Big NFL Off-Season Moves

Oh My God, this off-season has been insane so far.

Odell Beckham to the Browns: What is even happening, they have an amazing receiver duo of the 2014 LSU Tigers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, and a second year Baker Mayfield who I think will get even better in his sophomore year. Their offense is just going to be terrifying this next season. And them getting him for a 1st, 2nd, 3rd round picks and Jabril Peppers is a decent get back for them. Grade of move for Browns: B+ Grade of move for Giants: C+

Le’Veon Bell to the Jets: The Jets signing Bell is kind of a risky move in my opinion. Sure he is a top 3 running back in the league but it’s when he wants to be. If he tries and actually cares about this season, I can see him being a top 3 running back again but it all depends on whether or not he cares. Grade of signing: B+

Antonio Brown to the Raiders: This is the dumbest move that the Steelers could have made but the pick up for the Raiders is amazing and maybe it can help Derek Carr just enough for them to make the playoffs. Grade for Raiders: A Grade for Steelers: D-

Nick Foles to the Jaguars: This is a huge improvement over former Jaguars QB Blake Bortles. Foles being a former Super Bowl MVP and leading the Eagles over the Patriots, we will see if he can lead that Jaguars team to something promising. Grade for signing: B+

Tyrann Mathieu to the Chiefs: This would have been the best defensive signing of this off-season if they handled it correctly but they did not but I will get to that later. Mathieu is one of the best DBs in the league having a great season and will definitely help that Chiefs defense out. Grade for signing: B

Eric Berry being released: What are the Chiefs thinking, they would have had the best safety duo in the NFL since Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in Seattle. Granted he is injury prone he is one of the best safeties in the league. Grade: F-

C.J. Mosley to the Jets: They have needed a good linebacker for a while and adding Mosley and having him next to Williamson will be a good duo for the Jets for years to come. Grade for signing: B

Tyrod Taylor to the Charger: I am a huge fan of this move, Philip Rivers is 37 and approaching his retirement time and having Taylor as a replacement for now until they draft a QB will be good for them. He had a good year with the Bills 2 years and would have started with the Browns if it wasn’t for Baker Mayfield. Grade of signing: B

Micheal Bennett traded to the Patriots: The Patriots make their yearly trade for a veteran player and they barely gave up anything for an amazing D-lineman that can really help them. They got him for a 5th round and they got a 6th rounder back. Grade for Patriots: B+ Grade for Eagles: D-

Kwon Alexander to the 49ers: I see this signing really panning out for the 49ers, Alexander proved to be one of the best linebackers in the league last year putting up 34 tackles and 6 TFLs in only 6 games. Him coming off his injury can be a little scary but I think he will bounce back and be one of the best linebackers in the league in the 2019-2020 season. Grade of signing: B+

Cordarrell Patterson to the Bears: Cordarrell to the Bears just give Mitch Trubisky another weapon to go along with Allen Robinson and Trey Burton and Jordan Howard out the backfield. He is a definite speed threat and will hopefully take the spot the Kevin White sadly didn’t live up to. But Cordarrell isn’t the greatest catcher so we will see how the season goes. Grade of signing: C+

Earl Thomas to the Ravens: Yes, Yes, Yes, Earl Thomas is a huge upgrade of Eric Weddle if he bounces back from his injury. Thomas will help this secondary out bringing veteran leadership to a ravens defense that just lost a key part of it in C.J Mosley. Grade of signing: B+

Mark Ingram to the Ravens: This backfield is going to be insane next year with Mark Ingram and Lamar Jackson. Mark Ingram was a very good running back in New Orleans but had to share most of his carries with Alvin Kamara and didn’t get a whole lot of touches. So with him most likely being the number 1 back in Baltimore, he should put in a lot of work this upcoming season. Grade of signing: A-

Mark Barron to the Steelers: This is a good signing because who knows if Ryan Shazier is ever going to play again, so Mark Barron is a good filler for right now, and if need be he can always go back to safety and play back there with Terrell Edumends and have a good safety duo, but either way the steelers will find the best use for Barron and use him to his full potential. Grade of signing: B

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Bears: Bringing in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix should hopefully keep this Bears Secondary in tact after losing Adrian Amos to rival Green Bay Packers. Grade of signing: B+

Adrian Amos to the Packers: This signing made no sense to me, why trade away Clinton-Dix and then go and sign Amos when you could have kept Clinton-Dix and then signed Amos and had a good safety duo, maybe even the best in the league. But it is still a good signing for them Grade of signing: B

DeSean Jackson traded to the Eagles: Bucs receive 2019 6th round pick and give the Eagles Jackson and a 2020 7th round pick. This was not a smart move by Tampa Bay but a great move to get DeSean back in his home. We will see how he plays with Alshon Jeffery and Carson Wentz. Grade for Eagles: B+ Grade for Bucs: D-

Jason Michener

Super Bowl Pick

I have taken a few week hiatus from publicly picking the NFL playoff games (some say that is a symptom of post-Parkey depression for which I can neither confirm nor deny…), but since the Super Bowl is quite possibly the biggest sporting event of the year, I figured I would give it one last whirl. This year’s matchup features a team that has been a stalwart in this game for seemingly Tom Brady’s entire career, and a team that has so many weapons I cannot even wrap my head around it.

Yes, it is true, the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl. Stop me if you’ve heard that before. However, the regular season for this Patriots team was anything but the “norm” that we have seen develop in the Brady-Belichick era. More uncharacteristic errors, slightly less dominance, and for a few games, visions that Brady was declining rapidly have seemingly gone by the wayside come playoff time. The Patriots beat up on a very good Chargers team, and essentially controlled the entire game at Arrowhead against a very dangerous Chiefs team. The combination of handoffs to Michel, dump-offs to James White, and underneath routes to Edelman and Gronk have the Pats looking like their normal selves. However, the weakest link of that Pats team, the defense, will surely be put to the test against a high-powered Rams offense who, finally, have a 100% healthy Todd Gurley back at running back. Couple that with the emergence of CJ Anderson towards the latter part of the season, the mostly consistent play from Jared Goff, and a defense that has major playmakers at every level, and you have a matchup for the ages. One head coach that has been doing this for as long as the other has been alive, and another who is so hyper-focused that he pays someone to stand on the sideline and make sure he does not run into the ref while a play is happening. This is going to be epic.

As for the pick part, if the Patriots can contain Gurley and Anderson and force the Rams into obvious passing situations, I like their chances. The Patriots will come out and do what they do best; control time of possession, salt away drives, and play good bend-but-don’t-break defense, and Tom Brady will get his 6th Super Bowl title. The Pick: Patriots 27 Rams 20

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Super Bowl LIII Prediction

It’s that time of year again where we convince ourselves to guzzle beverages (some of them adult beverages) and pig out on various gameday food. Maybe that’s every Sunday for some NFL fans (I usually do), but Super Bowl Sunday is somehow special. It’s special to the point where people who aren’t even football fans will gather for a watch party simply because Super Bowl Sunday is everything but an official holiday. Pizza and wings will abound, your neighbor’s famous Super Bowl dip will be available in large quantities, and we’ll all gather in front of the most gaudy display of an audiovisual setup belonging to that one friend who spent thousands of dollars to deck out his man cave.

At this point, I think this is becoming a bit of a cynical rambling, but I think you should hear me out on why I feel this way. I have watched the Super Bowl, and put in my predictions for the event consistently since I recall the New York Giants destroying the New England Patriots’ perfect season. Sure, the commercials may be getting worse, and I never watch the halftime show, but there’s something about this Super Bowl that has me ambivalent towards its outcome. Personally, I have valid reasons to hate both of the teams that are in it.

Representing the AFC is the NFL’s version of the Galactic Empire from Star Wars, the New England Patriots. Headed by their supreme leader, I mean head coach, Bill Belichick and his apprentice Tom Brady, it seems like the AFC is becoming a contest of who can topple the Patriots. I don’t mean to take anything away from a team that had moments where we questioned whether this was finally the year that the Patriots were topple, but it’s become an expectation to see them in the Super Bowl. They needed everything that they could muster to beat the Chiefs in overtime, and deserved to win that game. Add on the fact that Brady is basically an android programmed to be the best quarterback, and there’s little doubt as to why he is considered the greatest of all time.

The NFC’s challenger to the reign of the Patriots is the Los Angeles Rams. All blatantly missed calls aside, the Rams executed their gameplan and were the better team against the New Orleans Saints for most of the NFC Championship Game. Still, I cannot pull for them either, and it has nothing to do with them beating my Dallas Cowboys, and everything to do with the evil human being that owns them. I am no expert on Stan Kroenke, and his evil regime, but my experience as an Arsenal supporter has given me just about all I need to see. In case you aren’t read up on why he’s bad, you can call your friend who supports any of the Denver Nuggets, Arsenal, Colorado Rapids, Colorado Avalanche, the Rams, or anyone who lives in St. Louis as to why Kroenke is unpopular. Beside the fact that he hijacked the NFL’s plan with moving teams to Los Angeles and trashing St. Louis in the midst of that, Kroenke is the epitome of an owner who is simply in it for the money, and really doesn’t care about the success of his teams (he does own several if you needed reminding). Sean McVay has been a revelation, so much so that any team will hire anyone who has ever had a football conversation with him, and he has transformed Jared Goff and Todd Gurley II into one of the most potent quarterback/running back tandems in the league. In case you doubted my above claims, Deadspin wrote an article that I like.

I guess I should go ahead and get down to business because you’ve probably had enough of me giving you reasons to not like the Super Bowl LIII matchup. In a nutshell, the game comes down to the ability of Wade Phillips to construct a gameplan that will be able to stop Tom Brady by applying pressure on him. At this point, I am sounding like a broken record because I mentioned this in the other predictions articles I have written, but I speak the truth. Brady picked apart the Kansas City Chiefs who were unable to register much of a pass rush and didn’t even sack Brady in the game. On offense, the Rams will also have to run the ball effectively in order to keep Brady off the field and the clock running. The final piece of the equation is also touchdown efficiency. That sounds fancy, but it’s actually simple: the Rams need to punch the ball into the end zone when they move the ball into the red zone, or they could be in for a long day.

As for the Patriots, the Patriots’ gameplan is fairly straightforward. Make things stand up on defense and give Brady a chance to have the ball and win the game. The best example is against the Chiefs who were able to hang with the Patriots in terms of scoring, but when the Patriots were able to stop the Chiefs early on, it allowed the offense to take pressure off of the defense by making the Chiefs one-dimensional since they had to pass. When the Chiefs finally did wake up, the defense was pretty helpless, but had it not been for the first half where they were solid, they could have been in more trouble.

Now, for the moment that you’ve probably been hoping for me to get to for the last three paragraphs, the prediction. If I had my way, it would be a tie because I just care that little for both teams. However, I do want the Rams to win in my heart because the Patriots are the NFL’s New York Yankees. My head also tells me that a Rams victory is possible, but they will have to play a near-perfect game to give themselves a chance. So, I am going to lock it in with the Los Angeles Rams exacting their revenge from their days in St. Louis.

Prediction: Los Angeles Rams 38-35 New England Patriots

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NFL Championship Weekend Picks

The NFL has one last hoorah before Super Bowl LIII, and this weekend’s games will surely entertain. Although the matchups pit the two top teams from each conference against one another, the four teams left are arguably the four best from the past season. The early game sees the Los Angeles Rams travel to face the New Orleans Saints while the Kansas City Chiefs play host to the New England Patriots in the late game.

Without further ado, let’s get into my picks for this weekend’s games.

New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Rams

This is an intriguing matchup as it pits two head coaches who are on either side of the experience spectrum, but are largely regarded as some of the greatest head coaches and offensive masterminds in the league. The New Orleans Saints needed gutsy calls and the elite play of Drew Brees to lead them to their Super Bowl triumph in 2009. Once again, Sean Payton showed his ability to take a risk in order to give his team a chance to win as he dialed up a fake punt against the Philadelphia Eagles to convert a first down, and it ultimately led to a crucial score by his team. However, the biggest difference between 2009 and the present is the help that is surrounding Drew Brees. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have given the Saints a valuable running game while young stars Vonn Bell and Marshon Lattimore lead one of the best defenses in the NFL. All of this means that this Saints team may be the best Payton has ever coached, and they have the ability to make plays on offense, defense, and special teams. The Los Angeles Rams have made it this far, and it’s no mistake. Last offseason, they brought in offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth who has been one of the best, and under-appreciated, offseason signings. Most of the time, offensive lineman get very little praise for the work they do, but Whitworth has brought quality leadership along with Rodger Saffold III and John Sullivan to create one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. This has allowed Jared Goff and Todd Gurley II to improve their game, and the addition of C.J. Anderson has only added to the dynamic playmaking of the Rams offense. On defense, the Rams also have a dynamic young core, headlined by Aaron Donald, but reinforced by the likes of Cory Littleton and John Johnson III. As a neutral fan, I really love what this matchup will bring as this seems like the first of the two clashes of titans. I firmly believe that this game will come down to the ability of each team to limit the big plays, which is a major component to each offense. In the end, I think the Saints have just enough to edge out the Rams, but this game should be on a knife’s edge throughout.

Prediction: Saints 30-27

Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots

This is a matchup between the upstart new kid and the grizzled veteran who seems like a mainstay in the AFC Championship Game. The Kansas City Chiefs may possess the most explosive offense in the NFL with the ability of Tyreek Hill to stretch the field and the ability of Patrick Mahomes II to make plays with both his arm and legs. This has been the product of Andy Reid and his renowned ability to develop quarterbacks, and it has him on the cusp of winning an elusive Super Bowl ring.  Defensively, the Chiefs have a major boost in the return of Eric Berry who brings a steady veteran presence and a playmaking ability to a Chiefs secondary that has struggled this season. Up front, they will need Dee Ford and the rest of the front seven to limit the impact of Sony Michel on the ground, and pressure Tom Brady. For the New England Patriots, it seems like they will continue to roll with the formula of Brady and average defense to get them to the Super Bowl. Last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, Brady put on a masterclass performance, always finding a way to pick apart the zone coverage of the Chargers. On defense, the Patriots will hope that Trey Flowers is able to provide them with a consistent pass rush to make Mahomes uncomfortable behind center. For the Chiefs, the key to the game is not leaving points on the field like they did against the Indianapolis Colts. Against the Patriots, that will cost them the game. Much like I wrote for the Chargers last week, the Chiefs defense will need to come up with a big play or two whether that be a forced turnover or a crucial stop against Brady. The Patriots will need to limit the big play in order to counter the Chiefs because so much of their offense relies on plays that pick up chunks of yardage. For that, they will need to apply pressure on Mahomes, but also maintain discipline in containing Mahomes to the pocket. I predict a matchup full of points, and much like the game that took place in Foxborough during the regular season, a late field goal will prove decisive.

Prediction: Chiefs 38-35

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The NFL’s Ugly Reality

I was eating lunch yesterday when I saw a startling headline that said the Chicago Bears could be set to offer Kareem Hunt a second chance at life in the NFL. Before I continue, I want to be abundantly clear: I do not condone the behavior exhibited (and later ignored for months by the NFL and Kansas City Chiefs) by Hunt. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in second chances, but men like Ray Rice had to find that second chance outside of the NFL.

That’s exactly what I think has to be the case with Hunt due to the circumstances that surrounded his case. This is something that has been well-documented with numerous articles dedicated to the inadequacy of how the NFL handles domestic violence issues. The fact that Hunt can even be signed by another team following the release of the video and the surrounding circumstances is appalling to me, and disgusts me with the state of the NFL.

However, let’s look at the bright side of this. Hunt was swiftly punished by the Chiefs (following their prior shortcomings in investigating the facts of the case). The case made such a big fuss that Hunt found himself removed from Madden Ultimate Team in EA’s Madden 19. However, it did not fully remove Hunt from the game as Hunt can still be drafted in Franchise mode and is still on the default Chiefs roster in the game. Why does this matter? This is both good and bad because EA had a chance to make a statement by removing him entirely from the game through a simple patch that it demonstrated the capability of installing in the game, but it only wiped him from the Ultimate Team part of the game.

Let’s examine another case: Reuben Foster. Foster has had a long history of disciplinary issues that dates back to his time at the University of Alabama. In January 2018, Foster was charged with possession of marijuana, but defeated the charge by completing a first-time offender course. One month later, he was charged with three felonies, but was only convicted on one count which was downgraded to a misdemeanor. Foster was suspended for two games this past season for violating the personal conduct policy, and struggled with injuries before his final incident which led to his release. When he was arrested at the team hotel the night before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Foster was put on waivers the following Monday, as reported by the Associated Press.

The big controversy that followed was the signing of Foster by the Washington Redskins. Foster was signed three days after his placement on waivers before he was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List as his case was processed. Ultimately, the charge was dropped, but the NFL did not do enough to make sure that Foster couldn’t be signed by another team. For Redskins fans, it wasn’t much of a shock that their front office made another misstep, but this is something that has to be explained to fans. How do you tell the wives and girlfriends of players that you care about how they are respected by your organization when you sign a player who had been charged with domestic violence twice in the span of eight months? The answer is quite simple: you can’t, at least with a straight face.

The final player I want to take a look at is Joe Mixon. You may be wondering why I point to him, but he had a nasty incident during his days at the University of Oklahoma. While there, he punched a woman in the head after she allegedly rejected his sexual advances on her. Bob Stoops, Mixon’s coach at Oklahoma opened up on the incident in 2016, saying that a one-year suspension, the punishment Mixon received, would no longer be sufficient today. Despite the incident, Mixon was drafted in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals even though he was not allowed to participate in the NFL Combine due to his 2014 incident.

Although the #MeToo movement had not yet risen to its peak in 2016, respect for the rights of women had with the ascendance of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. Perhaps Mixon was lucky, but I argue that he benefited from a flawed system in the NFL that allows embattled players more chances than they would actually receive in the real world. If I was filmed doing any of the things that these players were caught doing, I would almost certainly be fired from my job and forever stained, left to pick up the pieces of my life. However, fame is ironic is what it affords (or in Rice’s case, doesn’t afford) those who play the most popular American sport and those who make millions playing it.

In Major League Baseball, the shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, Addison Russell, was suspended immediately after it was discovered that he had a domestic violence issue with his girlfriend. This is an example of how these issues should be handled (although the Cubs have certainly screwed up by tendering him): swiftly. The Commissioner’s Office thoroughly investigated the matter and decided that firm action was needed, and it executed it. Unlike the NFL, which has selective fact finding when it comes to these issues, Commissioner Rob Manfred got it right. Even though Russell is under contract with the Cubs for the upcoming season, they announced that he will not be present at the team’s major marquee event, Cubs Convention, this weekend.

The best way to wrap this up is to return to its beginning, Ray Rice. Rice never played another NFL snap after video surfaced of him punching his then fianceé, but he managed to put his life back together. Rice and his finaceé, Janay Palmer, eventually married after attending counseling and proved that it is possible to move on. Rice will never escape the shadow of that video, but he now serves as an assistant coach of his high school football team, and is grateful for his second chance with his wife.

Although it has made progress, the NFL still has a long way to go before it can say that it has found a way to appropriately handle cases of domestic violence. Until then, the NFL has to deal with the ugly reality that it is behind the times when it comes to understanding the complexities of domestic violence. A good first step would be to start investigating these cases more seriously and not letting a paywall for police video stand in their way.

2018-19 NFL Divisional Weekend Takeaways

Well, divisional weekend has come and gone. We are now rapidly approaching championship weekend, but before we can cover that, here are some takeaways from this past weekend.

Game 1: Colts @ Chiefs: Final 31-13

Takeaway: The Chiefs defense occasionally shows up.

The Chiefs this season was one of the worst teams in the NFL when it comes to defense. Kansas City was 31st in the NFL, allowing 405 total yards per game. But on Saturday, the defense stepped up big time. They allowed only 266 yards, forced a fumble and sacked Andrew Luck 4 times. It was a complete game for the Chiefs and they will need to be consistent on defense if they want to have a serious shot at the Super Bowl.

Game 2: Cowboys @ Rams: Final 30-22

Takeaway: The Cowboys might actually be the best team in the NFC East and there is a new running back duo in the NFL

While the Cowboys lost the game, they played some of the best football they’ve played all year. Dak Prescott looked like a halfway decent QB. Amari Cooper is proving he is a competent #1 receiver and Michael Gallup is emerging as a solid second option for Prescott. Defensively, the Cowboys have the best defense in the NFC East, led by Leighton Vander Esch, who is looking to become a perennial pro bowler. The Rams have also become that much more dangerous with the addition of CJ Anderson, who is appearing to have a career resurgence as he had 123 yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 carries. Anderson along with Gurley in the backfield make it that much dangerous to play the Rams on Sunday.

Game 3: Chargers @ Patriots: Final 41-28

Takeaway: The Patriots are still the Patriots and you can NOT beat them.

You actually cannot beat the GOAT. While Tom Brady may not have made a huge impact with his 341 yards and 1 touchdown, rookie running back Sony Michel had it covered. The rookie running back from Georgia finished the game with 129 yards on 24 carries and 3 touchdowns. James White also tied the NFL postseason record with 15 receptions. While the game was as lopsided as it was, Philip Rivers had himself a day too. Rivers was good for 25/51, 331 yards, 3 touchdowns and a pick. Rivers is still chasing that ever elusive Lombardi trophy before he decides to hang up the cleats.

Game 4: Eagles @ Saints: Final 20-14

Takeaway: You really can’t count out the Saints, no matter how large your lead is.

The Eagles had the Saints dead in the water with a 14-0 lead in the 2nd quarter. Then Drew Brees did what Drew Brees does best: comeback and win. It all started with a 4th and 1 fake punt conversion by jack-of-all-trades Taysom Hill. That proved to be the kick in the behind New Orleans needed because the Saints scored 20 unanswered points after that. Drew Brees threw for 301 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception that he threw on the first play from scrimmage. The two-headed monster of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram combined for 124 rushing yards, but the real story in this game was Michael Thomas. Thomas had 12 receptions, 171 yards and 1 touchdown. It seemed he had glue on his hands because he was catching everything coming his way. Brees will look to continue to get the ball to Thomas this Sunday.

Championship Weekend Preview

Game 1: Rams @ Saints: 3:05 ET

The Saints won the regular season meeting between these two teams and the Rams will be looking for revenge. Look for the Saints to feed Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram for Drew Brees to get the ball into Michael Thomas’s hands. For Los Angeles, they will continue to ride the hot hand of CJ Anderson as well as feeding the workhorse that is Todd Gurley. Jared Goff needs to put his trust in Brandin Cooks and take more deep shots downfield as the Saints secondary isn’t exactly the best in the NFL. This game will be an offensive explosion. Look for there to be at least 65-70 combined points on the scoreboard.

Prediction: Saints over Rams 35-33

Game 2: Patriots @ Chiefs: 6:40 ET

The Chiefs are the best offensive team left in the playoffs, there’s no doubt in my mind. The Patriots defense will have their hands full trying to stop MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes, speed demon Tyreek Hill, and red zone threat Travis Kelce. Damien Williams has also been doing his part on offense since the release of Kareem Hunt. But Tom Brady is the best QB in the playoffs in NFL history. He will not go down without a fight. He will look to his receivers and Sony Michel to help try and take down the juggernaut that is Kansas City. KC’s defense will need to step up again in a big way this week in order to have any chance in this game.

Prediction: Chiefs over Patriots 38-21

Check back next week when I will review championship weekend give my Super Bowl preview and prediction.

– Marcus Jacobs

Divisional Round Picks

Well, I never said my picks for the Wild Card round were going to be accurate (they weren’t), but at least *most* of the 4 games last weekend were exciting and came down to the end of the 4th quarter to decide a winner. Really, the only game that seemed to favor one side the whole game was the first of the weekend, Indy at Houston. The other AFC game looked like it was going to end with a pretty lopsided score, but then Jon Harbaugh actually allowed Lamar Jackson to throw the ball more than 6 yards down the field (Jon doesn’t typically see this from his other quarterback either…). Nevertheless, as we advance deeper into the postseason, expect to see some epic matchups (not trying to jinx anything, really). Without further ado, here are my picks for the divisional round. Try not to laugh at them, and let’s enjoy another 4 game weekend of playoff football!

Saturday

Colts at Chiefs (KC -5.0) 4:35 PM EST; The offensive showcase put on in the first half of their Wild Card weekend matchup proved that Andrew Luck is a pretty good QB (okay, we knew this already). But even the running game was highly effective, and with an ever-improving defense, and a bad track record for Andy Reid and the Chiefs in the playoffs as of late, I expect Indy to take this point-laiden game. If you are a fan of defense, you might want to turn away; The Pick: Colts 38 Chiefs 35

Cowboys at Rams (LAR -7.0) 8:15 PM EST; As much as I hate to admit it, Dallas looked good in their win against Seattle. Yes, Das had a few boneheaded plays, but Zeke Elliot looked his normal self, and that defense is pretty nasty. However, Zeke will not even be the best running back featured in this game. Yes, Todd Gurley is back. While I expect Dallas to put up some points, I see too much Gurley in this game; The Pick: Rams 28 Cowboys 21

Sunday

Chargers at Patriots (NE -4.0) 1:05 PM EST; Beating the Pats in New England in the postseason is an extremely hard thing to do. However, something about this Chargers team (they’re pretty darn good for a 5 seed), and something about the ever-so-slight decline in the Pats production this year spells trouble for the home team. Phillip Rivers is looking for that coveted ring, the one that has escaped him up to this point in his career, and Melvin Gordon, as well as Melvin Ingram are beasts on their respective sides of the ball; The Pick: Chargers 20 Patriots 17

Eagles at Saints (NO -8.0) 4:40 PM EST; As a Bears fan, this one is hard for me to write in a non-biased manner. But, as much “magic” that Nick Foles has, this has been the best Saints team from top to bottom that I have seen in a few years, and they were pretty good last year so do not take that lightly. The Superdome is probably the hardest place for a visiting team to try and get a win in the whole NFL, and Drew Brees has had an MVP-caliber year. Expect that to continue in this one; The Pick: Saints 35 Eagles 21