I had one of my best seasons. I looked at the numbers of other prognosticators and, if I’m not their daddy, I’m a great uncle.
Let’s keep it going.
This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS:
I can’t see anybody in the AFC other than Denver or New England advancing to the Super Bowl. But there are always surprises. Baltimore went into the playoffs last season with four losses in its last five regular-season games. But when the playoffs begin momentum good and bad usually ends. The Ravens beat Houston at home by 15 in the Wild Card round, beat Denver on the road by 3, beat New England on the road by 15 and, in the Super Bowl, beat San Francisco by 3. So, a Baltimore-like team might be lurking. Is it Andrew Luck and the Colts?
Kansas City’s last victory against a playoff team was Sept. 19, when it beat Philadelphia. They Chiefs lost their next four against teams that would make the playoffs..
The NFC Wild Card round games are much more compelling than the AFC’s.
The Saints are smart, poised and well-coached, and they can beat anybody anywhere, provided they’re in New Orleans. Zac Stacy rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown in St. Louis’ week 15 upset of the Saints. What do you think Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy will do? Drew Brees will find his receivers against Philadelphia’s less than stellar pass defense. But the Eagles ought to exploit the New Orleans defense. And a very good NFC team will see its season end. The temperature is expected to be in the mid-20s.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, when Boomer Esiason played quarterback and Ickey Woods ran the ball. It’s time. Their defense will be enough against the Chargers. It might have to be. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton was the NFL player of the month in October. He’s been wildly inconsistent since. If he can play the way he did in October, the Bengals could be this season’s playoff surprise.
Mike McCoy, who coached quarterbacks for the Carolina Panthers, will be a superior head coach. But his Chargers aren’t good enough to beat the Bengals on the road. Cincinnati is 8-0 at home.
The 49ers are the most complete team in football: Offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, running backs, receivers, tight end, defensive backs, quarterback – find a flaw.
Still, beating the Packers at Lambeau Field, frozen tundra and all, will be a challenge. I love what quarterback Aaron Rodgers did last week in his comeback game against the Bears. But as good as rookie running back Eddie Lacy has been, the 49ers will give him little room to move, and Rodgers can’t outscore San Francisco by himself.
Green Bay’s defense is a sieve. The 49ers will run effectively. After an early season slump, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been as good as he has to be. Why would that change?
If I’m right, next week’s playoff schedule will be: San Francisco at Seattle; Cincinnati at New England; Philadelphia at Carolina; San Francisco at Seattle.