NFL Wild Card Round: Patriots in Unfamiliar Spot

Will J.J. Watt's return from injury spark the Texans to a win over the Bills?

256 and done – the regular season is officially behind us. But if the playoffs are anything like the season finale, we’re in for some excitement. The Patriots are playing in this round for the first time in a decade, and heaven forbid they may have to take the hard road if they want to win a seventh Super Bowl. The Saints and Seahawks must feel like they got robbed, but such is life. Let’s look at some playoff picks:


Last week:                3-2-1

Regular season:      25-20


Buffalo at Houston (-2.5)

I’m really torn here. Part of me really likes the Bills because they have the trustworthy defense and Houston has been a playoff disappointment in most years, including DeShaun Watson’s debut last year against Indy. On the flip side, you have a Texans team pretty well-rested and healthier with the returns of Will Fuller and J.J. Watt, and the bitter taste of embarrassment from a year ago. Looking ahead, Houston knows that if it draws Kansas City again, it has already won at Arrowhead once. Unfortunately, they could be booking a trip back to Baltimore, where they were blasted in November. Either way, take the home team here. Pick: Texans.

Tennessee at New England (-5)

Oh how sweet it is to see the Patriots cough up their bye like that. Of course, just when you think the nightmare is over, that’s when the Patriots rise to the occasion. There are a lot of reasons to like the Titans here, most notably that Ryan Tannehill has more wins (4) against the Patriots than any other QB this decade (Ryan Fitzpatrick, last week’s hero, is second with 3). Derrick Henry is a tough runner, and Mike Vrabel knows all about how to prepare to face the Patriots. His Titans dismantled New England last year in Nashville, 34-10, so they shouldn’t be intimidated. I like Tennessee to keep it close, but alas, I see the Patriots beginning their “revenge tour” with a win because they love to prove people wrong. Pick: Titans.

Minnesota at New Orleans (-8)

I know 8 points is a big number, but I really don’t like this Vikings team one bit. Kirk Cousins on the road can’t be any better than the scuffling version we’ve seen at home of late (mostly against the Packers). The Saints should be on a revenge tour of their own, and determined to prove that they deserved a better fate than a No. 3 seed. Watch out for this New Orleans team. Pick: Saints.

Seattle (-2) at Philadelphia

Speaking of feeling robbed, the 11-5 Seahawks lost the NFC West by mere inches and now have to travel cross-country to face the 9-7 Eagles in the latest installment of a bad division winner hosting a really good wild card team with a superior record. But Seattle knows it can win in Philly, having done so already this year and still feeling generally confident about winning in close games. Beast Mode is back, and that is good news for a Seahawks team riddled with injuries at the running back position. Give Doug Pederson some serious credit for rallying the troops with yet another December run, but I’m not sure I trust 2019 Carson Wentz in his playoff debut. Pick: Seahawks.

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