Cook’s NFL Picks: Divisional Round!

Hi, hello & welcome to the Divisional Round! Wild Card Weekend was a complete and utter waste of time, as we figured it would be. Four boring, non-competitive games. Packers/Giants was interesting for about a half, but that was all we got out of the first week of the NFL Playoffs. Things are traditionally better in the second weekend. Some say this is the best weekend of the NFL year because you get two games on Saturday & two games on Sunday featuring the best eight teams in the league. As a Bengals fan I’m usually insulted by this notion, but since they didn’t bother showing up this season I can only hope that these people are actually right.

Last week’s games were pretty easy calls, we only missed one because Detroit opted to get blown out by Seattle instead of get screwed by officiating. This week’s slate looks a bit trickier.

Before we start, I’d like to say a few words to the good people of San Diego. With the Chargers officially packing up and moving to Los Angeles, you no longer have an NFL team in your city. We all saw this coming, but it’s still gotta sting and we here at THE USB are here for you during these tough times. Whether you decide to support the Chargers in their future endeavors in Los Angeles or decide to support another team instead, we still consider you part of our extended football family. And we’d still like to drop by and visit someday, because everything about San Diego seems awesome.

One last time…San Diego Super Chargers!

The worst thing about this? Los Angeles does not give a rip about the Chargers. It’s one thing when a team moves to a city that’s dying for some football. As horrible as it was when Art Modell took the Browns out of Cleveland, at least Baltimore fans were super excited and welcomed the Ravens into their hearts. The Oilers leaving was pretty crappy for Houston fans, but Tennessee was pretty excited to get an NFL team and it’s become a good market. In this situation, there’s people sad that the Chargers are leaving San Diego, and there’s really nobody excited they’re coming to Los Angeles. No winners.

Saturday, January 14

Seattle at Atlanta (-5)

We kind of glossed over the Atlanta Falcons for most of the 2016 season. They were doing some good stuff and had a pretty incredible offense going, but we’d already decided early on that they would probably choke towards the end of the season and somebody else would represent the NFC South in the playoffs. And if that didn’t happen & the Falcons wound up making the playoffs somehow, they wouldn’t last long there because they don’t perform in clutch situations. Welp, the Falcons made it into the playoffs with a bye, and here they are on the precipice of greatness once again.

Matt Ryan is the NFL MVP for 2016. Some will tell you it’s Tom Brady. Others will say it’s Aaron Rodgers. And there’s also those going for Derek Carr. Here’s the thing: Brady missed four games. Rodgers was amazing the second half of the season but pretty average the first. Carr had a couple of absolute stinkers. Matt Ryan was consistently good throughout the season…even his “bad” games were good by most standards. Credit has to be given to the Falcons’ excellent running back corps as well, but Matty Ice took the next step this season and was the dominant quarterback we all thought he could be.

Of course, now’s the tough part. Ryan’s playoff record is sketchy at best. The Falcons are 1-4 in the postseason with Ryan at QB. Nine touchdowns, seven interceptions, one game with a quarterback rating over 100. His performance in the 2012 playoffs was markedly better than his three previous appearances, where he could charitably have been called a rich man’s Andy Dalton. That was when the Matt Ryan Falcons got their one playoff victory…in the Divisional Round….against the Seattle Seahawks.

Will history repeat itself? It very well could. As much as I like Seattle’s defense, Atlanta’s offense is as well-equipped to face it as any offense in the NFL. I’m expecting a high-scoring, close game that’ll be better than anything from Wild Card Weekend, so take the Seahawks and the five points.

Houston at New England (-16)

dontcare

It’s Saturday night. Go out and get your drink and/or freak on. Don’t waste any time with this slaughter of a football game unless you’re a Patriots fan. Sure, the Texans managed to beat the immortal Connor Cook & the Raiders last week, but don’t let that trick you into thinking they can accomplish anything in Foxborough. Sixteen points is always a lot, but the Patriots won by twenty-seven back in Week 3 while Tom Brady was on vacation.

Sunday, January 15

Pittsburgh at Kansas City (-1.5)

One of these franchises always seems to do pretty well in January. Regardless of how the Pittsburgh Steelers place in the standings, they’re always one of the last teams you want to face come playoff time. It’s no secret that I dislike the Steelers as much as any group of people outside of our “elected” officials, but unlike that parade of charlatans, fabricators & sycophants, the Steelers are good at what they do & live up to their promises. I really hope I’m wrong and that my buddy Dustin James is celebrating a Kansas City appearance in the AFC Championship Game for the second time in his lifetime. The fact remains that if given a choice between a team that perennially overachieves in January and a team that’s yet to get over the hump, I’m going to go with the proven quantity every time. It’s just good business sense.

Green Bay at Dallas (-4.5)

Other than the Super Bowl, it doesn’t get much bigger than this. Two of the most popular franchises in all of sports. Vince Lombardi. Tom Landry. Bart Starr. Roger Staubach. Brett Favre. Troy Aikman. Cheeseheads. Cheerleaders. Two teams with rich traditions, promising futures, and fans all across America. The Packers & Cowboys have met thirty-four times. Each team has won seventeen times. Dallas leads 4-3 in playoff games.

Aaron Rodgers is on fire. I explained this last week. He looked a little iffy for the first ten minutes or so against the Giants, but once he got going there was no stopping him & the Pack. It’s really tough to pick against them right now, especially if you’re getting 4.5.

That being said, I think people are sleeping a bit on the Cowboys. We’re looking for teams other than them to win the NFC. We don’t trust rookies in the postseason, and their two hottest players this season are rookies. Are Dak & Zeke gonna hit that rookie wall at the worst possible time for the Dallas Cowboys? Maybe. Or maybe they don’t. You can ask Oregon fans about Zeke Elliott in postseason games, they’re still having nightmares about him in the 2015 National Championship Game. They’re rested up and ready to go, so don’t be shocked if the high seed actually holds up this weekend.

I feel like it’s going to be a tight one either way, so take the Packers and those points.

bluto-chug-o

Wildcard Results: 3-1

Playoff Results: 3-1

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