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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

Week Fifteen…

Diving right in:

Chicago at Detroit (-5.5)

I wanted to take the Bears in this one.  I really did.  I don’t believe in the Lions at all.  But I’m also not going to get fooled by the Bears’ blowout against the Bengals last week.  After 5 straight losses.  That result shouldn’t fool anyone.  Chicago lost at home to Detroit about a month ago and obviously would like to avenge that loss…while at the same time hurting Detroit’s playoff hopes.  I can’t do it though, even if the Lions are banged up on the O-Line.

Detroit 24, Chicago 13.

Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5) at Kansas City

Two teams seemingly headed in different directions in recent weeks.  But did the Chiefs get back on track with last weeks win against Oakland?  This may go against my better judgement, but I am saying yes…for this week anyway.  Sure I was speaking highly of the Chargers last week, who again could be something like 9-4 if they had a kicker.  But this week I am pumping the brakes a little bit.

Kansas City 30, Los Angeles Chargers 24.

New York Jets at New Orleans (-15.5) 

15.5 is a large number.  But two words will make you feel better about taking the Saints:  Bryce Petty.  That, in and of itself, should be enough.  But throw in the fact that the Jets Offensive Coordinator very publicly said he gave up in last week’s game, the Muhammad Wilkerson benching, the Saints’ 5-1 record at home, the Saints having ten days to prepare and New Orleans needing to keep winning because of the tight NFC South division they are in and for the playoff race…well, that’s many more reasons to expect a blowout here.

New Orleans 45, New York Jets 10.

Houston at Jacksonville (-11.5) 

11.5 is another large number…especially for an unproven “contender” like the Jaguars.  Sure, the Jags did beat Seattle last week.  And their D is apparently top-notch.  But what does that mean now?  Not sure.  That being said, looks like the Texans are going with T.J. Yates on Sunday.  Once again, this alone should make one feel comfortable about laying the points.

Jacksonville 33, Houston 7.

Philadelphia (-7.5) at New York Giants

The G-Men actually were tied with Dallas about midway through the fourth quarter last Sunday…until the ‘Boys finally snapped out of it and blitzed in 3 touchdowns immediately after that.  Will there be some sort of hangover for the Eagles, what with them losing Carson Wentz for the year this past week?  Possibly.  But it will take much less than three and a half quarters for them to shake it off.  The Iggles should still win this one pretty handily, even with Nick Foles at the helm.

Philadelphia 34, New York Giants 14.

Miami at Buffalo (-3.5)

Tyrod Taylor is back.  Yaaaaay!  In all seriousness though, that is good news with Joe Webb being the only alternative.  The ‘Phins looked pretty damn good in beating the Pats Monday night.  Or did the Pats just look that bad?  I am certainly a total homer, but I think it is more the latter.  And Miami only won by 7 in the end, sad considering how it looked like they had total control of the game at all times.  In any event, I don’t expect Jay Cutler to put together standout performances two weeks in a row.  And although the game in Miami Monday had the temperatures in the 50s…of course cold for Miami…in Buffalo what will it be in Sunday, the 20s?  That’s not going to help the Dolphins.

Buffalo 21, Miami 17.

Baltimore (-6.5) at Cleveland 

Yup, the Ravens did kind of choke away their game against the Steelers last week.  But here they are again in the mix to get into the playoffs, with a pretty easy schedule remaining.  The Browns have had chances to win a game this season plenty of times.  But I don’t think that’s a realistic option this week.  Even if Josh Gordon goes off for 300 yards receiving or something.

Baltimore 27, Cleveland 17.

Cincinnati at Minnesota (-10.5) 

The Bengals stink and I don’t even want to talk about them.

Minnesota 31, Cincinnati 9.

Arizona at Washington (-4.5)

A couple of teams playing out the string.  The Cards still appear to be competing, and I suppose are still technically alive in the playoff chase…even with the immortal Blaine Gabbert under center.  On the flip side, the ‘Skins may have already packed it in.  Maybe it’s all the injuries, but it’s been an ugly last couple of games for Washington.

Arizona 20, Washington 17.  

Green Bay at Carolina (-2.5) 

Aaron Rodgers is back.  That’s nice.  But does it get them a win against the 9-4 Panthers?  Well, they may not get behind consistently, as in the “Brett Hundley era”, where they had to come back late the last couple of weeks to beat bad teams to stay in the playoff chase.  But I am not sure it gets them a win.  Will Rodgers show some rust?  Likely.  Maybe he will shake it off quickly, but who knows?  Taking the safe route here.

Carolina 27, Green Bay 24.

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle (-1.5)

Second tough one in a row for the Rams, after losing a tight one to the Eagles last week.  Now they have to go to Seattle to face a team that already beat them in LA earlier this year.  If the Seahawks do win, they take over first place and, based on whatever else happens by the end of the weekend, could actually knock the Rams out of the top 6 in the conference.  Yes, there are two weeks left after that, but that is still a kind of surprising turn of events.  Seattle tried to come back against the Jags last week…as Russell Wilson has been pretty amazing in the 4th quarter all by himself this season…but came up short.  The ‘Hawks are hurting all around, but you can’t ever count them out.

Seattle 34, Los Angeles Rams 27.  

New England (-2.5) at Pittsburgh 

I love it how after a game in which the Patriots and, in particular, Tom Brady, play atrociously, then the sky is falling, the Pats “dynasty” is over and Brady is washed up.  Happens at least once a year and then the Pats and Brady then repeatedly prove everyone wrong.  Now look, this all will happen someday.  The Pats are banged up, Brady included.  Pittsburgh is a pretty good team, albeit one that gave up 38 to a poor Raven offense last week.  But will it happen this year?  No.  And not this week.  If it does, then it may be time to worry.  Let’s also not forget that for whatever reason Brady sucks in Miami.  And it was the second time in three weeks playing the Dolphins.  And the Pats, though they will never admit it, were likely looking past Miami to this one.  In the whole scheme of things, that game meant nothing.  This game means everything.  I’m expecting a few bodies to come back and for the ship to right itself.  If I am wrong we will deal with that next week.

New England 42, Pittsburgh 34.

Tennessee at San Francisco (-1.5)

The Titans are probably the worst 8-5 team in the league.  Wait…only Atlanta and Seattle are 8-5 across the league, so that claim was too easy.  Anyway, when is this Marcus Mariota kid going to take the next step?  I am not impressed.  Look at their schedule and results this year.  Unimpressive, to be kind.  They’ve actually given up 21 more points than they have scored on the season.  Though they can pretty much thank two blowout losses to the Texans and Steelers for that.  But still.  This team does nothing for me and with any luck they will make the playoffs and the AFC Championship and the Pats can blast them easily en route to the Super Bowl.  Ok, I’m getting off track…and waaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of myself.  In any event, they aren’t that good.  The Niners appear to be better now that Jimmy Football is in charge.  SF is at home.  I’m going 49ers.

San Francisco 17, Tennessee 16.

Dallas (-2.5) at Oakland

Two teams with high expectations coming into the season.  Both underachieving, to say the least.  No Zeke for Dallas hasn’t helped.  I’m not sure what Oakland’s problem has been…other than the fact that Jack del Rio is their coach.  And their receivers drop like 20 balls a game.  We will have to get through this one in prime time somehow.  Not expecting much.

Dallas 31, Oakland 17.

Atlanta (-6.5) at Tampa Bay

Speaking of prime time, we have this on Monday.  Tampa has lost 7 of 9, with the two wins against the Jets and Dolphins.  The Falcons have been inconsistent this year, but have won 4 of 5, with the loss coming to Minnesota.  This one shouldn’t be close.  I’m sure Atlanta will make it closer that it has to be however.

Atlanta 30, Tampa Bay 17.

Week (against the spread):  1-0

Week (straight up):  1-0

Season (against the spread):  113-96

Season (straight up):  137-72

Week Eight…

…and let’s not waste any time:

Minnesota (-9.5) “at” Cleveland

Another London game.  I know Cleveland played Tennessee tight last week and covered.  The week before they got blasted and did not cover an even larger spread.  They are 0-7 and clearly stink…on every continent I would say.  My inclination is that they will get beat fairly big in England, so let’s just go with that.

Minnesota 27, Cleveland 9.

Carolina at Tampa Bay (-2.5)

I can’t figure these two teams out at all.  Let’s just go with the home team.

Tampa Bay 24, Carolina 21.

Chicago at New Orleans (-8.5)

I’m fairly certain that Mitchell Trubisky will have to throw more than 7 passes in this one.

New Orleans 34, Chicago 10.

Atlanta (-4.5) at New York Jets

If Atlanta loses this one, they will have lost 4 consecutive games, all against AFC East teams.  Would be pretty astounding.  I’m actually astounded that they played all their “AFC division” games all in a row.  Weird how the schedule makers drew that one up.  Anyway, Atlanta didn’t look great against the Pats last week and kind of seem in a little bit of a funk overall.  Find it hard to believe they will lose to the Jets though.

Atlanta 27, New York Jets 17.

San Francisco at Philadelphia (-12.5)

These double-digit spreads are always enticing, but dangerous.  The Niners played 5 games in a row where they lost all of them by 3 or less.  That ended last week when they got smashed by the Cowboys.  Maybe they will be able to keep this one close, based on their season as a whole thus far?  I don’t know.  Philly is rolling.  It’s in Philly, so I’m thinking blowout.

Philadelphia 34, San Francisco 13.

Indianapolis at Cincinnati (-9.5)

Hard to fathom the Bengals being favored by this much over anyone.  But the Colts are giving up points by the bushel.  And Cincy shouldn’t really be this bad.

Cincinnati 31, Indianapolis 17.

Oakland at Buffalo (-2.5)

Always tough to take a West Coast team flying to the East Coast for a 1:00 EST game.  But I think Oakland’s win 10 days ago against Kansas City may have brought some of its mojo back.  Not to mention I have a hard time seeing the Bills at 4-2 now.

Oakland 27, Buffalo 24.

Los Angeles Chargers at New England (-7.5) 

The Chargers are better than their 3-4 record really and the Pats are a little banged up, especially defensively.  Philip Rivers historically always seems to keep his team close against New England.  The Patriots looked much better last week against the Falcons, but I don’t believe all their ills are cured.  Maybe some rain for this one.  Seems like a close game to me.

New England 31, Los Angeles Chargers 27.

Houston at Seattle (-5.5)

Deshaun Watson has been awesome this year.  Not sure why the Texans even bothered with that Tommy Savage business at the start of the year.  But at Seattle this week.  Thinking a bump in the road is in order.

Seattle 34, Houston 16.  

Dallas (-2.5) at Washington

Both teams are 3-3.  They could be headed in opposite directions though.

Dallas 37, Washington 23.  

Pittsburgh (-3.5) at Detroit

Lions.  Enough said.  Well that, and the Steelers seem to have righted the ship.

Pittsburgh 27, Detroit 13.

Denver at Kansas City (-7.5)

The Broncos have been absolutely putrid the last two weeks.  The Chiefs were playing over their head to start the season but have lost two in a row themselves.  Divisional battle, have to believe it ends up being a good game.

Kansas City 24, Denver 21.

Week (against the spread):  0-1

Week (straight up):  0-1

Season (against the spread): 50-57

Season (straight up): 64-43

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