• PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS — For the most part, the first round of the NFL playoffs consists merely of formality games.
Four games are on tap for the weekend, which more often than not exposes the true non-contenders.
There’s been two instances of a No. 6 seed winning the Super Bowl, but it does require winning three games on the road.
This year’s No. 6 teams are Miami and Detroit. Those teams have absolutely no chance of going all the way.
The AFC should really have some dog games this weekend because three of the four teams are going with backup quarterbacks due to injuries.
• SATURDAY •
Houston 17, Oakland 14 — Upset special. What a time for Oakland rookie quarterback Connor Cook to make his first NFL start. The one thing the Texans do well is play defense, so don’t look for a lot of points to be scored. Houston is starting Brock Osweiler, who had been displaced by Tom Savage. But Savage is hurt, so Osweiler — much to the chagrin of the Texans’ fans who have made him their personal whipping post — is back in. This may be one of the ugliest offensive games in NFL playoff history.
Seattle 31, Detroit 17 — Seattle was my pick to win the Super Bowl at the start of the year, so I have to stay faithful to the Seahawks. But the last 6 weeks they haven’t played like a Super Bowl champion and the loss of safety Earl Thomas was a killer. I can’t understand all the rumors that were swirling around Detroit coach Jim Caldwell and his job security, all he’s done is lead the Lions to the playoffs twice in three years after they had been absent for the most part. Seattle’s experience gives it a decided edge.
• SUNDAY •
Pittsburgh 31, Miami 14 — Probably the biggest mismatch of the weekend. When we get to the playoffs, it often isn’t the best team that wins it all, but the team playing the best going in. Pittsburgh does have some defensive deficiencies, but what an offense when it’s firing on all cylinders. Miami is one of those teams lucky to get in and even though it defeated Pittsburgh early in the season, that game has no bearing. It will be the Steelers in a runaway.
Green Bay 30, New York Giants 23 — Green Bay is now the trendy pick to make the Super Bowl as the Packers are white-hot since their defense finally came around. Aaron Rodgers is on a big-time roll. New York probably has done more with less than any of the playoff teams, except perhaps Miami. Eli Manning has won two Super Bowls, so he knows how to rise to the occasion. But the Packers are rolling and it will be a great surprise if they don’t move on from the Giants.
• MIEGE TEAMS LOSE — In the last Kansas Basketball Coaches Association polls, Miege’s teams were both ranked No. 1.
While I still believe they’re the best in Class 4A Division I, they incurred a rarity on Tuesday — they both lost.
Miege’s biggest arch-rival, St. Thomas Aquinas, swept the doubleheader between the teams.
The girls’ game didn’t surprise me, as I thought the Stags had some shortcomings when they played McPherson here last month. I thought they basically relied on three players and if one of them was off, there was nobody to pick up the slack.
The boys’ game stunned me. The night Miege played the Bullpups I swore they were the best prep team I’ve witnessed in person in my 40-plus years of sports writing. Aquinas does have some good size, but I thought the Stags were flawless.
I’m still betting in March, though, it will be a Miege sweep in Salina.
• INDEFINITE APPARENTLY MEANS ONE — Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski recently suspended star player Grayson Allen “indefinitely” following his third tripping incident of his career.
“Indefinitely” didn’t last long.
There were some critics calling for a three-game minimum, some for at least five or six games to teach the arrogant Allen a lesson. Allen’s latest transgression was about as blatant as it could get and he didn’t even hide it, then he pouted about it on the bench like a petulant child.
Duke lost its ACC opener without Allen, but when it played Georgia Tech on Wednesday, presto! Allen was back and even in the starting lineup. Duke could have won the game without him as it nearly doubled Tech 110-57 with Allen playing a starring role.
So basically the “indefinite” suspension was nothing more than a slap to chill the critics. True, it cost the Dukies a loss, but did it really serve his purpose? Allen is this era’s Christian Laettner, another former Duke star who was villified to the point a documentary was made about him and how he raised the blood pressure of all Duke detractors.
Krzyzewski is undergoing back surgery Friday and will be out 4 weeks, according to reports. I just wonder how much that played into his decision. It’s hard to criticize a man when he’s on the operating table.
Allen, in my opinion, should have served at least three games. I don’t think sitting out one game taught him much of a lesson.