The old saying in these here parts is that which teams I predict to win, just take the opposite — it’s that much of a lock.
Call it blind luck — in my case dumb luck — but somehow, some way I bumbled to a 4-0 record in last week’s NFL wild-card-round picks.
And that’s with all four road teams winning.
I think we all know, though, it should have been 2-2. Minnesota simply gave away a victory to Seattle when the Vikings’ Blair Walsh missed what amounted to a 3-foot putt to win the U.S. Open. And Cincinnati’s total disregard for discipline and a costly fumble allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers and wounded quarterback Ben Roethlisbeger to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.
But the bottom line is I still finished 4-0 for my 15 minutes of fame.
What the NFL season has revealed is that there’s no super power. The Carolina Panthers are 15-1, but nobody is ready to anoint them as one of the greatest teams of all time. They happened to play in a terrible division and 13 of their 15 wins came against non-playoff teams. One of their two alleged “quality wins” came against Washington, which only got in because it was the best of the worst in the pitiful NFC East.
This week we start to get down to business as we whittle the field from eight to four. Do I play safe and go with the home teams that have had two weeks to prepare? Or do I keep rolling with my roadies?
• SATURDAY •
New England 23, Kansas City 17 — The Chiefs were impressive last week in their domination of Houston. But the Texans aren’t the Patriots. I so much want to believe the Chiefs can win this game, but history is on the Patriots’ side even though they limp into the playoffs with a 2-4 record in their last six games. Not to mention at last look they still have Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Bill Belichick, who basically are keeping the team at its lofty status. My fear is that Alex Smith just can’t make enough plays to win the game as I don’t think the Chiefs can run the ball effectively.
Arizona 31, Green Bay 24 — I’m thinking the Washington game was Fool’s Gold for the Packers. They looked miserable at the start, down 11-0, before Aaron Rodgers went to the hurry-up offense to light up the scoreboard. Again, though, Washington made the playoffs almost by default and could very well revert to its last-place division finish next year. Arizona pounded Green Bay less than a month ago and while it will be closer this time, Rodgers will be under siege.
• SUNDAY •
Seattle 20, Carolina 17 — I have been the president of the Seattle bandwagon since Day One. I’ll admit when the Seahawks were floundering at midseason I was tempted to jump off, but I just knew that defense would right itself. I’m a huge Russell Wilson believer, but he needs to use his legs as well as his arm. I’ve also doubted Carolina much of the season. Since I picked Seattle as the champion at the start of the year, I’ll go down with the ship if need be.
Denver 27, Pittsburgh 10 — How can Big Ben possibly play? He could barely throw the ball 10 yards by the end of Cincinnati game unless this is all one big sandbag. Peyton Manning is back in charge of the Broncos and you can just see the team has been re-energized. If Roethlisberger doesn’t play, the Steelers have no chance. His replacement Landry Jones is like Brian Hoyer’s twin brother.