Now is when it REALLY gets good. Oh, I know, I know we said that when the NFL regular season began, and then again after Thanksgiving. We may have said it last week, before the start of the Wild Card round. But we honestly mean it this time. The divisional round of the NFL playoffs is the best pro football weekend of the year. Eight teams are left, and we know that one of them will host the Lombardi trophy next month as Super Bowl Champions. The pretenders (*cough Philadelphia and Buffalo cough*) were dispatched last weekend, and the best double-quartet of teams are left. Let’s look at this weekend’s games and try to project forward. Because this is when the 2020 NFL Playoffs get REALLY good. Yes, it bears repeating.
Minnesota Vikings @ San Francisco 49ers:
The Vikings surprised everyone except themselves last weekend when they summarily ended the #3 seed New Orleans Saints season. Minnesota’s 26-20 overtime win in The Big Easy makes the offseason anything but easy for Saints’ fans. As for the Vikings, they earned a trip to Santa Clara and a date with the top-seeded 49ers. If you believe in momentum, it is all on the side of Kirk Cousins and his Vikings after the thrilling win Sunday afternoon. If, however, you believe in rest and recuperation, your bet will be on San Francisco and matinee idol quarterback Jimmy Garropollo. The point spread opened at 8.5, and even nine in some books, but has settled on seven points. Give Gildshire the rested Niners, minus the touchdown. Saturday 1:35 pm eastern/10:35 am pacific, on NBC.
Tennessee Titans @ Baltimore Ravens:
So, you think momentum is something that is built over time, instead of the product of one week. That’s why you don’t like Minnesota in their game. In that case, what about eleven weeks’ worth of momentum on the part of the Tennessee Titans? Nashville’s Titans employ a crushing running game and an opportunistic defense, both of which take the pressure off journeyman quarterback Ryan Tannehill. On the other side of the ball, presumptive MVP Lamar Jackson leads the top-seeded Ravens into the post-season off a bye for the team and two-weeks off for the speedy Jackson. Will Jackson’s legs be refreshed from the half-month off, or will he be stale from the layoff? How you answer that question will determine your pick in this game. Baltimore is a ten-point favorite. We definitely believe the Ravens win the game, but we will take the points and believe the Titans running game shortens the contest. Saturday 8:15 pm eastern/5:15 pm pacific, on CBS.
Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs:
The surging Chiefs caught the bye before the 2020 NFL playoffs, and that is one reason Kansas City is installed as a 9.5 point favorite. The other reason for the spread is that the Chiefs’ defense has caught up to the offense and is making game-changing plays. Obviously, dynamic quarterback Patrick Mahomes makes a difference as he’s better at football than he is at State Farm commercials. He’s also better at football than almost anyone else. The Texans come into this game riding a high after their O.T. win at home against Buffalo last weekend. Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson appears to be getting better every week. He will need to continue that upward trajectory if he is going to help his squad upset the heavily favored Chiefs. We’ll take the Chiefs and give the nine and a hook. Sunday 3:05 pm eastern/12:05 pm pacific, on CBS.
Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers:
It only makes sense that the hardest game to handicap is the game with the smallest point spread. Neither of these teams is without flaws, yet their records speak for themselves. Regardless of who you choose, it will be fun to watch two of the NFL’s finest quarterbacks square off against each other when they are their team’s best chance to win. For sure, Russell Wilson’s Seahawks were scraping the bottom of the running back barrel when they brought Marshawn Lynch out of retirement. Also for sure, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has limited weapons at his disposal. The home-standing and rested Packers are a four-point favorite, but we have been burned too often betting against Russell Wilson. We will take him to cover the spread and to have a puncher’s chance at winning outright, to set up the rubber match between the Seahawks and 49ers a week later. 6:40 pm eastern/3:40 pm pacific, on Fox.
The 2020 NFL Playoffs have already created some surprise outcomes. Without a doubt, this week will provide even more. We can’t wait to watch.