In case you haven’t looked at my overall playoff picks, I have missed on both of my Super Bowl teams, and in certain cases by the slimmest of margins. But, I wouldn’t be any good at what I do if I couldn’t get right back on my feet and predict again. You bet that’s just what I’ll do this week: bring you picks that are most likely incorrect and influenced by my own biases as a human and football fan. After consulting with my inner Schwami and a friend at a favorite delicatessen of mine, I have arrived at these conclusions (success of results may vary, and I am not responsible for any losses on your part because you listened to my picks)
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts
Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET on NBC
This represents one of the most intriguing matchups as it presents a challenge that will be the Colts’ surging offense against a Chiefs defense that doesn’t look sexy on paper. However, the Colts could find it hard to throw against a Chiefs secondary led by Kendall Fuller, who will most likely try to lockdown T.Y. Hilton all game long. However, the key will be how well the Chiefs are able to pressure Andrew Luck as the Houston Texans found life on defense very miserable owing to the protection by the Colts offensive line. Should the Chiefs defense not hurry Luck, it could be a long game for Chiefs fans. However, the Chiefs will also have to stop the Colts’ running game headlined by Marlon Mack’s monster week during Wild Card Weekend. The bright side for Chiefs fans is that their offense can score too. They have the likely MVP, Patrick Mahomes II, at quarterback, and should be able to attack an above-average Colts defense. Comprehensively, I’d argue that the Chiefs played some of the most coherent football throughout the entirety of the season. Last time out against the anemic Oakland Raiders, Mahomes & Co. showed little signs of late-season fatigue, and put in a solid display that doesn’t always come out in games against lesser opposition in the final regular season game (look at the Seahawks vs. Cardinals). Their defense is also better than most people give them credit for when you consider that playmaker Eric Berry missed virtually the entire season due to injury. There is talk that he could return in time to face the Colts which would add a dimension to the Chiefs secondary that has been missing in his absence. For the neutral fan, like myself, it should be an entertaining game.
Prediction: Chiefs 35-31 Colts
Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys
Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET on FOX
As a Cowboys fan, I am happier with this matchup than I was with the potential reunion with the Saints in New Orleans. That said, I really get jitters when I look at what my Cowboys will be facing. The Cowboys come in looking pretty good as they were able to navigate the challenges of the Seahawks defense, but they weren’t stringing drives together like they will have to this week. On defense, the secondary looked very vulnerable with Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie looking the most exposed. If the Cowboys can establish the run using Ezekiel Elliott and use play-action to their advantage, they stand a good chance. They will also need a defense led by the play of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch to step up if they hope to beat the Rams. The Rams come into this with most of their guys getting about three weeks’ rest as their starters only played about half of a game against the listless San Francisco 49ers. As demonstrated last year, that extra rest didn’t benefit the Rams; rather, it hurt them against an Atlanta Falcons team that got after them from the start. I expect one of the most complete offenses in the NFL, boasting the likes of Jared Goff, Todd Gurley II, and Brandin Cooks to look better this time around, but don’t underestimate a defense led by youngsters John Johnson III and Cory Littleton. The result I am picking is more in tune with my heart, but there is a legitimate shot that the Cowboys have to win the game, but they will need to play a flawless game in order to best the Rams.
Prediction: Cowboys 24-23 Rams
New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET on CBS
In thirty years, this would be one of the dream shuffleboarding championships in the world. Why do I say this? This matchup of quarterbacks pits the equivalent of two NFL senior citizens against one another and gives us the oldest combined ages of any starting quarterback matchup in NFL history. That said, this game should be an exciting chess match. On one side, you have Philip Rivers, whose Chargers found a way to navigate past a stout Ravens defense. The part that scares me is that it seems like the wheels could fall off of this offense at any point which would give them almost no chance of beating the Patriots this week. Fortunately, the Chargers appear to have solved their postseason kicking woes as Mike Badgely was the Obi-Wan Kenobi to Chargers fans last week after proving that he hadn’t failed like his predecessors in the postseason. However, the Chargers are going to need guys like Melvin Ingram to step up again on defense and create plays if they hope to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots. On the other side, is the Empire. Much like the villains in Star Wars, this is a juggernaut helmed by a ruthless tyrant (Bill Belichick) and it continues to be the be all, end all in the NFL. It seems like the Patriots are always in the hunt to play in the Super Bowl, and while that has to do with having Brady as a quarterback, Belichick and the Patriots front office have found ways to plug in players using the Patriot Way. So long as the Patriots can keep this close, Brady can find a way. Much of that will be up to the defense which has been average, but could find joy against the struggling offense of the Chargers. I believe the Patriots will emerge victorious and prove why they have earned a reputation of being a postseason team over the past two decades.
Prediction: Patriots 24-10 Chargers
New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday 4:40 p.m. ET on FOX
This matchup is really intriguing because of the regular season result that saw the Eagles leave New Orleans with their tails tucked after a 48-7 thumping by the Saints. Although that matchup is only from two months ago, these two teams are both different. The Eagles have shown why they won the Super Bowl last year having finally awoken from their Super Bowl Slumber following that infamous defeat, while the Saints have had to grind a little bit harder to claim home-field advantage in the NFC. This matchup also makes my heart hurt as a Cowboys fan because I really don’t want either of these teams in the next round for their own specific reasons. As much as I would like for Nick Foles to wake up Sunday morning with agonizing neck stiffness making him inactive, I have never believed in rooting for guys to get injured because I was an athlete, and I’ve either seen of had enough injuries to know that they aren’t fun. If you do find yourself rooting for injuries, please consider revising that stance because that can ruin these guys ability to work for a living. You would’t want someone to make you unable to work, athletes want the same thing. Back to the football game at hand. The Eagles come in riding the coattails of Foles who has turned this team around. Don’t let their record fool you, this is a very solid and dangerous football team with playmakers on both sides of the ball. One area of concern for me is the Eagles’ secondary which was torn asunder by a resurgent Bears offense in the second half, particularly when double moves were used by the Bears receivers. Specifically, Avonte Maddox could be targeted as he repeatedly bit hard on the initial move by Bears receivers and he should see plenty of the ball his way against Drew Brees and the Saints offense. In order for the Eagles to stand up to the Saints, they will need their front seven to get after Brees and contain the ability of Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara to dominate them on the ground. Since their woes in past seasons, the Saints have done a marvelous job constructing a team that has allowed Brees to continue playing at an elite level. A revamped defense headlined by Cameron Jordan and Marshon Lattimore will be essential if the Saints hope to stifle the Eagles offense much like they did during the regular season. The Saints will also need to score touchdowns rather than field goals because this Eagles team was efficient with the chances it created against a much stronger Bears defense. I really don’t like what I am picking in this, but I live for making picks that are only 53.2% accurate.
Prediction: Saints 27-17 Eagles