I know you’re all thinking it, so I might as well answer your question: Yes, I did have a good birthday. I finally bought myself a Nintendo Switch so I can stop complaining about it, and am looking forward to ruining all productivity in my life as I try to 100% Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey. Buying yourself birthday gifts is one of the great joys of adult life. I have a million things I need to do and a million things I need to buy in the next couple months to prepare for a huge moment in my life (stay tuned), but on my birthday that all goes away and I can just buy whatever I want. Who’s going to tell me not to? Not me, that’s for sure. As two of my favorite characters from the greatest comedy show of all time (don’t @ me) said, sometimes you just have to Treat Yo Self.
You what else is a great gift? Accurately predicting NFL playoff games. I didn’t ask for this power, but I have a responsibility to use it for good. If I used it for selfish gain, what separates me from the absolute dregs of society? Nothing, that’s what. That’s why I share my precognizant picks with all of you. So that others may benefit from my startlingly potent game-picking prowess. How else would you have known to bet the house on the Titans? Everyone in the world was telling you to pick the Chiefs. It was so obvious that the Chiefs would roll. Andy Reid and Alex Smith in the playoffs? Rock solid. Having one the worst run defense in the league? Great sign. Being the Chiefs? Always works out. Well, everyone was right. That game was obvious, and the result was clear halfway through the first quarter. “What about the Falcons?” you ask. The answer is simple: I merely overlooked one of the most ancient of Playoff Clichés- You Need Experience to Win (if this is true how would any team win a Super Bowl without previously winning a Super Bowl? The Forgotten Ones who wrote the list of football clichés cared not for our human locig). How foolish of me. It won’t happen again.
At first glance, this week’s games seem a little murky. Some tight matchups that could go either way, some odd lines, Nick Foles. Too many variables for the average football fan. Good thing I’m not an average fan. After climbing to the sacred Temple of the Shield at the top of Gridiron Mountain and meditating with the aid of pigskin fumes, all became clear to me. What appeared to be a difficult group of games to predict became a walk in the park, and I’m confident I’ve got another 4-0 week on my hands. So grab a seat, and make sure to keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. All lines from Bovada.
Last week: 4-0-0
Atlanta Falcons (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles
This is a game that’s going to scare a lot of people. Falcons look like they’ve put it all together. How can you resist betting against Nick Foles in the playoffs. How can you resist betting against an Andy Reid disciple in the playoffs? I certainly understand the appeal of the Falcons. They looked great last round. But you can’t run away from the DNA, and the National Championship Game was the worst possible sign for the Falcons. What does that have to do with anything? Well, without Carson Wentz, looking at the season-long numbers for these teams is kind of pointless, at least in terms of Eagles O vs Falcons D (Falcons defense is also way better in real life then the numbers would suggest, which is something I can’t really wrap my head around). So that means this game is going to come down to Matt Ryan versus a far superior defense than the Rams’, Dan Quinn vs. Doug Pederson, and the mental toughness of both teams. Now it looks a little different, doesn’t it? Now it comes down to Loser DNA. Granted, Philly has some potent, potent Loser DNA. Some of the worst city-wide Loser DNA out there. But not even Philly is as bad as Atlanta. Which brings us back to the National Championship (another game whose outcome was obvious if you’ve ever watched a game of football before). If Georgia was able to hang on and finally, finally, win something for a Georgia-based team, I’d have a completely different feeling about this game. But they lost. In spectacular fashion. In impossible fashion. It was the slowest, most unavoidable death these eyes have ever seen. It somehow set the city of Atlanta back another 25 years, and they were already about 175 years back from the other countless horrifyingly terrible losses. Falcons have a 0% chance of winning this game. There’s just too much history going against them.
Pick: Eagles +3
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (-14)
Do we really need to talk about this game?
Pick: Patriots -14
Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)
One of my favorite things people do is take games that happened in the first half of the season and use them as gospel when trying to figure out who has the edge in a playoff game. For example: when the Jags went to Pittsburgh in week 5, they forced Big Ben to have one of the worst games a QB can have (0 TDs, 5 INTs) on the way to a blowout victory. Surely the same can happen again, no? Well, since that game the Steelers are 9-1 in games in which Roethlisberger and Co. played, Big Ben took the fork out of his back, and the Steelers regained their place as the team everyone is hoping can beat the Pats in the AFC after a sluggish start. Blake Bortles went from being the worst to being good to being the worst at least five times during that stretch. Point is, pretty much any individual game that happens before Thanksgiving can be thrown out in the playoffs since teams and players reinvent themselves so many times over the course of the season. Something you can draw from? Actual playoff games that happened last week, and if I’m a Jags fan, I’m not feeling great. They had to eke out a 10-3 win against the Bills. The Bills! Yes, the defense looked amazing, as usual. But it’s a big difference between facing the number 26 team in Offensive DVOA and the number 3 team. The Steelers are scoring more than 3 points. Antonio Brown is playing. Probably not at 100% health, but playing nonetheless. Want to put Jalen Ramsey on him to shut him down? Cool, there’s still Smith-Schuster. Want to put A.J. Bouye on him? That’s fine, LeVeon Bell is still the best pass-catching back in the league. And Martavis Bryant, contrary to popular belief, is technically still in the NFL. And they probably have two or three other random ass receivers they took in the third or fourth round that are unstoppable on third down. As long as they aren’t playing the Patriots, the Steelers will score on anyone. The Steelers’ D is better than the Bills’, too. Marginally better (9th in DVOA as opposed to 15th, 19 points allowed against 22, and Steelers led the league in sacks), but still better. Jags looked completely inept on offense. You’re telling me the team that won on Sunday in Jacksonville is going to go on the road to Pittsburgh, where it’s forecasted to be at most 18 degrees on Sunday, and score more than 10 points? Yeah, no. I want the Jags to win. I want the easiest possible schedule for the Pats, competitiveness be damned. But they’ve got no shot, here.
Pick: Steelers -7.5
New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (-4)
When I described myself climbing up the imposing Gridiron Mountain to consult the footballing spirits, this game was the primary reason. You could pretty easily make the case this is the best matchup on paper of the entire season. Both teams rank in the top 10 of offensive and defensive DVOA (Vikings rank in the top 5 in both, fwiw). Both top 10 in points scored and points allowed. Somewhat improbably, both teams have one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league. Both coaching staffs are good, or at least don’t make horrible decisions at every turn, which puts them in the top four remaining in the playoffs. It would seem these teams are perfect foils for each other. Which way do I turn? How can I possibly split these hairs? Sure, Drew Brees is better than Case Keenum and I trust him more when the chips are down, but I also trust the Vikings’ defense more than I trust the Saints’. And while the Saints’ trio of Ingram-Kamara-Thomas is one of the best and most explosive group of playmakers in the league, the Vikings have five or six guys that can match that production. The Vikings ruined a perfectly good home field advantage by not giving their stadium a retractable roof, so the dome-team-coming-up-north-to-play-in-the-cold factor is out. Both teams have decent enough kickers that don’t have a history of blowing games. So, when all else fails, where do you look? You have to find the best storyline. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the Super Bowl is in Minnesota this year, and no team has ever played the Super Bowl at home. Wouldn’t it be something if the Vikings made the Super Bowl this year? It sure would. But what about the Loser DNA? Ahh, excellent point! The Vikings have some of the most vile, corrosive cases of Loser DNA in recorded history. But theirs is a special strain of Loser DNA. With the exception of the Blair Walsh debacle, the Vikings’ Loser DNA only rears its ugly head when hope is at its highest. Only when the fanbase is fully invested can the Vikings break their hearts, like some kind of perverse god who feeds on the belief of its worshippers. A divisional round matchup against a tough team that’s a popular Super Bowl pick in what’s essentially a coin flip game? That’s not when everyone’s feeling good. Even the most optimistic of Viking fans are surely mentally prepared to lose this game. But an NFC Championship game against either the Nick Foles-lead Eagles or the 6-seed Falcons? Getting one step away from history, only needing to win a game that will look impossible to lose? That’s when the trickster god that controls the Vikings fate will make his presence felt. I already feel bad for the people of Minnesota.
Pick: Vikings -4