Well the Chiefs choked a big lead, the Rams offense disappeared, Jacksonville sucks on offense, and New Orleans persevered in the best game of the weekend.
Marcus Mariota does it all, the Falcons looked like last year’s Falcons, the Bills need a quarterback, and Carolina came close.
That pretty much sums up last weekend.
This weekend, we get four more games, with the conference big dogs joining the fray, with two weeks of rest.
My picks were abysmal. I went 1 – 3 against the spread, as taking Buffalo and 7.5 was my only intelligent decision. Time to bounce back.
Atlanta @ Philadelphia (+2.5)
How much fun would this game be if Carson Wentz were playing? We’d get the old guard against the new at quarterback. The Eagles would be favored at home. There’d be legitimate interest in watching this game just to see how it goes. Instead, it’s a rather ho-hum match-up without much intrigue.
The weather went from bone chilling cold to rather balmy for this one, as the temp is likely to be in the 50’s at kickoff and down into the 40’s as the game progresses. It might rain, so that’s one knock on the dome team. Otherwise, everyone’s got to be feeling real nice that Atlanta gets some decent weather after looking so solid against a tough Rams team.
Julio Jones is not practicing, but he didn’t really practice last week either. He was a beast against the Rams, and there’s no reason to assume he’ll be anything but a monster in Philly. The Falcons defense was impressive against the high powered Rams, and with that playoff pedigree, that’s a major plus going against Philly with Nick Foles at quarterback. Foles has a small sample size, beating the Giants with a nice four touchdown performance, and a win over the Raiders with a pedestrian game statistically. Neither team was very good, so he hasn’t had a test like this.
I think Foles can be good enough to win this game, and it’s going to be the deciding factor. The Rams will do all they can to make Foles beat them through the air. A week after Todd Gurley had 14 carries for 101 yards, the Falcons will focus on stopping the run instead of the pass. That means a Foles mistake will determine whether or not that Eagles win. At home, getting points, with two weeks to prepare, I’m going to trust in Foles. I don’t necessarily think they win the game, but I think they keep it close enough to cover.
Tennessee (+13.5) @ New England
I was so champing at the bit to talk about the Marcus Mariota performance last weekend that I almost dedicated the intro of this column to covering it all. Instead, I’ll do it here. Who throws a touchdown pass to himself in the playoffs? Mariota does. Which quarterback throws the key block to springing his back for the game securing first down run? Mariota does. It was just awesome to watch. As I watched the money I wagered on KC slip away, I had nothing but admiration for Mariota. It shows you how special that performance was, but also how little money I actually had wagered.
Much ado was made about the monster 15.5 spread the Patriots gave the Texans in last year’s playoffs. Of course, the Patriots covered. Now the Pats have to muster two touchdowns over the Titans amidst a sensational ESPN article that all but determined Bill Belichick is leaving because Tom Brady and Robert Kraft are uniting against him. Wouldn’t it just be such a New England move to come out like a well oiled machine and absolutely obliterate the Titans?
My one fear is the resiliency of Mariota. Say New England’s up three touchdowns in the fourth. Wouldn’t it be so Mariota to drive down the field and get a meaningless score to save some pride and cover? I can see it happening, but I’m rather confident the Patriots romp these guys to the tune of 38 – 10 or something like that.
Jacksonville (+7.5) @ Pittsburgh
Oddly, Blake Bortles’ ability to run with the football was the extent of the Jacksonville offense against Buffalo last week. Leonard Fournette mustered 57 yards on a meager 2.7 per. Meanwhile, Bortles only threw for 87 yards, but rushed for 88! That’s more yards on the ground than he had through the air! What. The. Fuck?!? You can imagine me, with money on the Bills getting 8 points, losing his fucking mind every time Bortles took off for a chunk of yards. Ridiculous.
Buffalo probably didn’t think they even needed to worry about it, which is why it was effective. They obviously game planned to stifle Fournette, and had success. You just assume Bortles won’t get his through the air, so now that Jacksonville showed their hand Pittsburgh knows about the little trick and can plan accordingly.
Big Ben. Brown. Bell. All these B’s are killers for Pittsburgh. They were dinged up, and got two weeks to recover. Jalen Ramsey can mirror Brown all over the field, which will mean Roethlisberger will probably have a prolific day to Juju Smith-Schuster. The rookie has been huge all year, and I’m thinking he’ll have a monster. It’ll be cold as shit with a high of 20, but no rain or snow. It won’t matter anyway, because Pittsburgh’s got the ability to win in the slop. While Jacksonville’s front is incredible, Big Ben’s made his bones enduring the best pass rushes, escaping, and making it happen. No one better in the NFL at improvisation plays than Ben and Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh rolls.
New Orleans (+4) @ Minnesota
We’ve got ourselves a rematch of a week one encounter that Vikings won by 10 in the same building. New Orleans has done the trip to Minnesota before. The good news? It’s a dome. The Saints are a dome team. They don’t have to worry about inclement weather stifling their high powered offensive assault. Then again, neither will the Vikings, who are surprisingly potent behind Case Keenum. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are as good as a one-two attack split wide as Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are in the backfield. Not to mention, Kyle Rudolph is an awesome tight end, and Greg Olsen got his against this Saint defense.
The Viking defense is the best around. They are particularly good against the passing attack, allowing the least yards per game this year. The Saints can go either way, so this will be the ultimate test for Minnesota.
This is one of those games where your brain is doing all it can to remind you there’s a reason the Vikings got a bye in the playoffs. The Saints have way more check marks in this match up. Give the Vikings the defense and home field, but the Saints really get the rest.
Playoff experience. Super Bowl pedigree. Elite quarterback. Multi-faceted high powered offense.
Sure, the home field and the defense are huge in the postseason, but my brain can’t stop my gut from absolutely licking my chops at the Saints getting four points in a dome. I just have to take the Saints in this column, and I’m going to back it up with some real cash this Sunday when it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.