Friday, January 12, 2018

NFL Playoff Picks: Mama Didn't Raise No Foles

Or quarterbacks
ATLANTA (-3) at Philly

There are many reasons to pick either team here, which is why you wind up with such a tight line. Atlanta has playoff experience, a vastly improved defense, game breakers at RB and WR, and a QB who's won these kinds of games before. Philly has home field, the bye week of rest, a running game that could control things and take the pressure off QB2 Nick Foles, and a rampant amount of motivation for a defense that's been great for most of the year. I fully expect the Eagles to come out of the locker room flying, to take an early lead behind RB Jay Ajayi and a healthy offensive line, and to look great for about a quarter, maybe a quarter and a half.

Then, Foles will be Foles; he'll fail in the red zone, turn it over, take a sack because he's trying to do too much and has the mobility of a spry 50-year-old, etc. A Falcon skill player will make a play. Dread will infect the place. The home field won't be such a benefit. And it's white-knuckle time until the close, with the team that's got a margin for error pulling away.

The problem is that QBs win playoff games, and they really win close ones. Atlanta's QB isn't legendary, but he's good enough, despite his historical record of not doing well in the Linc. Philly doesn't have a QB that you'd trust to run a lunch truck, and yes, I'd be picking my laundry with Colin Kaepernick. (Just as I might be picking Jacksonville with him. So glad the NFL decided that Ideological Purity was more important than winning games.)

I really hope I'm wrong, and I easily could be, but this year ended when QB and MVP Carson Wentz limped off in Los Angeles. The Eagles don't know it yet, but they will.

(Deeper analysis? Atlanta's got a better kicking game and special teams, too. Which also isn't cheery when it comes to a playoff game. Also, Eagle WRs drop too many passes, especially when the passes aren't particularly accurate, because the QB isn't a QB. Let's just move on.)

Falcons 24, Eagles 20

Tennessee at NEW ENGLAND (-13.5)

If there's a bigger collective moment of America motivating themselves to kick a football before the Patriot Lucys pull it away, I've never seen it. Yes, whatever, Mssrs. Kraft, Brady and Belichick can all get butthurt over Who Is The Most Genius, and New England will rue the day when it allowed an aging athlete to dupe them into a fire sale of his competent backup.

But that day isn't today.

Belichick isn't going anywhere at his age and comfort level, and the Titans got a massive number of breaks to be here. The road team can run the ball a bit, and maybe QB Marcus Mariota has a good game because no one really expects him to win, but in the end, New England's going to score a lot and Tennessee isn't. And then every New England fan will try to make you regret living on this Earth, because that is their superpower. And probably will be for another 1-3 years. Let's just move on.

Patriots 38, Titans 20

Jacksonville at PITTSBURGH (-7)

I love "The Good Place" on NBC so much that I kind of want Jacksonville to continue its improbable run, just so the best doofus on television (Jason Mendoza, a Blake Bortles fan) can have things to say about it. But QBs who run better than they throw don't win big games in college, let alone the NFL, and they really don't win on the road. Pittsburgh won't look good enough to make people think they should be favored in the most inevitable conference championship game in our lifetime, but they'll still cover this spread with ease. Just hope they can get through the game with all of their skill players intact, because there's really no more Patriotic way to win their win into another Super Bowl than to take advantage of injuries. Let's just... yeah, it's a running gag. (So is clinical depression!)

Steelers 26, Jaguars 13

New Orleans at MINNESOTA (-5)

A similar game to Atlanta/Philadelphia, but with everything just a little bit better for the home team. The dome makes the home field noise a little louder. The QB2 is a little (OK, a lot) better. The defense, especially the secondary, is more airtight. And it will all add up to a win, albeit not a very comfortable one, especially because the Saint running game doesn't look like it can take enough of the weight off, especially on the road. Five years ago, QB Drew Brees would win this game for the Saints. Now... not seeing it. But it really wouldn't shock me to lose this one on the spread.

Moving on!

Vikings 27, Saints 20

Last week: 2-2

Season: 128-122-7

Career: 1010-1009-43

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