Yes, MDS barely won the regular-season competition. With that and a dollar he can buy a newspaper. If they still sell newspapers.
The contest re-sets for the postseason. We start with four games. We disagree on half of them.
For our picks and #analysis, keep reading.
Raiders at Texans
MDS’s take: If Derek Carr were starting, I’d definitely pick the Raiders. If Matt McGloin were starting, I’d probably pick the Raiders. But with Connor Cook starting? A rookie who has never started an NFL game? I think I’m going to have to take the Texans. I don’t have much faith in the Texans’ quarterback, Brock Osweiler, either. But the Texans’ strong defense should make life miserable for Cook in what probably won’t be a very entertaining game, unless you enjoy watching overmatched quarterbacks.
MDS’s pick: Texans 16, Raiders 9.
Florio’s take: The easy take is, “Connor Cook? Riiiiight.” The more complex analysis is that Brock Osweiler, re-installed as the starter after playing poorly enough to get the hook, may be worse not better for the experience of being benched. And the team may not find much motivation in the reality that a win likely means a return trip to New England, where the Texans lost 27-0 to a team that lacked Tom Brady. Throw in lingering rumors that coach Bill O’Brien could be on the way out, and the Texans become a unexpectedly shaky proposition to advance.
Florio’s pick: Raiders 20, Texans 16.
Lions at Seahawks
MDS’s take: The Seahawks haven’t been the same team since Earl Thomas went down, but the Lions haven’t been the same team since Matthew Stafford injured a finger on his throwing hand. Seattle is a tough place to play, and the Lions haven’t played well in a month, so I’ll take the Seahawks.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 30, Lions 17.
Florio’s take: The down-and-up Seahawks are vulnerable, with alternating losses and wins over the last six games. But the Lions have lost three in a row to cap a season that includes no wins over a team that made it to the playoffs. While an upset isn’t out of the question, the safer choice is the home team, which has been very hard to beat at home in the playoffs.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Lions 17.
Dolphins at Steelers
MDS’s take: Pittsburgh did the smart thing last week, resting Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. With their three key players fresh, the Steelers should roll over an injury-plagued Dolphins team.
MDS’s pick: Steelers 31, Dolphins 17.
Florio’s take: Three times before, these teams have met in the playoffs. Each time, the winner of the game went to the Super Bowl. The Steelers seem to be better equipped to climb the playoff tree, especially with Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown all playing in a postseason game for the first time. While the Dolphins, who beat the Steelers handily during the regular season, seem to be on the cusp of annual contention, simply getting to the playoffs is an accomplishment that should be fully appreciated.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 31, Dolphins 23.
Giants at Packers
MDS’s take: Eli Manning has been a below-average quarterback this season, while an excellent Giants defense has won a lot of games despite the offense struggling. Unfortunately for the Giants, Aaron Rodgers may be playing better football right now than any quarterback the Giants have faced. I like the Packers to win on a cold day at Lambeau Field.
MDS’s pick: Packers 24, Giants 16.
Florio’s take: The best game of the weekend is the toughest one to pick. The Packers are performing arguably as well as they ever have, but “Postseason Eli” brings the kind of magical calm that can propel the Giants all the way to the Super Bowl. The wild card is receiver Odell Beckham Jr. In his first career playoff game, will he be dominant? Will he be motivated by the endless ESPN #hottakes regarding his day-off trip to Miami? Will he score a pair of touchdowns? Will he pretend to drop his pants and rub his rear end against the goalpost, in the ultimate homage to Randy Moss? Six straight wins have been impressive for the Packers, but the Eli-Odell factor can’t be ignored. If Beckham comes up big on the biggest stage, the Giants will be very hard to beat.
Florio’s pick: Giants 24, Packers 23.