NFL Super Wild Card Weekend has come and gone, and boy oh boy was it ever super.
All weekend we were treated to big plays, big upsets, questionable play calling and a lot of Must-See moments.
I, for one, am glad we had all week to recover from the action as this weekend is sure to be just as wild, even if it won’t be as “super.”
We only have a few more NFL games left this season, so let’s enjoy them.
Cleveland Browns vs. Kansas City Chiefs -10, O/U 57.5
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are back, and they have a Super Bowl title to defend.
Kansas City, winners of 10-straight games before resting their starters in Week 17 and losing to the Los Angeles Chargers, enter the playoffs as the No. 1 team in the AFC.
The Chiefs, to the surprise of nobody, were led by their offence once again in 2020.
Mahomes and company led the league in first downs and total yards this season while their 40 touchdowns trailed just two other teams.
Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill accounted for 26 of those touchdowns, and are set to take on a Browns secondary that has been exposed a number of times this season.
But things haven’t come easy for the Chiefs this season.
Their last seven wins have all been by one score, and the team has gone just 1-6 against the spread in those games.
In those seven contests, Kansas City held a fourth-quarter two-score lead in four of those games, before letting their opponent climb back into the game.
On top of that, the last time we saw the Chiefs starters on the field, they were gutting out a 17-14 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
There’s no other way to say it, Kansas City just hasn’t put teams away in the second half of the season.
And now they face a Browns team that has nothing to lose.
‘THE BROWNS IS THE BROWNS’
As if dancing on team’s logos all season wasn’t enough, Pittsburgh Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster gave Cleveland plenty of bulletin board material last week.
“I think they’re still the same Browns that I’ve played every year,” he said. “I think they’re nameless grey faces. They have a couple of good players on their team. But at the end of the day … the Browns is the Browns.”
Well JuJu, the Browns is, er … are… playing football on Sunday while you sit at home and watch.
Cleveland’s first playoff win in 25 years couldn’t have been more dominant as the offence scored five touchdowns, while the defence forced five turnovers and added a touchdown of their own.
Baker Mayfield was solid, too, as he threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns without turning the ball over.
Mayfield enters this game having thrown just one interception since Week 8.
But if the Browns want to pull off another upset, they will need their two-headed monster in the backfield to run all over Kansas City.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for the league’s third-best rushing attack this season, and Cleveland’s 21 rushing touchdowns was fifth best in the NFL.
The Browns should take a page from the Las Vegas Raiders, who beat the Chiefs in Week 5.
Vegas owned the ball with their 35:18 minutes of possession and got 144 rushing yards from their backfield.
Yes, the Browns gave up 500 passing yards last week, but a fair amount of those came with the game well out of reach, and Cleveland just sitting back, playing prevent defence.
They also, you know, were without a head coach and several key players on both sides of the ball due to COVID-19.
One of those key players is left guard Joel Bitonio, who is coming off the COVID list and hadn’t missed a snap in a game since 2016.
The best way to beat Patrick Mahomes is to keep him off the field, and I think this offence can do just that.
Pick: Browns +10
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints -3, O/U 51.5
FOOL ME - YOU CAN'T GET FOOLED AGAIN
There’s an old saying in Texas….
Thank you to George W. Bush for that classic pop culture moment, and something that I think remains true to this day.
The New Orleans Saints have fooled Tom Brady and this Buccaneers team not once, but twice.
And I don’t think it happens a third time.
Tom Brady has been lights out in recent weeks.
The 43-year-old has thrown 16 touchdowns and turned the ball over just once in Tampa’s last five games.
On top of that, he has eclipsed 340 passing yards in four of those games.
One reason for Brady’s – and the Bucs – recent success has been the play of Antonio Brown.
Brown, after missing the opening eight weeks of the season, has regained his superstar-level of play.
It wasn’t a fast start for Brown, as he had just 217 yards and no touchdowns in his first five games with the Bucs as the team went 2-3.
But since week 15, Brown has gone for 315 yards with 22 catches, and five touchdowns.
In fact, Tampa Bay has won all four games that Brown has caught a touchdown pass in this season, and Brady has won five-straight games when finding AB in the endzone if you include New England’s win over Miami in Week 2 last season.
Brown hasn’t been the only Bucs wideout producing lately. Chis Godwin has 15 catches for 296 yards and four TDs in the past three games.
The Bucs were also able to rush for 142 yards against a Washington team that had only given up more than 140 yards on the ground in five games this season.
Any way you slice it, this Bucs offence is humming.
On defence, Tampa Bay gets a huge boost with linebacker Devin White returning from the COVID-19 reserve.
All signs point to this being Drew Brees’ final playoff run with the New Orleans Saints, with a broadcasting gig at NBC waiting for him on the other side.
I think this will be the last time we see Brees on the field this season.
Brees and the Saints beat up on a Chicago Bears team that had no business being in the playoffs.
And you can’t help but wonder how that game goes if Javon Wims doesn’t drop a sure-fire touchdown for Chicago in the first quarter – Javon, as someone who had the under, thank you!
On the ground, Alvin Kamara has carried this team to success; his 16 touchdowns this season tied for second among all running backs, but he struggled to find success against Tampa Bay in their two meetings.
Kamara, who averaged 62.1 rushing yards and 112.5 yards from scrimmage a game, ran for a total of 56 yards and added 10 catches for just 60 yards against the Buccaneers this season.
His 2.66 yards per carry against this defence is a staggering 2.4 yards less than his yearly average.
But this isn’t just exclusive to this season - the Saints running back has 89 carries against the Bucs since 2017 and has scored just three touchdowns while averaging 4.33 yards per carry.
Something about this team just doesn’t match up well for Kamara.
With this knowledge, it comes as no surprise to see that Tampa Bay allowed the fewest yards, touchdowns and yards per carry to running backs this season.
With New Orleans unable to run the ball, and Brees’ inability to push the ball downfield, I don’t see how this offence keeps up with Tampa Bay.
As a guy who grew up as a Colts fan, and cursing Tom Brady, this hurts to say: I think the wrong team is laying points in this matchup.
Give me Tampa.
Pick: Buccaneers +3