NFL wild-card weekend Saturday open thread
posted at 2:31 pm on January 9, 2016 by Ed Morrissey
Ed: Throw out the record books — we’re now into the NFL post-season, and we have the Saturday games to prove it! Anything can happen now, sort of like, oh … the Eagles asking permission to interview 69-year-old former Giants coach Tom Coughlin. But before we throw out the record books, let’s take a last look at the books for the 2015 regular season. I went 6-1 in the final week, only missing the Vikes’ upset of the Packers, to take my final season record to 81-38 for a 0.681 prediction percentage. Not bad for a man who spent the first few weeks of the season on the road, eh? (I even called the final score on the Denver-San Diego game.)
Jazz: Football? What is this “football” of which you speak? Once the Jets managed to blow what should have been a sure ticket to the playoffs I took up watching curling on the internet again. As far as last week goes, even with my team collapsing and a couple of bonehead long shots that didn’t come though, I still managed to go 4-3, bringing my regular season total to 60-58, barely finishing above the .500 mark as I’d hoped. Considering it took me 14 weeks to come close to a fifty fifty record I suppose I’ll lick my wounds and call it a Better Than Completely Sucking Season. The good news is that the Jets fired their special teams coach (again) which was the only weak spot in a team which otherwise was near the top of the league on both sides of the ball. Who knows? Clean up that mess a bit and we could actually be in the post-season next year. A 10-6 record is nothing to sneeze at. Anyway, I’ll be rooting for the Steelers from here on out.
Ed: The first game up today will be the Kansas City Chiefs at the Houston Texans (4:20 pm ET, ESPN/ABC). After a 1-5 start, the Chiefs ran the table, coming within an ace of taking their division. The Texans have a three-game winning streak on the line as opposed to a ten-game streak, but those three games were against pretty weak talent. The two teams match up well, but the KC offense scores four more points a game on average and gives up almost two points fewer a game on defense. The Chiefs win by a touchdown on the road, 24-17.
Jazz: I lack Ed’s confidence that this game is going to be as close or exciting as it might otherwise have been. The Texans have put up a scrappy fight to get into the playoffs, but it’s been hit and miss for them. Kansas City has a ten game winning streak against several arguably stronger opponents for a reason. Alex Smith is the better quarterback, and while Houston’s defense has been very strong, it won’t be enough to do the job here. Kansas City wins with a dominant performance, 27-14.
Ed: Then we come to the big enchilada — an AFC North division rivalry taken to the playoffs between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals (8:15 pm ET, CBS). The question will be which Steelers team shows up in Cincinnati … the explosive offense and nimble defense that blew out opponents in the second half, or the interception-throwing, burned-secondary version that blew a winnable and critical game in Baltimore? The Steelers don’t have DeAngelo Williams, but the Bengals still don’t have Andy Dalton. A. J. McCarron will make his first post-season start tonight, while Ben Roethlisberger has lots of experience in these tough situations. That’s why the Steelers go into this game as slight favorites, and I’ll go with that as well, even though Pittsburgh’s lucky to be here at all. Steelers 31-24 over the Bengals.
Jazz: The Bengals haven’t won a post-season game since 1990 and some may see that as a curse. It all comes down to the defenses in this game, though and Cincinnati showed Pittsburgh some new looks in week 8. Plus, you get the sense that after so many years of being known as The Bungles, these guys just want it more. The backup quarterback situation is a worry, but I somehow don’t think Big Ben will be gaining a lot of ground either. I’ll be rooting for the Steelers, but for purposes of the competition here between Ed and me I have to keep it interesting and go with where the numbers lead. I’ll take Cincinnati in a battle of the D’s, 17-13.