Jazz: Yesterday’s results once again turned out to be almost boring when all was said and done. I landed another 2-0 day by simply picking the favorites in both games, with the Falcons and (ugh) the Patriots delivering big margins, taking me to 5-1 for the post-season. I wasn’t the only one noticing the pattern. The Washington Post is saying the playoffs have been a snooze so far. Every game has been won by the favorite and the margins have averaged eighteen points. But today I think we’re going to mix things up at least a little, with two games that suggest a bit more excitement.
Ed: There’s no place like home. So far, the playoffs seem to be proving Dorothy right. In most of the games thus far, the home teams have dominated, and even when they didn’t — like the Patriots in their sub-par performance against Houston last night — they got enough breaks to win comfortably. That Pats-Texans game wasn’t exactly a snooze, either; at times, it looked to be a contest to see who could give away the game more effectively. (Never bet against Brock Osweiler in those contests, by the way.) I’ve gone 6-0 picking the home teams so far, but … well, you know …
Jazz: The schedule was changed at the last minute because of some ice storms in the Midwest, so the first game will be Green Bay traveling to Dallas to face the Cowboys. (4:40 PM, FOX) Dallas is a five point favorite, but I’ve been seeing so many people predicting an upset here that I began leaning toward Green Bay. Much of this rests on the backs of the QBs. Dak Prescott has pretty much carved his name on the starting position for the Cowboys going forward, but this is his first venture into the daunting level of playoff pressure. He looks to me like he can handle it, but this is the sort of place where a new guy can stumble. On the other side of the field there are no questions to be answered about Aaron Rogers. (Over his last eight games he’s racked up 22 touchdowns and zero interceptions.) I flipped a coin here and decided to go with the rookie. Give me the Cowboys in a 30-27 nail biter.
Ed: It’s tempting to think that Dak Prescott’s going to wilt under playoff pressure in his first post-season game, but that seems pretty unlikely. Prescott was under pressure almost the entire season with Tony Romo healing up from a broken back, and ended up taking away Romo’s job and vying for the MVP award. Prescott went to Green Bay and thumped the Pack 30-16 in Week 6. The bigger question will be whether the Cowboys come out rusty after the bye like the Pats did last week, especially since Dallas was resting their starters for part of that final regular season game against Philadelphia. Green Bay and Dallas offenses score about the same amount of points a game, but the Dallas D is five points per game better than Green Bay’s, and they’re playing at home. Plus, with Jordy Nelson out and still thin at the running-back spot, that Dallas D will have the ability to concentrate on fewer threats. I’d love to see the Pack win this one, but Dallas should win if they’re prepared — and the two hungry rookies with something to prove makes me think they will be. Cowboys 31-20 over the Pack.
Jazz: What should have been the early game is now Sunday Night Football when Ed’s Steelers visit the Chiefs for a shot at the Patriots in the AFC Championship next week. (8:20 PM, NBC) I’m going to be rooting for a Steelers’ victory here, but can I put my Hot Air prediction money where my mouth is? Pittsburgh was brilliant against the Dolphins but they were fighting an erratic rookie in Matt Moore. Plus, Big Ben limped off the field last time, leaving some questions as to whether he’ll be at 100%. Andy Reid has an impressive record in playoff games while at home, particularly coming off a bye. I think the Chiefs have too much in the bag for Pittsburgh to handle in a road game and we haven’t forgotten the early part of the season when their performance was a bit more… hit and miss. I’m going to mix things up a bit here and take the Chiefs 28-23.
Ed: So it will come as no surprise that this will be my first visiting-team pick, I’m sure. The Chiefs want revenge for a blowout loss in Pittsburgh in Week 4, and they’re playing at home. However, an ice storm will likely level the playing field (so to speak), and Pittsburgh has more big-game experience. These teams are ranked almost equally on offense and defense, so that high-pressure experience will make the difference — plus having Big Ben, Antonio Brown, and La’Veon Bell on the field at the same time with Bell peaking will be tough for the Chiefs to overcome. Steelers over the Chiefs by the same score Jazz has it, 28-23.