Last week was rough for picking winners. I picked the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the Tennessee Titans. Travis Kelce, the so good Kansas City tight end, finished the first half with four receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown. But he sustained a concussion, and did not play in the second half. With him out, the Titans outscored the Chiefs 19-0 to advance to play New England.
Would the Chiefs have won if Kelce had stayed healthy? I think so. But it doesn’t matter. The Titans were as good as they needed to be and I missed the pick.
In related news, I picked the Los Angeles Rams to beat the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills to upset the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The only game I picked correctly was the New Orleans Saints 31-26 victory against the Carolina Panthers.
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My Super Bowl teams, New Orleans and New England, are still intact. Before the playoffs began, I picked the Patriots to beat the Saints. Daring, don’t you think? I don’t like to pick favorites, as Buffalo attests. But I don’t see New England losing.
This week’s picks, with the home teams in CAPS:
▪ Atlanta 4 over PHILADELPHIA
The Falcons have become the team we expected four months ago. Some see the Eagles as lost without quarterback Carson Wentz, who likely was the league’s MVP until he was injured. But how many backup quarterbacks do you prefer to Philadelphia’s Nick Foles? You think Carolina would have had a chance to beat the Saints if Cam Newton had been out? Foles is fine. Yet what Wentz provided can’t be replicated. An MVP has that effect.
▪ NEW ENGLAND 18 over Tennessee
The Patriots don’t just win. They cover. They’ve covered nine of the last 10 and against the Titans are favored by 13½. Such performances are a testament to the warmth and, I’ll say it, love that the franchise engenders among its leaders.
▪ PITTSBURGH 11 over Jacksonville
The last time the teams played, also in Pittsburgh, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions and the Jaguars won by 21. The Jaguars scored 30 points. They scored 30 points in one game. For Jacksonville to score 30 points now, a month would be required, and they’d have to throw some forward passes.
▪ New Orleans 2 over MINNESOTA
Marquee playoff games, until next week, have belonged to the NFC. This one is good. New Orleans’ quarterback Drew Brees moves that ball like a point guard. He’s adept at finding the open man, and his receivers are adept at getting open. Minnesota’s defense is the NFL’s best. But the Saints will score; can the Vikings score enough to keep up? I don’t think so. Will be compelling to find out.