…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
Not a banner Wild Card week, though I will say if Seattle fails on their last two-point conversion, then the Blowhard picks that score exactly…and covers. Although if Sebastian Janikowski is available, they probably kick the point there…though we still cover.
I know, who cares?
In any event, seems like we have a pretty good slate coming up this weekend. Looking at the point spreads, however, it appears that Vegas doesn’t seem to think so. And we know Vegas has a pretty good idea on what they are doing.
Another interesting note: When is the last time the New England Patriots had the lowest spread among the teams participating in a playoff weekend? Is this accurate? Perhaps. But again…that’s why they play the games.
Indianapolis at Kansas City (-5.5)
There are a lot of people out there that think the Colts are going to win this game. All of a sudden Indy is the “best team in the AFC”? Huh?! The Colts are on a nice run, no question. But let’s not get carried away, please. I’ll point back to their schedule and mention once again that it wasn’t exactly a Murderer’s Row they played down the stretch. Sorry to beat a dead horse here. Not to mention the fact that they should have walloped the Texans last week. Yeah, I guess they kind of did beat them pretty good. But they probably should have won more like 42-7 instead of the 21-7 they did win by in the end…especially the way they started.
The Chiefs went 3-3 down the stretch, coach Andy Reid’s postseason struggles are well-documented, their defense stinks and will yet again be without Eric Berry, not to mention Kareem Hunt thankfully ain’t walking through that door. But KC is at home and had a week off. Indy has that stud Darius Leonard on defense, but how good really is that D? They shut down Houston? Yippee!! I’m not buying into the hype. Though of course, I will be rooting for Indy, cuz if the Colts and Patriots win, the AFC Championship will once again go through Foxborough. Just not seeing it though.
Kansas City 38, Indianapolis 27.
Dallas at Los Angeles Rams (-7.5)
Like the Chiefs, the Rams sputtered a bit at the end, going 2-2 to end the season. And like the Colts, we feel like the Cowboys are getting waaaaaaay too much love out there. Kind of feel the same way about this game as I do Chiefs/Colts. This version of the Rams doesn’t necessarily have any kind of (good) playoff track record. But they’ve had a week off, are at home and probably are in a better situation health-wise…especially with Todd Gurley supposedly ready to go full speed. Looks like most of the injured Cowboys will suit up, but we will see how much some of them can give. A big game from Ezekiel Elliott would keep the potent Rams offense off the field and go a long way to giving the ‘Boys a chance. Not out of the question. But that being said, the Rams can score quickly…and often, so a big game from Zeke may not really matter. That’s pretty much the way I’m leaning.
Los Angeles Rams 31, Dallas 20.
Los Angeles Chargers at New England (-4.5)
Tough road for the Chargers this postseason. Finishing tied for the best record in the AFC, but losing the AFC West division tiebreaker to the Chiefs, dropping them to the #5 seed. Then they have to travel cross country to Baltimore in Round 1. Then once again traveling cross country to New England for Round 2. LA won in the Wild Card round, can they win in the Divisional Round? Absolutely! Are we picking them? You’ll see.
The Chargers took a 23-3 lead last week in Baltimore with about 9 minutes left in the game when they then inexplicably let the Ravens back in the game. To the point where Baltimore had the ball close to midfield with less than a minute left. With at least a little bit of a chance to go ahead as the clock approached zero. The Ravens ran for less than 100 yards in the game after going the last half of the season seemingly averaging double that. Lamar Jackson was HISTORICALLY BAD. Seemed like a good opportunity for John Harbaugh to (reluctantly) go back to playoff-tested Joe Flacco and he declined. Sure, the Chargers got conservative. But this was a second AFC Wild Card game that should have never been in doubt after the way it started.
We’ve been through it all year, that the Patriots are not the juggernaut this year that they have been for years. But take the repeated cross country travel above. The Patriots being at home, and being undefeated this year. (Yes, I know the Chargers are 8-1 on the road. Impressive, no doubt. But this is Gillette, in January, in the playoffs. Different animal). Weather? Perhaps. A warm weather team coming into the cold. Could have some effect.
Ultimately, I believe it will be a close game. LA sacked a mobile Lamar Jackson seven times last week. So how many times can they get an immobile Tom Brady? Yeah, Brady will be more prepared than Lamar to combat that pass rush so he won’t get sacked nearly as much. BUT, he sure as hell will probably be pressured just as much. If Julian Edelman doesn’t have butterfingers, perhaps the real Gronk shows up and maybe someone like Phillip Dorsett has a career game so the Pats can put some points on the board and make that pressure irrelevant. More than likely though, the Patriots try to run the ball…and maybe even too much. I suppose that would cut down on the sacks anyway.
Here’s what I’m thinking…it wouldn’t be surprising if it came down to the Chargers kicker, Michael Badgley. It’s been no secret that LA has had their share of issues with their kicking game in recent years. They think Badgley has been a pretty good solution. He’s been good. But remember that Sunday Night game against the Steelers about a month ago? Didn’t he miss a 39 yarder with no time left? Then a Steelers penalty gave him another chance. Then a missed 34 yarder followed. Then…another Steeler penalty. He did hit the 29 yarder to win it…but that’s quite a route.
What is he going to do if it comes down to a kick like that? In Gillette? In the playoffs?
My guess? Two words: Billy Cundiff.
New England 23, Los Angeles Chargers 21.
Philadelphia at New Orleans (-8.5)
I’m extremely hesitant to pick against Nick Foles these days. Isn’t everyone? Yeah, yeah, yeah, if Cody Parkey could hit a kick, we wouldn’t even be talking about Foles this week. But he’s here and we need to talk about it. Even though Foles threw a couple of bad picks last week, he also brought them down for the go-ahead score with less than a minute left in regulation.
So does this “Saint Nick” magic mean that the Eagles have a chance this week in New Orleans? Well, sure. But even though the Eagles have won 6 of their last 7 and seem to be on a similar run like last year which led to a Super Bowl, I believe this is where it comes to an end. You know what game was right before the 6 of 7 run? A 48-7 loss to these same Saints in the same place where they will play on Sunday. Of course, the Eagles are not the same team now as they were at that point in the year. But New Orleans was 13-3 this season…13-2 if you don’t count the last game of the year in which they mailed things in. In a recurring theme, they are at home and have had a week off. Drew Brees should be a little refreshed. The game won’t be as ugly as the mid-season one. But I suppose there is a chance it could be.
New Orleans 34, Philadelphia 17.
Week (against the spread): 1-3
Week (straight up): 2-2
Season (against the spread): 143-117
Season (straight up): 165-95
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