After going 0-4 on Wildcard Weekend, Uncle Red decided to skip the poorly named Divisional Round but would probably have gone 3-1 (picking the Chargers foolishly) if he had bothered. But he didn’t – so no countee! But today is a bit slow and Red is a bit down in the mouth and what better time could there be to make some more foolish choices and almost cap off a season of sub-mediocrity in the prognostication game.
AFC Championship – Chiefs over Patriots. How can the Pats have possibly played in 8 consecutive AFC Championship games? The odds of that happening in the modern NFL are pretty low – given “parity”, injuries, the odd bounce of the ball and bad calls. But they have done it – so a tip of the ancient sombrero to Bellicheat and gang who call it up year after year after year after year . . . shampoo, rinse, repeat. But notably, the Pats have only won 2 NFL Championships during that run and both of those were very close calls in which the opposition essentially self-destructed (Pete the Cheat’s absurd call on the goal line that kept the Seahawks from winning in the 2014 playoffs and the Falcons total meltdown to lose in OT after 2017 season. Is there any real reason to pick against the Pats here? Probably not. The offense was absurdly efficient in destroying the Chargers last week. Here is the one glitch in Perfect Pats Playoff Performance. They haven’t won a road playoff game since 2007 and the only time they have won the AFC title game on the road in the B&B era is when they played at Pittsburgh in 2001 and 2004 playoffs. First, no wonder Stealer fans have a special place in Hell reserved for the Pats. And second that is, of course, ancient history in the NFL scheme of things. However, more recent history does not look that great for the Pats. They were 3-5 on the road this season and all 5 road losses were to non-playoff teams. Bad weather will probably mean nothing to the Pats and will more likely impact the Chiefs wild offensive scheme. The latest forecast seems to have the precipitation moved out by Sunday – but with brutally cold (below 10F) temperatures.
As for the Chiefs, they were Red’s preseason pick to win it all and he certainly is not going back on that call. Mahomes is almost certain to win the MVP in his second season. He is playing with confidence. Even after the wild 43-40 loss to the Patriots in the regular season, it seemed to Red that the Chiefs were walking off the field thinking “Yeah, we can play with these guys” while the Pats looked like “What the hell just happened and how did we win that one?” The Chiefs simply have to score early and often before the Pats defense makes the inevitable in-game adjustments. And maybe just maybe the Chiefs defense is playing with some confidence after ass-whomping the Colts last week. All in all it adds up to Red picking Kansas City 31 New England 24.
NFC Championship Game – Saints over Rams. No weather worries here. Saints have huge homefield advantage in the Superdome with a rabid Saints crowd. If you haven’t been to a Saints game, you just really cannot appreciate how crazy that scene is for a big game. Yes, the Saints have looked vulnerable at times this season – losing to the Cowboys doesn’t seem quite as bad as it did at the time and the opening game loss to the Buccaneers seems darn near inexplicable now (the season-ending loss to the Panthers was meaningless). But other than a few such glitches the Saints have been about the most consistent team in the league.
Meanwhile, the Rams only lost to the Saints, Bears and Eagles (all playoff teams) and they won the wild shoot-out with the Chiefs in week 11. They clearly can play with anyone. This just might be the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history. And of course you ask – what was the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history. Well, actually it’s a tie between the Chargers 41-38 win over the Bengals in 1981 and the Bills 41-38 win over the Oilers in 1992 (the game which made Red never really care about the outcome of another game after that). Both were overtime games won by a field goal obviously. Red is not predicting OT here, just massive amounts of yardage gained and goal lines crossed. Brees and Goff both have so many weapons at their disposal. On defense, the Rams gave up 30 or more points seven times and more than 40 points twice. Meanwhile, the Saints gave up more than 30 only four times and those included the inexplicable (Bucs) and the meaningless (Panthers) losses of the season. Given all of this, Red is calling for a “Don’t miss a minute of this one because you might miss out on 3 scores” doozy of a game. New Orleans 45 Los Angeles 38.