I come to our readership this week with my tail between my legs. Last week I correctly predicted just one of four NFL opening round Wild Card games.
We had such a jam-packed issue last week with our annual Year in Review section, that I didn’t have room to explain any predictions, only to say that some were made with head over heart.
Before I count the ways, the results were as follows: Texans over Bills; Titans over Patriots; Vikings over Saints; Seahawks over Eagles.
My only correct prediction was the Texans, and it took a 16-point comeback and overtime to pull it off. The Vikings game also went to overtime. It was perhaps the most thrilling Wild Card weekend I can remember in recent memory.
The Bills were a sexy upset pick. One I almost made. Yet I broke it down like this: Who do I trust more, Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson or Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen? Watson. Who do I like more, Houston running backs and receivers or Buffalo’s? Houston. Tight ends? Houston. The only advantage on paper, to me, was the Bills defense. It was better. In the end, Watson took over. He willed his team to victory.
Another popular pick was the Titans over the Pats. “This could be the end of the dynasty” is what I kept reading and hearing. Again, on paper it was certainly possible. Bottom line in this one, I was NOT picking against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at home to the No. 6 seed. Period. I had to see it to believe it. We saw it, so we move on. I would not have picked the Patriots to go any further. Will Brady leave New England? That’s another column for another time.
The biggest upset of the weekend was clearly the Vikings on the road at New Orleans. Michigan State product Kirk Cousins has finally arrived. Took him long enough but he made two big throws at the end of the game. Sure Minnesota rested on the running of Dalvin Cook, who has taken the league by storm and become a top five back. But Cousins still had to make the big throws when the pressure was at its peak.
For the second straight year, the Saints' season ended on a controversial no-call pass interference play. It was offensive pass interference on Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph. However, it was not called in real time. Therefore it was not going to be overturned. That’s consistent with what happened this season when challenging pass interference became a rule. The calls didn’t get overturned enough to make me think the refs or the NFL really care about it.
The Seahawks defeated the Eagles. This was an upset on paper due to seeding but during the regular season Seattle was the better team. I picked the Eagles but had I known quarterback Carson Wentz was going to go down with a head injury in the early moments, I clearly would have changed my pick. Yet at full strength I’m picking Philadelphia every time. Why? It’s simple. The Seahawks were signing guys off the street a week ago to play running back because their top three were all out with season-ending injuries. That’s enough for me not to pick them.
Yet I’m never surprised when they win. They have Russell Wilson at quarterback. To me, he’s the most valuable player in the NFL to his team’s success. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson is this season’s runaway MVP, there’s no debate there. But call me when he’s done it for 10 years. I don’t see it happening.
Wilson has been willing his team to 10 or more wins seemingly every season since he’s come into the league. He went to back-to-back Super Bowls and won one. He’s a bone-headed coaching call from winning two straight. And they no longer have the “Legion of Boom” defense. Yet they still win — a lot. He’s not the biggest. Not the best thrower of the football. He just has the biggest heart and is the best in the NFL at making something out of nothing on busted plays.
Take him off the Seahawks and you can easily reverse their record.
With all the upsets last weekend, I think the dreams come to a screeching halt this weekend. The top four teams are good.
I’m going chalk again this weekend. My picks are simple:
Ravens over Titans
Chiefs over Texans
49ers over Vikings
Packers over Seahawks
I’m not a gambler nor a point spread guy. I don’t care or look at spreads. In the AFC, the top two seeds are really good in this round. I think both win in blowout fashion. The Texans are lucky the Titans won, because they would have been BLOWN out in Baltimore. The Titans can keep it closer longer with the run game but they’ll eventually fall far behind. For the past 10 weeks or so, the AFC has been destined to see the Chiefs play the Ravens with the Super Bowl on the line.
The NFC games are much more intriguing and are about defense for me. I trust the 49er and Packer defenses to do just enough. The games won’t be flashy, I just see the home teams outlasting upset bids, but wouldn’t be shocked if either upset bid was pulled off. Tune in next week for Super Bowl predictions.