By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The name “Super Wild Card Weekend” is just so bad.
But the weekend itself?
Oh, brother. It’s a good one.
Perhaps the contrast of the grossness of Week 18’s slate makes it seem this way, but regardless, the six-game weekend slate looks tremendous. There is but one guaranteed dud among the sextet of contests, one possible flop, but four games where you’d be foolish to feel overly confident about either team’s chances.
With some 20 hours of football on deck between Saturday afternoon and Monday night, there’s no reason to waste any more time. So here. It’s picks time.
(Home team in CAPS; Thursday lines)
CINCINNATI (-5.5) over Las Vegas
It really would be a ton of fun to ride the Raiders through this weekend. After the spectacle they helped give us on Sunday night, and after the run they’ve gone on with Rich Bisaccia and his sterling goatee, the Raiders certainly won some hearts and minds around the country. And when is the last time that’s ever happened?
Look at that thing. Silver as a mighty steed. Impeccably groomed. A goatee that means business and accepts no excuses.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the story ends here. Getting the Saturday afternoon game after playing on Sunday night was a tough pill, and drawing a Bengals team that shellacked them in Week 11 wasn’t a stroke of good fortune either.
On the plus side for the Raiders, they held Joe Burrow to some really pedestrian numbers in that game. On the not-so-plus-side, that’s largely because Joe Mixon dominated in the second half, when he ran for 95 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries over four drives. We saw Sunday night that the Raiders are susceptible to giving up some big plays through the passing game, so with a well-rested Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow, everything’s pointing in the direction of the Bengals at the moment.
BUFFALO (-4) over New England
I was considering taking New England here, but I had to reconsider when Jalen Mills was placed on the COVID-19 list on Tuesday. And then that made me realize that perhaps my forecast was a bit off if Jalen Mills going to the COVID list was enough to get me to reconsider.
Obviously, any team coached by Bill Belichick has a chance to win every week. And that 3-degree weather in Western New York figures to be a big factor in this one. (The Bills practicing indoors on Wednesday is borderline unconscionable.)
But the Bills are better. The Patriots kind of showed us who they are over the final four games of the year. They are decidedly not playing their best football, and they failed three tests against two middling AFC teams and this very Bills team.
TAMPA BAY (-8.5) over Philadelphia
Here is a list of all of the teams the Eagles beat this year:
–Football Team again (LOL, they went by “Football Team” for a second year)
–New York Giants
–New York Jets
–New Orleans Saints
You may notice that zero of those teams made the playoffs.
The Eagles did play six games against teams that made the playoffs. If you’re a math whiz here, then you likely already know that by necessity, the Eagles went 0-6 vs. those playoff teams. Four of those six losses were by double digits, with both losses to Dallas being 20+ point blowouts.
Now, they did only lose to the Bucs by six points. So maybe they have a prayer of keeping it close this time around, when the Bucs don’t have Antonio Brown (who had nine catches for 93 yards and a touchdown in that game) or Chris Godwin, and who will have a defense that’s only gotten more and more banged up as the season has gone on.
But also … nnnnnnnnah. That previous matchup was a typically clunky Thursday night game for the Bucs. And the Eagles don’t really belong here. Good for them for making it, though. I guess.
DALLAS (-3) over San Francisco
I wish the Niners were getting a few more points, because I’ve seen enough out of their weird season to believe they’ll hang around. Their passing offense is wildly efficient (as a team, they rank 29th in pass attempts but 12th in passing yards and 14th in passing TDs), they run the ball well, and they play defense. That’s a heck of a formula for the playoffs.
The only problem is that the Cowboys score. A lot. Many points. Thirty-one-point-two points per game, to be precise.
While I do anticipate Mike McCarthy will kill this team at some point this month, and while I’m disappointed with the chalky way my picks are going, I think there’s too much talent for this particular Cowboys team to go one-and-done.
KANSAS CITY (-12.5) over Pittsburgh
Honestly, the Steelers really don’t belong in the playoffs. I understand a tie dings a team less than a loss does, so a 9-7-1 Steelers team gets in over the 9-8 Colts. I get it. I support it. Not losing is better than losing. Sure.
BUT! What if that tie comes against the Detroit Lions? What if that tie comes against a Lions team that enters the game with an 0-8 record?
What then? We’re rewarding that?
I know the world was rooting for the Chargers-Raiders tie on Sunday, but I was rooting for a Steelers-Ravens tie. Mostly because a second tie would be a proper way for the mediocre Steelers’ season to end.
Anyhow, we just saw this game on Christmas weekend, and it wasn’t close, because the Steelers aren’t in the same class as the Chiefs. Moving on!
Arizona (+4.5) over LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams kind of lucked out by drawing the Cardinals instead of a team with a crazy traveling fan base. (I don’t know where the Cardinals rank in terms of teams with traveling fan bases, but I’m saying they’re not in the class of Dallas, or Green Bay, or Pittsburgh, etc.) It shouldn’t be overwhelmingly loud for the home team, like it was last weekend with San Francisco in town. (UPDATE: MAYBE I WAS WRONG ABOUT THIS!)
Really, I don’t like either team’s chances of going on a deep run. But I’m taking the Cardinals here for a few reasons:
–Someone has to win. They split their regular-season meetings. The league probably won’t allow a tie here.
–Points. I guess. Those help.
–Sean McVay celebrated in the end zone last weekend.
Maybe you missed this, as it was a crazy day of football across the board, but Sean McVay decided to join the party in the end zone after a Rams touchdown. It was ridiculous.
Higbee with his 2nd TD today!
This time, Sean McVay wanted to join the celebration as he ran to the end zone after the TD 🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/44FtU27n17
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 9, 2022
That’s embarrassing! Especially because the Rams went up 17-0 on that touchdown … and casually got outscored 27-7 from that point forward.
Will that have any bearing on this week? I mean, who’s to say? Actually, I am, and I am here to say this: Yes. That was so bad that it’s sure to hurt the team this week, next year, and forever.
(Plus I really need to pick at least one dog to cover this weekend, and I’m out of games.)
Last week: 7-9
Regular season: 152-119-1