NFL Insiders predict the entire 2016 playoffs bracket

ESPN Illustration

Editor's note: This story originally ran leading up to the wild-card round, and our Insiders have gone 6-for-6 with their playoff picks so far. Read below to see how they predict the rest of the bracket to go.

With the NFL playoffs starting this weekend, our crew of NFL Insiders -- Matt Bowen, John Clayton, Mike Sando, Aaron Schatz and Field Yates -- collectively predicted every leg of the 2016 playoffs. A team had to receive three of our Insiders' votes to move on to the next round. Here are the results:

Wild-card round | Divisional round | Conference championships | Super Bowl LI


Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans

Prediction: Texans (3 votes) over Raiders (2 votes)

Sando: The Texans' defense is easier to trust than any other unit in this matchup. Houston went 7-1 at home this season while allowing 16.6 points per game in those matchups, the fifth-best figure in the league this season. Neither team's quarterback situation is ideal, but the Raiders carry more uncertainty at the position into this game. That makes Houston the logical choice despite the Texans' obvious flaws.

Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks

Prediction: Seahawks (5 votes) over Lions (0 votes)

Schatz: Seattle's pass defense has collapsed without Earl Thomas, ranking fifth in Football Outsiders DVOA through Week 11 but 30th out of 32 teams since Thomas missed his first game in Week 12. However, Detroit's passing game has similarly collapsed since Matthew Stafford hurt his finger early in Week 14, ranking 10th through Week 13 but 27th over the past four weeks. It would seem those matching declines would cancel each other out, but the problem for Detroit is that Seattle is better at everything else except special teams. Detroit has little ground attack, while Seattle has one of the 12 best run defenses since FO advanced stats began in 1989. Seattle's offense has been only average this season, but the Detroit defense is much worse than it looks. The Lions kept the scoring down with a slow pace and good field position, but they had the this season's worst defense on a play-by-play basis. Oh, and the Seahawks have the added bonus of the NFL's best home-field advantage and "playoff experience" if you believe in that sort of thing.

Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers

Prediction: Steelers (5 votes) over Dolphins (0 votes)

Bowen: Jay Ajayi shredded the Steelers' defense for 204 yards rushing in Week 6. And with Matt Moore at QB for the Dolphins, the run game should be at the top of Miami's call sheet. However, teams evolve over the course of a season, and this is a much tougher Steelers defense I'm seeing on the tape. If Pittsburgh can limit Ajayi this time around and give the ball back to Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have the talent (Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown) to create matchups against the Dolphins' defense. Take Pittsburgh at home in a game where the Steelers' offensive stars make key second-half plays to close out a win.

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers

Prediction: Packers (5 votes) over Giants (0 votes)

Yates: When fully healthy, the Giants' secondary is one of the best in the league. Only Denver surrendered fewer passing touchdowns this year than the G-Men, and New York was one interception shy of a tie for the NFL's lead. But the blistering play of Aaron Rodgers over the past six games is too much to ignore, and it will be enough to avoid a third playoff defeat to the Giants in Green Bay since 2007.


Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

Prediction: Falcons (4 votes) over Seahawks (1 vote)

Clayton: The Falcons-Seahawks divisional-round matchup in the 2012 playoffs in Atlanta was fantastic. This game would be another classic. The key is the fourth-quarter-comeback abilities of both quarterbacks. Atlanta doesn't have enough horses on defense to completely shut down Russell Wilson, but Matt Ryan has been lighting up opposing secondaries all season, and I don't expect that to stop against Seattle. Ryan and the Falcons pull ahead late to win a close one at home.

Houston Texans at New England Patriots

Prediction: Patriots (5 votes) over Texans (0 votes)

Schatz: The Texans may have gone 9-7 and won their division, but they were outscored by 49 points on the season and ranked 29th overall in DVOA. Going back to 1989, only two teams made the playoffs with a lower DVOA rating than the Texans: the 2010 Seahawks, who became the first team to win its division with a losing record, and an 8-8 Rams team that won a wild card in the exceedingly weak 2004 NFC. Meanwhile, New England was our No. 1 team this season, even considering the four games without Tom Brady. The Patriots' defense has gradually improved over the course of the season and is playing its best football right now. And earlier in the season when the defense wasn't playing as well, the Patriots still shut out the Texans 27-0 in Week 3 despite starting a third-string quarterback.

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys