NFL Conference Championship Picks

Was anyone else underwhelmed by the Divisional Round, or was it just me? The Divisional Round is, historically, the round of greatest insanity. In olden times, it has been known as the the Round of The Immaculate Reception and The Sea of Hands and Red Right 88 and The Epic In Miami and…(*shudders in Vikings*)…The Hail Mary. In more recent days, it has come to be known as the Round of The Tuck Rule Game, 4th and 26, The Shootout In The Desert, The Dez Bryant Game (totally a catch, by the way), and Miracles both Mile High and (*does triumphant death metal growls while wildly swinging a battleaxe and covered in purple face paint*) Minneapolis-based. I could go on, but surely the point is made.

Perhaps it is folly to expect each and every Divisional Round to feature a game of obvious historical import and world-shattering craziness, but even in the years where no such game is given, there’s at least a game or two that is closely contested, and goes all the way down to the wire. This year, all four games were pretty much decided with plenty of time remaining in the 4th quarter, if not before. The obvious exception to this is the Chiefs/Browns game, but that game sure feels weird to exalt as a paragon of the sport when it was made interesting largely because the best player on either team, and someone you could reasonably describe as “The Future of the Sport Itself”, was forced to leave with an obvious, frightening head injury.

Personally, I was most excited for Bills vs. Ravens, which I found enjoyable purely as a sacrifice to the gods of chaos in the first half, and which was ended in the 3rd quarter, just as it was threatening to become legitimately interesting. (Edit: And then, Lamar Jackson also got hurt, which was a colossal bummer.) I missed the parts of Packers vs. Rams that resembled a legitimate competition. And the Saints vs. Bucs was largely a grim, dispiriting reminder of the inevitability of Tom Brady, who now has a clear shot at yet another fucking ring. Goddamn, I’m so fucking sick of that guy. I suppose for most of the game, the score was close, at least, but the Bucs’ final pull ahead was as decisive as any, and I wasn’t all that excited for an old guy showdown, anyway. And, if you’re inclined to be the type of wise ass who points out that Drew Brees’ final game carries obvious historical significance, allow me to preemptively retort. “Old Quarterback Starts Final Game, Sucks” is the oldest headline in the game, and it didn’t make it more fun to watch.

So, perhaps you can understand why I’m going in to Championship Sunday with diminished enthusiasm. Chiefs vs. Bills would be an earth-shattering colossus of a game under ideal conditions, but no one here needs any reminders of how ideal conditions fail to obtain nowadays. I’m writing this on Tuesday, just before Noon Eastern; the only update I’ve seen regarding Mahomes’ status is that there is no update. As a consequence, I will be holding out as long as possible before publication to pull the lines and make my picks. In terms of the Playoff Pool, the only good news (and it feels weird to even call it that) is that, if you’re freaking out because you put 14 Points on the Chiefs, most everyone else did, too. Your pool’s prize will get vultured by that one asshole who put the Bucs on top. There’s nothing you can do about it, so you might as well let it go.

Speaking of the Bucs, those who know me and/or have read this column can probably surmise that I’m already dreading the NFC Title Fight. Due to the dark demands of the Elemental Chaos Aspect known only to human ears as ‘Fandom’, I am forced to cheer for a team led by fucking Tom Brady. I could choose to resist, but in doing so I risk losing my class abilities given to me by my chosen Aspect. These include, but are not limited to: +2 on all Persuasion (Passive-Aggressive) checks, +2 on all Crafting (Hotdish) checks, loss of the Channel Divinity (Turn Lions Fan) ability, and loss of attunement to my game day replica jersey. Clearly, the risks are far too great.

This despair also has me pre-emptively bummed about the Super Bowl. If the Chiefs do manage to make it win, that’s fine, but who cares. Same for the Packers, except that it’s not fine at all, actually. And what could possibly be a more cursed outcome than the one this stupid country deserves; the Bills returning to the Super Bowl, only to lose to fucking Tom Brady? The thought is enough to make me consider watching the game sober, that I may do so as dispassionately as possible. It’s enough to make me pine for the days of my youth, when Super Bowl shittiness was preordained, and therefore not worth worrying about.

That’s a problem for another day, though. Right now, my problem is that I committed to picking the playoffs against the spread, despite being fucking terrible at it. Going 1 of 4 in the Divisional Round didn’t drag my record down as much as I would’ve guessed, or as much as I deserve. But it sure didn’t make my average better, and it damn sure didn’t do anything good for my confidence. Really, I should start advertising all of my picks against the spread as What Not To Do, Presented By A Moron.

My Playoff Pool, by contrast, isn’t doing too bad, although losing the Saints at 13 obviously hurts a great deal, and will have the worst ramifications further along, since I am severely limited in the amount of points I can possibly accrue from the NFC. In the best case scenario, the Bucs win Sunday and lose the Super Bowl, that’s only a net loss of 2 points, and only increases to a net loss of 5 if they win the Super Bowl, too. If the Packers win the NFC, that net loss balloons to 4, and swells all the way to a net loss of 9 points if they win it all. Great, I have even more reasons to cheer for the Bucs. I’m thrilled, really. I’m doing much better in the AFC – a Bills Super Bowl win is a mere net loss of 4, which isn’t great but, as demonstrated above, could be a lot worse. As such, I’m not inclined to complain.

As with last week, I’m not going to bother telling you whether the games are worth your time. It’s Championship Sunday, for fuck’s sake. Even if both games end up terrible, they’re compulsory viewing for all football enthusiasts. Nor will I write up either game. The market remains flooded, and there’s no reason to get analysis from me when you can do so from any number of competent, credentialed soothsayers.

Playoff Stats Through Divisional Round

Playoff Pool Points Accrued (Divisional Round): 46

Playoff Points Missed (Divisional Round): 31

Differential (Divisional Round): +15

Playoff Pool Points Accrued (Total): 100

Playoff Pool Points Missed (Total): 59

Differential (Total): +41

Record Against the Spread (Divisional Round):

Record Against the Spread (Total): 3-10

All lines pulled from MyBookie at 7:45 AM on Wednesday, January 20th.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4) at Green Bay Packers

Buffalo Bills (+3) at Kansas City Chiefs

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