Aaron Donald, the most dominant player in the league, lays out to stop the elusive Russell Wilson.

Stephen Brashear

After an up and down 2020 regular season, it turns out we saved one of our best weeks for last.

Week 17 Vibe Check (3-1)

The Packers and Bills well exceeded expectations, completely dismantling their possible playoff opponents in the final week. Tough break for the Dolphins, they didn't have the luxury of backing in the way Chicago did.

Surprisingly, the biggest blowout came from Derrick Henry, who managed to double his over/under number against a busted Texans' D, win back-to-back rushing titles, and become the eight man in NFL history to crack 2,000 yards.

All that being said, you'd think the Titans ran away with this one, but their own malfunctioning defense kept Deshaun Watson in the game to the very last second. It took a ricochet off an upright to seal the deal in regulation, signaling a shorter playoff stay for this year's Titans.

Pittsburgh Steelers -6 over Cleveland Browns

This one doesn't even seem fair. The Steelers bring the most pressure in the NFL, and have two of the most effective pass rushers in the league between T.J. Watt and Stephen Tuitt, who're beating their man at 29% and 13% of the time, respectively. Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield has always folded under pressure, and it's only gotten worse this year. The man might be able to act his way through any commercial thrown his way, but standing in behind his offensive line has proven more difficult than being in front of the camera. The Steelers offense seems to have righted the ship in the final weeks, Ben just needing to get the ball out to his playmakers to look halfway decent. This all goes without saying, the Browns are currently being ravaged by COVID, preventing practices all week, and knocking out a chunk of the coaching staff, which includes Kevin Stefanski. He's the man who took this team from lost on offense to the playoffs in one season by actually maximizing the team's strengths. Without him at the helm, I wouldn't trust Baker and co. to handle this one on their own.

Ravens -3 over Titans

In what seems to be a budding rivalry, the Titans and Ravens will square off in a rematch of last year's divisional round game that concluded with Baltimore looking positively pedestrian. That loss robbed us of the Chiefs/Ravens and Mahomes/Jackson showdown in the championship game that everyone wanted, especially in Lamar's breakout MVP season. This year, the tables have turned and the Ravens will be visiting the division-winning Titans, but it feels like even more of a lock that Baltimore will prevail. Tennessee's defense has left plenty to be desired (see: Texans, Houston) and their offensive line isn't the same group of hogmollies who bulldozed their way through the 2019 playoffs. If you have a hard time containing Deshaun Watson, I'd hate to be in the film room prepping for this opponent. Since his fourth quarter resurrection against the aptly-named Browns, Lamar has looked like his transcendent self. One of the Titans biggest weaknesses, their red zone defense, which allowed 69% of drives that get within the 20 to end in a touchdown, plays to Lamar's biggest strengths. He's responsible for a whopping 46 TDs in the red zone and not a single interception. That alone should be enough to allow them to skate into the next round.



Stefon Diggs over 7.5 Receptions

When the Bills traded for Diggs this offseason, you have to imagine they would've settled for two thirds of the production the vet receiver has given them. The idea of him leading the league in both catches and yards must have been so beyond their wildest dreams, it wouldn't even have made the vision board. But that's exactly what he did, unlocking Josh Allen and the Bills offense in the process. Now 7.5 feels high, but it's a number he's hit in six of the final eight games of the season, and the last week of the season he got to seven before being pulled from the blowout. The Bills have managed to smoke teams with their offense, refusing to take their foot off the pedal, which they might have to do against a Colts team that can hang offensively with Phil Rivers and shut down the run game with Deforest Buckner. It's safe to say that Diggs is going to be a busy man, if the Bills want to win. Most importantly, the man cares about his dental health.


Seahawks/Rams under 42.5

Best case scenario for the Ram? Jared Goff, fresh from the operating table, will return as their wildly up-and-down starting quarterback. Worst case scenario? John Wolford, he of AAF success and one career start, will be leading the charge against a blossoming Seattle D. They've managed to improve at historic levels, allowing 47% less points per game in the back half of the season. Jamal Adams has invigorated the defense, and I'd bet on him eating the lunch of whatever starter McVay has to throw out there. On the flip side, the Los Angeles Rams have the number one ranked defense in the NFL, powered by the fiercest player and most innovative coordinator in the league. They are equally prepared to shutdown the pass and run game, not giving up 100 yards to a running back or 300 yards to a QB, excepting Josh Allen, all season long. In previous matchups against Seattle, the Rams allowed 16 points in a victory and 20 points in a loss, allowing a combined 625 yards and 35 first downs.

Paul George grabbing a rebound in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals

Barry Gossage/Getty Images

In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.

After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.

The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.

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Ben Simmons disappointed in the playoffs this season

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.

Offense being the key word here.

Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.

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The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.


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