I was going to start off here by talking a little bit about Week 17, but instead, I've decided to pretend that it never happened because I AM OUTRAGED. Not because the Giants didn't make the playoffs -- LOL, they went 6-10 and didn't deserve to make it -- but because Doug Pederson's tank job cost me the straight-up picks title here at CBSSports.com.
Heading into the Eagles-Washington game on Sunday night, I needed Philadelphia to win to make the title mine for the second straight year. I'm not going to rehash what happened in the game, but I will say that Philadelphia did not win and that Doug Pederson should NEVER be allowed to coach in the NFL again for costing me the title. Actually, if he agrees to be slimed at halftime of the playoff game on Nickelodeon, I'd be open to him coaching again, but otherwise, he's banned.
The fact that the Eagles lost on Sunday night means that Washington -- and not the Giants -- will be headed to the playoffs. That is, unless Washington does the honorable thing and gives its playoff spot to the Giants, just like Jamey Eisenberg should do the honorable thing and give the picks title to me.
Ron Rivera - “I’m not going to apologize for winning.”— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) January 4, 2021
Based on that, I'm guessing Washington won't be giving its division title to the Giants, which means the Football Team will be hosting the Buccaneers this weekend in a matchup that I mostly find fascinating because Tom Brady is 1-3 against NFC East teams in the playoffs. Also, the Buccaneers went just 1-5 against playoff teams this year.
Did I have the guts to predict a Washington upset? 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. Oh wait, no I didn't. As I just explained, I actually finished in second place thanks to Doug Pederson. I'm never picking the Eagles to win another game ever again. Pederson didn't get fired for his tank job, but plenty of coaches did get let go after Week 17 and we covered those on the latest edition of the Pick Six Podcast.
From now until the Super Bowl, I'll be joining host Will 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 then we ranked all the open jobs from best to worst. I ranked the Eagles job last even though it's not open. In case you haven't noticed, I'm still bitter.
Alright, that's enough stalling, let's get to the picks so I have something to think about besides Doug Pederson and the dumb Eagles.
NFL wild-card playoff picks
No. 7 Indianapolis (11-5) at No. 2 Buffalo (13-3)
Saturday, 1:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
I'm not sure a 13-3 team can be considered underrated, but I'm starting to feel like the Bills were one of the most underrated teams in the NFL this year. If you look at their record, you could easily argue that all three of their losses were flukes. Their first loss came against Tennessee in a game that got rescheduled multiple times before it ended up being played on a TUESDAY. Let's he honest, Tuesday losses shouldn't count in the standings. Their second loss was to the Chiefs in a game what WAS ALSO RESCHEDULED. In this case, the game was moved from a Thursday to a Monday. Their third loss was to the Cardinals who beat them on something called a Hail Murray.
If you're scoring at home, the Bills went 13-1 in regularly scheduled games this year and the only loss came on a miraculous play. On one hand, this seems like a good thing, but on the other hand, a playoff game isn't a "regularly" scheduled game, so it's not crazy to think that the Bills might struggle here (They lost to the Titans and Chiefs by 26 and nine points).
Also, this feels like the worst possible matchup for the Bills. The Colts have a good defense, so they should be able to slow down Josh Allen, but even if they can't, Indy has the offensive firepower to hang around in a shootout. Like Buffalo, the Colts were one of the 10 highest scoring teams in the NFL this year.
The wild-card round almost always gives us one inexplicable upset, but I don't think the upset will be coming in this game. The prediction here is that the Bills win their first playoff game since 1995, and it's actually kind of fitting that it would come against Colts coach Frank Reich, who spent nine seasons as a player in Buffalo.
The pick: Bills 34-27 over Colts
Record picking Colts games this season: 11-5
Record picking Bills games this season: 10-6
No. 6 L.A. Rams (10-6) at No. 3 Seattle (12-4)
Saturday, 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
If there's one team I wouldn't want to be this week, it's the Rams. They're in an interesting situation right now at quarterback and that's because they're either going to have roll with a banged-up Jared Goff or a guy who only has one career start under his belt (John Wolford). On one hand, you could certainly make the argument that it would be smarter to start Goff if he's healthy enough to play, but there's also some risk involved there. Goff is coming off thumb surgery and although I've never thrown a pass in the NFL, I would definitely have to rank the thumb as the most important finger for a quarterback. Obviously, you need your index finger to point at people and you need your middle finger to flip.. well, let's just say you need your middle finger for non-throwing stuff, but your thumb is key because it's the finger that gives you the most control when you throw the football.
If Goff cant't go, that means Wolford will get the start. Although Wolford had a solid debut against the Cardinals -- he became the first player in NFL history with at least 200 passing yards and at least 50 rushing yards in an NFL debut -- the fact of the matter is that he only led the Rams to nine points. Also, that was a regular season game and this is a playoff game, which is a huge difference, because quarterbacks almost always struggle when they're starting their first career playoff game.
Since divisional realignment in 2002, quarterbacks making their first playoff start ever in the wild-card round are 9-30. In Jared Goff's first playoff start back in 2017, the Rams lost 26-13 and I'm guessing this game is going to go something like that, especially since the Rams are playing a Seahawks team that has never lost a home playoff game under Pete Carroll (6-0). The Seahawks are expected to have their projected starting offensive line on the field for just the sixth time this year and in the previous five games where that happened, they went 5-0. I think I've talked myself into Seattle.
The pick: Seahawks 23-13 over Rams
Record picking Rams games this season: 7-9
Record picking Seahawks games this season: 9-7
No. 5 Tampa Bay (11-5) at No. 4 Washington (7-9)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)
I'm not sure what Tom Brady's worst nightmare is, but I have to think it involves playing an NFC East team in the playoffs. Since 2007, Brady has faced a total of three NFC East teams in the playoffs and although his team was favored to win each time, Brady went 0-3 in those games. Sure, those other three games were Super Bowls, but this is kind of the same thing, because it's going to feel like a Super Bowl for Washington and I'm basing that completely on how excited Chase Young looks in the video below.
Young's enthusiasm kind of makes sense and that's mostly because when you have a 21-year-old chasing around a 43-year-old, things don't usually end so well for the 43-year-old. If you want to slow down Brady, the easiest way to do it is to put non-stop pressure on him and hit him as often as possible. No quarterback likes to be hit and I'd argue that Brady hates it more than anyone. Once he starts taking big hits, he either gets frustrated, starts looking to the ref for a flag or both. I'm guessing both will happen in this game.
I'm not sure what Bruce Arians' worst nightmare is, but I bet it involves playing a seven-win team in the playoffs. The last time a team with just seven wins made the postseason came in 2014 when Ron Rivera's Carolina Panthers beat Arians' Arizona Cardinals. Rivera will likely be reminding his team about that win every day this week.
The one problem with picking Washington here is that the Football Team's offense is an absolute disaster. In their past five games, they've averaged under 19 points per game, which isn't going to cut it against the Buccaneers. I think the recipe is here for an upset, but like me in the kitchen, Washington is definitely going to mess something up.
This is the first time Brady has ever played on the road in the wild-card round, which seems like a perfect spot to bet against him, but I can't bring myself to do it.
The pick: Buccaneers 23-16 over Washington
Record picking Buccaneers games this season: 13-3
Record picking Washington games this season: 8-8
No. 5 Baltimore (11-5) at No. 4 Tennessee (11-5)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN)
This game marks the third time in 12 months that these two teams have played each other and I'm starting to think that the NFL is making these games happen on purpose as way to test if I'll keep picking the Titans. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs came back in January when the Titans absolutely shocked the Ravens 28-12 in a divisional round playoff game that no one thought Tennessee was going to win. Well, except for me.
Back in Week 11, these two teams faced off again and guess what happened again: Everyone I work with picked the Ravens to win even though I spent the lead up to Week 11 trying to convince them that there was no way the Titans were going to lose. DID ANYONE LISTEN? No. The answer is no, they did not listen.
I am now 2-0 picking Titans-Ravens games over the past 12 months and everyone else I work with is 0-2. Eisenberg should lose his picks title just for that.
So is the third time finally going to be the charm for Baltimore? Am I finally going to pick the Ravens? The answers to those questions are no and no. As crazy as it sounds, I feel like the Ravens are the one team that Titans actually WANTED to face in the playoffs. The Ravens have struggled to stop the run this year and the Titans are not the team you want to be playing if you struggle to stop the run. It's like going to a free all-you-can-eat cake buffet when you're struggling with your diet. That's the last place you should be.
The Ravens surrendered 4.4 yards per carry this season, which might as well be 10.4 when you're going up against a guy like Derrick Henry. Not only did Henry become just the eighth player in NFL history to hit the 2,000-yard mark this year, but he also averaged 5.4 yards per carry on the season while doing it. In Tennessee's two wins over the Ravens, Henry has averaged 164 yards per game.
Henry having a big game is actually kind of important because if he's on a roll, that means he's on the field and Tennessee's defense isn't. The Titans defense has a lot of weaknesses and they need to keep it off the field at all costs. The fewer minutes the Titans have their defense on the field, the better. The Titans' biggest weakness on defense is that they have absolutely zero pass-rush. The problem for the Ravens is that Lamar Jackson hasn't shown to be the type of quarterback who can take advantage of that. We've seen guys like Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers pick the Titans apart, but that's not how Jackson plays.
For the third time in 12 months, I'm going with the Titans.
The pick: Titans 34-31 over Ravens
Record picking Ravens games this season: 14-2
Record picking Titans games this season: 9-7
No. 7 Chicago (8-8) at No. 2 New Orleans (12-4)
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET (CBS/Nickelodeon/Amazon Prime)
The fact that an 8-8 team made the playoffs this year is kind of funny, so if you think about it, it's almost fitting that this is going to be the first ever NFL game televised by Nickelodeon. Oh, and if you missed it, Nickelodeon is airing a playoff game this year.
I'm sure you guys already assumed this, but there's a 100% chance I'll be watching that feed of the game. SpongeBob SquarePants behind the field goal posts? Googly eyes on the quarterbacks? I mean, it's almost going to be like watching a normal Bears game.
Although the oddsmakers seem to think this is going to be the biggest blowout of the wild-card round -- the Saints are the biggest favorite of the weekend -- I think his is arguably the most fascinating game. When these two teams met back in Week 8, the Bears took the Saints to overtime before losing 26-23. Chicago lost the game even though Nick Foles got sacked five times while also throwing one of the worst interceptions in the history of football.
If Mitchell Trubisky can avoid making the same mistakes that Foles made the first time around, the Bears should be able to stay in this game and the longer they stay in the game, the better chance they have at an upset. Although 8-8 is an ugly record for a team in the playoffs, being .500 has actually been a good thing in the wild-card round. Since 2000, there have been a total of five teams that went into the playoffs with an 8-8 record and those five teams combined to go 4-1 in the opening round.
Also, no team has mastered the art of the impossible loss quite like the Saints, who somehow find a new, crazy way to lose in the playoffs every year. Last year, it was an overtime loss to the Vikings. In 2018, it was the pass interference no-call loss to the Rams. In 2017, it was the Minneapolis miracle. I mean, I'm starting to think that some Saints fan got drunk in the French Quarter one night and accidentally paid to have a voodoo spell put on the team.
If the Bears do win on Sunday I give them a zero percent chance to win in the divisional round in a game that would be played against the Packers, so please enjoy this game Chicago.
The pick: Bears 26-23 over Saints
Record picking Bears games this season: 11-5
Record picking Saints games this season: 12-4
No. 6 Cleveland (11-5) at No. 3 Pittsburgh (12-4)
Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)
First, I'd like to start things off here by congratulating the Browns for earning their first playoff berth in 18 years. The last time they were in the playoffs, I had a friend who had a pager, just in case you're wondering how long ago that was. I might page him tonight to see if that thing is still on. Anyway, now that the Browns have ended their playoff drought, they're going to have to end at least two more droughts if they're going to win this game.
The Browns haven't won a playoff game since 1994, which means they're currently in a 26-year drought. In 1994, the Browns beat the Patriots in the playoffs, but then got knocked out of the postseason by the Steelers. The Browns then made the playoffs again in 2002, but they lost their only game. The twist here is that the loss came against, yup, you guessed it, the Steelers. I kind of feel like the Steelers are the one team the Browns didn't want to be facing this week.
If the Browns are going to win on Sunday, they're going to have end yet another drought (I told you, there are a lot of droughts involved here): They haven't won in Pittsburgh since 2003. Over the past 17 seasons, the Browns are 0-17 at Heinz Field and 12 of those losses have come by double digits.
The Browns could barely beat Pittsburgh's backups on Sunday, so I don't have a lot of confidence in them going into this game. During Cleveland's 24-22 win in Week 17, the Steelers didn't have Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt or Cam Hayward and the Browns still almost blew it. The Steelers' starters will be playing this week and when they're playing, I just feel like Pittsburgh has the better team.
As for my prediction, I'm looking to last week's pick for my inspiration:
"Could the Browns choke [against the Steelers backups]? Absolutely. However, I had this weird dream last night that they won in Week 17 and then got stuck playing the Steelers again next week in the wild-card round and that's the one they end up choking away."
The Browns won in Week 17? Check.
They're playing the Steelers again? Check.
They choke away the wild-card game? We'll find out on Sunday.
I might have a future as a fortune-teller if my dreams keep predicting the future so accurately.
The pick: Steelers 27-24 over Browns
Record picking Browns games this season: 10-6
Record picking Steelers games this season: 12-4
Best pick: Last week I predicted that the Rams would pull off an upset against Arizona even though they were being forced to start a quarterback (John Wolford) who had never thrown an NFL pass before and guess what happened? The Rams upset the Cardinals even though their quarterback had never thrown an NFL pass before Sunday. I'll be honest, half the reason I picked them to win is because I have the same first name as the quarterback. Not too many Johns running around these parts anymore, so we have to stick together.
Worst pick: For some reason, I decided to make myself the captain of Cowboys bandwagon this year and let's just say, I went down with the ship. For my picks last week, I went 0-2 picking NFC East games and 13-1 picking everyone else. I picked the Cowboys to beat the Giants, which I wouldn't have done if I had known that Mike McCarthy was going to forget how to coach. HEY MIKE, HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF A CHALLENGE FLAG. Throwing a challenge flag is literally the first thing they teach you in coaching school, but I guess McCarthy skipped that class. The man who was on the field for Dez Bryant's no-catch in 2014 didn't challenge a third down catch by the Giants' Dante Pettis, which ended up leading a huge fourth quarter field goal for New York.
Can I challenge Jerry Jones’s call to hire Mike McCarthy?— Cousin Sal (@TheCousinSal) January 3, 2021
I would also like challenge the Cowboys' decision to keep McCarthy for next year. Picking the Cowboys wasn't my worst pick of the week though and that's because I also picked the Eagles to win, which I wouldn't have done if I had known that Doug Pederson was going to completely give up. As I've mentioned 17 times already, Pederson's performance cost me the picks title here. The NFC East was such a bad division this year, I don't know why I picked any of their games.
Straight up in Week 17: 13-3
Final 2020 regular season record SU: 170-84-1 (Ranked second overall at CBSSports.com)
Against the spread in Week 17: 8-7-1
Final 2020 regular season record ATS: 117-130-8 (Did not rank second overall)
Wild-card record last year
Straight up: 2-2
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 probably on the phone with his lawyer to see what can be done about getting the pick title rightfully returned to him.