

Here is your NFC Championship Game, three weeks early.  These are the teams with two of the best quarterbacks in this playoff field.  Two recent former Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning tend to be at their best in positions like this.  The Wild Card path also suits these teams and their QB's very well, as they've fared far better taking this route to the title as opposed to entering the field as one of the top seeds.

The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field should live up to its name, as temperatures are expected to reach as low as 16º at kickoff.  This should make for a great setting for a great game, definitely the best game of Wild Card weekend.  The NFC field is far more open than the AFC field, but the winner of this game is my favorite to make their way through to Super Bowl LI.

Ultimately, this game will come down to which defense will make the big plays when their team needs them the most.  That defense will be the Giants' top-ten unit.  Aaron Rodgers will have a very good game, but the Giants will also force him into a few turnovers that will seal the game for the G-Men.  Giants win 26-20.

Pick: Giants

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Let's see what the Wild Card round has in store.  Here's to a great playoff weekend!  Leave us your picks, comments, and insight below!