The Teaser: Pair Pittsburgh and Green Bay
Game 1: Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland
The Initial Line:
Pittsburgh -10 away vs. Cleveland
Add 7.5 points to Pittsburgh’s line
The Final Line:
Pittsburgh looked like a powerhouse once again in 2016 until New England got the best of them in the AFC Championship game, once again. Cleveland was doing their best not to lose every game of the season, and was able to squeak out a win against the San Diego/LA Chargers to finish 1-15 on the year. The trio of Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell still might be the best QB/RB/WR combo in the game, and will look to continue their 2016 success into 2017. Cleveland didn’t have many bright spots in 2016, but have been building a young core of talent and revamped greatly in the 2017 draft to try and move them towards a winning formula.
It’ll be interesting to see what some of Cleveland’s top draft picks in Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers, and DeShone Kizer can do on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Kizer was named the starting QB after a preseason battle with Osweiler and Kessler, and will try to add some stability along with RB Isaiah Crowell. Roethlisberger has had his career struggles on the road, with only a 54-39 reocrd compared to his 70-22 record at home. Pittsburgh should be able to handle their divisional opponent and secure the victory, but with many new pieces on Cleveland’s D and Big Ben’s career road troubles it’s hard to tell if they can win by more than 10 points. However, saying they’re going to win by at least a FG seems solid so taking them at -2.5 is a key number to grab.
Game 2: Green Bay vs. Seattle
The Initial Line:
Green Bay -3 home vs. Seattle
Add 7.5 points to Green Bay’s line
The Final Line:
Green Bay +4.5
Green Bay, and particularly Aaron Rodgers, were on an amazing winning streak last season until Atlanta crushed their Super Bowl dreams in the AFC Championship game. Seattle also made the playoffs but fell short to Atlanta, losing in the Divisional Round. Rodgers continues to set the standard for QB excellence alongside Brady, as their consistency the last few seasons has been unmatched in the league. Seattle has had flashes of offensive dominance behind Russell Wilson as well, but it’s their elite defense that’s really separated them from the pack over the past few seasons and almost won them a Super Bowl in 2014.
Both of these teams should once again be in the playoff mix in 2017. Aaron Rodgers added another key weapon to his arsenal in TE Martellus Bennett, and this will surely help their offensive attack. Seattle had a big void in their rushing game after Marshawn Lynch retired after 2015 (recently returned with Oakland), ranking 27th in 2016 despite ranking 4th or better in 2012 to 2015. Their offensive line might have something to do with it, as they were already thin and then lost George Fant for the season with an ACL tear in the preseason. Adding Eddie Lacy (from Green Bay) should make for an interesting first game in his return to Lambeau, but Aaron Rodgers typically steals the show at home (56-15 record, 161/30 TD/INT ratio). Seattle struggled to score often on the road last year with 4 of the 8 games scoring 10pts or less, including a 38-10 loss at Lambeau. I expect Green Bay to be able to secure the home victory, but you can also never fully bet against Seattle hanging around. Green Bay will be in it until the end no matter what, and a 4pt cushion should cover any late push that Seattle may throw their way.