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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

Week Seventeen…

Holiday week speed edition.  Merry (belated) Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!!

New York Jets at New England Patriots (-13.5)

We were burned on the spread by the late garbage touchdown by the Bills against the Pats last week.  So why would we do it again, with an even higher spread?  The Pats need this one, as we know.  Though this year, that hasn’t necessarily meant much, I know.  But the J-E-T-S will be practicing their golf swings on the sideline.  Well, maybe not that.  But we do know no one will be listening to their head coach, Todd Bowles, since he will probably be fired right after the game.  Perhaps even at halftime.  Yes, the Jets played the Packers close last week and actually appeared to be in control of the game at one point.  Yes, the Jets would love to knock the Pats out of the second seed and therefore a bye week in the playoffs.  Yes, the Jets were competitive with the Pats in their earlier game in New York.  Yes, but…no…

New England 31, New York Jets 10.

Jacksonville at Houston (-7.5)

Blake Bortles is back!!

Houston 27, Jacksonville 13.

Miami at Buffalo (-3.5)  

Who cares?

Buffalo 17, Miami 13.

Atlanta at Tampa Bay (-1.5) 

Tampa’s coach said this week that their third-string quarterback may get some snaps in this game.  I don’t remember the guy’s name, even though where I read the quote said the QB had been in the league for like three years.  That’s enough for me to take the Falcons…I guess…

Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 17.

Detroit at Green Bay (-7.5)

Not a great year for the Pack.  But an even worse one for our old friend Matty Patricia.

Green Bay 38, Detroit 20.

Carolina at New Orleans Saints (-7.5) 

The Saints have locked up the #1 seed.  Are they going to play their starters?  Sean Payton insists they are.  I say, yeah, enough to get Drew Brees the 8 yards he needs for another 4,000 yard season.  But I would assume they play for a quarter.  The Panthers should easily cover then, right?  Well, they are using their third string quarterback in this one.  And not to just “get snaps”, but to start.  Ssssooooo…my guess is a lot of running and both teams just try to get the hell out of there unscathed.

New Orleans 20, Carolina 13.

Dallas at New York Giants (-7.5) 

The Cowboys’ seeding will not change either way and they are 2-5 on the road.  So that explains the big spread in favor of the G-Men.  But still…

New York Giants 17, Dallas 13.

Philadelphia (-6.5) at Washington

Saint Nick!!

Philadelphia 27, Washington 17.

Cleveland at Baltimore (-5.5)

The Browns have been scrappy, no doubt.  With a win, they finish 8-7-1…whoda thunk that?!  But the Ravens have been hot, they need this one and I suspect that their defense shuts down Baker Mayfield and Co.

Baltimore 27, Cleveland 16. 

Arizona at Seattle (-8.5)

The Seahawks are the #5 or #6 seed, but do they care?  Pete Carroll says they are going to play their starters.  Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  But the Cards are truly wretched either way.

Seattle 23, Arizona 6.

Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) at Denver

Disappointing loss for the Chargers last week at home to the Ravens after the huge win at Kansas City the week before.  But LA can still get the #1 seed in the AFC.  The Broncos had that dud on Monday night, are banged up and their season is over anyway.

Los Angeles Chargers 31, Denver 18.  

Chicago at Minnesota (-5.5)

The Bears still have a shot at a bye.  The Vikings are maddeningly inconsistent, though also in control of their playoff destiny.  Seems like a close one is in store here.

Minnesota 20, Chicago 17. 

Oakland at Kansas City (-14.5)

The Chiefs have come back to earth a bit, but still hold all the cards for the #1 seed in the AFC.  The Raiders left it all on the field Monday night when they likely played their last game in Oakland.  Should be a runaway for KC.

Kansas City 38, Oakland 20.

San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams (-9.5) 

Have to love the 49ers still being competitive down the stretch, despite their season being over weeks ago.  But the Rams still need this one to keep the playoff bye.  So even if Todd Gurley doesn’t suit up, we are still expecting them to win by double digits.

Los Angeles Rams 34, San Francisco 17.  

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-14.5)

The Steelers have played their way out of the playoffs (so far) and almost nothing brings me more joy.  But a win still gives them a chance.  Jeff Driskel appears to be horrendous.  And we know what the Bengals are.  But to trust Pitt to cover this large of a spread after the way their season has gone seems to be a stretch.

Pittsburgh 28, Cincinnati 17.  

Indianapolis at Tennessee (-1.5)

Will Marcus Mariota play or will he not?  Seems to be the same question every week.  Do you trust Blaine Gabbert?  Do you even trust Mariota even if he plays?  I know, Derrick Henry has been lighting it up lately.  And the Titans have won 4 in a row…though against inferior competition.  Indy has won 8 of 9, and beaten a few good teams along the way.  The Colts hammered the Titans in Indy 38-10 in their earlier meeting this year.  Wouldn’t shock me if this one went the same way, despite being in Tennessee.  Side note:  It’s been awesome to see Dion Lewis throw up dogcrap numbers after he shot his mouth off following the win against the Pats.

Indianapolis 31, Tennessee 23.  

Week (against the spread):  8-8

Week (straight up):  13-3

Season (against the spread):  129-111

Season (straight up):  151-89

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