Since there’s no point to NFL power rankings during the season, there’s really no point in having one after the regular season has ended.
(However, if you’re curious, I did have “We’re No. 32!” T-shirts made. I won’t reveal the team name on the shirt. But it rhymes with Clowns. Now, the native Northeast Ohioan in me is trained to tell you that “There is always next year!”).
So let’s move on to the playoff games. For those tempted to put their money where my mouth is, please note the 116-123 record against the spread this season. Although don’t kick the picker too hard. He did pick seven big (as defined by me) upsets this year, including last week’s Seahawks win at Arizona.
It’s interesting to note that teams scratch and claw from late July into January to get home-field advantage. Yet three of the four road teams are favored in the wild-card games that begin today.
Today’s AFC games
Chiefs minus-3 at Texans: Texans 28 Chiefs 21
Why?: In 1998, a year before my goal of moving south from Cleveland resulted in the moving van heading for Minneapolis, I told a rabid Ohioan/Vikings fan that he should be nervous about his kicker being perfect heading into the NFC title game. Perfection is hard to maintain, especially between the ears. I won’t bore you with how that turned out. My point here is it’s good to be rolling into the playoffs. But outside of one team in Miami in 1972, the rolling has to end. The Chiefs haven’t lost since the Vikings beat them before Halloween. They’ve won 10 straight games. They’re the 15th team to enter the playoffs having won at least 10 straight. Guess how many of those 15 teams lost their first playoff game. Nine. Plus, for some reason, I like Brian Hoyer in this situation. He’s seems like a winner, which was confirmed when the Browns ditched him to make room for Johnny Manziel.
Steelers minus-3 at Bengals: Bengals 21, Steelers 17
Why?: This is why I’d never gamble on the NFL. Almost every game is a tug-of-war between the brain and the gut. The brain says Ben Roethlisberger is in Ohio, where he dominates the Bengals and, of course, Browns. He’s facing off with A.J. McCarron, who has to start for the injured Andy Dalton. No one goes to more playoffs consistently than the Steelers. The brain says they’ll get it done. But … C’mon. Can’t you just see this being the next chapter in poor Andy’s tortured post-season tale? Dalton is a good quarterback who is dogged for his 0-4 post-season record. Marvin Lewis is 0-6 in the playoffs. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990. The gut says McCarron, who is 2-1 as a starter this year, and Cincinnati’s No. 2-ranked scoring defense wins and creates a very awkward quarterback situation if Dalton’s thumb has healed before next weekend.
Sunday’s NFC games
Seahawks minus-5 at Vikings: Seahawks 20, Vikings 17
Why?: The weather will favor the Vikings, but won’t decide the game. Seattle is too talented, too well-coached and way too battle-tested not to face down this challenge. Meanwhile, the Vikings also are too talented and too well-coached to get rolled again like they did in the 38-7 loss to Seattle last month. Especially when you consider last month’s game was played entirely without Linval Joseph and three-plus quarters without Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith.
Packers plus-1 at Redskins: Packers 34, Redskins 24
Why?: I get the sense that it’s popular now to jump on board with the 9-7 Redskins as a hot team with a hot quarterback. Yeah, they’ve won four straight. But it was Chicago, Buffalo, Philly and Dallas. And three of the games were at home. As for Kirk Cousins, yeah, he’s playing well. But I’m not leaving Aaron Rodgers’ corner to go stand with Kirk and a Redskins team that faced two playoff teams, went 0-2 and were outscored 71-26.
LAST WEEK’S UPSET SPECIAL
Last week: Seahawks plus-6 1/2 at Cardinals. The pick: Seahawks 31, Cardinals 28. The score: Seahawks 36, Cardinals 6. Record: 7-10.
Last week/overall: 10-6/131-108. Last week versus spread/overall: 12-4/116-123.
Final 2014 regular-season record overall/versus spread: 146-90-1/125-111-1.