Wild Card Picks
Upsets happen in the wild card round. But I’ll be damned if I can figure out where they’re going to take place this weekend. I’m picking one, mostly because I feel like I ought to pick at least one. But that probably just means that the other three games will result in upsets while that one goes to the favorite. Which is really just another way of saying here’s what not to expect.
Cincinnati (+4) at Houston
Maybe if the Bengals weren’t dealing with the flu. Or maybe if the Texans relied more on T.J. Yatesthan they did on the running game. Or maybe if Cincinnati had it in them to stop the Houston run. Maybe, maybe, maybe. The Texans are simply the more balanced team here. Add in healthy (by which I mean not sick, not uninjured) and at home and you get just enough of a difference for Houston to earn a trip to Baltimore (where they will suffer ignominious defeat) next weekend. Texans by a field goal.
Detroit (+10.5) at New Orleans
It’s all very nice to root for the Lions, who haven’t won a post-season game since 1991, but let’s be honest here: The Lions don’t have what it takes to beat the Saints in New Orleans. OK, you know what? Maybe, maybe, if the Lions defense can pick off Drew Brees a couple of times, the Lions will be able to pull off an upset. Come out a +3 in takeaway-giveaway differential and Detroit will totally have this one. But I don’t see that happening. And barring that, I don’t see any way the Lions can get to the next round. Saints by a touchdown.
Atlanta (+3) at NY Giants
As with virtually every game the Giants have played this season, this one all comes down to which New Jersey squad shows up. (No, I don’t mean to suggest that the Jets may step in here.) The good Giants can beat any team in the league. The bad ones can’t even hold off Washington in their own building. If I had faith in the Giants to show up, I’d pick them. They’re a better team than they’re given credit for being and their at home and that’s usually enough. But I just don’t have faith. And I do feel confident that the Falcons will come in ready to play. Do that (and focus on running the ball) and the Falcons will be the team that gets to lose next weekend in Green Bay. Atlanta by a point.
Pittsburgh (-8.5) at Denver
You know what? I don’t care if Rashard Mendenhall is out and Ben Douchelisbagger is all kinds of gimpy. The Broncos don’t belong in the playoffs. And they’re not beating the Steelers. Not on any field. Not that I expect a blowout, mind you. I think the Broncos defense will hold the injury-riddled Steelers O to very few points. It’s just that whatever Pittsburgh scores will be enough, because Denver will be lucky to put up three points. Let’s go with the Steelers winning 7-3.