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Conference Championships…

…so the top two seeds in each conference will be playing in their respective championship games.  What a novel idea!  Let’s dive right in…

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans (-3.5)

Both teams spent the better part of the 2018 season scoring a ton of points, but also giving up their fair share of points to boot.  Both had a few hiccups toward the end of the regular season.  Both are currently 14-3.  Seems to be a lot of similarities, no?

Both QB’s, Drew Brees of the Saints and Jared Goff of the Rams, didn’t exactly light it up down the stretch either.  Brees had good numbers last week, but if Alshon Jeffery didn’t let that pass go through his hands, there was a very real possibility that we aren’t even talking about New Orleans today.  Goff didn’t seem to do much last week against the Dallas Cowboys, but he really didn’t need to, since the team ran for like 600 yards.

The Saints handed the Rams their first loss back in Week 9, 45-35.  So what happens this week?  Welp, the point totals seem about right for one thing.

I’m not sure C.J. Anderson is going to continue to run as wild as he has been since he surfaced with the Rams.  But he might since he hasn’t played much this year overall.  Todd Gurley is Todd Gurley.  And of course, the Rams are plenty explosive in the passing game.  I know, so are the Saints.

Does having Aqib Talib in this game turn the tide for the Rams?  Well, he’s only one guy.  And LA spent a ton on top defensive players the last offseason yet still gave up plenty of scores all year long.  But having Talib available shouldn’t hurt them, I guess I can say that much.

I really don’t have any riveting analysis of this game, to be quite truthful.  It should be fun to watch.  Indoors, plenty of big plays.  And all that.  My gut is telling me the road team wins this though.

Los Angeles Rams 34, New Orleans 31.  

New England at Kansas City (-3.5)

Another rematch in this one, as the Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxborough back in Week 6.  And KC had Kareem Hunt back then.  But the Pats also had Kenjon Barner too.  So that evens it out.

All kidding aside, the Chiefs still have plenty of weapons without Hunt.  And more importantly, will be playing at home.  Thanks to the Patriots not being able to tackle on a final kickoff against Miami.  But we don’t need to revisit that now.  As Bill would say, “it is what it is”.

That “minor” detail though?  HUGE.  Arrowhead is a tough place to play.  For anyone, but also historically for the Patriots, no matter what kind of season it was for them.

I was surprised to see that Travis Kelce only had 61 yards in that Week 6 game.  The Pats have a lot of trouble covering tight ends.  That number could (should?) spike this week.  Hunt had over 100 yards receiving in that game, so there will probably be more targets for Kelce anyway.

Wouldn’t shock me if the Pats blanketed (or tried to) Kelce and Tyreek Hill and maybe even force them to run the ball with Spencer Ware and Damien Williams more, while also maybe sprinkling in a few Patrick Mahomes scrambles.  I really don’t know what the hell NE is going to do…that KC offense scares the bejesus out of me…especially against a very average Patriot defense.

KC’s D?  Not so great really.  But getting Eric Berry back and having Justin Houston available in this one when he didn’t play in the first game won’t hurt them.  They have some dudes that can get to the quarterback.  Sure, Tom Brady can get the ball out quick.  But still…

The weather?  Pffffft.  Don’t see much effect.  If original forecasts of single digits held true, I may have given the Pats a little bit of an edge there.  But the mid-20s and no wind?  Business as usual.

Wildcards?  Two that I can see.  One, how will Mahomes play in a game that means something?  He cruised through the regular season.  Then the Indianapolis Colts were so bad last week, that game pretty much didn’t count.  Now?  We will see.  I’m guessing he is fine.  But you never know.

Second wild card?  Andy Reid.  Yup.  There is a track record.  Inevitably, he will exhibit poor clock management.  That is a given.  But what else will happen?  Maybe this is the year he overcomes that though.

I suppose there is a third wild card:  the Patriots doing the whole “no one believes in us” nonsense.  All of that is completely silly.  But they’ve been known to use lesser things as motivation.

End result?  I hope I’m wrong.  But that stupid Miami kickoff return basically will play a big part in ending the Patriot season.  Arrowhead will be too much to overcome.  But the fact is, the Chiefs simply have the better team, as much as it pains me to say it.

Kansas City 31, New England 27.  

Week (against the spread):  2-2

Week (straight up):  4-0

Season (against the spread):  145-119

Season (straight up):  169-95

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Wild Card Round…

Sweet week for the Blowhard last week as the NFL wrapped up its regular season.  But we will save the comparisons to last years picks until we are all said and done, however.  We will also save any analysis of the New England Patriot/New York Jets “barnburner” as well.  Because, quite frankly, the J-E-T-S were pathetic per usual this year and no one cares to even revisit that blowout win as good as it may have made some people feel.

We will also not waste any time figuring who the Patriots may play next week.  Cross that bridge when we get to it.  Instead, let’s focus on this weeks’ slate, which looks like to be a good one:

Indianapolis at Houston (-1.5)

Third battle of the year between these divisional foes.  Pair of close ones were the first two, both teams winning on the road each by a margin of three points.  Indy has been red hot, winning 9 out of its last 10, including basically a playoff game in the last NFL regular season game of the year against the Tennessee Titans.

But let us not forget the Texans started 0-3, so they went 11-2 the rest of the way.  Their only 2 losses in that span was a three-pointer to the Colts and a two-pointer to the Eagles at Philadelphia the second last week of the season.  Not too shabby.

Houston looks to be in at least a slightly better position health-wise, especially with the Blowhard seeing Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton hobbling around on the field against the Titans.  Lamar Miller returned last week and DeAndre Hopkins is a beast.  Andrew Luck is on some kind of roll along with his team, but Deshaun Watson has been no chump himself.  We also think (know?) that the Texans have the better defense.

Could (should?) be another exciting game to open the weekend, but this time the home team wins.

Houston 31, Indianapolis 27.

Seattle at Dallas (-2.5) 

I’m honestly not sure I can take either of these teams seriously.  The ‘Boys have won 7 of their last 8.  But their last three games include getting whitewashed by the Colts, barely beating Tampa Bay, then also barely beating the New York Giants with several of their starters playing the entire game, despite it meaning absolutely nothing to them.  Ok, Ezekial Elliott did not play, but still.

The Seahawks last three games include losing to the 49ers, then beating the “mighty” Kansas City Chiefs.  Then closing out the season by barely beating a wretched Arizona Cardinal team.

So who wins?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Seattle is not the same dominant defensive team as they have been over the last decade or so.  The Cowboys appear to have some young studs on D so they may have a little bit of an edge there, for whatever that is worth.

My best guess is that we see a lot of running plays and kind of a boring tilt, to be honest.  But I am also guessing that at least it will be another close one.  So this alone should be worth the watch.  Dallas is 7-1 at home.  That may be the deciding factor for me, believe it or not.

Dallas 24, Seattle 20.  

Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore (-2.5)

The Chargers won 5 of their last 6 to close out the regular season.  The one loss?  At home two weeks ago…to the Baltimore Ravens!  Coming a mere 10 days after LA’s thrilling win against the Chiefs in Kansas City that gave them a shot at the division win…and #1 seed.  KInd of a letdown, wouldn’t you say?

I don’t have a problem with Philip Rivers.  I used to hate the guy, but now I am just kind of indifferent toward him.  He’s a good player.  But one thing I can say is that I have never really trusted the guy in the postseason.  Or the Chargers in general actually.  San Diego or Los Angeles.

The Chargers seem to be a little more banged up than the Ravens.  But you know what I have found funny?  People have been getting overly excited about the possibility of Hunter Henry returning this week.  First off, the guy has missed all season after blowing out his knee in May.  May?  And all of a sudden in early January he is going to make a significant difference?  How many plays is he going to get in?  Against arguably the best defense in the league?  Please stop it.

The Ravens are 6-1 since Lamar Jackson took over at QB.  And the one loss was a game they kind of choked away at Kansas City.  Sure, Jackson can’t really throw worth a lick at this point in his career.  But can Joe Flacco throw a lick at THIS point in HIS career?  Ok, that may be kind of harsh towards Flacco.  But Joey is about as average as you can get as a QB.  He did the Ravens a favor by getting hurt and getting Jackson in the flow.  John Harbaugh probably thinks so.  He was getting fired 6 weeks ago and now he appears to be back in good graces with the team and the fans.

The Ravens won by 12 in LA two weeks ago.  I’m thinking this may be about right this time around too.

Baltimore 27, Los Angeles Chargers 17.  

Philadelphia at Chicago (-6.5)

The Bears won 9 of their last 10 to finish 12-4.  Their defense gave up the fewest points in the NFL, 4 less than the Ravens.  Therefore, their defense has gotten some accolades and perhaps deservedly so.

Their offense actually scored the ninth most points and they were only a handful of points out of the top five.  Really?  Wait, their defense may have had some part of that point total, but I am not going to go too far into those numbers.  Regardless, the team scored more points that I would have thought they would have.

Especially considering who they have.  Mitchell Trubisky seems to have gained a lot of fans this year.  I am not sure why.  Well, admittedly, I have not watched a ton of Bear football.  But the amount I have seen, I can’t say I have been thoroughly impressed with ol’ Mitch.  Running game?  Jordan Howard has been pedestrian, at best.  Tarik Cohen is explosive, but how many touches can you give a guy of his stature?  Their receivers are nondescript.

I don’t see it.  I haven’t seen the infatuation all year.  Look at the 9-1 finish too.  Not exactly a Murderers Row.  A nice Sunday Night win against the Los Angeles Rams for sure.  But maybe the warm weather Rams didn’t enjoy playing a mid-December night game in Chicago.  Hmmmm…

In the meantime, an underachieving Eagle team finished strong under the guidance of last year’s playoff hero Nick Foles.  Deja vu anyone?  Hate to say it, but it is entirely possible.  I may even have to put some money on it.  Does anyone else in the NFC scare you?  None of this weekend’s combatants do, I can tell you that much.  The Los Angeles Rams?  Kind of coming back to earth down the stretch and how healthy is Todd Gurley?  The New Orleans Saints?  Drew Brees has looked human recently.

I’m guessing this is where the Bears get exposed.  Saint Nick!!

Philadelphia 27, Chicago 20.  

Week (against the spread):  13-3

Week (straight up):  12-4

Season (against the spread):  142-114

Season (straight up):  163-93

Travesty, Pt II

So this time we will reference the debacle in Miami.  I know, this game has been rehashed over and over again.  But let’s do it again!

Key Points:

*There isn’t any question that Rob Gronkowski should not have been on the field for the final miracle play.  It simply wasn’t a Hail Mary situation.  I’ve never really been much of a fan of putting an offensive guy on the field for a defensive play like that anyway.

Taking Devin McCourty off the field in that situation seemed a little bizarre as well.  Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson or one of the lineman may have been a better choice.  Devin should have been on the field for sure…despite the fact that he really hasn’t been real good this year.

But I believe people are missing the bigger issue here:  the replays I saw showed a few guys kind of standing around apparently waiting for another player to make the play.  Missed tackles.  Bad angles.  And all that.  That type of play should pretty much NEVER work.  There were personnel decision issues, sure.  But the play should have never gotten to Gronk in the first place.

*Stephen Gostkowski can have a tendency to miss kicks in key situations.  And that was the case again Sunday.  But people calling for his head are being unreasonable.  That was the FIRST extra point he missed this year.  And he’s only missed a handful of field goals this season.  He has been a pretty successful kicker in this league for a long time.  Especially considering the elements he has to kick in often at home.

He’s no Adam Vinatieri, I grant you this.  But have you seen the kickers in this league?  And how many bums are parading around out there?  I’ve said it a million times before, there are only 32 kicking jobs in the NFL.  How come the league can’t find 32 decent kickers in the entire world?  Mystifies me.  Off the top of my head, there are a handful of kickers over 40 in the league now (Vinatieri, Matt Bryant, Phil Dawson, Sebastian Janikowski…I think these guys are all 40 plus, but if not they are close enough.  And there may be others).  There are no younger guys that can take these guys’ jobs like what happens at every other position on the field?

If you are one that wants Gostkowski out of town, be careful what you wish for.

*Tom Brady brain fart at the end of the first half.  All I can say is…wow.  I never in a million years would have thought I would ever see something like this.  Incredible that he didn’t throw it away.  Not to mention he missed a wide-open Chris Hogan in the end zone the play before.  I honestly think THIS play had more of an impact on the game than anything else.  They score a TD there and the Pats are up 34-21 at the half (or 33-21 if Gostkowski misses the point after, which I am sure some are thinking here).  The complexion of the game may have changed significantly if the Pats get this touchdown.  Not enough is being made of this, I can tell you that much.

*The defense.  Letting a 412-year-old Frank Gore and a career special teamer in Brandon Bolden carve you up for 152 yards on 14 carries is laughable.  Heat or no heat.  Letting an eminently mediocre and also hobbled Ryan Tannehill have an almost perfect quarterback rating is a joke.  I can’t even talk more about this unit.

*Running game.  A pretty uneventful 20 carries for Sony Michel.  The guy seems decent.  But I am still waiting to see what made him a first-round pick.  I actually like Rex Burkhead.  But he was invisible.  I know Brady is hurt or banged up or whatever you want to call it.  And you want to protect him a bit.  But if the running game is not working, go to what works.  And that was the passing game, for the most part.  And it usually is the passing game that works.  Has been for a long time.  Just do it.

That’s enough…let’s move on…

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City (-3.5)  

The Chiefs beat the Chargers by 10 in Week One…a long time ago.  The winner of this game probably has the best chance at winning the AFC West as well as locking up the #1 seed in the AFC.  KC has been a little pedestrian in recent weeks.  But the Chargers just barely beat the Bengals and their backup QB.  KC has scored 105 more points than LA, but they also have given up 81 more.  Eric Berry is supposed to be back, but will it matter?  I’m trying to figure out a way to pick the Chargers and I’m not sure why.  But with the game in Kansas City, I think we are going that route.

Kansas City 34, Los Angeles Chargers 28.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  8-8

Season (against the spread):  112-96

Season (straight up):  129-79

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