OK, so after Week 1 of the playoffs I’m a VERY impressive 3-3 with my predictions. Now, you may at first wonder WHY 3-3 is an “impressive” record, especially when considering that I wasn’t using point spreads and was just trying to pick each winner. But it’s better if you don’t focus on that and just be impressed. OK? Super.
It should be noted that as we move to Week 2, the games get a little harder to forecast, so don’t expect my greatness from Week 1 to necessarily continue. Anyway, now that I’ve properly lowered expectations… before we get to the picks, I need to mention a brilliant idea I heard from my friend Chris. Rather than using the current system, whereby the teams with the best records in each league (the Chiefs and Packers) get the lowest-ranked advancing team in the second round (the Browns and the Rams, respectively), how fun would it be if each team got to CHOOSE their second round opponent? It would be very dramatic (almost as dramatic as a Bachelor rose ceremony), as all the teams could sit in separate rooms (like during the March Madness bracket reveal) waiting while the top seeds chose who they wanted to play. It would be incredibly fun to see the furious reaction from the teams that were chosen, who of course would take the selection as a MASSIVE sign of disrespect, and would in the next round be uber-motivated to make the number one seed regret their transgression. I really think it’s win/win all around. Someone get in Commissioner Goodell’s ear on this for next season. Let’s get to the games.
Baltimore at Buffalo
I have to admit I was somewhat unimpressed with how the Bills looked on Saturday. The offense struggled to run the ball (Josh Allen was the only running back who consistently gained yardage, and yeah, he’s the quarterback), the defense got GASHED repeatedly during several drives, and they in large part won due to terrible decisions and other mistakes by the Colts. Then again, the Colts are a solid 11-5 team and the Bills won a playoff game where they didn’t play great. That’s not a bad thing. After watching Baltimore beat Tennessee, my take is that the middle of the Ravens’ season was a blip, and their 5-1 record at the beginning, and their 5-0 record down the stretch, are far more indicative of what they are as a team than their ugly 1-4 stretch. Lamar Jackson looks unstoppable again (he WAS the MVP last year after all), and while I don’t expect them to make the Super Bowl, I certainly don’t think there’s a team in the league they can’t play with. I’m excited about this game. Both teams are young and don’t really have successful playoff experience to lean on, both have quarterbacks that can light up the scoreboard, and (SPOILER ALERT) either team should at least give Kansas City a tough battle in the AFC Championship Game (the Browns are totally going to put THAT quote on their bulletin board this weekend). I say….Bills Advance.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans
Tampa Bay did enough to beat Washington, while not looking so remarkable that they vaulted (in my mind, at least) into elite contender status. Tom Brady obviously knows a thing or two about winning playoff games, and he has a nice set of weapons. And if Chris Godwin stops dropping most of the passes thrown to him, that will be even better. The Saints didn’t exactly look like a well-oiled machine in beating the Bears (let’s call it a workmanlike performance), but they did what the needed to do and are deservedly a 3 point favorite over Tampa Bay. Much of the talk surrounding this game will be about the two geriatric signal callers (Brady is 43 years old and Drew Brees is 41) and it really is incredible that these two guys are still performing at the level that they are at this stage of their careers. What stage is that? Well, I would typically call it the “4-6 years after your long career ended” stage, which usually involves improving your use of the teleprompter on NFL broadcasts and occasionally appearing in shaving commercials. But the normal rules don’t apply to these guys. As for the game, well, New Orleans beat Tampa Bay twice this year, and it’s a time-honored NFL cliché that it’s really hard to beat another team three times in a season (it’s also pretty rare to get the chance in the first place) but my sense is that the Saints are just a bad matchup for the Bucs, and I think Alvin Kamara run for 150 yards and the Saints win this one easily. Saints advance.
Los Angeles at Green Bay
The Rams were of course one of the two big surprises of the first round, soundly beating the Seahawks despite their starting QB being benched (due to injury and ineffectiveness), their backup QB getting hurt, and having to go back to their injured and ineffective starter. Nobody’s game plan ever included the statement “Let’s hope we have to rely on our injured and ineffective starting quarterback.” Seattle looked awful on both sides of the ball, also not a typical goal for an NFL playoff team. The Packers did a nice job enjoying their bye week, and should be well rested and ready to lay the smack down on the Rams. Can LA make it two upsets in a row? Only if the defense completely dominates the line of scrimmage and makes likely MVP Aaron Rodgers have a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. Of course, if that’s your goal, it helps to have Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey on your team to help you do that. But I think the Green Bay rolls. Packers advance.
Cleveland at Kansas City
Ok raise your hands if you foresaw the Browns scoring 28 points in the first quarter against the Steelers. Unless you can foresee the future like Emperor Palpatine, put your hands down. The Browns had one of those perfect days against old rival and perpetual tormentor Pittsburgh, winning on the road against the Steelers for the first time in 16 tries. As a fan who knows a thing or two about being tormented for decades by your biggest rival (in case you’ve forgotten, I’m a life-long Red Sox fan), and how it feels to FINALLY break through, I can say I am very happy for Browns fans. And they should really have enjoyed themselves this week, because a rested Patrick Mahomes and a lot of unpleasantness is coming their way on Sunday. Look, they named that Al Pacino football movie “Any Given Sunday” for a reason, and with a running game as good as the Browns have, and an elite pass rush led by Myles Garrett, an upset win isn’t out of the question. But the Chiefs won the Super Bowl last year, look just as good this year, and they’re the best team in football until somebody shows that they’re not. I don’t think that happens this weekend. Chiefs Advance.
Commercial Real Estate Broker/Sports Fan
Staff writer at Six Feet Apart, commercial real estate broker for CBRE, Inc., and most importantly, a father of two.