Ed: Some readers might be surprised to find my name at the top of this post. Believe me, no one’s more surprised than I am after my mediocre run this season. I split my picks on Sunday to preserve my .500 record thus far in the playoffs and am at 2-2 for the playoffs to tie Jazz. The key pick last week was predicting that Lamar Jackson’s inexperience would be the deciding factor against the Chargers, who still had to hang on in the fourth quarter to pull out a game they couldn’t quite ice. We both missed on Chicago, though, a very surprising upset by the Iggles and Nick Foles. This weekend should be a lot of fun.
Jazz: Having finished the regular season with a fairly decent record and gone 2-0 on the first day of the wildcard matchups, I was obviously in need of something to prevent my head becoming too big to fit through the door. Boy, did I get what I needed last Sunday! I picked two favorites to win and both of them collapsed, leaving me tied with Ed at 2-2 for the playoffs. This weekend brings more tight games that could go either way so I’m shining up a lucky penny to make some of these calls.
Ed: The first game up today pits the surging Colts against the dominating Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium (4:35 pm ET, NBC). The Colts handled their business on the road last week in Houston, but Kansas City is another matter. For one thing, it’s outdoors, and KC has snow and a winter storm warning today. For another thing … Patrick Mahomes, man. The Chiefs’ offense finished #1 in points scored and overall yardage, third in passing, and still managed to rank 15th in rushing yardage with 116 yards per game. Indy’s offense finished 7th but scored eight fewer points per game. KC’s defense is more suspect at 31st, so Andrew Luck should feast pretty well if he can handle the elements, but the Colts’ pass defense only ranked 16th, so Mahomes will get plenty of shots today too. Luck and the Colts will make a game out of it, but I’ll go with the Chiefs over the Colts 35-27.
Jazz: This game should wind up being a high scoring shootout, though I’d expect the Colts to pick up more yards on the ground while the Chiefs will be putting the ball in the air. Kansas City is noticeably better on paper when it comes to their offense, while the defenses are more evenly matched. Still, the Colts have been shocking the world for a couple of months now and as last week showed us, it’s any given Sunday. In theory, playing in rough winter weather should come more naturally to the Chiefs, but at the same time, the team that’s relying more on their rushing game should have a slight edge in bad conditions. Still, I have to go with the home field advantage and take Kansas City over Indianapolis 34-30.
Ed: The Dallas Cowboys take on the Los Angeles Rams in the evening game (8:15 pm ET, Fox) after having edged the Seahawks at home last week. Dallas has been winning but only with each game a struggle, while the Rams have had a full week off to rest up and prepare for their home game. The Cowboys put WR Allen Hurns on IR this week and Cole Beasley is listed as questionable at the same position, as is TE Blake Jarwin. On the D, the Cowboys list one defensive lineman as out (David Irving) and another questionable (Maliek Collins). That limits what Dallas can do on both sides of the ball, especially with their fifth-ranked rush defense. The Rams already score more than ten points per game more than the Cowboys, and the LA offense looks entirely healthy. Add that to home-field advantage and you get the Rams over the Cowboys 31-24.
Jazz: If all we’re going on is stats and divisional standings, The Rams should be a dead lock to win this game, based both on points and yardage during the regular season and the fact that the Cowboys have been less than impressive on the road (3-5) while doing most of their winning in Dallas (8-1). But 2019 is turning out to be as weird in sports as it is in politics and here’s something to keep in mind. The last three games where Dallas was a major underdog, they turned up the heat and won. Also, the Rams allowed more than five yards per carry on the ground this year and the Cowboys have been building their offensive strategy around Ezekiel Elliott carrying the ball. I’m going with the upset on this one and picking Dallas to beat Los Angeles in a close one, 21-17.