Yes, it is time for the Annual Grandstander Predictions for the NFL Wild Card Weekend Playoff Games.
Raiders at Texans. While it is ingrained in my DNA to never root for or, even worse, feel sorry for the Oakland Raiders, it is hard not to feel just bit of sympathy for the Silver and Black this year. After years of ineptitude, the Raiders had the look of a genuine Super Bowl contender this season, right up until QB Derek Carr broke his leg in the 15th game of the season. Then backup Matt McGloin goes into concussion protocol. Now, rookie Conner Cook makes his first ever NFL start in a playoff game. The Texans QB situation isn't much better, but they do have a strong defense. The TEXANS to win this one.
Lions at Seahawks. After a good start, the Lions back into the playoffs after losing the final three games of the season. The SEAHAWKS win this one.
Dolphins at Steelers. The Dolphs come into frigid Heinz Field, and the STEELERS avenge that early season 30-15 loss in Miami on their way to the Super Bowl.
Giants at Packers. This may well be the best game of the weekend. The Packers are on a roll, winners of six straight, but the Giants have shown an ability in recent years to overcome conditions at the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field. The Grandstander plays a hunch and says that Eli outplays Aaron, and he GIANTS win.
BONUS PREDICTION - CFP CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
CLEMSON VS. ALABAMA. I am going to guess that this game may well be more highly contested and more entertaining than any of the four NFL games that precede it this weekend. An interesting sidelight of this one was Nick Saban jettisoning OC Lane Kiffen on the eve of this game. Man, those two must have really hated each other. And while Saban is not exactly the most lovable guy in the universe, I must confess a personal dislike for Clemson HC Dabo Swinney. This traces back to a game last year, I believe it was in the ACC Championship game, when the Clemson punter made some horrendous gaffe in the game, and Swinney chewed him out as he came to the sideline. That was somewhat acceptable, but then Ol' Dabo sought the kid out while he was sitting on the bench and then went totally bat-shit crazy on the kid. On the punter. Swinney is one of those pious guys who love to invoke the name of the Lord after Clemson wins, but then acts in just about the most unchristian manner imaginable and play tough guy with his punter. It's not easy to make Nick Saban look like the sympathetic good guy in a given match-up, but in my mind anyway, that's what he is when compared to Dabo Swinney.
So, that's how I'll be rooting. A Clemson win would make Pitt's season look a bit better since Pitt beat the Tigers at Clemson (remember that one, Dabo?) in November, but I just don't see it happening. It will not be an easy win, but ALABAMA gets Saban his umpteenth national championship with a win over Clemson on Monday.
There you are....Texans, Seahawks, Steelers, Giants, and Tide are winners. As always, watch, but don't bet.