Four home teams that have been resting for two weeks, facing four teams that survived last week. Whose season comes to an end? The schedule-makers have seemingly given us the two best games on Saturday, but that was probably the thought last week t00; few thought Philadelphia would win in Chicago. But here we are.
Colts at Kansas City: I was pretty confident Indianapolis would win in Houston last week. Can they make it two straight road upsets? I admit I've been thinking a lot about What if Houston had won its Week 16 game in Philadelphia?, which it lost in the final minute. Had Houston won, they would have got the bye, the Colts would have gone to New England last week (and I think they'd have won), and then they'd still be going to Kansas City. But the Chargers would be going to Houston (win), and Minnesota would have made the playoffs and lost in Chicago last week. Where was I? Oh yeah, Colts-KC.
It will be cold and there will be light snow during the game. But it doesn't look terrible; winds of just 10-11 mph, and not exactly blizzard conditions. The Colts have the better defense, Kansas City has the higher-powered offense. Colts have the more aggressive coaching staff, but also the quarterback more prone to force some things. I like the Colts running backs more. It truly is a game that could go either way and might be a last-possession type of game -- with these quarterbacks, no lead is safe. I'm going with Ian's idea that Kelce is a better bet than Tyreek Hill, and that T.Y. Hilton should be very good. I'd favor Mahomes over Luck strictly because the Colts look a little more likely to have a rushing touchdown or two. I'm calling it Kansas City 34, Indianapolis 31. But nothing would surprise me, and it's a bummer that the league in its infinite lack of wisdom made this the early game on Saturday, while giving us the worst game of the weekend on Sunday afternoon.
Cowboys at Rams: I've expressed my belief that Elliott is the top running back this week and that Dak Prescott just might be a viable fantasy quarterback. It's built on the idea that while the Rams defense is a very good fantasy group, it's nothing special defending either the run or the pass; Elliott should rip off big chunks of yardage, Prescott will get an open receiver or two, and he'll do his usual running and leaping near the end zone. Counter that with Jared Goff having struggled down the stretch and Todd Gurley coming back from a knee injury and the Cowboys defense being really good, and I think there could be an upset here. I'm taking the points, at least.
Dallas' defense was best at home. But it was pretty good on the road, too, until that meaningless Week 17 game at the Giants. The Rams offense was very strong at home. But it's the playoffs, and sometimes games are a little lower-scoring than you might think. I don't know. The Rams were so good all year, they're home, and their defense has the ability to get some sacks and turnovers against Dak. Assuming Gurley is indeed Todd Gurley, hard to keep the Rams under 27-30 points at home, and if Dallas has to throw too much to keep up, mistakes will happen. Los Angeles 27, Dallas 24. But as with the other Saturday game, the road team winning would not be a surprise.
Chargers at Patriots: As noted earlier, I'm not overly impressed by the Patriots this year. They were fortunate to get a bye. I think they'd have lost to the Colts. But they're home against a team without much positive postseason history and that doesn't look special enough defensively to keep the Patriots from scoring. Meanwhile the Chargers offense was not a great group down the stretch; that nice win in Kansas City, but that's about it. Last week it settled for five field goals. This defense isn't as good, but field goals aren't going to cut it with Tom Brady rather than Lamar Jackson on the other side.
I'd love to see Philip Rivers finally get to a Super Bowl, and have all of his little rugrats running around the field before the game. But I don't see the Chargers scoring enough, getting the necessary help from Bob Kraft's paid officials, or getting enough critical defensive stops, to put the Patriots out of our long national misery. Maybe; they've got some defensive playmakers. But I'm predicting New England 27, Los Angeles 20.
Eagles at Saints: A lot of people lost money betting against Nick Foles and the Eagles last week. A lot of us who picked any Bears at all (I had their defense) in these one-draft-for-the-playoffs competitions now have dead roster spots being sucked up Chicago players. Kudos to Foles and the Eagles. But it ends here.
I think there is virtually no chance that Drew Brees doesn't slice and dice this sorry secondary within an inch of its life. He has a history of lighting up Jim Schwartz defenses; he did it to this very group around 6 or so weeks ago. The Eagles might run for negative yards in this game (I think LeVeon Bell to Philadelphia in the offseason makes a ton of sense), and for all of Foles' ability, he can't do it alone and he can't play defense. About the only Saint I don't much like in this game is Mark Ingram. Otherwise, it's going to be New Orleans, big: New Orleans 38, Philadelphia 20.
Looking at it from a distance, I see I've got four favorites winning and four home teams winning. It probably won't happen; it seldom does. But I don't feel strongly enough about any of the road teams to pick the upset. Forced to pick I'd go with the Colts, 2nd choice the Rams. If both those home teams win, perhaps it will be the Chargers knocking off the Patriots. But it kind of feels like wishful thinking.
All I'm sure of is we get two great games today and two disappointing games tomorrow. And I'll probably be going around and around on Luck-Mahomes-Brees until that first game kicks off today.