Alright, so another successful season picking games for me, as I went 44-27 (62%) picking games I felt strongly about. And now comes the fun part — playoffs! How fitting that in these PLAYOFFS! (thank you, Jim Mora), we kick off the weekend with the red-hot Colts. Ol’ Jim never won a postseason game, but Frank Reich has to feel good about his chances in his first season at the helm. We’ve got a couple more C-named teams in action before capping the weekend with the defending champs taking on Da Bears in Chicago. This should be a tremendous weekend of football, and it’s fair to wonder whether we’ll finally, for the first time since 2012, see one of these wild card weekend participants playing on Super Sunday. Let’s dive into some picks now:
Last week: 4-3
Regular season: 44-27 (62%)
Indianapolis at Houston (-1.5)
Boy is this a tough one. These two teams are about as evenly matched as it gets, as evidenced by their two regular-season meetings, both won by the road team by three points. Andrew Luck has been stellar against Houston, throwing for 863 yards in the two meetings. Luck is an experienced playoff QB as this will be his seventh career postseason start, compared to DeShaun Watson, who will be starting his first. Both teams overcame bad starts, but there is something about the Colts that make them hard to pick against here. It feels like Houston missed its big chance when it lost to Philly, costing itself a bye, and now has to play against a red-hot team and it knows that even with a win, its season will likely end next week against New England. Look for big games from both star wideouts here in DeAndre Hopkins and T.Y. Hilton, but Luck and a more trustworthy Colts defense will be the difference here. Pick: Colts.
Seattle at Dallas (-2.5)
It feels like everyone is on Seattle here, and everyone assumes the Cowboys are in for another January letdown. Obvious pick, right? Eh, maybe not. The Seahawks have not had any signature road wins this year, and it was impressive to watch Dak Prescott rally the Boys in a so-called meaningless game in the Meadowlands last week. A rested Ezekiel Elliott will be a big factor in this one, and as much I love the way Russell Wilson has played this year, I don’t know if he’ll be the same force against a very stout Dallas defense. This is a much different Cowboys team than the one Seattle beat at home in Week 3. Pick: Cowboys.
L.A. Chargers (buying to +3 at -130) at Baltimore
Without a doubt, this is the toughest game to pick of the four. Not just for me as a Baltimore native, but just from a football standpoint. The Ravens were in full control two weeks ago at StubHub Center (now called Dignity Health Sports Park, FYI), but the Chargers will be the first time to face Lamar Jackson & Co. twice. I believe that gives them a big advantage, not to mention Jackson is still a rookie making his first playoff start. The Chargers have a chip on their shoulder having to be a wild card team despite finishing 12-4, a better record than the Patriots, who went 11-5 and still somehow earned a bye. The Ravens do have the formula to be a successful playoff team, but the Chargers will have a better idea how to gameplan here after seeing the Ravens up close and personal. I’m not sure how it will all play out, but I think it’s going to be so darn close I’ll take the points here. Pick: Chargers.
Philadelphia (buying to +7 at -135) at Chicago
Here we go again with Nick Foles magic. The Eagles are here because the Bears decided to sell out to win last week even though they could have coasted and let the subpar Vikings come to them instead. Despite all the injuries, this is still a very capable Eagles team, especially with Foles at the helm. The Bears defense is scary good, but sometimes Mitchell Trubisky can be scary bad. I believe his nerves will be a factor against perhaps the NFC’s coolest customer under pressure in Foles. I really like Chicago’s defense, but the unknown of a franchise playing postseason football for the first time in eight years is an equalizer of sorts. I think the Bears can pull out a win, but this battle-tested Eagles team won’t make it easy. Pick: Eagles.