Wild-Card Weekend: AFC Picks

#5 Kansas City at #4 Houston

Listen, everyone’s on the Chiefs. My grandma, your grandma, your grandma’s housekeeper, your aunt’s best friend’s flower guy, Andy Reid, Andy Reid’s electrician, and even my fellow WTBU staffers. And I can see why. The Chiefs haven’t lost a game since October. Two games after losing Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL, KC rolled off 10 in a row to improve from 1-5 to 11-5.

The Chiefs success comes from their turnover differential (+14, second in the NFL) and their ability to run the ball, even without Charles (6th in NFL in rush yards). They’re a damn good team but you also have to take into account Andy Reid’s propensity to make coaching mistakes (guy manages the clock worse than I would manage a Rite Aid). Couple that with the Chiefs’ cupcake second-half schedule (opponents combined record of 39-59)* and you start to wonder if they are being a bit overvalued.

*That’s even including the Broncos 12-4 record. But the Chiefs caught Denver at Peyton Manning’s lowest (5-25, 35 yds, 4 INT).

On the other side, the Texans are also hot. Since starting 2-5, they finished the year 7-2, beating both Cincinnati and the New York Jets. I think the turning point in the Texans season was that Miami game in week 7, where they surrendered 44 points on 248 rushing yards and nearly 300 passing yards. Houston gave up four, count ’em, FOUR scoring plays of 50 or more yards. In only the first half!

But since that disaster (did I mention Ryan Tannehill scored a perfect passer rating too?), Houston has been solid, even with a revolving door at quarterback. But now, original starter Brian Hoyer who, coincidentally, was pulled in the fourth quarter against these very Chiefs in week one, gets his chance at revenge.

I think Hoyer’s up to the task (he actually posted a respectable 19:7 TD/INT ratio this year). And I like Houston, who somehow ended the year as the NFL 3rd best total defense in terms of opponent yardage, to contain Smith and company.

(+3) Houston 26, Kansas City 19

#6 Pittsburgh at #3 Cincinnati

Another AFC road favorite here as the Bengals will be without starting quarterback Andy Dalton. But what’s flown under the radar is that Steeler running back DeAngelo Williams (4.54 yards per carry, 11 rushing TD) is also ruled out.

Most people are on Pitt, but once again, I’m taking the opposite route. Road less traveled, read about it in a book once, ever hear of Ernest Hemingway?

Anyway, I like Cincy for a few reasons. One is of course the Steelers playing without DeAngelo. Everyone talks about their potent passing attack, but running effectively allows Pittsburgh to spread it out. Now, they’re starting some guy named Fitzgerald Toussaint. I’m pretty sure he was a famous jazz player. Or maybe he’s a distant cousin of Madame Tussaud (was that even a real person?).

As for Cincinnati’s offense, A.J. McCarron has been competent in place of Dalton. He’s thrown for six TD’s, two INT’s and a 97.1 passer rating in four games. The two interceptions both came against Pittsburgh in week 14, which isn’t surprising considering Pittsburgh’s opportunistic defense (17 INT). But the passing game is also where Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable (30th in opponent yards).

And let’s not forgot the Steelers also looked shaky against the Browns last week and lost at home to the Ravens one week prior. I ain’t trusting the Wax Statue.*

*Toussaint’s official new nickname. You see it works because of the name and because he doesn’t move.

(+3) Cincinnati 34, Pittsburgh 20

**It also shall be noted that last year I correctly predicted the Pittsburgh/Baltimore wild-card round final score perfectly. Got it on a late safety, nbd**

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