Hi, hello & welcome to America’s favorite column about America’s favorite sport! The Divisional round of the playoffs is often considered the best NFL weekend of the year. You typically get four games with the eight best teams in football. It’s all killer & no filler. Usually.
This season, I’m not sure we can say that. The NFC’s #1 seed is missing their QB1 & has been abysmal since turning to their backup. The AFC’s #1 seed is so far ahead of their opponent that it’s tough to think it’ll be closer than two touchdowns. The Sunday games look like they’ll be pretty good, but Saturday might be better spent watching college basketball. Or maybe even getting out of the house or something.
Picks Against The Spread
Atlanta (-3) at Philadelphia: The #1 seed typically isn’t the underdog for their first game, but that’s exactly what’s happening here. Nick Foles had one good game as a fill-in for Carson Wentz, but things have fallen apart since then. The Falcons are destined to make another playoff run and waste our time with another choke job against a team we want to see lose. It’s what teams from Georgia do. The Atlanta Braves did it throughout the 90s. The Georgia Bulldogs did it on Monday. The Falcons did it last year and they’ll do it this year too.
Tennessee at New England (-13.5):
Don’t waste your Saturday night on this nonsense. Sure, Marcus Mariota is a cute story. Cute stories don’t get it done against the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS. It’s one thing to engineer a comeback against the Chiefs, a team built to choke in the playoffs. Getting things done against the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS is a whole different matter. It’ll be a demoralizing loss for Mariota & the Titans.
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh (-7): Back in Week 5, the Jaguars made the NFL take notice with a 30-9 decimation of the Steelers at Heinz Field. Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions & everybody wondered if this would be his final season. Were the Steelers on the verge of a decline?
Those of us that support AFC North teams knew what was going to happen next. Pittsburgh won ten of their next eleven games, Ben Roethlisberger had another good season & showed no further signs of slowing down, and now they get another shot at the Jags. There was never any doubt in my mind that this would happen. Maybe not the Jags rematch, but I knew that the Steelers would rebound and end up right where they always end up.
People want to believe in Jacksonville. They have a great defense that statistically ranks as one of the best ever. The issue is that they’re running into a franchise that’s an unstoppable force this time of year. Big Ben’s at full-speed. Le’Veon Bell’s doing his thing. Antonio Brown will be back from injury. The defense needs to stop Blake Bortles. As much as I’d love for the Jaguars to send the Steelers and their towel-snorting fans home with their tails between their legs, it’s just not going to happen. The Steelers will get their revenge this week, when it counts.
New Orleans at Minnesota (-5): The Vikings are another team with a top-notch defense. Add in the unexpected top play of Case Keenum and it looks like Minnesota could become the first team to attempt to earn a Super Bowl championship in their home stadium. Mike Zimmer’s team is definitely one to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately for them, so are the Saints. Their running game has been among the best in the league all season with Mark Ingram & Alvin Kamara. It’s allowed Drew Brees to stay fresh, and he showed last week against Carolina that he’s still among the best quarterbacks in the league. As good as the Vikings defense has been throughout the season, they haven’t faced many offenses like the Saints. I still think the Vikings have a great chance to win this game, but it’ll be a close one.