Now the games start to mean something.
We’re down to the NFL’s version of the Elite 8 and after Sunday we’re down to the Final 4.
Last week’s forgettable weekend produced four lopsided games and weeded out the non-accounts. Las Vegas bookies took a monster hit as the home teams covered, but I have a feeling this week’s games won’t be as predictable.
I was one of those who actually picked all four games correctly last week, but I’m sure I’ll have some detractors this week.
• SATURDAY •
Seattle 34, Atlanta 27 — A popular playoff credo is “take the home team,” but I’m going to violate the code.
Atlanta is perhaps the most mysterious team of the playoffs. It won its division and even climbed to a No. 2 seed mainly because of its prolific offense.
But that offense is going against still the most feared defense in the NFC. While “The Legion of Boom” is missing key element Earl Thomas, the Seahawks are still as good as anybody against the pass.
My concern for Seattle is its offense, but Thomas Rawls came back and looked sturdy as he time and again broke tackles last week. The Atlanta defense reminds of Kansas City’s in that it gives up a lot of yards, but necessarily points.
• New England 31, Houston 7 — The stinker of the weekend. Houston was the lesser of two evils last week and I’ll be stunned if this is any kind of game at all. Brock Osweiler was serviceable last week for Houston, but the myriad of looks the Patriots present will confuse him.
Tom Brady is Tom Brady and while the Texans hang their hat on their defense, the Golden Boy will still be able to pick them apart.
• SUNDAY •
• Pittsburgh 30, Kansas City 23 — I’ve said repeatedly to fear the hot team heading into the playoffs.
And the Steelers are white-hot.
Kansas City should be afraid. Very afraid.
The weather won’t play a factor as both teams have played in frigid conditions. So cross that off.
The fact of the matter is Kansas City won’t be able to score enough points to keep up with the 3 Bs (Ben, Brown and Bell). Le’Veon Bell is going to have a field day running against the porous Kansas City defense and Antonio Brown will catch at least two TD passes.
Alex Smith is not a quarterback who wins games, he manages them. The Chiefs need for him to win one and he just can’t do it.
• Dallas 35, Green Bay 31 — Best game of the weekend and maybe of the year. Nobody is hotter than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were unstoppable the last three quarters last week. But Dallas has the weapons to fire right back and Ezekiel Elliott is going to run unbated.
Dallas’ offensive line is the best in football and should open some big lanes against the Packers. Green Bay’s defense is markedly better than earlier in the season, but the nod goes to the ‘Boys.