Picks looking to beat playoff spread
AP Pro Picks
Pro Picks heads into the postseason with an incredible record straight up, 70 games over .500. A coach would have a lifetime contract for such an impressive showing.
The key to picking NFL games, of course, is winning against the point spread. In that area, well, we need a rally, three games under the break-even mark thanks to a particularly damaging Week 16.
A strong playoffs served us well last year. So let’s do it again.
No. 11 Tennessee (+7¢) at No. 8 Kansas City, Saturday
All four wild-card matchups have spreads in the same range. This one seems most out of whack.
While the Chiefs have not exactly recaptured their form of early in the schedule, when they were the NFL’s best, they are on the rise. The dynamic offense has been rekindled, particularly sensational rookie running back Kareem Hunt.
“We look at it right around Game 12, you kind of see where they’re at and if they have a bad play you say, ‘Whoop! There’s the rookie wall,'” coach Andy Reid joked — yes, Reid has a very good sense of humor, folks.
“Sometimes I think that gets a little overrated, but we haven’t seen that with him. He’s done well and I think we’re probably a little hypersensitive to that when you get around the middle of the season, that 12th game.”
This is the 17th game, and the trend for the Titans hasn’t been good lately. They lost three in a row down the stretch and needed to squeeze past AFC South winner Jacksonville, which had nothing to gain last Sunday, to make the field.
The Titans won’t last long in it.
Best bet: Chiefs, 23-10
No. 7 Carolina (+6¢) at No. 5 New Orleans, Sunday
This is the best looker of the four playoff openers, a confrontation between two of the league’s strongest teams out of the NFL’s top division. The Saints or the Panthers are as capable as any NFC squad to get to the Super Bowl.
New Orleans knocked off Carolina twice in the regular season, and is the more balanced side. It’s also the more explosive team.
But if any of the road teams is going to spring an upset, it’s Ron Rivera and the Panthers, who have a much more recent record of postseason success than do Drew Brees and the Saints.
Upset special: Panthers, 27-26
No. 9 Atlanta (+6¢) at No. 4 Los Angeles Rams, Saturday
So here come the more-experienced Falcons, ready to surge back to the Super Bowl and, this time, finish it off after building a big lead?
We don’t buy it.
These aren’t even close to being the same Falcons. Matt Ryan has had a problematic season, and the Falcons have made the kind of critical mistakes they avoided in 2016 — until the second half of that historic Super Bowl flop.
The Rams are young and eager and explosive and dynamic and … well, superior.
No. 12 (tie) Buffalo (+7¢) at No. 10 Jacksonville, Sunday
The feel-good story throughout Western New York — there are college football players who might not have been born when the Bills last made it this far — ends rapidly. Barring a stunning recovery from his ankle injury by LeSean McCoy, the Bills will be one and done, even though the Jags have a bunch of questionable areas on offense, particularly QB Blake Bortles.
Last week: Against spread (9-7). Straight up (9-7)
Season Totals: Against spread (117-120-10). Straight up: (162-92)
Best Bet: 9-8 against spread, 10-7 straight up.
Upset special: 9-8 against spread, 9-8 straight up