NFL Divisional Round Picks

I can’t speak to the prevailing atmospheric conditions wherever you may have been this past Sunday morning, but here in Raleigh, it was gorgeous. The sun was out, but the sky was lined with wintry, silver clouds. The air was crisp, but not cold. My wife and I were able to (safely, and while wearing masks) sneak away to this one bagel place we really like but isn’t in the most convenient location for us, and, as if to make this wonderful morning all the sweeter, I was 2 for 3 against the spread after Saturday’s games, and looking to keep things going.

I finished the weekend 2 for 6. Well then.

My playoff Confidence Pool picks aren’t looking too much better; the most salient potential problem with organizing your pool by bracketing out how you anticipate the playoffs going down is that one mistake in said bracket can have a cascading effect. Losing my 7- and 8-point teams after the first round certainly isn’t ideal, but the indirect consequences of those points are far worse.

Because I thought the Rams were going to lose, I assumed that the Bucs would head up to Green Bay and wallop the Packers for a second time.

Now I have 11 points on a team that’s about to get annihilated. If they do pull off the upset, that’s worse, because it would come at the expense of the Saints, who I have 13 on. I’m gonna be hurting regardless of who wins that one. I’ll need the Packers to win in order to recover some of whatever loss, but even if they do, this is a net loss of 2 points in the NFC, relative to what I expected; this loss increases to -4 if the Bucs pull off the win. And, for what it’s worth, if the Rams play anything like they did this past Saturday, a Packers win is far from guaranteed.

I face a similar predicament on the AFC side of things, and yet, I can’t find any way to be worried about it. Even though my predictions for the Steelers/Browns game turned out to be as wrong as they could possibly be, how can I possibly be mad about it? The Steelers are the most loathsome franchise in the sport. They have been so since before I was born, and they have remained so even throughout the past two decades, during which the Patriots kept their boots firmly lodged on top of the rest of the league’s throats. (This is a tangent, but as I think about it, the most credible challenge to the Steelers’ Throne of Noxious Shittiness may not have been the Brady/Belichick Patriots, but rather the 90’s Cowboys.)

And on Sunday, they got their asses handed to them by the most historically hapless of their many archrivals. I missed the first quarter, but to see the score updates was a delight, a reminder that even in the middle of an already endless pandemic with no real end in sight, and with society on the brink of collapse, this remains a world of wondrous possibility.

All of that said, from a purely points-based perspective, I might be in even more trouble with my AFC picks. If the Rams take out the Packers, that’s a -4 point swing, which is far from ideal but also survivable. But, if the Browns somehow knock off the Chiefs, that’s a -13 point swing, which would doom my pool to the fires of hell for the duration of eternity. I want to say that I feel secure in the knowledge that there’s no way the Browns can march into Kansas City and pull off the victory, but the fact of the matter is that I am on record in saying that there was no way the Browns could march into Pittsburgh and pull off the victory. There are no rules anymore.

I do have some brief housekeeping to tend to before digging into this weekend’s games. While I always intended to track my pool performance over the course of the playoffs, it didn’t occur to me until the games had started that, since this column does not exist in the context of an actual pool, the points I accrue from those picks don’t have any context, either. Therefore, in order to provide some context for how my picks are performing, I will be tracking points accrued from winning teams, points missed from losing teams, and the differential between the two for the duration of the playoffs.

I will also be tracking my record against the spread for the duration of the playoffs, because if I don’t, what’s the point? Finally, note that unlike last week,there will be no discussion of whether these games are worth your time or not. It’s the divisional round; if you’re not at least a bit interested in each and every one of these tilts, you may not actually like football all that much. Neither will there be analysis of the games themselves. I was planning to write each game up for a while, but the market is flooded and I’ve got other things to do. On to the games!

Playoff Stats Through Wild Card Weekend

Playoff Pool Points Accrued: 54

Playoff Pool Points Missed: 28

Differential: +26

Record Against the Spread: 2-4

All lines pulled from My Bookie at Noon Eastern on Tuesday, January 12th.

Los Angeles Rams (+7) at Green Bay Packers

Buffalo Bills (-2) vs. Baltimore Ravens

Kansas City Chiefs (-10) vs. Cleveland Browns

New Orleans Saints (-3) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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