|Photo courtesy of SB Nation|
UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS.
Chiefs (+4.5) over PATRIOTS
I know that last week, I picked the Chiefs to beat the Patriots in the playoffs, albeit in the Championship Game because I expected the Bengals to win last week. It was a bold pick by now, and now that we've reached gameday, I'm not entirely confident in the call I made. It doesn't really have much to do with the Chiefs, even though they absolutely coasted to victory in Houston, albeit on the back of five Brian Hoyer turnovers.
This is more about the Patriots continuing to be the Patriots. Most of their key players will be back from injury for this game, and after some rest, they should be back to the level of play they maintained for the majority of the season. Most importantly, I should know not to bet against the Pats at any point, especially in the playoffs.
And yet, I still think the Chiefs are the exact type of team that should give the Pats a lot of trouble, with their ball control offense, and incredible pass rush. So, while I'm very scared to do this, I'm sticking with my gut, and going with the road team. Even if I'm wrong about that, the game should be decided by a field goal anyway. These are currently the two best teams in the AFC, and this game will show it.
Chiefs 23, Patriots 20.
CARDINALS (-7) over Packers
I will not allow last week's performance to fool me; the Packers simply aren't that great. And much like in Week 16, the Cardinals should easily handle Green Bay. The balanced offensive attack that the Cards bring to the table, as well as their suffocating defense makes them incredibly difficult to deal with.
There isn't much to say about this game, other than the Cardinals are a much better team, have been all season, and under all rules of logic should win this game. That is, assuming logic doesn't take the night off.
Cardinals 31, Packers 20
PANTHERS (-2.5) over Seahawks
Even though Seattle outplayed the Vikings in the frozen Minnesota tundra last week, they were still very fortunate to come out of that game with a victory. They'll need some more luck to escape Charlotte with a victory against a Panthers team that is basically a better version of themselves. Individually, almost all important skill position players on Seattle's offense are better than those on Carolina, but there is one important difference, the quarterback.
Russell Wilson deserves a lot of credit for his great play all season, especially considering the fact that time after time he singlehandedly extends plays with his legs. He's easily one of the best signal callers in the league, but he's just not as good as Cam Newton, who is probably the best quarterback in the league this year.
Defensively, both teams are playing great, so it will be hard to move the ball all game. Despite the relative dearth of weapons, Cam and the Boys should get the job done tomorrow.
Panthers 21, Seahawks 17
Steelers (+7.5) over BRONCOS
It's hard to get a good read on the Broncos right now. Their defense, which has been almost flawless all year, has had a few issues in recent weeks. But of course, the real issue is their offense. More specifically, what the hell will Peyton Manning look like? After playing his worst football since maybe his rookie season to start the year, he returned from an injury, so it can be assumed that he'll be at least better, even if he's not nearly at his most Peyton Manning.
The Steelers, on the other hand, will be playing without their top two running backs, the best receiver in the NFL, and a banged up Ben Roethlisberger. And yet, I considered taking the Steelers to win this game outright.
In the end, the Steelers will be missing too many weapons to win this game. This isn't as much of a statement about the Broncos, as it is the steelers losing this game. We'll see how Manning looks in this game, which will determine how I feel about them going forward.
Broncos 24, Steelers 20
Last Week: 1-3
Regular Season: 128-120-7