I went 2-2 on the wild card round picks, and it felt like it was going to be 4-0 for a couple minutes there, at the end of the Cincinnati game, and as the kick was getting lined up for Minnesota’s Blair Walsh. It was not to be, though, and all road teams won for the first time ever in the Wild Card round. Wow. Am I convinced that these four teams are for real enough to take out the higher seeded teams again in the Divisional Round? Not. A. Chance.
The teams that have gone 1-2 in each conference have done so for a reason, and picking against them would take a lot of convincing for me. However, there are chances with the teams coming in from the 6-spots to upset the #1’s, and neither #5 team is a slouch. Injuries may well play a role in every single game, and one in particular has already re-shaped the Steelers-Broncos matchup (Antonio Brown ruled out).
Seattle is a hot choice to run the tables, and by doing so, to take out Carolina this week in a rematch of the seasonal matchup won by the Panthers on a late touchdown. But the Steelers, depending on the availability and health of Roethlisberger, have a real problem dealing with the loss of Brown against the league’s best defense. The Chiefs are red hot, but now have to travel to Foxboro, but am I a believer that Aaron Rodgers, without Davante Adams, can keep his mojo going against a better Arizona team in the desert?
Here are my Ace Picks for the Divisional Round:
#5 KANSAS CITY @ #2 NEW ENGLAND – The Chiefs have famously won 11 games in a row, and the Patriots dropped their final two games of the regular season. With the return of Julian Edelman, and playing at home, does that put the defending champs back in control? I don’t know. Players who have been out a while need to round into form, and against a punishing KC defense, I don’t know if they’ll have enough time, or if Brady will have enough time. If the Chiefs running game gets untracked, watch out, and I think they do. Upset Special. Pick: KANSAS CITY.
#6 PITTSBURGH @ #1 DENVER – Peyton Manning this. Peyton Manning that. The storyline has been about the “old man” in this one, perhaps in his final playoff run. But as the week has gone along it has shifted to whether or not Ben Roethlisberger will be 100% (he won’t), and whether or not Antonio Brown plays (he won’t). The showcase will be the Denver defense against the #2 and #3 receivers for the Steelers — Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton. I’ll pick Denver all day in those circumstances. The “old man” gets his. Pick: DENVER.
#5 GREEN BAY @ #2 ARIZONA – Are the Cardinals the same team we’ve seen for most of the season, the one that demolished the Packers in their last meeting (by 30 points!) or are they the bumbling unit that got crushed by the Seahawks (at home, no less) on the last day of the season? I think that loss makes them angry, and the preparation they’ve had because of the bye keeps them motivated and hungry. Pick: ARIZONA.
#6 SEATTLE @ #1 CAROLINA – The Panthers have been the best team in the league this season. Cam Newton (my pick for MVP), and the offensive unit has dominated most teams, and found a way to win most close games. Besides that hiccup against Atlanta late in the season, they’ve been on point. They squeaked out a win against these very Seahawks earlier this season, and this one is at home. Pick: CAROLINA.