Well, last week sucked. My time as an honorary Vikings fan came to a devastating end with a missed 27-yard field goal attempt, which left my girlfriend, who is actually a Vikings fan, crushed. The Bengals left me in disbelief after leaving me with a push on a +2 wager (thankfully, they were +3 for the picks column) after back-to-back 15-yard penalties gave the Steelers a win on Wild-Card Weekend. The Chiefs ran back the opening kick for a touchdown and never looked back, making everyone question Brian Hoyer as an NFL starting quarterback in the process. The Redskins’ Cinderella story from favorite to finish last in the NFC East to NFC East champion turned back into a pumpkin in their embarrassing loss at home. And when it comes to which team I should be rooting for with the Giants not in the playoffs, my No. 1, 3, 5 and 6 teams were eliminated. I thought the playoffs were supposed to be fun.
This weekend is largely considered the best weekend of the NFL season. The top eight teams remain with two games on Saturday, so football junkies and degenerates don’t have to wait as long to get their fix, and two more on Sunday. It’s the last real weekend of football with just three games remaining after Sunday night before the winter gauntlet takes full effect until March Madness. After watching four road teams win on Wild-Card Weekend, I don’t know what to think heading into the divisional round with the Panthers, Cardinals, Broncos and Patriots coming off their byes. Following a 2-2 week to open the playoffs, it’s time to dominate the divisional round picks.
Kansas City +5 over NEW ENGLAND
A lot of my friends have told me they think the Chiefs will beat the Patriots this weekend. While it’s a nice idea and a good dream to have, it’s likely just that: an idea or a dream. The Patriots have lost three home playoff games in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. They lost to the Ravens on Wild-Card Weekend in 2009, they lost to the Jets in the divisional round in 2010 and they lost to the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game in 2012. They have won their other 14 home games since the 2001 playoffs and the only reason they have played just 17 home playoff games in 14 years is that they nearly always have a first-round bye.
The Chiefs did rout the Patriots last year with a 41-14 Week 4 win, which led Trent Dilfer to say the Patriots aren’t good anymore, which led the Patriots to go on a seven-game winning streak and finish the season 10-2 and earn the No. 1 seed and go on to win their fourth Super Bowl. But that game came at Arrowhead Stadium, where despite opening 43 years ago, has rivaled the 13-year-old CenturyLink Field and it’s modern made-for-noise structure in Seattle for sound levels. The Chiefs aren’t going to have 76,416 fans backing them to get the Patriots’ offense off their game this time and they aren’t going to have Jamaal Charles, who had three touchdowns in that game, this time either, but what they will have is their defense.
There are two ways to beat the Patriots. The first is to hope that Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski aren’t in the lineup. The second is to get to Tom Brady. Since it looks like both Edelman and Gronkowski will be playing this weekend, the Chiefs will have to turn to No. 2, and they’re more than capable of it. Get to Tom Brady and get to the AFC Championship Game. Let’s Go Chiefs!
ARIZONA -7 over Green Bay
The Cardinals are going to be the NFC champions. Since we know that then that means they beat the Packers this weekend. Since we know they are going to beat the Packers this weekend, it’s pretty fair to say they are going to easily cover the touchdown they are giving.
It was just three weeks ago that Cardinals beat the Packers 38-8 in Arizona in a game the Packers thought they had to have at the time to help them reach the postseason. In that game, the Cardinals sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times and returned two of his fumbles for touchdowns. The following week, the Packers lost to the Vikings with the NFC North title and a first-round home game on the line before beating the Redskins on the road last week. The difference between the Redskins and the Cardinals and Vikings was their lack of a pass rush and when Rodgers had time, he was able to find James Jones, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams enough to win. He won’t have that time this weekend and will have the least amount of time he’s had all season.
Normally, I wouldn’t feel confident about backing a Carson Palmer-led team giving a touchdown in the playoffs since normally I wouldn’t trust Palmer to tell me what day of the week it is, but it’s different for Palmer now. Even though he might be a fraudulent quarterback at times, under Bruce Arians with weapons like Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd and David Johnson, not even Palmer ruins the Cardinals’ chances this weekend or possibly any weekend for the rest of the season. The Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl unless Carson Palmer screws it up for them.
Seattle +2 over CAROLINA
After my time as an honorary 12 last season ended when Pete Carroll ruined the Super Bowl and gave the Patriots a championship, I swore I would never root for the Seahawks again (unless they played the Patriots in the Super Bowl). And even though I’m not necessarily rooting for them this weekend to win, I’m picking them because teams don’t win the way the Seahawks did last week and then not go on a run.
The Seahawks 10-9 win over the Vikings was completely undeserved. The Seahawks did nothing to make Blair Walsh miss a 27-yard field goal attempt. All they did before that was let Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings offense drive down the field from their own 39 to the Seahawks’ 17 before the missed try. The Seahawks’ offense for the game was a Doug Baldwin touchdown that came after a botched snap that led to his a ridiculous first-down conversion and big play for the Seahawks and a field goal that was the result of an Adrian Peterson fumble. The Vikings should be playing this weekend in Arizona.
The Seahawks seem to get the lucky bounces and big breaks that come along with being a good team. The parlay of events they had to hit in order to win the NFC Championship Game last year was incredible; the miraculous catch Jermaine Kearse made on their final drive in the Super Bowl would have been talked about forever if Marshawn Lynch is handed the ball on the goal line; the missed chip shot, which was six yards less than an extra point. Things seem to go the Seahawks’ way except for when their head coach makes the worst decision in the history of sports.
The Panthers were 15-1 this season, 8-0 at home, had a week off to get healthy and beat the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 6. The Panthers only being a two-point favorite at home given their season and success against the Seahawks on the road in the hardest place to play in the league is unusual. But I have never been a big fan of the Panthers this season even though they went 15-1, came within a touchdown of going undefeated and had eight wins by double digits. I still don’t know how a team with Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery as their No. 1 and 2 receivers went 15-1, and have thought all along that would catch up with them at some point in the playoffs. Unfortunately, that point is now.
DENVER -9 over Pittsburgh
The Steelers shouldn’t have won last week against the Bengals, but like the Seahawks, they were given an enormous break. Between the Jeremy Hill fumble and the Bengals allowing Ben Roethlisberger to make his way down the field with his right shoulder in bad shape and then the 15-yard penalties on Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones, the Steelers were gifted a trip to the divisional round. But without Antonio Brown, their season is going to come to an end in Denver, and it would have even with Antonio Brown.
This is the Peyton Manning postseason. This should be Manning’s last games in the NFL and it would be perfect for him to go out as a Super Bowl champion after beating Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, Tom Brady and the Patriots and probably the Cardinals on his way to riding off into the sunset as a champion. With the Vikings eliminated, the Broncos are now my No. 1 rooting interest in the playoffs. Even though Peyton winning a second Super Bowl would tie him with Eli in the only category that Eli has him beat, it would mean he would have beat the Patriots again to get it, and that’s a fair trade.
Last week: 2-2-0