A few teams that were expected to lumbered into the playoffs like behemoths: Chiefs, Seahawks, and the Broncos. It is the under-the-radar teams that often make the largest splash on the way to the Lombardi trophy. I have talked briefly about the curse of the “best record,” and Wild Card weekend has historically produced little-engines-that-could who stumble, frothing and foaming, into a Super Bowl berth. We need not look back very far to see that the Ravens were scheduled for a mediocre season last year before Lady Luck seemed to bless their every pass. 49ers fans are still embittered and Steelers fans groan at the mention of Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens; yet, there’s a cautionary tale there. Do not fall asleep on a hungry team that did not have the benefit of a soft schedule during the regular season. My team, the Patriots, is notorious for being gifted the easiest schedule on the books—and I can vividly recall two upstart Giants teams barreling their way through the playoffs and embarrassing the Brady Bunch. So, Seahawks and Broncos fans, you are on notice: regular season dominance does not a championship make.
I spent some time in Arizona over the holidays and headed over to Laughlin, where the living dead walk, to make some football bets. Nothing is more sobering than losing by a half point; however, it has not dulled my love of blindly picking winners in advance.
In the first AFC Wild Card game, I am taking the Colts over the Chiefs for the upset. Sorry Chargers fans, I see a first-round loss for you. The Saints are dominant at home and the Eagles are playing over their head—so New Orleans, we will see you in the second round. The Pack and Rodgers might be favorites here in the North State, but the 49ers have the capacity to make this embarrassing. I’m afraid Aaron Rodgers’ return is a bit late and a first-round exit is in the cards.
Moving on, we would have my Patriots lining up across from the red-headed wonder and the Bengals. No surprise here: Patriots mop the floor with them. Manning versus his old team; I like the symmetry and poetry of that. With the return of Welker and the offensive powerhouse that is the Denver Broncos, Andrew Luck does not get the chance for any jewelry this year. Seahawks and the Saints: goodnight, New Orleans. Cam Newton and the Panthers have been spectacular this season and I think the 49ers run into that vaunted Carolina defense and watch the Super Bowl at home this year.
Broncos and Patriots: Just look at history, folks—Brady always seems to step on Manning’s throat as he rounds the finish line every time. I’m taking my Patriots. Here comes the upset: I am taking Carolina over Seattle. What does that mean? We have a repeat of Super Bowl XXXVIII, with my Patriots grabbing the final Super Bowl win of the Brady- Belichick era.