It’s Wacky Wildcard Weekend time and Red is excited – even though he will miss the Texans game to watch a high school soccer tournament.
Red Rates Himself – For week 17 Red was 1-5. Only the OTNA’s came through for Red. Red remembers something about diminishing marginal return from his Econ 101 class. For the Season 53-43. Not even a particularly good record in the AL West.
Your Best Wildcard Pick of the Week: Seahawks over Vikings. Red wasn’t the only prognosticator stunned by the Seahawks dismemberment of the Cardinals on Sunday. One expected to see body parts randomly strewn over the turf of the University of Phoenix Stadium (the stadium oddly named after a university with no football team) after the game. But the Cards have a bye week to recover and regroup. Red doesn’t think the Seahawks will make it to the Superb Owl but he does think that they can handle the Vikings on the road. The rubric Red typically follows for his post-season picks is “Quality Wins” – meaning wins over teams that themselves had winning records. In some cases Red will chalk up a QW for a win over an 8-8 team that had a difficult schedule or lost several close games. The Seahawks have 3 QWs – all coming after Thanksgiving which adds extra weight. They beat the Stealers, Vikings and Cardinals – the last two in very convincing butt-whipping fashion. The Vikings have 2 QWs over the Packers and the Chiefs both by 7 points or less. That and the head to head 38-7 thumping they suffered at the hands of the Seahawks in Week 13, make the Seahawks Red’s overwhelming favorite to win this week. Seattle 20 Minnesota 13.
Your Really Darn Good Wildcard Pick of the Week: Packers over OTNAs. The Packers, to put it mildly, did not rebound well from the shellacking at the hands of the Cardinals (who were in turn – oh damn it, just read the previous prediction) as they lost the division to a decent Vikings team in Week 17. Red boldly pronounced last week that the Packers needed to win to go anywhere in the playoffs. But now, he realizes that the Pack really needs to have its back up against the wall with the guns of the firing squad aimed at their huddle in order to really focus and deal with a team that they should beat – like the OTNAs. The Packers come in with 3 QWs over the Seahawks, Chiefs (back when everyone was beating the Chiefs apparently) and Vikings – but two of those wins were in Weeks 2 and 3. Since Thanksgiving, the Pack has only managed middling wins against the weak sisters and hasn’t come close to beating a decent team since pummeling the Vikings in Week 11. The OTNAs have a big ZERO QWs and their best win was a 35-25 victory over the 8-8 Bills. They also have an inexcusable loss to the division doormat Cowboys. Red hopes that the moribund Packer offense can remember where the end zone is located on Sunday. Green Bay 35 Landover, Md. 29.
Your So-So Wildcard Pick of the Week: Bengals over Stealers. A really tough rubber match that is hard to call with uncertainty in the line ups. Is Dalton the back-up for this one and will he play if McCarron falters? The Stealers will score points and the Bengals have to keep up. Red would avoid this one if he could, but that is not how Red rolls. Stealers have 3 QWs over the Cardinals, Bengals and Broncos. Bengals racked up 3 QWs against Stealers, Seahawks and Chiefs (ahem!). Throw out the offsetting QWs and Red gives an oh-so-slight edge to the Stealers – but is picking the Bengals anyway. Cincinnati 28 Pittsburgh 27.
You’re Probably Lame-Ass Wildcard Pick of the Week: Chiefs over Texans. Red may have been right when picking the Texans to win this season –but it clearly escapes his memory right now. Of late, picking the Texans to lose has hurt Red’s average, but Red is willing to take one for the team. The last playoff meeting between a Houston team and the Chiefs was on January 16, 1994. The similarities (and differences) abound. The Oilers had started the season 1-4, only to rebound with 11 straight wins (including a Christmas Day win over the dynastic 49ers) and secure a division championship. This year both the Chiefs (1-5) and Texans (2-5) had rocky starts before going on runs to the playoffs. The Oilers had a feared defense under the always overrated Buddy Ryan. The Texans defense under Romeo Crenel may not be feared, but it may be better than the 94 Oilers. The Chiefs had Marcus Allen, but neither team had a first class running game. With Joe Montana and Warren Moon at the respective helms, both teams relied heavily on a passing attack to move the ball. The game on Saturday will feature two exemplars of the “caretaker quarterback” that actually proves successful a remarkable amount of the time. With Alex Smith and Brian Hoyer taking snaps, neither team figures to light it up through the air. The 94 game was a defensive struggle with the Oilers leading 10-7 going into the 4th quarter. Then both teams started scoring. The Chiefs won 28-20 when Montana led the team to three 4th quarter touchdowns – something that was supposed to be impossible against a Buddy Ryan defense. But in retrospect, the 9 sacks of Moon and 7 fumbles (2 lost) probably made the difference in this one. Red looks for a similar result on Saturday. The teams will thrust and parry to little effect until late in this one and then it will be a wild affair to the finish. On the QW front, the Texans have 2 with wins over the Bengals and Jets, as do the Chiefs with wins over the Stealers and Broncos. But neither team has played anyone in over a month. The Chiefs have an excellent wide-out and tight end in Maclin and Kelce. The Texans have the better receiver in Hopkins and nothing at tight end. Neither team has much of a running game. The Texans have the edge on defense, but the Chiefs are no slouch in that category. The Texans have proven they can score points against the weak sisters of the league. Can they move the ball on a good defense? Probably enough to keep it respectable, but not enough to win. One big play will probably decide this one. Kansas City 20 Houston 17.