I heard a coughing sound over the weekend and since I was battling a head cold, I thought it was me, but as it turns out, it was actually the Patriots choking away their shot at a bye week in this year's postseason.
It's hard to put into words how big of a choke job New England pulled against the Dolphins, but I'm going to try. The Patriots were favored by 17.5 points in the game, which I'm only telling you because, before Sunday, no team favored by 17 or more points had lost a game this century. Since 2000, NFL teams were 28-0 when favored by that many points, and all the Patriots had to do to keep the streak going was to not let Ryan Fitzpatrick drive 75 yards down the field for a touchdown in the final four minutes of the game. Spoiler alert: They did not stop him.
Besides the Chiefs, who stole New England's bye, the biggest winner in the Fitzmagic show was the person below, who now gets the honor of buying eight different Fitzpatrick jerseys.
If the Dolphins beat the Patriots today, not only will I get a Ryan Fitzpatrick Dolphins jersey, but I will get a Ryan Fitzpatrick jersey from every team he’s ever been on.— Troy (@Troy_Rolan12) December 29, 2019
I might start a GoFundMe for that guy, because I feel like I should chip in on that.
With Week 17 in the books, that means it's now time for the playoffs, and up first, we have the round that I love to hate: The wild-card round. I love watching it, but I hate trying to predict it, because it always gets crazy, and I'm not talking kind of crazy, I'm talking "Up is left, right is down, orange is a sound, nobody knows what's going on" crazy.
Just to give you an idea of how crazy things can get during the first weekend of the playoffs, consider this: Underdogs went 4-0 against the spread and 3-1 straight-up last season. You can also throw home-field advantage out the window: Home teams are 0-8 against the spread over the past two years. And if that's not confusing enough, we have three quarterbacks making their first career playoff start, which is definitely not a good thing.
Since 2002, QBs making their first career playoff start in the Wild Card round are:— JonBoyBeats (@jonboybeats) December 30, 2019
🔸8-28 straight up (22.2%)
🔸3-11 ATS as a fav (21.4%)
🔸7-15 ATS as a dog (31.8%)
🔸Unders are 27-15 (64.3%)
🚨FADE 2019-20 PLAYOFF DEBUTS🚨
I think that means I should be picking against Josh Allen, Ryan Tannehill and Carson Wentz this week.
So will I pick against them? Let's get to the picks and find out.
Actually, before we get to the picks, here's a quick reminder that you can check out the weekly picks from every CBSSports.com NFL expert by clicking here. If you click over, you'll notice that I put everyone to shame and ended the regular season with best straight-up picks record here at CBSSports.com. I will no doubt be bringing that up at every company function for the next three years. On the other hand, Will Brinson put me to shame by finishing with the best picks record against the spread.
Speaking of Brinson, if you need a new podcast to listen to in 2020, I highly suggest that you click here and subscribe to the Pick Six Podcast, which is our daily NFL podcast here at CBSSports.com that's hosted by Brinson. From now until the Super Bowl, I'll be joining Brinson on the podcast multiple days per week to talk football and anything else we can think of. On Tuesday's episode, which you can listen to below, we went over all the coaching firings that have happened so far, and every firing that should have happened.
Alright, that's enough stalling, let's get to the picks, and just so you guys know, my New Year's resolution for 2020 is to get more picks right, so let's hope I actually keep that one since I've blown ever resolution since 2004.
NFL Wild-Card picks
No. 5 Buffalo (10-6) at No. 4 Houston (10-6)
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET (ESPN/ABC)
Point spread: Texans, -3 points
"Houston, we have a problem."
Guys, I didn't want to start things off here by opening with the most overused cliche in history, but I did it, because I honestly do think that Houston might have a problem on Saturday and that problem is their defense. The Texans have been so good on offense all season that it's kind of overshadowed just how bad the team has been on defense. For one, they gave up an average of 388.3 yards per game this year, which was so bad that only the Bengals, Cardinals, Dolphins and Lions were worse. If you're on a list -- any list -- with with the Bengals, Cardinals, Dolphins and Lions, that definitely qualifies as a problem.
If this game had been played last year, Josh Allen probably would have thrown four interceptions and the Bills probably would have lost 17-10, but this year, Allen has actually looked good, and I'm pretty sure he's going to be able to take advantage of Houston's defense. Speaking of defense, the Bills are actually pretty good on that side of the ball: They gave up the second fewest points in the NFL this year, the second fewest touchdown passes, they also gave up the third fewest passing yards and they were one of only three teams that held opposing quarterbacks to under an 80.0 QB rating (To put that in perspective opposing QB's had a 95.3 rating against the Texans this year).
I really want to pick the Bills in this game, but the one thing that's holding me back is that the Bills are horrible at winning playoff games. They're the new Bengals. They haven't won in the postseason since 1995, which also happens to be the year that "Braveheart" came out, which I'm only mentioning because villages get burned and destroyed in that movie, and there's a 50% chance the city of Buffalo is going to be burned and destroyed on Saturday night if the Bills win this game. I mean, let's be honest, this is the fan base that smashes each other through folding tables, so burning a city to the ground to celebrate a win wouldn't be completely out of the question.
On a somewhat related note, I went 13-3 picking Bills games this year, and I'm pretty sure that's directly related to the fact that I got slammed through multiple folding tables as a kid. I might slam myself through another table if I get this pick right.
The pick: Bills 23-20 over Texans
Record picking Bills games this season: 13-3
Record picking Texans games this season: 7-9
No. 6 Tennessee (9-7) at No. 3 New England (12-4)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Patriots, -4.5 points
This is my favorite game of the weekend and I'm not just saying that because it's on CBS, although I do like the fact that it's on CBS because I love everything on CBS. (As you can clearly see, one of my early goals for 2020 is to start sucking up to my bosses more).
Anyway, if you're like most of America and didn't pay very much attention to the Titans this season, let me give you a quick refresher on Tennessee: They had the NFL's leading rusher, they have a wide receiver who averaged more than 20 yards per catch and they have the best quarterback in the entire league. OK, that last part is a slight exaggeration, but not by much.
During his 10 games as the Titans starter in 2019, not only did Ryan Tannehill go 7-3, but he also finished as the NFL's leader in QB rating and yards per attempt. And you know what, I'm going to repeat that, because it doesn't even sound believable: RYAN TANNEHILL led the NFL in QB rating, which means he had a better rating than guys like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes. Also, Tannehill's league-leading yard per attempt average was 9.6, which is insane, because it means he was nearly gaining enough yards for a first down EVERY TIME he threw the ball.
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On the Patriots' end, the biggest advantage they have in this game is Bill Belichick, but even that might not be much of an advantage against the Titans. If there's one time when Belichick seems to regularly get out-coached, it's when he's going up against former members of the Patriots organization. Over the past two years, the Patriots have lost a total of nine regular season games and four of those have come against people who once coached with or played for the Patriots (Brian Flores and Bill O'Brien in 2019; Matt Patricia and Mike Vrabel in 2018). Vrabel's win came last season when the Titans beat the Patriots 34-10 in what currently ranks as the fourth-worst loss that Belichick and Tom Brady have ever suffered together.
Belichick's specialty is taking away what the other team does best, but that's going to be tough to do against the Titans. If you go all-in to stop Derrick Henry, then Tannehill is going to pick you apart. If the Patriots focus on shutting down the pass, that will leave them highly susceptible to the run, which would likely be an issue, since they can't even really stop the run when they're trying to stop the run.
Every year, I promise myself I'm not going to pick against the Patriots in the playoffs and every year I end up doing it at least once. I'm just getting it out of the way early this season. Yes, I'm picking against a team that has won 12 straight playoff home games, which is a mild concern. I'm also highly concerned with the fact that this is Tannehill's first career playoff start.
The pick: Titans 27-20 over Patriots
Record picking Titans games this season: 10-6
Record picking Patriots games this season: 12-4
No. 6 Minnesota (10-6) at No. 3 New Orleans (13-3)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Saints, -8 points
Vikings fans might want to head down to Bourbon Street and start taking shots before this game kicks off on Sunday, because that might be the only way you're going to be able to handle watching Kirk Cousins. Look, we've all seen Cousins perform under the national spotlight before and if those past performances are any indication, it's going to be a long, horrible day for Minnesota, and I know all about long, horrible days, because I grew up a Bengals fan.
Going into this game, I have two big issues that are keeping me from picking Minnesota. For one, they choked in every big game they played in this year. The Vikings had four regular season games against teams that finished with double-digit wins and they went 0-4 in those games. They got blown out by the Packers in Week 16, they were getting blown out by the Seahawks in the fourth quarter of a Monday night game (They trailed 34-17) in Week 13, they lost to a Chiefs team that didn't have Patrick Mahomes in Week 9 and they also lost to the Packers in Week 2. They've done absolutely nothing to make me think that they can beat a good team.
The other thing that worries me about the Vikings is their secondary, and let me just say that I'm not the only one who feels this way. The idea of Minnesota's secondary trying to stop Michael Thomas is already giving Vikings fans nightmares.
As a Vikings fan I’m already mentally preparing for Brees and Thomas to light up our secondary like a Christmas tree.— Kyla (@kylaer_) December 30, 2019
Michael thomas will have over 200 yards rec next sunday against this pitiful Vikings secondary— Bad Bandit (@Bfranklez) December 30, 2019
I love my Vikings but know how bad our secondary has been all season 🥴 Thomas is about to torch us— Erik (@ErikCG_) December 30, 2019
Guys, I'll be honest, Vikings fans aren't sounding very confident about this game, but you know what, you can't blame them. The Saints have the better quarterback in this game, the better coach and I have to think they're still somewhat bitter about what happened in 2017.
The last time we saw these two teams on the field together in the playoffs, the Vikings ended up winning the game on a miracle, which is almost ironic, because I feel like the Vikings are going to need a miracle to win this week. The bad news for Minnesota is that if my understanding of miracles is correct, you only get one per lifetime, and the Vikings used their one miracle up two years ago. Also, there's no way the Pope is going to let a miracle go against the Saints this year.
Remember, he's a Saints fan, even if just by accident.
The pick: Saints 34-23 over Vikings
Record picking Vikings games this season: 12-4
Record picking Saints games this season: 9-7
No. 5 Seattle (11-5) at No. 4 Philadelphia (9-7)
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET (NBC)
Point spread: Seahawks, -1.5 points
I used to think that "Grey's Anatomy" was the best medical drama on TV, but let me tell you, that is definitely not the case anymore, because the Philadelphia Eagles are the best medical drama on TV. I'm not sure how many doctors the Eagles employ, but whatever the number is, it's definitely not enough. Every time I watch the Eagles, it pretty much goes the same way: At least five players get injured and have to leave the game, which makes me think they have no chance of winning, but then they win anyway. I've learned more medical knowledge watching Eagles games than I did during my five years in college.
If you're wondering how banged up the Eagles are going into this game, let me just say that they basically clinched the NFC East on Sunday with Carson Wentz throwing to a glorified roster of practice squad players, and that's not even an exaggeration. Boston Scott, Greg Ward and Deontay Burnett all played big parts in Philly's Week 17 win over the Giants and they all spent part of the season on the practice squad. Here's a brief look at how many injuries the Eagles have dealt with over the course of the year...
... And that doesn't even include right guard Brandon Brooks, who was injured against the Giants and won't be playing this week.
it's kind of fitting that Philly is playing Seattle this week, because not only is that where "Grey's Anatomy" is set, but the Seahawks might be the only team in the playoffs that's more banged up than Philadelphia. You know you're desperate for help when you're calling a 33-year-old running back who has been retired for 14 months, and that's what the Seahawks did when they called in Marshawn Lynch.
I hate picking against the Eagles, because there's no NFL team that plays better as an underdog than Philly, but I also hate picking against Russell Wilson. Basically, no matter who I pick in this game, I'm going to end up hating myself for it, but I will say, I'll definitely hate myself a little less if my pick is right. In the first ever "Injury Bowl," I'm taking the Seahawks, but only because their skill players are slightly above practice squad level.
The pick: Seahawks 20-17 over Eagles
Record picking Seahawks games this season: 9-7
Record picking Eagles games this season: 10-6
Best pick: Last week, Iwould beat the Buccaneers, and to be honest, it was the easiest prediction of 2019. When I made the prediction, I noted that there's basically a 99% chance that Jameis Winston is going to throw at least one pick-six, and boy did he come through. On his final throw of the 2019 season, Jameis made history when he threw a touchdown pass in overtime to the wrong team, or as most people call it, a pick-six.
That pick-six was the seventh of the season for Winston, which set an NFL record. That pick-six was also his 30th interception of the year, which makes him the one and only member of the the 30-30 club (30 touchdown passes, 30 interceptions). On one hand, 30 touchdowns is kind of impressive, but on the other hand, 30 interceptions is kind of embarrassing. There's just no in-between with Jameis. If he was a pilot, he would either give you a completely smooth flight to your destination or crash the plane. Seriously, there's just no in-between with him.
Worst pick: Freddie Kitchens wasn't the only one who went down in flames in Week 17, I went with him. For some reason that I still can't figure out, I picked the Browns to beat the Bengals even though it became pretty clear roughly two weeks ago that the Browns had given up on Kitchens. I mean, just listen to Jarvis Landry's comments below.
.@God_Son80 with a couple of telling sound bites following the firing of Freddie Kitchens: "I just think, at times, there was a lack (of respect)." // "We just didn't really know what the plan was... I don't think we ever really found our identity." #Browns @wkyc @WKYCSports pic.twitter.com/xniXBilGgN— Pat Chiesa (@PatChiesa) December 30, 2019
I think we can all agree that "We just didn't really know what the plan was" is definitely going to be the title if there's ever a book written about the Browns 2019 season.
Besides the Browns, I also picked the Steelers to beat the Ravens, because for some reason, I thought the Steelers were good enough to beat Baltimore's backups, but that decision also blew up in my face. Basically, the AFC North is now my least favorite division in football. I went 0-2 picking AFC North games last week and 12-2 picking games that didn't involve AFC North teams. The good news for me (and you) is that I didn't have to make any picks this week involving AFC North teams. As a matter of fact, I might just take a pass on picking any games involving AFC North teams ever again.
Happy New Year everyone, and remember, I'll be back next week with divisional round picks, where I'll likely be sharing hate tweets from Patriots fans who will definitely be rubbing in the fact that I got my New England-Tennessee pick wrong.
Straight up in Week 17: 12-4
Final 2019 regular season record SU: 163-92-1 (Ranked first overall at CBSSports.com)
Against the spread in Week 17: 10-6
Final 2019 regular season record ATS: 120-130-6 (Did not rank first overall)
Wild-card record last year
Against the spread: 2-2
You can find John Breech on Facebook or Twitter and if he's not doing one of those things, he's at buying a few extra folding tables and also calling his insurance company to make sure he's covered for injuries that occur while being slammed through a folding table.