This is the best football weekend of the year: two best teams in each conference hosting games against wild card winners. Four games that will all be good, and a chance to go against four picks as my sad slide in picking games continues.
Kansas City (+5) at New England: As mentioned, I will be at this game live and no doubt I will bring up how I also attended the game in Kansas City last year, aka the presumed Death of the Patriots. It was quite the scene at the KC airport the next day with panicked fans mingling with media people, as all I wanted was to charge my iPod.
One mistake I made last week was forgetting just how good the Chiefs secondary is. Teams with strong front sevens seem to get more love unless there’s a larger than life personality like Richard Sherman at corner. Sean Smith is there with Revis and Sherman right now but isn’t talked about, probably because he has a boring name. As for the Patriots, they’ve lost 2 straight and haven’t lost 3 in a row since a midseason swoon in 2002, which is so long ago that CLEVELAND made the playoffs that year. The Patriots won’t be able to run the ball, and Rob Gronkowski seems somewhat compromised, missing practice time and getting injections of some sort for an ailing knee. As a Pats fan it scares the hell out of me.
I don’t care about Chandler Jones and all that fake weed nonsense. Players should be allowed to do what they want and he didn’t miss a practice or anything, though he was limited on one of the days for unrelated reasons. This is a revenge game and they are healthier, but it’s going to be an absolute slog of a game and the Chiefs are not a team that will be blown out. Thankfully the rain will be letting up in Foxboro about 2 hours before game time so that won’t be much of a factor.
Interesting factoid: Tom Brady is 0-2 against teams with Alex Smith on the roster, with a 41-34 loss to San Francisco in 2012 tossed in with the loss in Kansas City last year.
New England 23, Kansas City 20 (OT)
Green Bay at Arizona (-7): We just saw this game in week 16, and the initial thought is that this one will play closer than the Arizona rout from last time. How could it not? Last week there were three regular season rematches and in each case, the team that won the meeting in the regular season also won in the playoffs (Pittsburgh won their 2nd of two meetings with Cincinnati in 2015).
Sometimes it’s hard to drop preconceptions about things. The Cardinals were a terrible franchise from about 1983 through 2007 or so, a sort of NFL Clippers going 5-11 most years in the 1990s. They certainly don’t get much respect in the NFL wins pool I run as they get picked low every year. Forget all that: these guys are legit. Pair a top five offense with a top 10 defense and that’s a Super Bowl contender, especially since Bruce Arians is a more than competent coach.
Factoid: These teams met in the 2009 playoffs with Arizona winning in OT by a score of 51-45. Not much defense there.
Arizona 38, Green Bay 22
Seattle at Carolina (-1): Oh look, it’s another revenge game! Seattle blew a double digit lead at home to Carolina in October, a game that I consider the real coming out party for the Panthers. This line opened at -3 and dropped all week and I am not understanding why. Did everyone forget just how good Carolina is? They went 15-1 for gawd’s sakes and should have gone 16-0 if not for a stupid game in Atlanta. Seattle barely escaped last week and they are coming west to east for the 2nd week in a row for a 1 PM ET start.
Mildly interesting factoid: This is the only matchup so far in these playoffs between teams who also met in last year’s playoffs.
Carolina 20, Seattle 16
Pittsburgh (+7) at Denver: Lucky for Peyton Manning that the weather will be fair here. This line opened at 2 points and moved by 5, so they are begging people to take Pittsburgh and I’ll do that even if they have to wheel Roethlisberger out there in one of those Hannibal Lecter deals. I can’t take Manning in a divisional round game giving a touchdown given that the guy still threw 17 picks this year. Why has all that gotten washed away? Seems like a lot of Peyton stuff gets forgotten very soon after it happens, wink wink.
By the way, I don’t care about HGH but do care about how hypocritical the media coverage on it is compared with the ball inflation nonsense last year.
Interesting factoid: The last time these teams met in the playoffs, Tim Tebow led the Broncos to an OT win on the first play of the extra session.
Pittsburgh 20, Denver 17
Last week: 0-4 (PERFECTION)