US FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PICKS
By Scott Murphy
Can Tom Brady go all the way with a new team? Does Buffalo have what it takes? Are the Cleveland Browns for real? All the answers below as this year’s NFL playoffs get underway this weekend in the US. Their ultimate goal? Super Bowl LV on February 7th in Tampa, Florida.
Buffalo Bills (13-3) vs. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
1:05pm ET, Saturday January 9th at Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, New York
There was some doubt about the Buffalo Bills at the beginning of the season, as they seemed sluggish. But quarterback Josh Allen and the rest of the team have really poured it on as of late. Allen has thrown for over 4,500 yards, which is a large reason why they’ve gone on a six game winning streak. Over the last three games alone, they’ve thoroughly dominated opponents, outscoring them 142-54. Allen’s connection with favorite receiver Stefon Diggs has enabled the team to have the third best passing game in the league. So, if the game turns into a shootout, Indianapolis have their hands full.
But don’t count the Colts out. Veteran Phillip Rivers seems to be rejuvenated at quarterback with a new team and this offense has one of the best ball handling skills in the league. They don’t make many mistakes. As for the defense, their speed has impressed all year. However, Rivers does make mistakes in tight ball games, and that could be the difference here.
Prediction: Buffalo Bills 30 – Indianapolis Colts 27
Los Angeles Rams (10-6) - Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
4:40pm ET, Saturday January 9th at Lumen Field in Seattle, Washington
A tough call as the two teams have split their two regular season games, although Seattle won just two weeks ago. But the big question is which quarterback will be starting for Los Angeles, as that could be the difference. Jared Goff offers playoff experience, but may or may not be coming back after thumb surgery. Backup John Wolford hasn’t truly excelled, but he can run and the team responded well to him during his NFL debut last weekend.
So it may come down to how hot Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is and whether favorite targets DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (both responsible for 10 touchdowns) get open. If they do, then it’s off to the races for this scoring machine (responsible for a franchise record 459 points this year). If not, this will be a low scoring game going down to the wire…and perhaps even the final play.
Seattle Seahawks 21 – Los Angeles Rams 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11—5) - Washington Football Team (7-9)
8:15pm ET, Saturday January 9th at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland
On paper this is a blowout. Veteran quarterback Tom Brady, with six Super Bowl rings under his belt, is still playing with something to prove at age 43 (he’s thrown an incredible 40 touchdowns this year). Plus, he has an arsenal of wide receivers and tight ends to throw to: Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Scotty Miller and Chris Godwin – paradise for a quarterback. Plus, they’ve been blowing out teams as of late AND they’re on a four game win streak. So if they get on a roll, look out.
Added to that fact is that the Washington Football Team have one of the worst records ever (7-9) for a playoff team. However, they did win their division on the final game of the season, they do have a ferocious defense (with 47 sacks) AND they’ll surely play with nothing to lose on their home field. They may keep it close.
But nah…the Buccaneers are cruising for treasure…and lots of it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45 – Washington Football Team 17
Baltimore Ravens (11-5) - Tennessee Titans (11-5)
1:05PM ET, Sunday January 10th at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee
This one’s a toss up, as each team has the other’s number. They’ve met in the playoffs before AND Tennessee overcame a deficit to beat the Ravens this past November. The Ravens offer one of the most respected defenses in the league and offer a versatile quarterback in Lamar Jackson who can run, pass…do it all.
And while the Titans linger near the bottom in defense, they do have an explosive offense in quarterback Ryan Tannenhill and running back Derrick Henry. Henry’s 2,000 plus yards has helped contribute to the 4th best rushing attack in the league. They’re also peaking at the right time, having scored over 40 points in their last three games.
But expect the Ravens defense to slow the Titans down, and Jackson will take care of the rest.
Baltimore Ravens 28 – Tennessee Titans 24
New Orleans Saints (12-4) - Chicago Bears (8-8)
4:40pm ET, Sunday January 10th at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana
While the Saints dealt with injuries for much of the season — including a major one to quarterback Drew Brees (11 broken ribs and a punctured lung) — the Chicago Bears are dealing with injuries NOW and that could be one of the big factors here.
In addition, New Orleans veteran quarterback Drew Brees wants to add another Super Bowl trophy to his shelf and knows that time is running out at the age of 41. And in versatile running back Alvin Kamara he’s got a major piece to help him get there. Kamara ran for nearly 1,000 yards and caught 83 passes as well. Factor in that the team scored 90 points over the past two games and it’s clear that the Saints aren’t just marching towards Tampa, they’re suddenly hitting the pedal to the metal.
The Bears have had amazing hot streaks this year and a brutal six game losing streak, so it’s a case of which team will show up. Will it be their punishing defense (now beset by injuries) showing up for one more stand? And will quarterback Mitchell Trubisky defy the naysayers in this crucial game?
Or will the Bears hibernate? In this case, it seems the Saints will just want it more in their own stadium.
New Orleans Saints 30 – Chicago Bears 17
Pittsburgh Steelers 12-4) - Cleveland Browns (11-5)
8:15PM ET, Sunday January 10th at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This one has all the makings of a classic. The Cleveland Browns, following years and years of ineptitude, have finally made it to the playoffs where they will meet the Pittsburgh Steelers, bitter rivals who they beat this past weekend.
But the Steelers sat their star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in that one and he’ll be primed and ready to go this weekend. Plus, they’ll be playing on their own field. AND, the Browns are suddenly plagued by COVID-19, which has even infected head coach Kevin Stefanski. So he along with two other coaches will be out.
Still, expect quarterback Baker Mayfield to use all of his high octane run and pass weapons at his disposal. Plus, the Browns, after years of disappointment, are likely to be playing their hearts out against the Steelers, who were on fire earlier this season but have been hit or miss as of late.
This one could go either way, yet the Browns may just eke it out, possibly in overtime.
Cleveland Browns 24 – Pittsburgh Steelers 21