The Opinionated Spectator
You know what I want? I want perfection. Why can’t I get perfection? Do you know how difficult it was to pick Matt Ryan over the Rams? I went 3-1 last week. Why, you ask? The Kansas City Chiefs. Andy Reid and Alex Smith, you had one job. That was to win a game that was tailor made for you AT HOME. Alex Smith and Andy Reid, go punch yourselves in the face. And then take your kicker, Harrison Butker, and punch him in the face as well. You all should be ashamed of yourselves!!!
Okay. Sorry, folks. I had to get that off my chest. On to the divisional round…
Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Atlanta did exactly what I expected them to do last weekend. They came prepared and slaughtered the Rams. It was a thorough win. The more I look at this game, the more I can’t bring myself to pick Philadelphia Eagles. It’s not just Nicholas Foles. Atlanta is two games away from the Super Bowl. Two games. If this was any other team, I would trust the Eagles’ outrage for being underdogs at home and pick the Eagles to get Matt Ryan off kilter and win the game. However, I can’t pick against Atlanta. They are a mere two games away from avenging last year’s Super Bowl loss. I expect the defense to be even more frenzied this week.
Also, I don’t trust Nicholas Foles. I don’t trust that that he will be able to make the critical plays in a tight game. If the Philadelphia Eagles win, it will be because Jay Ajayi has a monster game and simply refuses to let the team stop him. It won’t be because Nick Foles put the team on his back and shouldered the win. Look for Atlanta’s defense to frustrate Foles into some pretty costly turnovers. Look for Matt Ryan to be determined and accurate. I have Atlanta winning this game 27-17.
Tennessee Titans vs. New England Patriots
Tennessee is not in Kansas anymore, Toto. If New England plays to their capabilities this game will not be close. Hell, if New England plays to 70% of their capabilities, this game will not be close. Tennessee is outmatched and outclassed at every position. Granted, they have Dick LeBeau and he loves to pressure Brady but even that won’t save Tennessee. Brady will just calmly and at times angrily with a steely look pick apart the defense and win the game in a dominating fashion. There is one area that will be slightly problematic for the Patriots and that is Derrick Henry and the running game. The Patriots’ have the second worst run defense in the entire league. On average they allow 4.7 yards per carry. This run defense would be troublesome if this wasn’t Brady’s team and he wasn’t playing the Tennessee Titans. Belichick is not Andy Reid. Brady is not Alex Smith. And it will not end well for the Titans. Tennessee will be motivated but it won’t matter. Instead, I anticipate absolutely no drama. In fact, I have literally planned to do my laundry and clean during this game. Seriously. I have the New England Patriots winning this game 34-13.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
We should take a moment and say congratulations to Blake Bortles for managing to win a home playoff game. I’m not going to lie. I had a thimbles worth of faith in his capabilities. Picking him was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. And I did a Tough Mudder this past year. The Jacksonville Jaguars defense proved that last week they can carry a team to victory. They managed to hold a feisty Bills team to one field goal. Blake Bortles was well, Blake Bortles. In other words, he was incapable of completing basic passes. He had absolutely no confidence and at times relied on his legs to move the ball forward. He also had the luxury of being at home and having thousands cheer, hold their collective breaths, and root for his success. Well, Blake, I hope you enjoyed the journey. The Steelers are going to obliterate you and your offense.
The Steelers have always been bi-polar but they are going to ravage poor Blake. Look for a defensive hard fought game. The Steelers are going to bring pressure on Blake and disrupt him. It’s not going to be pretty. Ben Roethlisberger is going to have a field day once he gets into rhythm. Look for Le’Veon Bell and Ju Ju Smith Schuster to run over Jacksonville. I know you have heard about Jacksonville beating the Steelers earlier this year and the Steelers wanting revenge. None of that nonsense matters. These are vastly different teams playing with a significantly different outcome. I have the Pittsburgh Steelers winning 31-10.
New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings
This is my game of the week. Drew Brees is going to do everything in his power to advance to the next round but this game is going to come down to the defense. Although the Saints won against Cam Newton, their defense was not that impressive during the entire game. If they display the same level of effort against the Minnesota Vikings, they will lose. New Orleans has Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Together, they are the backbone of this offense. Last week, the Panthers bottled up the run. But it didn’t matter. Drew Brees simply threw for 376 yards and two touchdowns. He was brilliant. He has the experience and has been here before.
Minnesota, on the other hand is a young and hungry team. Case Keenum does not have the experience of his counterpart but he has the benefit of being at home with a stout defense. Minnesota has been playing consistently all year. Minnesota has the NFL 2nd ranked run defense, holding opponents to an average of 84 yards per game. Case Keenum has thrown 22 touchdowns and 7 interceptions this year. I don’t think he is going to be the reason that Minnesota wins. Instead, it will be because of their defense.
The New Orleans Saints are special and they have a lot of ways that they can beat a team. I am just unconvinced that they are going to beat this team. I see this being a close battle with the home team doing just enough to eek out a victory. I have Minnesota Vikings winning this game 28-24.
To sum, I have picked Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and an untested Case Keenum. Last week, I wasn’t happy with my picks. This week, I’m okay with my decision. I’m oddly calm. I don’t know if it’s the peace I have for making the right picks or the calm before a terrible storm.
Playoff record 3-1.
(Source for this story was ESPN.com, Associated Press)
Alexis Sara Cobb may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (724) 561-8082. Follow her on Twitter: @alexissara