Yes, folks, the National Football League Playoffs begin tomorrow which means it's time for the much anticipated Grandstander Playoffs Predictions. Because we were on vacation for two weekends of the Playoffs last year, I offered no predictions in this space, which I know disappointed so many of you out there.
Okay let's dive into it.
Steelers vs Bengals. One of these years, the Marvin Lewis and his Bengals are going to actually win a Playoff game, but until they do, I just can't pick them to win one now. (Kind of like picking the Cubs to win the pennant.) Ben Roethlisberger is having the best year of his career, and with him leading the way, the Steelers offense has been, with some exceptions, virtually unstoppable. The running back situation for the Steelers is a concern, and the Bengals defense is formidable, but they are still playing their back-up QB. So, the Steelers prevail and go on to Round Two.
Chiefs vs Texans. The Chiefs have won ten games in a row, a very difficult thing to do. The Texans won in a weak division. I can name one player on the Texans (J.J. Watt), and I don't know who their quarterback is. I'm picking the Chiefs. Hey, you don't get insightful analysis like that on the NFL Network, do you?
Seahawks vs Vikings. The two-years-in-a-row Super Bowl Seahawks started slowly this year, but came on strong, and, much like the Steelers, became the proverbial "team that no one wants to play in the playoffs". The Vikings have looked very good thus far this season and are playing at home. This is a tough one to call, and when in doubt, I go with the better quarterback, which means Russell Wilson outplays Teddy Bridgewater and the Seahawks win. One thing is almost certain - with sub-zero temperatures, and strong winds, this game could be the most interesting game, visually, of the weekend.
Packers vs Washington. Be honest now, back in September, and even six weeks into the season, how many of you saw Washington making the playoffs? They played in the worst division in the NFL this year, yet they finished strong, went 9-7, and are actually favored to beat the Packers in this game. Unimaginable. Using the same QB logic that I used in predicting the Seahawks over the Vikings, you would think that in a dual between Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins, that the Packers would be the choice, but over the last several weeks of the season, Cousins has been close to terrific. So, I am going against the grain here and picking the 'Skins to beat the injury riddled Packers.
And let's go out one day further to Monday night....
Clemson vs Alabama. As is often the case in the high echelons of College Football, Monday's Championship game matches two coaches, Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban, whom, all things being even, you would almost always like to see lose. Still, I recall Swinney and his totally outrageous and over the top meltdown when he chewed out his punter after the kid made a dumb play in the ACC title game, behavior that made me immediately and intensely dislike him, so I know that I will be rooting for Alabama in this one. Clemson has an outstanding college quarterback, but Alabama is, well, Alabama, so I am calling for the Tide to roll in this one.
By the way, if Alabama does win, that will be the fifth National Championship for a Saban-coached team. If he pulls that off, does he not belong in the highest ranking of collegiate coaching pantheons? He may be a dour and unlikeable guy, but he sure can coach, can't he?
So, there you are....Steelers, Chiefs, Seahawks, Redskins, and Crimson Tide. As always, watch, but don't bet!