Friday, January 5, 2018

NFL Picks: Wildcard Weekend, Because Pretending Is Fun

It's The Only Way To Delude
This week, with actual explanations! What can I tell you, I've actually got a human amount of free time right now, mostly because I'm 3,000 miles away from my car and second job. Fewer games mean more words. That's a win for everyone. (Or, well, not.)

Anyway, this weekend is usually a mix of boredom and delusion that makes you wonder why you watch... but then one out of four games is worthwhile, and when it's more than that, it's just an absolute gift. Besides, you also usually get a big terrible blowout or two that sucks on money for road teams in Round 2.

And with that... on to the picks!

* * * * *

Tennessee at KANSAS CITY (-8.5)

Sure, the Chiefs don't defend against the run all that well, and the Titans are good at that, especially with Actual RB2 DeMarco Murray on the shelf with an injury, and Actual RB1 Derrick Henry getting the majority of the carries. KC also spent several months derping away any chance of a first-round bye. But while HC Andy Reid has a long history of blowing home playoff games with superior talent, this game is just too much of a layup for him to gack. The Titans aren't good against the pass, haven't gotten enough from QB Marcus Mariota to threaten anyone in a road game, and are the living embodiment of one and done. Everyone will get fooled by the Chiefs into thinking they can win a road game next week after this one...

Chiefs 38, Titans 17

ATLANTA (+5.5) at LA Rams

Falcons QB Matt Ryan has a surprisingly good playoff history, and while the Rams can get after the QB with defensive line pressure, that's a hard thing to sustain for 60 minutes. On the other side of the ball, this will be the first playoff game for QB Jared Goff, who has been in a wildly comfortable position with RB Todd Gurley wrecking the world all year. I think he struggles for a while, the Falcons get a lead that takes some of the Gurley Show out of the flow, and this one comes down to the wire. Yup, this is the one game this weekend that I think the road team takes, with WR Julio Jones reminding everyone that he's got a claim to Best In The League status.

Falcons 24, Rams 23

Buffalo at JACKSONVILLE (-9)

Poor Buffalo. In the playoffs for the first time in decades, but without do-everything RB LeSean McCoy, and facing a very good defense on the road. Trusting QB Blake Bortles to cover a big number in his first playoff game isn't exactly a recipe for comfort, but I don't think he's going to have to get more than 20 to cover the number, and Jacksonville does have some weapons at the skill positions.

Jaguars 20, Bills 9

Carolina at NEW ORLEANS (-7)

You hear this a lot: that it's tough to beat the same team three times in a season. Without getting too into the weeds and running the numbers on that... um, why? If you beat a team twice in the same season, you are very likely to be, well, better than that team. You are also at home, with lots of confidence, and probably have matchup reasons as to why you won the first two games. Which brings us to this game, where the Saints' strong running game and breakout defense goes up against a sputtering offense and intermittent defense. Oh, and they'll do it in a deafening dome, with a Hall of Fame QB. Sure, there's a chance that Panther QB Cam Newton drags his team to a win, but his accuracy just isn't there, and the weapons are pretty ordinary. Because the only thing harder than beating the same team three times in a year... is winning a road game with lesser talent.

Saints 31, Panthers 30

Last week: 9-7

Season: 126-120-7

Career: 1008-1007-43

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