NFL Playoffs,Divisional Round: Time Is Of The Essence Edition

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“I want to be the Brady. I want to be the Brady of Baltimore if I could.”

“Or you can be me. I brought multiple [championships to Baltimore], too.”

“You too! But you know he played quarterback, so that’s why I’m saying Tom Brady.”

“Don’t play.”

“[laughs, walks away]”

Lamar Jackson being interviewed by jealous non-murderer Ray Lewis, January 2019.

I’m not especially captivated with the passage of time. I absolutely love Woody Allen movies but I can’t even imagine spending any more than a few seconds contemplating the inevitability of death or concocting a way to sidestep that certain fate, let alone hanging around with a bunch of Upper East siders who discuss such things at dinner parties. I guess if they all looked like Rachel McAdams or Olga Georges-Picot I’d consider it, but come to think of it, I’m realizing that I’ve never even been to a dinner party. I mean, I’ve been to parties where they’ve served food, and I’ve gone to friends’ houses for dinner when asked – something of a rarity I admit, as I am very fat and that can get expensive – but we didn’t discuss our own mortality. Unless, I suppose, people discussed mine behind my back as I accidentally swallowed a napkin ring in the process of sucking the marrow out of my chicken bones.

Otherwise, no. Never have I been concerned about the ever-approaching specter of death. And I’ve paid short shrift to age as well. This is less a philosophical stance and more a reflection of my circumstances, as both I and the people closest to me have held onto the same basic areas of interest since we were in our late teens. Loud music, football, beer, sex, you get the idea. The details change but the broad strokes remain a constant. Perhaps you consider this sad. You may have made a mid-life discovery of the bounty of language and could now be working on the next great American novel. Maybe you went on a spiritual journey counterbalanced with joy and loss and found your way to what you believe to be profound enlightenment. Well, I spent my last birthday at a go-kart track with a bunch of other ne’er-do-wells competing for poorly-disguised antimony medals and nylon ribbons. I was deemed to have come in second, though I am fairly certain that one or more of my friends and/or loved ones cheated.

Point being, I’m not one to be terribly hung up on ephemerality or the passage of time. So imagine my surprise when heard a thunderclap in my head after reading that Lamar Jackson turned 23 years old on Tuesday. It wasn’t exactly a surprise. He was born in 1997, played three years in Louisville, then got picked by the Ravens in the 2018 draft, so the math adds up. He’s listed at 6’2″ and 212, and while those numbers are obviously a bit inflated, because they all are, he certainly looks like a grown man. But… 23? Again, I’m happy with where I’m at. I am content with the best of my athletic days being behind me. But should I really have jeans older than a playoff-caliber NFL quarterback?

Ah yes, playoffs. That’s why we’re here. It’s all coming back to me now. We’ll have to shake off last week’s 1-2 as wildcard jitters I suppose. I’ll take the Pats loss in the teeth, that one is completely on me. However, I defy you to find proof of anyone calling the Saints losing outright to Minnesota. Overtime schmovertime, the collapse of the New Orleans OL and Brees’ inexplicable inability to target any receiver other than Michael Thomas was downright bizarre.

Of course, with the statistically best team having been eliminated, that outcome also monkey wrenches the rest of the playoffs, leaving me scrambling to come up with a way to make us some money, as I had soft-circled the Saints and Chiefs for February 2. Oh well, I’ve got enough beer to get me through a couple more “study sessions.” Not sure if Goat was trying to send me a message with his latest piece, but as Shane MacGowan once said, “bad health is a consequence of very good living.” HEY LOOK INCREASINGLY HARD-TO-PREDICT FOOTBALL!

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MINNESOTA v. SAN FRANCISCO -7

Not falling for it. The Vikings took one off the Saints, but I put that on the Saints. There were more anomalies than Brees’ play going on in that game, and I don’t see them being replicated here. For instance, Janoris Jenkins covered Stefon Diggs for the majority of snaps, while the superior Marshon Lattimore was paired with Adam Thielen. Yet Thielen got all of the targets, leading Diggs to flip out over the fact that he got a total of two passes for 19 yards.

Richard Sherman, Ahkello WItherspoon, Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt should provide more balanced coverage packages on the same day that Kirk Cousins regresses to the mean. Up front, San Francisco gets Dee Ford back to join Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.

Seven seems like a lot of points until you read to the next paragraph, but I’m willing to give it. The 49ers defense is good enough to drive the under of a a 2020 playoff game down to 44.5 at some books, and that’s good enough for me. The official Ruthless Laying Home Favorites Weekend starts in Santa Clara.

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HOUSTON v. KANSAS CITY -9.5

Ah, the mercurial Deshaun Watson again. Thumped by Denver in December, beats the Titans, squeezes past the Bucs, watches AJ McCarron lose to those same Titans, then dogfights his way past the Bills at home in overtime. Seems like this one is right on schedule.

Those games I listed were close, but Kansas City is in another league from all of those teams. Well, they are literally in the same league but you know what I mean. Patrick Mahomes may have the strongest arm in the playoffs – God bless that cross training, yeah? – and he’s surrounded by the fastest receiving core in the Midwest, specifically the unlikable Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce, now being billed as the Legion of Zoom. ESPN’s breakdown of how good they are on third down was pretty convincing.

So the question comes down to the line. It’s damn near ten points, and the Texas haven’t lost by 10 all year, save for the aforementioned Broncos game. That said, I have to trust the better team given that KC’s average margin of victory has been 18.2 since December. Lay the better team and hope for good weather.

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SEATTLE v. GREEN BAY -4

I might be the only picks guy who loves Green Bay in this spot. Russell Wilson is an MVP. The Packers looked sluggish toward the end of the season. Seattle easily handled Philadelphia last week. So why am I so confident?

Because Green Bay ultimately has the better team. When defenses get to Wilson he gets rattled, and he’ll be facing Za’Darius Smith and Blake Martinez, the latter of whom finished second in the league with 155 tackles. Aaron Jones is far and away the best back in this game and Davante Adams came within three yards of a 1,000-yard regular season.

And oh yeah, Rodgers at Lambeau. Setting aside his 26:4 split on the year, he led his team to seven wins at home, tying for league best. He also gets Bryan Bulaga back from concussion protocol. I understand that I’m a lone wolf here, but so be it. Packers cover.

Up against deadline so no time for a coda. You all know the drill anyway. Football beer punk rock blah blah blah. Be like Lamar and stay 23 forever!

Good luck!

About J.J. Duquesne

J.J. is an attorney in New York City. He loves NFL Football...a LOT.