Divisional Round: Defensive Battles, Road Obstacles, and Bye Week Bonuses

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They say that defense wins championships. This weekend, two of the best in the business will square off at Gillette Stadium. The Houston Texans’ defense allowed the fewest yards this season, while the New England Patriots’ defense allowed the fewest points. We’ll see these two defensive powerhouses square off on Saturday at 8:15 PM ET.


Defense Wins Championships?

Although the Texans field the league’s top ranked defense in yards allowed, the stat may be a bit misleading. Only one other team that finished in the top seven in that category made the playoffs. What might be more important is points per game allowed, which the Patriots led at 15.6 points.

In five of the last six seasons, at least one Super Bowl team ranked in the top four in points per game allowed. The last time the Super Bowl didn’t include a team in the top four of that category was in 2011. This season, the top five teams in points per game allowed are the Patriots, New York Giants (17.8), Seattle Seahawks (18.3), Denver Broncos (18.6) and Dallas Cowboys (19.1).


The Seahawks Aim to Overcome Road Woes

The Seahawks struggled on the road this season, but they’ll have to put that behind them when they visit the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday. The Seahawks dropped three of their final five road games in the regular season, and one of the wins was a narrow 2-point escape in San Francisco.

The Seahawks’ main issue has been their offense. At home, they rank seventh in scoring while averaging 28.1 points per game. On the road, they barely average half of that at 15.9, which is 29th in the league. They’ll need points on Saturday, when they face the league’s No. 1 scoring offense in Atlanta.


Andy Reid and the Chiefs Hope to Capitalize on Post-Bye Success

Head coach Andy Reid has a long history of success emerging from bye weeks. In his career, Reid has accumulated a 16-2 record when coming off a bye, and that success carries into the postseason, too. Before this season, Reid’s teams have gotten a total of three playoff byes and went on to win the following game each time. They weren’t easy wins, either; they came against Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons, Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers and Daunte Culpepper and the Minnesota Vikings. 


Important Injuries

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT): The Steelers’ quarterback showed up at last week’s post-game press conference with a walking boot on his right foot. Head coach Mike Tomlin suggested that the injury is nothing to worry about.

Jordy Nelson (GB): Nelson broke at least two ribs last Sunday and reports suggest it would take an incredible effort for him to play. Nelson led the NFL in the regular season with 14 touchdown receptions.

CJ Prosise (SEA): The Seahawks’ rookie running back has been out since Week 11, but he’s expected to practice this week. He’ll only be cleared to play if he can go “full speed” in practice.


*Odds as of January 11, 2017

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