MDS notched a perfect 4-0 in the wild-card round, after picking all four road teams to win. I foolishly trusted the Texans to play better than they did against the Chiefs in Week One, and I gave in to the guilt that arose from not believing in Washington late in the year. (Memo to self: Next year, don’t believe in Washington. Ever.)
So he leads by two games with eight postseason games left, and we disagree on a single game this weekend so I’ll either have a chance to catch him as of next weekend or I’ll be cooked.
For this week’s picks, scroll.
Chiefs at Patriots
MDS’s take: The Chiefs are as hot as any team in the NFL right now, riding an 11-game winning streak after an absolute destruction of the Texans. But here’s the thing about that Chiefs winning streak: They’ve beaten a bunch of bad quarterbacks along the way. The Chiefs’ streak started with Landry Jones and the Steelers, featured the day when Peyton Manning looked like he was about to die of old age on the field, and included wins over quarterbacking luminaries like Jimmy Clausen and Johnny Manziel. We haven’t seen the Chiefs tested against a good quarterback like they will be on Saturday against Tom Brady, and I think the result will be that Brady picks apart the Kansas City secondary, and the Patriots move on to the AFC Championship Game.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 28, Chiefs 20.
Florio’s take: The Chiefs sparked last year’s run of excellence by the Patriots with a 41-14 prime-time blowout. This year, the Chiefs get the first postseason crack at ending New England’s quest for a fifth championship, while riding a Pats-style double-digit winning streak. This one could go either way, especially if Tom Brady can’t get rid of the ball quickly. Which makes receiver Julian Edelman critical; he needs to be able to play, and he needs to be able to get open quickly. If he does, the Patriots should be able to earn another berth in the AFC title game.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Chiefs 23.
Packers at Cardinals
MDS’s take: The good news for Green Bay is that this game won’t be as ugly as their December trip to Arizona, when they lost 38-8. The bad news is that it’s really, really hard to see a scenario in which the Packers manage to win this game. The Cardinals do just about everything better than the Packers, and the Cardinals will be well rested and playing at home. Maybe Aaron Rodgers has some magic up his sleeve, but even if he does, that probably means the Cardinals will win a high-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Cardinals 35, Packers 31.
Florio’s take: At one point, it looked like the Packers were just good enough to lose in the divisional round. Then, after a 30-point loss at Arizona, it appeared they were just good enough to get blown out there. This one should be closer, but let’s not get carried away by a Green Bay win over the none-of-the-above champions of the NFC East. The Cardinals battered Aaron Rodgers the last time around; this time, Rodgers will likely get rid of the ball more quickly, which will give the Arizona defensive backs more opportunities to make interceptions.
Florio’s pick: Cardinals 27, Packers 13.
Seahawks at Panthers
MDS’s take: This is, to me, the hardest game of the weekend to pick. The Seahawks, when they’re at their best, are probably the best team in the league. But it’s hard to have a lot of confidence that they’ll play their best on Sunday at Carolina after a shaky win over the Vikings on Sunday. The Panthers had the best record in the league during the regular season, but they did it against an easy schedule. I’m a little more confident in Russell Wilson having a big game than I am in Cam Newton, but I’m more confident in the Panthers’ defense playing at home than I am in the Seahawks’ defense with their second straight road game. This almost comes down to a coin flip, but I’ll take the Panthers.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 21, Seahawks 20.
Florio’s take: Sometimes (most of the time), you get what you pay for when visiting this site. For weeks, I’ve had a strong gut feeling that the Panthers will earn the No. 1 seed, host the Seahawks in the divisional round, and lose. I’m going with my gut on this one, because there’s otherwise no clear way to discern a winner between a pair of teams that have been squaring off every year — and usually playing close games.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 24, Panthers 23.
Steelers at Broncos
MDS’s take: If the Steelers were at full strength, I’d like their chances of going to Denver and winning. But with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown both dealing with injuries suffered Saturday in Cincinnati, and DeAngelo Williams still dealing with a foot injury that kept him out last week, the Steelers’ offense will be at less than full strength against a very good Denver defense. I’m not expecting a big game passing from Peyton Manning, but I am expecting Manning to run the offense efficiently and make a few big plays when the Broncos’ offense needs it, and Denver will win a low-scoring game.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 17, Steelers 13.
Florio’s take: It’s still too early to know whether receiver Antonio Brown will play. And no one will know until the game starts whether quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be able to make all the throws. Meanwhile, no one knows how Peyton Manning will hold up during his first start since November 15. So picking this one is even more of a crapshoot than the crap I usually shoot. The Steelers’ injuries at this point concern me more than Denver’s.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 24, Steelers 20.