Divisional Crystal Ball: Are upsets in the offing?
GURU expects an NFC surprise
Happy Divisional Weekend, all.
We started the season at 32 teams and are now down to eight. Eight solid squads with excited fan bases. Eight franchises with opportunities to advance to their respective conference championship games. There may be a couple of surprises in Jacksonville and the New York Football Giants but there isn’t a slouch in the bunch.
(Here is the full schedule, including TV listings and broadcaster pairings; team and individual statistics; and the updated injury report.)
Six teams started their postseasons with a bang last week with the Jags and Jints joined by fellow winners Buffalo, Cincinnati, Dallas, and San Francisco. As for THE GURU? The playoffs are off to a decent start with a 5-1 (.833) record, the lone blemish being New York’s victory in Minnesota. Singular, but unsightly, and it puts the season mark at 172-103 (.625).
Now let’s get to what we really care about and make some picks.
4:30 pm, NBC: Jacksonville (10-8) at Kansas City (14-3)
I’ll get right to it: I’m taking the Chiefs by a margin so wide that FATBACK HOBBS and I could walk through it. Side by side. Arms akimbo. With room to spare.
Truly, it’s wonderful to see Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson work his magic in year one in Duval but I think it’s going to be very tough sledding for the Jaguars coach against one of his mentors, Andy Reid.
You see, Coach Reid and the Chiefs are coming off a bye week and, unless you’ve lived under a rock with RIGHT WING MATT and TOMMY BIRD the past two decades, you know life has three certainties: death, the March appearance of the Shamrock Shake and Andy Reid winning after a bye week.
Indeed, Big Red is 27-4 after a week off as a head coach, including playoffs, and I’m guessing he and his staff have some interesting things cooked up for Jacksonville. I do think the Jags score some points but, in the end, it’ll be KC. CHIEFS, 33-25
8:15 pm, Fox: New York Giants (10-7-1) at Philadelphia (14-3)
Like most playoff games, the third 2022-23 meeting of Giants-Eagles could go either way. But it won’t. Philly is better and they’ll get the victory.
There is a lot of talk about Jalen Hurts and, while the health of his left shoulder is important, this game comes down to the Eagles offensive line against New York’s defensive front. If Jason Kelce & Co. can neutralize Giants defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and his mates, the Birds should cruise to a win. If they don’t, it could be a barnburner that would make Mrs. O’Leary’s cow blush.
My prodigious gut sees the Eagles finding a way to neutralize Lawrence & Co. with double teams and misdirection - the same formula that THE FAIR CLAUDINE and THE TRE MAN use to keep me away from the cupboard. For Philly’s sake, let’s hope the Birds have more success than my missus and son.
The run was good while it lasted, BROTHER BLUENIK, but the time has come to say good night and, hey, at your age, you need all the sleep you can get. EAGLES, 36-22
3 pm, CBS: Cincinnati (13-4) at Buffalo (14-3)
I want to pick my guy Joe Burrow once again. I want to believe that he and his gritty cohorts can spring the upset. I want to see another Mahomes-Burrow matchup in the AFC title game.
Yet, all that said, I simple cannot go with the Bengals on Sunday afternoon for one simple reason: their offense line is hobbled like Paul Sheldon, James Caan’s captive character in “Misery”. Beat up from head to toe.
(Aside: Watching the movie recently reminded me of how lazy I am as I was a wee bit jealous of Caan’s character. “Man, it’d be nice to stay in bed all day and have a doting caretaker like Annie Wilks to feed and bathe me, homicidal tendencies aside,” I said.”)
Yes, I understand that the Cincinnati o-line was an issue throughout the 2021 season and the Bengals still made it to the Super Bowl. I know that Cincy’s o-line hasn’t been stellar in 2022 and all Burrow & Co. have done is win 13 games.
Here’s what else I know: by the time the Bengals got to KC for last year’s AFC title game they’d been dealing with o-line struggles BUT they’d also largely been using the same guys game in and game out, with a couple of subs mixed in. That’s why this year is different - they’ve lost three starters in the past four weeks and doing things on the fly in the postseason makes it too tall of a task for Cincy to overcame. BILLS, 31-30
6:30 pm, Fox: Dallas (13-5) at San Francisco (14-4)
It’s well known that I’m no fan of the Cowboys. I don’t like their stadium. I don’t like the star on their helmets. I don’t like the way their team plane taxis to and from the runway. But, once in a while, I can be objective, and, sadly, it just feels like Dallas is about to go on a run.
I really think something happened with Mike McCarthy’s troops last week in their playoff trouncing of Tampa Bay. A switch flipped and it was as magical as pushing the vending machine button and seeing a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos tumble into the waiting bin below. (Aside: Text Claudine to see if we have any Cool Ranch around the house for the games.)
After last year’s unceremonious playoff exit - at the hands of the Niners, no less - it must’ve been uplifting for the Cowboys to rebound in Tampa with one of their most complete games of the season. And I believe the resulting confidence gives them a great chance to win tomorrow’s game.
Yes, I understand that the sub-.500 Bucs aren’t exactly the 1985 Bears. They are highly flawed, like my torso or the do-nothing political party you support. But the Cowboys did what they needed to do, beating the Bucs into submission.
Here’s your upset special, folks. COWBOYS, 27-25
That’s all for this week, friends. Enjoy the games and we’ll talk soon. God bless!