Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that I am writing this column with a severe head cold, so please don’t pelt me with tomatoes if it’s not my best work. Thank you and please enjoy.
Are you a typical football fanatic? You know, like me and millions of other Americans all over the country? Are you one of those nutcases like myself that becomes fused with the couch, with eyes glued to the television, every Sunday from September through December, and then even more so in January? When Week 17 of the regular season rolls around and playoff matchups officially become cemented in stone, do you get so excited and amped up that you can’t keep a thought in your head?
If you are one of those wack jobs, then you’re probably finding yourself in the same boat as me right about now as Week 17 quickly approaches – looking at the current standings and envisioning the possible first round playoff matchups that won’t officially be official until Sunday.
Honestly, I’ve been doing this all week. The month of January is one of my most important months of the year, and it’s entirely because of the NFL playoffs. The thrill of anticipating the playoff matchups, at least for me, is almost as fun as the playoff matchups themselves. I have major nerd moments about this stuff. Call me insane if you want to. You’d probably be right.
Anyway, without further ado, here are some possible first round playoff matchups that would be thoroughly enjoyable. We’ll start with the AFC.
This one would be really good, and there’s a pretty darn good chance of it happening. And this game would be an absolute tossup. Kansas City would probably be favored by maybe a point or two. A matchup of two “you never really know” quarterbacks (Alex Smith and Joe Flacco), although since Flacco is somehow a former Super Bowl MVP, he’d get the advantage. A matchup of two pretty good coaches (Andy Reid and John Harbaugh), both capable of making horrendously boneheaded mistakes in crunch time. A playoff game between these two teams could go right down to the wire.
(And if you put a gun to my head and told me I had to root for one team over the other, I’d probably pick the Chiefs, even though I can’t stand either team. A possible Patriots-Ravens playoff game in Foxborough is one of the few things in life that terrifies me to my very core, along with snakes and the thought of my future daughter dating.)
Alright, I’m wrapping up the AFC with that one matchup, because honestly, I don’t think anyone would go crazy about Jaguars-Titans, or Jaguars-Chargers, or Jaguars-Bills, or whatever other possible scenarios there would be. All of those teams would just be waiting to get blown out by whichever team they play in the second round. It’s not even worth getting into.
Onto the NFC, and yes, this is more like it.
I would definitely watch this one. Jared Goff’s first playoff start, a chance to see how Todd Gurley performs under playoff pressure, a chance to see how Sean McVay coaches in a win-or-go-home situation, and especially, doing it against the defending NFC champs. Meanwhile, while the 2017 Falcons season hasn’t exactly been spectacular, this team has had something to prove ever since … well … you know where I’m going with this. This would be a fun game to watch.
A divisional rivalry between two teams from a division that hasn’t even been clinched yet? This might be the best possible matchup of the first round.
Another division rivalry, if the Seahawks can snub the Falcons for the final spot in the NFC, and this would be another good one. I already mentioned all that stuff about Jared Goff and Todd Gurley and Sean McVay. But seeing them host the Seahawks in a playoff game? That would be really interesting, especially considering the Seahawks seemingly become a different team in the playoffs. Russell Wilson has the ability to bounce back from a horrendous game and miraculously pull a win out of thin air. If you need proof, look back at the 2014 NFC Championship game in Green Bay. That was one of the wildest finishes to a game I’ve ever seen. Rams-Seahawks would be a really fun first round matchup. I would definitely watch.
I’m done blabbering. Time for some Week 17 picks. And due to the head cold that was mentioned in the disclaimer above, I’m keeping them short.
(Last week’s record: 11-5)
RAVENS (-9.5) over Bengals
All that stands in the way of Baltimore clinching a playoff spot is the below-average Bengals. No-brainer.
Packers (+6.5) over LIONS
A meaningless game between two teams just killing time. A perfect chance to take the underdog on the road.
Bills (-2.5) over DOLPHINS
The 2017 Bills are a respectable team. Not great, but respectable. To make the playoffs, they need a win over Miami, plus some help from the outside. They can definitely beat the Dolphins, but I’m not liking their chances of actually getting in. But on the bright side for Buffalo fans, this is the first time they’ve played a meaningful Week 17 game since 2004. Positives, am I right?
Panthers (+4) over FALCONS
I won’t lie, I don’t really care to see the Falcons back in the playoffs.
Saints (-7) over BUCCANEERS
Thirty-eight year old Drew Brees can clinch the NFC South title with a win in Tampa.
TITANS (-3) over Jaguars
We might get to see these teams play two weeks in a row.
Jets (+15.5) over PATRIOTS
It’s sad but true; the Pats rarely ever blow the Jets out of the water, even though they probably should every time.
Texans (+4.5) over COLTS
Who are these teams again?
STEELERS (-8) over Browns
The Steelers are only eight-point favorites at home against the winless Browns? Allow me to channel my inner Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in “The Internship” while I say … WHAT?!?
Redskins (-3.5) over GIANTS
VIKINGS (-12) over Bears
Enjoy this win, Vikes fans. It will probably be your last one until the 2018 season.
Cowboys (-3) over EAGLES
It’s a shame that this game is meaningless, because it would’ve had Game of the Year potential if the NFC East was up for grabs.
CHARGERS (-7.5) over Raiders
The 2017 Raiders were an epic disappointment. In my preseason predictions, I had them as the No. 2 playoff seed in the AFC. Thanks, guys.
SEAHAWKS (-9.5) over Cardinals
Seattle is fighting for its playoff life. And let’s be honest, what would the NFL playoffs be without the Seahawks these days?
Chiefs (+3.5) over BRONCOS
Alex Smith isn’t even playing in this game, but the Chiefs will still win. Why? Because the Broncos are awful.
49ers (-3) over RAMS
You know the drill. As long as Jimmy Garoppolo is undefeated, I’m rolling with him every time (especially against a Rams team that will be taking it easy this week).