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Divisional Round…

Picks, nothing but picks to see here…

Atlanta (-2.5) at Philadelphia  

Boy, it sure looks like the Eagles’ season sure went down the crapper quickly, eh?  A comeback win in Week 15 against the lowly New York Giants, followed by uninspiring efforts in two home games against the Oakland Raiders (win) and Dallas Cowboys (loss) to wrap up the regular season surely can’t inspire confidence in the Philly faithful.  To be fair, the Eagles rested several key players against the ‘Boys.  Also, to be more than fair, this kind of thing can happen when your franchise QB, who is playing at an MVP level, goes down for the year.  Of course, we are talking about Carson Wentz.

That all being said, one would think Nick Foles would be capable enough to take over the controls and still lead the team to victories.  Especially if the rest of the team remained intact.  He SHOULD, right?  I mean, he has had flashes of brilliance in the past, even though he has mostly performed as well as…well, a backup QB.  But still…

The Falcons are no juggernaut, but they did (as the Blowhard correctly predicted) knock off a good Los Angeles Ram team last week.  At this point, it really wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta ended right back up in the Super Bowl this year.  One thing is for sure I would say…their defense has stepped it up in recent weeks.

Atlanta is now 6-3 on the road this season.  I don’t know if the bye week helped Philadelphia, but it would seem the team is a little deflated.  I am probably wrong to count them out, but…

Atlanta 23, Philadelphia 17.

Tennessee at New England (-13.5) 

Nice win for the Titans last week, but the reality is the Kansas City Chiefs did more to lose the game than the Titans did to win.  I mean, Travis Kelce is one of the top tight ends in the game.  But once he was concussed and done for the day, the team fell apart?  What happened to Kareem Hunt?  What happened to, well…everyone?  Blown 21-3 lead.  Andy Reid once again folks!

So I will say once again this week that Tennessee isn’t really very good.  The weather will be to the Patriots’ liking Saturday night.  New England had their entire roster at practice this week.  Now, that doesn’t mean they are all 100% healthy.  But there will be options.  Theoretically, plenty of them.  I cannot in any way see how the Titans stay in this game from the jump.  There is really no sense in even talking about it anymore.

New England 37, Tennessee 14.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (-7.5)

I said this last week also…Jacksonville isn’t as good as people think they are.  And then they went out and proved it last week by barely beating the atrocious Buffalo Bills 10-3.  10-3??!  Blake Bortles RAN for more yards than he THREW for.  And what he threw for…again, against the Buffalo Bills…was not even measured in three digits, but instead two.  How is that possible?

Pittsburgh has won a lot of close games against bad teams all year long.  And yup, the Jags buried the Steelers in Pittsburgh back in Week Five to the tune of 30 to 9.  It won’t happen again.

The world wants a New England/Pittsburgh AFC Championship Game and that’s what the world will get.

Pittsburgh 27, Jacksonville 13.

New Orleans at Minnesota (-4.5) 

The NFC games seem to be more intriguing than the AFC ones, no?  This one should be a good one to cap off the weekend.  These clubs met in Week One, resulting in a 29-19 Viking win.  But that was eons ago.  Sam Bradford was the Viking QB and the Vikes also had Dalvin Cook at RB.  The Saints were attempting to shoehorn Adrian Peterson into their backfield, Colby Fleener led the team in receiving that day and New Orleans had no idea what they were doing on defense back then.  None of the above will be a factor in this game, well, other than the improved Saint defense.

The Minny D?  For real for sure.  And Case Keenum has taken the reins after Bradford got hurt (again) and performed much better than the Case Keenum we have always seen in the past.  The Saints have relied on the running game more this year than as far back as I can remember…but I have to imagine the Vikings will shut that down a bit.  So the Saints will have to go back to relying on Drew Brees primarily…not necessarily a bad thing.

Maybe if I keep writing I won’t have to make a pick?  I’m torn on this one.  I kind of want to take New Orleans here.  Keenum against Brees is no contest…despite Keenum’s solid year.  Minny’s D is better, but Drew could find a way to beat them.  I also feel like the Vikings will NOT be the first team to play at their home stadium in the Super Bowl.  But I’m going to take a stab and say that we all will have at least one more week to see if that happens.

Minnesota 23, New Orleans 20.

Week (against the spread):  2-2

Week (straight up):  3-1

Season (against the spread):  140-120

Season (straight up):  176-84

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Wild Card Round…

Slacking in this space lately, but at least we are still pushing out the picks!

Tennessee at Kansas City (-8.5)  

The Chiefs seemed to have regained their early season mojo down the stretch.  The Titans stink and shouldn’t even be here.  Seems like an easy one.

Kansas City 34, Tennessee 17.

Atlanta at Los Angeles Rams (-5.5) 

All the home teams are favored by pretty healthy amounts this weekend, as they should be.  This tilt features the smallest spread.  And I think also the greatest potential for an upset.  The Rams have been a great story this year, no doubt about it.  But did the success come too fast?

Listen, I am no Falcon fan.  But after their collapse in the Super Bowl last year, they did in fact make it back to the playoffs this season.  Many thought that wouldn’t happen.  They have the experience.  The Rams do not.  The Rams rested their key guys last week…hard to say if that is a good thing or not.  It works for some teams, but not necessarily for others.   (Avoiding injuries is of course a good thing, but you know what I mean…did their rhythm get stunted?  Etc.).

Did you know that LA is only 4-4 at home?  Atlanta is 5-3 on the road.  The Falcons were also in arguably the toughest division this year, with three teams making the playoffs out of the NFC South.

Now I am not saying Atlanta will return to the Super Bowl, but…

Atlanta 27, Los Angeles Rams 24.

Buffalo at Jacksonville (-8.5)

The Bills return to the playoffs after 18 years.  Yay.  These guys stink too.  Nice choke job by the Ravens to get the Bills in there.  The Jags played their starters last week when they didn’t even have to and put in a clunker against the Titans.  A week after giving up 44 to the 49ers.  Yeah, I know, Jimmy G, blah, blah, blah.  But people have been jumping on Jacksonville’s bandwagon all year long…great defense and all that.  Has anyone looked at their division?  Woeful.  And their schedule overall?  Weak.  Nice win at Pittsburgh in Week 5, but other than that?  Not much.

Sssssssoooo…the Jags aren’t really any good either.  And…Blake Bortles.  ‘Nuff said.  Should be enough for this week, since it’s Buffalo.  And if Buffalo doesn’t have LeSean McCoy then it could get pretty ugly out there.  Then moving forward I expect the Steelers to return the favor to the Jags next week in the Divisional Round.  We will cross that bridge if we get there however.

Jacksonville 27, Buffalo 13.

Carolina at New Orleans (-6.5) 

This one has the makings to be a good one, even though the Saints handled the Panthers pretty well in both matchups this season.  But you know how the saying goes…”tough to beat a team 3 times in one season”.  Both teams played poorly last week with the division on the line, so that really doesn’t inspire much confidence.  Maybe I just have high hopes for this one as it’s the final game of the weekend.  I will say that this Alvin Kamara kid is exciting to watch.  That’s all.

New Orleans 30, Carolina 24.

Week (against the spread):  10-6

Week (straight up):  10-6

Season (against the spread):  138-118

Season (straight up):  173-83

Outside Looking In…

…that’s your defending NFC (and ALMOST Super Bowl) Champion Atlanta Falcons, that is.  With a mere 4 weeks to go until the playoffs start.

Oh wait, this first:

New Orleans (-1.5) at Atlanta

The Thursday Night Football game may actually be one of the few good ones…if the right Atlanta team shows up.  I’m not even sure the right New Orleans team shows up though either.  The Saints are a surprising 9-3.  Their defense has improved throughout the year…talk about surprising.  The offense has morphed a little, featuring not only one running back that can play, but two.  So they are passing less, but still putting up a good amount of points.

If you look deeper at the Saints’ nine wins, that may tell a different story however.  Yes, they have beaten the 8-4 Carolina Panthers twice, the other seven wins are a collection of cream puffs, in reality.  Take nothing away from the Saints improving as a football team overall.  But the 9-3 record may be a smidge inflated.  That Alvin Kamara kid can play though, eh?

Then we have the Falcons.  Yup, they probably should have won the Super Bowl last year.  But realistically, they were kind of lucky to be in there in the first place.  Should the “Super Bowl Hangover” really apply to a team like that?

Taking a look at their season, who the hell knows what’s going on?  They have had some good wins.  But also some bad losses.  Their vaunted offense hasn’t been all that “vaunted”.  Nine points last week…albeit against a good Vikings team.  Still…

The Falcons have had two 3 game winning streaks this season and one 3 game losing streak.  The Blowhard has counted them out more than once.  Just a hard team to figure.  Currently, they sit a game out of the playoffs, behind the aforementioned Panthers and Seattle Seahawks and their 8-4 records for the final NFC Wild Card spot.

So what happens Thursday Night?  Good question.  Does Mark Ingram play?  He hasn’t practiced this week and apparently has a bad toe.  Kamara has been great and Drew Brees is still Drew Brees.  But moving to just the one back may have some effect.  Again, no idea what to expect on a week to week basis with Atlanta.  My gut tells me they show up at home and keep the NFC playoff race (and NFC South division) tight and interesting.

Then two weeks from now, the Saints and Falcons do it again…this time in N’awlins.  We’ll see…

Atlanta 31, New Orleans 27.

Week (against the spread):  10-6

Week (straight up):  12-4

Season (against the spread):  102-90

Season (straight up):  128-64

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