In the category of “even a blind squirrel finds a nut,” the biggest, most curmudgeonly of all internet squirrels pitched a perfect six-for-six this wild card weekend thus putting himself in a commanding lead in our contest.
That’s right. I’m referring to none other than J-Dub who perfectly picked all six playoff games against the spread. I’d say I hope he gambled real money on these outcomes, but that’s like hoping for the sun to rise. At this very moment, I’m sure he’s treating the misses to a fancy Sizzler dinner and is more than ready to put that money back on the board.
Which is what I expect all of you to do this week as the games continue, minus the Sizzler, of course. Don’t fret just because Dubs has a fair lead, we still have a few contestants sniffing his proverbial behind. BCole and BNRMoose missed all but one game. The rest of us have some work to do. Here are your standings after Week One.
Here are this week’s point spreads. We are back to playoff normalcy with only four games on the slate, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. And these matchups are juicy!
Saturday, 4:30 pm, Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans (-3 ½)
Saturday, 8:15 pm, San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (-6)
Sunday, 3:00 pm, Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
Sunday, 6:30 pm, Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-2 ½)
Considering I’m bringing up the rear, I’m not sure you want to pay too much heed to my picks. That said, I do like them and will be wagering on them accordingly. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen…
Cincinnati Bengals (+3 ½) at Tennessee Titans
Of all my wrong picks, Raiders-Bengals was the one I was least wrong about. I felt the Raiders would give the Bengals a fair shot. They did. But the Bengals still covered. I lost. What we had that opening game was two hot AFC teams duking it out. In the end, the Bengals’ talent was too much for Vegas to overcome. Cincy’s reward is having to travel to Nashville to face the number one seed. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. That’s not to suggest the Titans are the best team in the AFC. Buffalo and Kansas City might have a little something to say about that. The Bengals might disagree with that assessment as well. With every passing down, Joe Burrow is turning heads. Of all the NFL quarterbacks under 25, he might be the best of the bunch. (Note: Patrick Mahomes is 26). Not only does Burrow have insane weapons at the wide receiver position, he remains poised under pressure. He’s going to need that poise when he plays the Titans who were far more consistent than Cincinnati this year. Titans fans wait with bated breath on news of whether superstar running back Derrick Henry will return for this game. He had foot surgery earlier this season but should be ready to go, or at least that’s word out of Titans camp. They’ll need every ounce of his talent, but the question remains, if he plays, how effective will he be? Can Tennessee win this one without him? Will they want to rush him back if he’s not 100% just to win a playoff game and risk further injury? Two wins away from the Super Bowl, the Titans have a golden opportunity, but the young Bengals are breathing down their neck. I’m going to ride the hot hand. I’m getting one of the hottest young teams in football who doesn’t realize they’re not supposed to be here yet against the top seed who, while an excellent football team, might not be as good as the 2- or 3-seeds in their same conference. I’ll take the Bengals plus the points because Joe Burrow doesn’t appear to done playing football yet this season.
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers (-6)
We have the San Francisco 49ers to thank for the endless Dallas Cowboys memes that hit the internet on Sunday. Boy, were they glorious! Even with all their gaffes, the Niners still almost choked away a win to a franchise that’s become synonymous with choking. The Niners moved on, yet I can’t help but feel the Cowboys lost that game more than the Niners won it. The Cowboys had 14 penalties for 89 yards. As soon as we thought they might wrestle the momentum out of San Fran’s hands, they shot themselves in the foot with another untimely penalty. The Packers won’t make those same mistakes. Aaron Rodgers won’t allow that happen. The Niners also controlled time of possession against the Cowboys. Aaron Rodgers won’t let that happen either. Aaron Rodgers has been waiting since last season to prove to everyone in Green Bay that all his whining was worth it. There is no way in God’s Green Bay that Aaron Rodgers is about to let Jimmy Garoppolo and company waltz into Lambeau, on what should be a brisk Saturday evening, and walk away with a win. I’ve been wrong a lot on the Niners this season. They had a great game plan against Dallas and executed almost to a tee. But the way that game ended left me wondering whether they can win in Lambeau. I take that back. I’m not wondering at all. They can’t. Green Bay wins and covers.
Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
Matt Stafford finally got that monkey off his back by rather handily winning his first playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals. In retrospect, that was an easy play. Pound for pound, the Rams are the better team. This week, the road goes through Tampa Bay and a quarterback who has 34 times the amount of playoff wins as Stafford. As a Buccaneer fan, this is the matchup I simultaneously longed for, and feared. When the Buccaneers traveled to L.A. earlier in the season, they got manhandled. The Rams eyed that game on their calendar and used the Bucs as a measuring stick. They even designed their team around the Bucs model and gave Tampa a dose of their own medicine. But this game will be played in Tampa, not Los Angeles, because the Rams lost in the final week of the season to the Niners we just discussed. Raymond James will be loud on Sunday and Rams’ fans don’t travel well. Tampa played a bruiser last week against Philadelphia and their injuries are piling up. Two of the Tampa Bay’s key offensive lineman, Tristan Werfs (ankle) and Ryan Jensen (back) remain questionable for this game. Leonard Fournette should start although young Ke’Shawn Vaughn has filled in admirably in his absence. Many expect a shoot-out, but both these defenses can fly around the field. I’m siding with the fact that Tom Brady remembers the beatdown they received in Los Angeles in Week Three and will be reminding his team of that all week. They’ll sustain drives all game long keeping the Rams’ defense on the field and their offense off it. The Bucs are 7-1 at home. They’ll move to 8-1 as they dispose of the Rams and cover the three.
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-2 ½)
In the final matchup of “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” meet what should be one of the better AFC rivalries for the next decade: Buffalo versus KC, aka, Josh Allen versus Patrick Mahomes. Last year, the Buffalo Bills traveled to Arrowhead, in the AFC Championship game, and at one point held a 9-0 lead. The Chiefs proceeded to score three unanswered touchdowns. They do that a lot. Kansas City never looked back on their way to a 38-24 victory. Earlier this season, Buffalo traveled to Kansas City once again, this time beating the Chiefs, but the October Chiefs are not the January Chiefs. At a minimum, the Bills know they can win in Kansas City. They also just beat the snot out of a New England Patriots team that many thought would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. That probably explains why this spread is so low. I thought it might be closer to a touchdown. Surprisingly people are betting the line down which means the betting public is siding with Buffalo. The Bills are going to have to prove to me that they can execute the perfect game plan to beat Kansas City when it matters and I’m not quite sure they’re there yet. While their defense has played well lately, they did so against some patsy teams down the stretch. The Chiefs are the exact opposite of a patsy team. I’m not sure Buffalo can weather the storm of the Chiefs scoring at will. If the Bills get into a shooting match with the Chiefs, they’re going to lose. I foresee more heartbreak for Bills fans. While their roster was specifically constructed to beat this team, I’m not sure they’re ready yet to topple the almighty Chiefs. Kansas City covers the deuce.