For the Divisional Round, Red was 3-1 only missing out on the utter collapse of the Buffalo Bills. That loss was especially hurtful because Red had picked the Bills to win it all this season. His second choice in the AFC was Kansas City which is still alive despite a less than inspiring performance against a game Jacksonville team. Red was particularly happy that the “Red Rule” was back in place. If not familiar, that Rule simply reads “Score 13 points and beat the Cowboys.” It was violated repeatedly this season as the Cowboys cranked out points, but it was back in play when it was really needed. On to the penultimate week of the season.
Chiefs over Bengals – A lot of this prediction depends on the state of the right ankle of one Mr. P. Mahomes. Question for the day: Is a high ankle sprain better or worse than a low ankle sprain? Question for tomorrow: When the Bengals go after Mr. P. Mahomes lower legs, will the redoubtable Chad Henne be able to step up again? Before answering, Red must give all imaginable props to Henne for coming in as cold as any quarterback since say, hmm Brock Purdy, and leading the Chiefs on the game-defining 98 yard drive that really set the tone for the Chiefs. Answers: Yes and yes. Then there is Travis Kelce who continues to break his own records (14 catches in a playoff game) and a defense which never let T. Lawrence get comfortable and played good enough to win. And of course there is Mr. Mahomes himself – who is a better quarterback on one leg than any quarterback in the history of at least one franchise (Yes, Texans Red is talking about you). Of course, the Bengals have a very different story line than the Cinderella tale played out by the Jags over the last half of the season. The Bengals started slow and so far have finished like a steamroller. Ask the Bills who were never really in the game on Sunday. The Bills missing Von Miller and their No. 1 run stopper allowed the Bengals relatively pathetic running game to resemble something akin to the reincarnation of Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris. And with Mahomes hobbled, there seems to be no question that Joe Burrow is the top quarterback in the AFC this week, (while somewhere Josh Allen is still wondering what hit him). Red does not count the Bengals out in any way. They have been the best team in the AFC since about Week 6 and have everything needed to win this game. But the Chiefs have home field and are playing in the AFC Championship for the 5th straight year. Add to that, the fact that Mahomes has never beaten Burrow and you have the makings of a very close win. Hold on to your war bonnets. Kansas City 34 Cincinnati 30.
Eagles over 49ers – The Eagles choked the Giants to death on their dust on Saturday. No one can really be too surprised by that outcome. They got ahead early and then literally ran the Giants into the ground with 268 yards rushing on 44 attempts. For once J. Hurts did not have to carry the load which was handled nicely by Gainwell and Sanders. The Eagles defense played extremely well with the lead. It is easy to get the lead when your opponent’s first six possessions are Downs, Interception, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt. S. Barkley was a non-factor once the Eagles were up by 21. So this game really did not tell us too much about the Eagles except that they can readily dispatch inferior competition. On the other side, the Cowboys were not supposed to be inferior competition according to the pundits. Turns out the pundits were wrong. This is a team that continues to underachieve in the big moments and Sunday night was no exception. The Niners were methodical and frankly rather unimpressive on offense. The Niners defense is the real reason that they are playing for the NFC crown. They have been the best defensive unit this season. And when you make whopping errors like Dak P. did – well, turn out the lights. Losing Tony Pollard definitely hurt the Cowboys, but still 76 yards on the ground is not going to cut it. All that said, the Niners should have their hands full with Mr. Hurts and company. The Brock Purdy story has been rather incredible, but all incredible stories eventually seem to realize that they are in fact incredible. The Eagles were the best team in the NFC despite their late season stumbles. The Niners were the second best team. These are the matchups fans want to see (except in large parts of North Texas). This is likely to be a low scoring game decided by whoever wins the 4th quarter. In other words, a complete toss up. Philadelphia 19 San Francisco 17.