NFL Playoffs – Divisional Round

The commish got his teeth kicked in last weekend during the Wildcard round of the NFL Playoffs.  As Frank Sinatra once sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few”.  What did I learn last weekend?  Cincy won a playoff game but I’m not impressed.  The Dallas Cowboys are highly dysfunctional.  Mike McCarthy is a buffoon and my beloved Zeke is done.  The pre-snap penalties, blunders and inability to manage the clock down the stretch lies squarely at the feet of the coaching staff.  The Buffalo Bills played a perfect game.  No team has ever scored a touchdown on every possession of a game before, and the Patriots were no match for the Bills.  The Steelers faded away without a bang, it was a wet fart.  And Kyler Murray played the worst game of his career at the most important moment.  But that’s all in the past now and we need to focus on this weekend’s slate of games as we head into the NFL Playoffs – Divisional round.  Here’s who the commish is putting his money on this weekend.  All lines are from at the time of this posting.

Tennessee Titans -3.5 over Cincinnati Bengals

Derek Henry is back… with a plate in his foot.  Now Dante Foreman has been running the ball fine and I’m slightly concerned that Vrabel may perhaps give the ball to Henry too many times in an effort to get him back into the flow, especially early in the game.   This will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on.   But it doesn’t change the fact that Tennessee’s strategy for this game is simple.  Run.  The Cincy run defense is not good.  It’s bottom 10 in the league and I’m certain that Vrabel’s plan is to run the ball down their throats, control the clock and set up play action strikes to AJ Brown and whatever is left of Julio Jones.    For Cincy, is young Joe ready for this moment?  Does his magical run continue to the AFC Championship game this year?  No.  It ends today.  Speaking of bottom 10, the Titans pass rush is bottom 10 but their secondary is very strong.   Mixon is not a breakaway runner so I don’t think there is high risk that will happen today.  But Joe has not been good under pressure this year and so if the Titans can’t execute in getting to him there is a chance they get shredded the way many teams have over the past month.    So it’s going to be a heavy reliance on safeties Bayard and Hooker, who are both excellent, in trying to keep Chase, Higgins, Boyd and Uzomah quiet.   Coaching advantage, Tennessee.   Vrabel has been there, done that in this round.  Zach Taylor has been a gun slinger with his back against the wall all season but playoff experience matters so much that I expect him to crack today.  The Titans come in healthy and fired up and win the turnover battle today, which will be enough to get the win and the cover as they advance to the Title game against the Chiefs/Bills winner.

San Francisco 49ers + 5.5 over Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers has never beaten the 49ers in the playoffs.  What makes us think he’ll finally do it today?  It’s well documented how much the commish hates Jimmy G and I fully expect him to throw at lease one incomprehensible pass to the Packer defense today and several turnover worthy plays.   But if I’m being honest with myself he has played well over the past month and has put himself into one of the top 10 in the league.  But either way, the Packer defense is not good enough to change what we have seen recently.  Since week #10, they have been the worst team in the NFL against the run.    Let that sink in for a second or read it again.  It’s a perfect matchup for the 49ers.   That means the jet sweep freak Debo Samuel is going to shred this defense just like he has been shredding the league down the stretch.    And if the Packer D throws everyone in the box to try and stop it the 49rs are going to throw it to Kittle.  On offense for the Packers, there’s no stopping Rodgers/Adams, they will get their connections and scores.  But the pass rush with Bosa can and will get home for a few key plays tonight.  Coaching advantage, 49ers.  Shanny is a better schemer and less conservative than Matt LeFleur.  Either way, I’m certain we’re in for a good game tonight and this game likely comes down to a field goal and if the Packers do win, they’ll do it by a very narrow margin and likely a thrilling comeback by Rodgers.

Tampa Bay Bucs -2.5 over LA Rams

Playoff Tom.  Unstoppable Playoff Tom.  Brady is 14-2 in divisional playoff games.  Matt Stafford has won exactly one.   Now we all know old Tom needs time if he’s going to be effective.  And there is a developing narrative this week that the injury to tackle Tristin Wirfs means that #99 is going to have a field day.  I’ve lost count of how many times over the past 20 years that I’ve said, “all they have to do is get to Tom Brady” or “they’re going to get to Brady”.  Guess what, they never ever do.  And it’s not just that he gets rid of the ball faster than anyone else in the league (besides Ben) it’s that he distributes the ball to whomever he needs to.   Including people you’ve never heard of.  And he inspires anyone on the offensive line to do their job better than they ever have in key moments.  He doesn’t have to throw the ball Gronk or Mike Evans.  It can easily be Giovanni Bernard or Cameron Braete or Ke’Shawn Vaugh or whoever!  Stafford has had an excellent season but he is very capable of many turnover worthy plays and I’m sure we’ll see some bad Stafford on Sunday afternoon.   We didn’t see it last week but down the stretch of the season he led the league in pick sixes.  In the first game, the Bucs coudn’t cover these receivers and don’t get me wrong, they’re deadly.  Especially Cupp.  But I expect the Bucs to learn from their mistakes in the first game of this season and set themselves up to contain all the Rams deep threats.  Bend don’t break and wait to be opportunistic against bad Stafford when he makes the mistake.  If the Bucs season is going to end this year it’s likely going to be in Green Bay next week, not Sunday at home to Matt Stafford.

Kansas City Chiefs -2 over Buffalo Bills

How often are you going to get the Chiefs at home in a playoff game laying less than a field goal?   The Bills played a perfect game last week against the Pats.  They scored a touchdown on every single drive of the game.  And so, by definition, they have peaked because no pitcher has ever pitched back to back perfect games and no golfer has ever shot back to back 59s.  So the Bills are not going to score 7 touchdowns on Sunday.  The basis of my handicap for this game is that the Bills are too reliant on Josh Allen to both run and pass the ball and so all their offensive eggs are in that basket.   This reminds me of Lamar Jackson and we know how that usually goes.    The Chiefs at home is a tough proposition for any team in the Mahomes era, and Sunday night will be no different.  The recent play of the defense has shown us that KC is in top form.  In order for the Bills to win this game they have to play a perfect game, and as we said above, they did that already last week.  Chiefs win by a field goal in a tight one to advance to the Championship game against the Titans.

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