After a not-so-Wild Card Weekend, the NFL playoffs move into the Divisional round, with the top seeds entering the fray against a pair of six-seeds and the two-seeds playing host to dangerous five-seeds.
Last week, both John and Joe went 4-2 and nailed their Locks of the Week for double the points. Will they both find success this week? Will one of them hit the wall? Or will they both make almost identical picks and we have to wait until Sunday night for one to go ahead?
We start with the Game of the Weekend:
#5 Baltimore Ravens at #2 Buffalo Bills (Saturday, 8:15 p.m.)
Joe: The Bills, the Game of the Weekend two weeks in a row? What is this, 1994?
Obviously, the biggest loser of the Steelers-Browns game on Sunday night was the Steelers, what with them being the actual losers of the game and all. But Buffalo was a close second; instead of hosting a listing Pittsburgh squad that they’d already handled earlier this season, the Bills now welcome Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. Easily one of the most dangerous weapons in the game, Jackson could cause some serious trouble for the Bills defense.
But you know what? Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs will cause some trouble for the Ravens, too. Expect some points on Saturday night. Pick: Bills
John: Buffalo’s narrow victory last weekend gives me cause for concern, but the Colts would be a tough out for any team. With the proverbial monkey off their backs, the Bills might be able to breathe easier. Their first playoff win of the millennium takes some pressure off. Conversely, Baltimore was a team on a mission against Tennessee last weekend. The vengeance-fueled emotions allowed the Ravens to savor their upset.
Both factors add up to an epic bounce-back game. Whichever team is able to emotionally reset has the advantage this weekend. Look for Sean McDermott to guide his team to…another(??)…Bills…playoff…win? Pick: Bills
#6 Cleveland Browns at #1 Kansas City Chiefs (Sunday, 3:05 p.m.)
Joe: It was cute how the Browns went into Pittsburgh and punched the Steelers in the mouth, knocked them down, kicked them in the junk, beat them with a folding chair, and put them in a choke hold before promptly inducing a panic attack among their fans by letting the Steelers get within two scores. It was obviously a big win for Cleveland, and it’s a good story.
You know what else was a good story? Houston upsetting Kansas City last season. Oh, wait, didn’t happen. Tennessee knocking off the Chiefs, that was another…nope, that didn’t happen, either. Arrowhead Stadium is where cute goes to die. Pick: Chiefs (lock)
John: Are we headed to the unthinkable Browns-Bills AFC title game? Not if the reigning Super Bowl champions have anything to say about it. The Chiefs have a way of dashing just about everyone’s hopes. A week of rest will have Kansas City primed to unleash its potent offense and end Cleveland’s remarkable turnaround. Pick: Chiefs
#6 Los Angeles Rams at #1 Green Bay Packers (Saturday, 4:35 p.m.)
John: Like that underdog that gains momentum during March Madness, the Rams lurk more than any other team in the playoff pool. L.A. might not be a lock in any game, but they cannot be taken lightly if they gain any type of momentum.
Jared Goff engineered an upset last week. He could do it again this weekend…but it’s unlikely to see him get the best of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Rodgers has been on a mission all year. If the Packers keep Aaron Donald at bay, Rodgers will cut up their secondary like he has all season. The Pack are the second-most likely team to roll over their opponent this week. Pick: Packers
Joe: Rams quarterback John Wolford suffered a neck injury that was potentially so dangerous that he was taken to the hospital during the game last week. He was replaced by Goff, playing less than two weeks after having surgery on his thumb. You’d think it would go without saying that you can’t really win a game when your quarterback lacks the basic human differentiator of a functional opposable thumb, but the Seahawks showed us that science is clearly just a matter of opinion.
But the temperature in Green Bay is going to be hovering around freezing on Saturday, with a chance of snow. You don’t just waltz into ::John Facenda voice:: the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in January and walk out with a victory over Aaron Rodgers. I mean, you can, it’s happened before, but…look, my point is that the Rams could clone Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey and I’d still pick the other Aaron to win this one at home. Pick: Packers
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at #2 New Orleans Saints (Sunday, 6:40 p.m.)
John: This might be the one game that isn’t appointment television. While Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees is a matchup for the ages, it’s tough to envision a scenario where the Saints don’t march over Tampa Bay in this one. The Buccaneers had a tough time against a losing team last week and New Orleans is overdue for a deep playoff run.
While it might not be smart to bet against Tom Brady, I’m doubling down on the Saints to win for the second week in a row. Pick: Saints (lock)
Joe: The Saints opened their season with a win over the Buccaneers in New Orleans, then went into Tampa in Week 9 and smacked Brady’s boys around to sweep the season series. It seems like the Saints just kinda own the Bucs this season.
There is a chance that this will be the final game in the career of one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in NFL history regardless of the final outcome. But despite the regular season results, I disagree with John in that it’s quite easy to envision a scenario where the Saints do not paste the Bucs once again. There is no such thing as “due,” and therefore no such thing as “overdue.” They gave up the “Minneapolis Miracle,” lost the NFC title game on that infamous pass interference non-call, and then lost a Wild Card game – at home – to Kirk Cousins. The Saints have had their chances, and if they were due for a run, it would’ve happened already. Tom Brady will see to it that it doesn’t happen this year and send Drew Brees into Canton with only one Super Bowl ring. Pick: Buccaneers
Last Week: Joe: 5-2 (1-0); John: 5-2 (1-0)
Playoffs: Joe: 5-2 (1-0); John: 5-2 (1-0)