As their winter break comes to a close, Zachary Swiecicki and Zane D’Souza are itching to get back behind the mics, but that will have to wait a few more days.
The NFL regular season ended with Zach leading the pack at 169-87 (12-4 in Week 17), while Zane and Ashanti Seabron finished tied at 165-91 (11-5 in Week 17). Now, the fun and games are over, it’s playoff time. Wild Card weekend brings you the guys’ first picks of the postseason.
(AFC Wild Card) Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ESPN
Oakland Raiders (12-4) at [-3.5] Houston Texans (9-7)
Zachary Swiecicki: Raiders — Let me be completely honest, I have no clue who wins this game. Things point to the Texans: they’re playing at home, Lamar Miller will be rested, their defense is still one of the best in the league, and they’re facing the Raiders’ third-string, rookie QB Connor Cook, who is also making his first career start. But Houston’s quarterback situation isn’t much better, i.e. Brock Osweiler (with Brandon Weeden as backup). I still don’t know how Houston won the AFC South, so I’m taking Oakland.
Zane D’Souza: Raiders- Before the Derek Carr injury I would have easily taken the Raiders here. Things get more interesting with Connor Cook under center. Even with a lack of pro experience I like the fact he thrives under pressure. Oakland’s run game will ease Cook some, as he knows he has something else to rely on. Houston’s offense is also too poor with Osweiler for me to feel confident in them.
(NFC Wild Card) Saturday, 8:15 p.m. NBC
Detroit Lions (9-7) at [-8] Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
ZS: Seahawks — I’m picking Seattle to win this game, but I think Detroit covers the spread because, well, it’s Detroit. 13 of their 16 games were decided by one possession. This Seahawks team isn’t what we’ve been used to seeing…their defense, running game, and pass protection is all below what it has been in the past. But on the opposite side, the Lions’ offense, running defense, and pass rush has been lacking in the last three weeks. I can’t pick the Lions until I witness them win a playoff game. Seattle by a touchdown.
ZD: Seahawks- Some are saying blowout, others a Lions’ win. I think it’ll be closer than what some are saying, but Seattle has more experience and talent to win this game. Their secondary is capable of taking advantage of an injured (though he won’t admit it) Matthew Stafford, and I’m not sure Zach Zenner can make up for that. The fact they also don’t beat many winning teams worries me as well.
(AFC Wild Card) Sunday, 1:05 p.m. CBS
Miami Dolphins (10-6) at [-10.5] Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
ZS: Steelers — Another game I might consider taking against the spread with the Dolphins 10.5-point underdogs. That being said, I don’t see how Pittsburgh doesn’t win this game. The Steeler offense is clicking on all cylinders, and that’s scary.
ZD: Steelers- Experts are saying this will be close and Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore will be fine. I can’t see that with a Steelers team that’s finding their groove. Big Ben and the league’s best offense move on.
(NFC Wild Card) Sunday, 4:40 p.m. FOX
New York Giants (11-5) at [-5] Green Bay Packers (10-6)
ZS: Packers — This should be a great game. Eli Manning is great in the playoffs. The Packers secondary is dealing with multiple injuries. Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league right now (sorry, Brady). The Giants defense is vastly improved. It’s at Lambeau. I flipped a coin and I’ll stick with Green Bay.
ZD: Packers- Green Bay is too hot right now. I have said all year the Giants are vastly underrated, and I think they put up a fight. With that being said, discount double-check is a man possessed right now. Oh, and kickoff temperature will be around zero.
College Football Playoff Championship (Monday, 8:00 p.m. ESPN)
Clemson Tigers (13-1) at [-6.5] Alabama Crimson Tide (14-0)
ZS: Crimson Tide — Clemson isn’t going to beat Alabama 38-0. Lane Kiffin’s distraction is gone and Bama’s offense can’t play much worse than it did last week. While Clemson had a near-perfect game against Ohio State, the Tigers will need to replicate that performance for any chance against what still could be Nick Saban’s best all-around team to date. Deshaun Watson and the Clemson offense can be lethal, but that’s if they can get the ball. Last week was a great example: when the Crimson Tide are on offense, they can control the clock better than anyone. Alabama will finish their undefeated season 15-0.
ZD: ‘Bama- Clemson wanted this game. They have said it and showed it this year. They can want it all they want, but Alabama’s defense might be the best ever in college football. Jalen Hurts struggled in the semifinal, but I think he turns it around here. He’s extremely smart for a true freshman, and new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian won’t change much.