The NFL wild-card round clearly got its hands on a bottle of crazy pills over the weekend, because, um, that was nuts. Tom Brady lost to a team quarterbacked by Ryan Tannehill. Drew Brees lost to a team quarterbacked by Kirk Cousins, and Josh McCown was somehow the most impressive quarterback over the age of 40 to take a snap over the weekend. Before Sunday, I’m not sure I even knew that Josh McCown was still in the league.
It’s a good thing there’s only one wild-card round per year, because I’m not sure our country would survive if it happened more often than that. And it’s a good thing the Bills only get to the playoffs roughly once every 10 years, because I’m 90% sure that their fan base couldn’t emotionally handle any more than that.
Actually, after reading that, I’m 100% sure, and God, can you please answer that guy.
It’s a good thing the playoffs got all that craziness out of its system during the wild-card round, because we’re now heading into what is usually the most predictable part of the NFL postseason: the divisional round.
Last year, home teams — AKA all the teams that received a bye — went 4-0 in the divisional round. Over the past two years, home teams have gone 7-1. Home teams have been so good during the divisional round over the past few years that it’s almost like we don’t even need to have a wild-card round, because those teams never advance. The last team to make it out of the wild-card round and make it all the way to the Super Bowl came during the 2012 season when the Ravens did it.
In the six years since then, home teams have gone 19-5, which basically means there’s one upset per year, which means I’m morally obligated to pick at least one upset in the divisional round, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
If you read the headline to this story, then you already know that the upset I’m picking is in the AFC. So who am I picking to lose? Let’s get to the picks and find out.
Actually, before we get to the picks, here’s a quick reminder that you can check out the weekly picks from every CBSSports.com NFL expert by clicking here. If you click over, you’ll notice that I somehow came out of the wild-card round tied for the best record even though I went just 2-2 with my picks. I would like to thank the Titans for putting me over the top on that one.
On the other hand, our resident Cowboys fan Jared Dubin had the most impressive week against the spread, going 3-1 with his picks. With the Cowboys going through a coaching change, Dubin has been an emotional wreck for the past week, so apparently, the best time to make NFL playoff picks is when you’re feeling emotionally confused. Kind of wish I would have known that before I started making my picks.
Speaking of Dubin, he was the star of the Pick Six podcast this week, which is our daily NFL podcast here at CBSSports.com that’s hosted by Will Brinson. If you need a new podcast to listen to in 2020, I highly suggest that you click here and subscribe to the Pick Six Podcast. With the Cowboys firing a coach on Sunday and then waiting less than 24 hours before hiring their next coach, it was a busy week for the podcast. To find out how everyone feels about the hiring of Mike McCarthy, make sure to listen to Monday’s emergency episode, which you can do below.
Although I wasn’t on the emergency “Mike McCarthy gets hired” episode, I will be around for future podcasts. From now until the Super Bowl, I’ll be joining Brinson on the podcast multiple days per week to talk about the playoffs and anything else we can think of. We’ll even be coming to you live from South Beach in a few weeks for Super Bowl LIV. If you’re thinking, “wow, putting Breech on South Beach for a week of podcasts is a pretty brilliant move by CBS,” I have to say that I agree.
Alright, let’s forget about South Beach and get to these picks.
NFL Divisional Round playoff picks
No. 6 Minnesota (11-6) at No. 1 San Francisco (13-3)
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET (NBC)
Point spread: 49ers, -6.5 points
After spending the entire season wondering whether or not Kirk Cousins would ever win a big game, I think it’s only fair that we start asking those same tough questions about Jimmy Garoppolo, starting with this one:
Oh whoops, not that one. But for real, the quarterback with the bigger question marks in this game might actually be Garoppolo. For one, he’s making the first playoff start of his career, which hasn’t worked out so well for quarterbacks over the past six years. Since 2013, quarterbacks have gone 6-17 when they’re making their first postseason start, including 1-2 this year.
The good news for the 49ers is that it might not matter whether or not Garoppolo struggles this week, because they shouldn’t really need him to throw the ball. The 49ers rushed for the second most yards in the NFL this year (behind only Baltimore) and now they’ll be going up against a Vikings defense that gave up more than 105 yards per game. If Kyle Shanahan’s smart — and I like to think he is (unless he has a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl) — then I think he’s going to do his best to get his running backs involved early. There’s 100% chance that Shanahan saw the Vikings defense beat up Drew Brees and that’s what will likely happen to Garoppolo if the 49ers get into a spot where they’re forced to throw the ball in this game.
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Basically, if the Vikings can jump out to an early seven to 10 point lead, I think they can win, but I don’t think they’re going to be able to jump out to an early seven to 10 point lead.
The Vikings were my NFC pick to get the Super Bowl this year, and as much as I hate to do it, I’m going to be picking against them in this game. They have to fly halfway across the country and they’ll be playing on just just five days of rest (every other team playing in the divisional round got a full week’s rest or more), and it feels like too much to ask for them to pull off the upset. That being said, if they somehow manage to win, I’m pre-picking them to beat either the Seahawks or Packers next week. That’s right, I’m now pre-picking games.
The pick: 49ers 26-23 over Vikings
Record picking Vikings games this season: 12-5 (including 0-1 in playoffs)
Record picking 49ers games this season: 8-8
No. 6 Tennessee (10-7) at No. 1 Baltimore (14-2)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Ravens, -9 points
I’ve never tried to tackle a bus and I’ve never been hit by a tank, but based on what I saw from the Patriots defense on Saturday, I’m starting to think that’s what it feels like for anyone trying to tackle Derrick Henry. You know the part in “Home Alone” where Kevin pushes the tool box down the attic stairs and then it smashes the Wet Bandits, that’s basically Henry running through an opposing defense. He’s a tool box on wheels going down some attic stairs and there is no stopping him. The thing about Henry’s running style is that there’s no real way to game plan for it. You can stack the box, something the Patriots tried, but they still couldn’t slow him down. Bill Belichick is arguably the GREATEST DEFENSIVE MIND in NFL history, and he had no idea what to do against Henry. No matter what defense he put the Patriots in, Henry was able to gash it up.
I can’t say this for sure, but if Ravens coach John Harbaugh could have hand-picked his opponent out of any of the AFC wild-card teams, I have to think that the Titans would have ranked dead last on his list of teams he wanted to play, and that’s because, if the Ravens struggled with one thing this year, it was stopping the run.
On the surface, that might seem like a weird thing to say, because Baltimore only surrendered 93.4 yards per game on the ground this year, which ranked fifth in the NFL, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The ugly part for the Ravens is that they gave up 4.4 yards per rushing attempt, which isn’t ideal when you’re going up against a running back who is averaging 6.23 yards per carry over his last seven games. There was a thought that the Patriots could slow down Henry because they ranked sixth against the run, but like Baltimore, that number was deceiving, because they were giving up 4.2 yards per carry. Henry averaged 5.4 yards per carry against the Patriots in a game where the Titans totaled 201 yards on the ground. The Ravens went 14-2 this year, but just 2-2 when they surrendered 140 or more rushing yards.
It’s hard to put into perspective how good Henry’s been recently, so just consider this: Henry has 1,078 yards over his past seven games, which is insane when you consider that a 1,000-yard season is considered a good YEAR for a running back, Henry has that in SEVEN GAMES. That 1,078 yards would put him on pace for 2,464 yards over a 16-game season, which would smash the NFL record.
Now, even if Henry runs wild, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Titans are going to win, and that’s because the Ravens have something the Patriots didn’t have on Saturday: Namely, a functional offense. The Ravens have an offense that’s almost impossible to stop, but it can be done, and we know that, because we saw the Chargers do it in last year’s playoffs. The Chargers basically invented a new defense for the game, which involved keeping seven defensive backs on the field at all times (NFL teams will sometimes have seven defensive backs on the field for passing plays, but no team had really ever done it for an entire game before the Chargers did it against Baltimore, and no team attempted to run that defense against the Ravens in 2019). I don’t think the Titans will go with seven defensive backs against the Ravens, because the Baltimore would be ready for it, but Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel is a former NFL linebacker who played eight seasons under Belichick, so I won’t be shocked if he schemes up some sort of defensive surprise for the Ravens — like the Chargers did — that will slow Baltimore down.
I didn’t make an official count last week, but I think I was one of about nine people in the country who picked the Titans to upset the Patriots, and I’m going to ride the Tennessee upset train for another week. The one thing that does concern me about the Titans is that not only has their kicker (Greg Joseph) never attempted a playoff field goal, but he didn’t even attempt a field goal during the regular season. I really hope they don’t lose on a field goal.
Finally, I don’t usually give out marketing advice, but whoever makes those Heisman House commercials, you should probably run one in this game. For the first time in NFL history, there will be five Heisman winners playing in one game (Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota).
The pick: Titans 27-24 over Ravens
Record picking Titans games this season: 11-6 (including 1-0 in playoffs)
Record picking Ravens games this season: 13-3
No. 4 Houston (11-6) at No. 2 Kansas City (12-4)
Sunday, 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Chiefs, -9.5 points
The Chiefs might be favored by nearly 10 points in this game, but let me tell you one thing, that means nothing to me, because if there’s one team in the playoffs that I’m never confident in picking to win, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs.
I’ll be honest, besides the Bills and Bengals, there’s no team in the NFL that I have less faith in to win a playoff game than the Chiefs. They’ve only won one playoff game at home since the 1993 season (1-7 since then), they’re just as bad in the divisional round (1-5 since 1993), and my gosh, if the Chiefs have proven one thing under Andy Reid, it’s that they basically specialize in finding impossible ways to lose in the postseason. Over the past three years alone, we’ve seen them lose an overtime AFC title game that they led with one minute left in regulation. During the 2017 season, they blew a 21-3 halftime lead and lost after they let the other team’s quarterback THROW A . During the 2016 season, they somehow lost a game where the other team didn’t score a single touchdown.
As if that’s not enough, it definitely doesn’t help that Reid seems to throw all logic out the window during the playoffs, along with his clock management skills and most of his decision-making abilities. The man is brilliant during the regular season and then almost always stumbles in the playoffs. He’s like a reverse Eli Manning (Eli was usually average during the regular season and then brilliant in the playoffs, if his team somehow managed to get there).
Although the Chiefs playoff history frightens me, there’s no way I can pick against them in this game, because I think they’re just the much better team. Now, Texans fans, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I’m well aware that Houston won 31-24 in Kansas City back in Week 6, but I’m not really going to put too much stock in that game. For one, the Chiefs didn’t have Chris Jones (who ended up leading the team in sacks this year), they didn’t have their starting left tackle (Eric Fisher), Patrick Mahomes played more than half the game with a gimpy ankle (He’ll have an extra week of rest this time around thanks to the bye) and Tyreek Hill played on a limited snap count because he was coming off an injury (but still managed to torch Houston for 80 yards and two touchdowns even though he was only on the field for roughly half of Kansas City’s offensive snaps in the game).
The Texans biggest weakness on defense is their secondary and that’s not a good weakness to have when you’re going up against Mahomes, who might throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday. Also, let’s not forget that this game is giving us ANDY REID OFF THE BYE. As bad as Reid can be in the playoffs, he’s nearly unbeatable off the bye, going 18-3 in his coaching career in the postseason and regular season combined.
I think this game is a blowout waiting to happen. That being said, if a blowout does happen, no one should actually turn this game off early because it’s on CBS and everything on CBS is amazing. It’s the only channel I watch, except for the Smithsonian channel, which is surprisingly entertaining.
The pick: Chiefs 31-17 over Texans
Record picking Texans games this season: 7-10 (including 0-1 in playoffs)
Record picking Chiefs games this season: 12-4
No. 5 Seattle (12-5) at No. 2 Green Bay (13-3)
Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Packers, -4 points
If there’s one game this weekend where I’m fully expecting at least five bizarre things to happen, it’s definitely this one, and that’s because the Seahawks are playing. If I’ve learned one thing from watching the Seahawks, it’s that none of their games are ever normal.
Fittingly, if there’s one game this weekend that has a chance to go completely off the rails, it’s this one. If you look at the Seahawks, the one thing they don’t do very well is stop the pass. Seattle’s defense gave up the sixth-most passing yards in the NFL this year, which would usually be an issue in a playoff game, but it might not be this week, because I”m pretty sure the Packers one weakness is throwing the ball, which is a weird thing to say considering Aaron Rodgers is their quarterback. I have no idea which Aaron Rodgers is going to show up, but unless it’s the 2014 version of him, there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to throw on the Seahawks.
When you look at the Packers, they have a lot of trouble stopping the run, but I’m not completely sure the Seahawks offense is equipped to take advantage of that. I mean, their two best running backs right now are some guy named Travis Homer and a 33-year-old who was handing out tequila shots at a Raiders game three weeks ago.
By the way, Homer and Marshawn Lynch combined for exactly 19 yards rushing during the Seahawks’ wild-card win, so I’m not expecting much from them in this game. The thing that worries me about potentially picking the Seahawks is that they had trouble handling a hobbled 40-year-old quarterback on Sunday in Philadelphia, and although Aaron Rodgers has played like a hobbled 40-year-old quarterback at times this year, he’s also showed signs of being Aaron Rodgers, which makes me think he’ll be able to dice up the Seahawks secondary. The Packers just need that 2014 version of Rodgers to show up for roughly one quarter, then their ground game and defense can do the rest.
Also, since this game is being played on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, I feel obligated to mention that Russell Wilson is 0-3 in his career at Lambeau and 0-2 all-time when the temperature is under 30 degrees. The forecast for Sunday is calling for the high-20s, which the Packers will probably appreciate since they’re 5-1 with Rodgers when the kickoff temperature is under 30 degrees.
Back in the preseason, I predicted that a Packers-Vikings, and although I’m wimping out and not picking the Vikings this week, I am going to stand by my Packers pick, because if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything. At least that’s what I read in a quote book that I found at a sorority house once in college.
The pick: Packers 23-20 over Seahawks
Record picking Seahawks games this season: 10-7 (including 1-0 in playoffs)
Record picking Packers games this season: 12-4
Best pick: Last week, Ithe Patriots by a touchdown and GUESS WHAT HAPPENED? The Titans went into New England and beat the Patriots by a touchdown. Now, did I know that Derrick Henry was going to single-handedly end the Patriots dynasty by steamrolling the city of Foxborough out of existence? Of course, I did. I mean, have you seen Derrick Henry. The man is built like a tank, a dinosaur and a bus combined.
If you somehow missed the Titans-Patriots game, here are a few highlights of Henry’s best runs.
The Ravens are definitely going to have do a better job of tackling than the “Patriots players” in that clip did if they plan on beating the Titans this week.
Worst pick: For some reason, I decided to pick the Bills to win last week even though they haven’t won a playoff game in 24 YEARS. The first rule of picking playoff games is that if a team hasn’t won a playoff game this century, then you probably shouldn’t pick them to win, and yet, I went with the Bills anyway, which arguably wasn’t even my worse pick because I also took the Saints. The second rule of picking playoff games is never pick the Saints, because there’s 100 percent chance they’re going to lose in some crazy fashion on the final play, which will probably involve a controversial call by the officials.
Check, check and check. All those things happened.
Finally, happy birthday to my sister Rebekah (Jan. 7), which I’m only mentioning, because the last time I wished happy birthday to one of my sisters, I ended up having one of my best weeks of year in the picks department. Clearly, they have been using their birthday wishes on me, which I highly appreciate. Very selfless of them.
As for me, I’ll be using my birthday wish on the same thing I use it on every year: That someone finally makes a sequel to “Surf Ninjas.” My birthday is on Jan. 13, so if a sequel gets announced next week, you guys all have me to thank.
Straight up in wild-card round: 2-2
SU overall in playoffs: 2-2
Against the spread in wild-card round: 2-2
ATS overall in playoffs: 2-2
Final 2019 regular-season record
Straight-up: 163-92-1 (Ranked first overall at CBSSports.com)
Against the spread: 120-130-6 (Did not rank first overall)
You can find John Breech on Facebook or Twitter and if he’s not doing one of those things, he’s probably out trying to tackle a bus, so he knows what it’s like to tackle Derrick Henry, and hopefully, he will report back next week to let everyone know how it feels.