A close race became a rout. Sort of.
After chipping away at MDS’s lead and taking a one-game margin into Week 18, a 5-0 sweep in our disagreements blew things wide open.
I finished with a 12-4 week and a full-season record of 177-94-1. MDS went 172-99-1.
Here are our picks for super wild-card weekend. He disagree on three of the games. All picks appear below.
Raiders (+5.5) at Bengals
MDS’s take: The Raiders stamped their ticket to the playoffs in one of the games of the year, and by winning instead of settling for a tie, they got to play the Bengals instead of the Chiefs. That gives them a somewhat better chance of winning, but either way, I think the much fresher Bengals should win.
MDS’s pick: Bengals 30, Raiders 20.
Florio’s take: The last time the Raiders played into overtime and home and went across the country on a short week, they stunned the Steelers. But these aren’t the Steelers. The Bengals, desperate to end a 31-year streak of postseason futility, are loaded with players who don’t care about the past. Led by Joe Burrow, they’re ready to show what they can do now, and what they plan to do moving forward.
Florio’s pick: Bengals 31, Raiders 17.
Patriots (+4) at Bills
MDS’s take: The last time the Patriots went to Buffalo, they threw only three passes on their way to an improbable win. I can’t see this game unfolding like that. The Bills’ defense will be better prepared for the Patriots’ offense, and Josh Allen will have a better game as well.
MDS’s pick: Bills 28, Patriots 17.
Florio’s take: Bill Belichick is the master of coming up with a game plan that takes away what the opponent’s offense does best. But does he have the players to execute it? And will the Bills, faced with the reality of a long-time nemesis trying to spoil a playoff party, be able to rise to the occasion? Belichick has successfully embraced moments like this longer than Josh Allen has been alive.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 20, Bills 19.
Eagles (+8.5) at Buccaneers
MDS’s take: I see the Eagles running the ball a lot and trying to play keep-away from Tom Brady. That will result in a close game, but ultimately a Buccaneers victory.
MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 20, Eagles 17.
Florio’s take: The Bucs are getting back enough healthy players to advance. Whether they can advance again is an issue for next week.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 27, Eagles 17.
49ers (+3) at Cowboys
MDS’s take: I’m tempted to pick the upset, as I have a hunch that Jimmy Garoppolo is going to look pretty good with another week for his thumb to heal. And yet in the end I think Dak Prescott makes one more big play in the fourth quarter.
MDS’s pick: Cowboys 30, 49ers 28.
Florio’s take: The Cowboys wanted to avoid the Cardinals. Congratulations? The 49ers have the right combination of talent and coaching to get it done, as long as Jimmy G doesn’t cook their goose.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 28, Cowboys 27.
Steelers (+12.5) at Chiefs
MDS’s take: This will be Ben Roethlisberger‘s last game, and I think it will be an ugly one for the Steelers, who just don’t have the personnel to keep up with the Chiefs.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 33, Steelers 14.
Florio’s take: This one is setting up to be another memorable night for the Steelers, and a forgettable one for the Chiefs. All reason and common sense suggests a Kansas City win. But with Mike Tomlin coaching and Ben Roethlisberger entering his final postseason run — and the Steelers embracing a natural and authentic nothing-to-lose vibe, they can do the unthinkable if they can deliver an early uppercut to a flatfooted favorite with players who, no matter what they hear from the coaching staff, will approach this one like the easy win that it should be. It won’t be.
Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Chiefs 24.
Cardinals (+4) at Rams
MDS’s take: Both of these teams have faded down the stretch, but someone has to win, and I trust the Rams more than the Cardinals. Arizona, after such a promising start, will be one-and-done.
MDS’s pick: Rams 20, Cardinals 13.
Florio’s take: Both teams have had lapses. Both teams will have lapses. The Rams will have fewer against a Cardinals team that started hot and faded badly. While it remains to be seen whether Matthew Stafford can take the show on the road to a place like Green Bay or Tampa, the Rams have enough to get a chance to win on the road, wherever the road may take them.
Florio’s pick: Rams 30, Cardinals 24.