Last week Red chose the 49ers, Chargers, Bills, Vikings, Bengals and Bucs to win. And for his effort Red was 3-3. The Vikings and Chargers had legitimate shots at winning. The Bucs had a legitimate shot at complete embarrassment and pretty much took it. Despite his rather mediocre showing from “Super Wild Card Weekend” Red trudges on. Again, let’s take them in order.
Chiefs over Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence and the Jags pulled out a minor miracle last week by turning the ball over 5 times, falling behind 27-0 and still managing to win largely because of a gutsy decision to go for 2 points when a simple try would have closed the gap to 3 points. That allowed a last minute field goal to seal the victory of the “licking their wounds on the way back to California” Chargers. Never let it be said that the Chargers will not disappoint you given half the chance. Meanwhile the Chiefs have not really disappointed their supporters in the playoffs since getting butt-whipped by the Buccaneers in SB (insert Roman Numeral here) in 2020 playoffs. Sure the Chiefs lost to the Bengals in a barnburner of an AFC Championship game last year to a team that had not won a playoff game in the previous 30+ seasons, but it was a close game. And the whipping that the Bucs put on the Chiefs was largely because the Chiefs were decimated in the offensive line and Patrick Mahomes was running for his life on practically every play. The Jags have an average defense at best and second-rate secondary. That does not inspire abject fear or bode well for the fearsome Chiefs passing attack. The Chiefs pass to set up the run and always seem to manage to have a running back ready to pounce. At the beginning of the season, it was thought to be Clyde E-H, but the Chiefs quickly turned to I. Pacheco who has looked great since taking over in Week 6. And many forget about Jerrod McKinnon who has 56 receptions and 9 receiving touchdowns. Mahomes spreads the wealth around as 11 players have receiving TDs this season with only All-Pro TE T. Kelce in double digits with 12. Simply put, you don’t know who is going to beat you on any given Sunday (but its more likely to be Kelce). If Mahomes overcomes his love affair with his arm and doesn’t make stupid plays, the Chiefs are damn near unbeatable. It’s been a magic year for the Jags, but the smoke machines sometimes fail and the mirrors always need polishing. Kansas City 31 Jacksonville 17.
49ers over Cowboys – The Cowboys must be on a high after finally beating Tom Brady and winning a road playoff game for the first time in 30 years. And while Red puts no real stock in such matters, the Cowboys playoff record in San Francisco is spotty at best. Coincidentally, the Cowboys last road playoff win before Monday night was against the 49ers in 1992. Expect the 49ers to rely heavily on their excellent rushing attack against a Cowboys defense that is mediocre at best in stopping the run. That sets up likely offensive Rookie of the Year Brock Purdy for the short passing game that will negate the Cowboys fearsome pass rush. If the 49ers can hold the Cowboys defense to 2-3 sacks and limit the hurries and knock-downs, the Cowboys will be in trouble. On the other side, the vaunted Cowboys rushing attack has been a bit suspect despite cranking out 128 yards (aided by garbage time) against the Bucs. Can the Cowboys play another near perfect game (except for the kicking disaster) with no turnovers, only 1 sack and Dak with 4 passing TDS and a 143.7 QB rating? Who knows, but they certainly could win with those kind of stats. Face it, the Bucs were probably the crappiest team of the 14 in the playoffs even with TB at the helm. The Niners are probably number 4 or 5 and playing on par with the Eagles in the NFC. They have two days extra rest and a decided home field advantage. The Cowboys are playing on a short schedule and have to be wondering what time zone they are in. As noted before, Red is perfectly okay with the Cowboys winning one playoff game every decade. They did that last week. San Francisco 24 Dallas 20.
Bills over Bengals – This is clearly the hardest call of the Divisional round games. The Bengals have been playing as well as any team over the last half of the season despite having some trouble with the Ravens last week. But for Tyler Hundley’s goal line foolishness, the Bengals could be sitting at home this weekend. The Bengals have everything it takes to reach the Superb Owl. Meanwhile the Bills have been less than impressive over the last half of the season living on a diet of one score wins. And they were certainly less than fearsome in having the Dolphins (led by a 3rd string quarterback) take them down to the wire. All those who had heard of Skylar Thompson before the beginning of the season, please raise their hand. Red thought so. Josh Allen needs to step up on Sunday. He has been a turnover machine the last half of the season and seems to be suffering from Patrick Mahomes Disease (main symptom is love affair with arm) or alternatively, holding on the ball too long and refusing to just throw it away (sacked 7 times by a less than awesome Dolphins defense). This one probably comes down to turnovers and special teams play – the most unpredictable of factors. As for the other bizarre factors – including the expected appearance of Damar Hamlin and the Bengals enormous shoulder chip about the cancelled game and the decision to not play this one at a neutral site, your guess is as good as anyone’s. And unfortunately, while it may snow on Sunday it will likely be too warm for a true blizzard game. Buffalo 28 Cincinnati 27.
Eagles over Giants – The Eagles should beat the Giants. Almost every other team in the playoffs (except for the Bucs and Vikings obviously) should beat the Giants. But D. Jones and S. Barkley are probably the most unique running combination in the playoffs right now and the Giants are on the rise. Predicting an Eagles victory is assuming that the Eagles will try to keep Jalen Hurts primarily behind the line of scrimmage or only running for the sidelines when absolutely necessary. Realistically, all indications are that the Giants are peaking and the Eagles are on the decline. And there is the third matchup jinx. It’s hard to beat any team three times in one season – mostly because if you made the playoffs despite losing twice to a division rival it’s fairly likely that you don’t completely suck. Red thinks this one comes down to the best one/two receiving combo left in the playoffs in Brown and Smith (not to mention a more than capable TE in Goedert). If Miles Sanders still has some gas in the tank and can have a decent day on the ground, it will be hard for the Giants to contain the two big WRs. But this one pretty much comes down to the shoulder of Mr. Hurts. It’s playoff time, the choices should be difficult. Philadelphia 23 New York 21.