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NFL Wild Card Round picks: Brady, Belichick tension looms over weekend of games

A weekend full of games with teams new to this playoff rodeo, and the Patriots are still catching the spotlight.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Such is life, right?

Yesterday, word came down the pipe that the Worldwide Leader would be running a story about the friction between the figureheads of the New England Patriots almost two-decade dynasty: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Since then, the piece by Seth Wickersham has hit the front page of ESPN’s website—complete with a short video of still images narrated by Wickersham himself.

It’s an interesting read, filled with everything a good story has: interpersonal conflict with a dash of sabotage, power struggle among the ranks, a personal trainer/body coach who claimed he could cure cancer with dietary supplements.

But unlike the No. 1 seeded Patriots, some of those in the NFL who qualified for the playoffs have to work on Saturday. And all of them have the chance to potentially be the final nail that fractures an already purportedly splintered Patriots’ dynasty.

Let’s get to the picks.

CHIEFS -8.5 over Titans

The playoffs are a bit of a different beast when it comes to picking against the spread. Not to fall too deep into a cliche, but you kind of throw out the numbers you were paying attention to all season to help you make sense of things, and you have to, well, simply pick who you think is the better football team.

During the regular season, you have these week-to-week ways of contextualizing your rationale. You have things like the bye week to take into account, overreactions from the week prior that swing the spread in stupid ways. In the playoffs, it’s usually the better team winning and almost always covering the spread—all 11 teams that won playoff games last year also covered the spread.

With that being said, I think the Chiefs are going to make a mad dash for the Super Bowl, so long as Andy Reid doesn’t forget he has Kareem Hunt as a player on offense. He’s pretty useful, y’know? 2017 NFL Rushing Title, finished third in yards from scrimmage, and fifth in DVOA among running backs. As long as he’s touching the football 20+ times a game, I have the Chiefs winning football games in the playoffs.

But hey, you can’t rule out the Titans. Let’s check in on the current state of affairs in Nashville heading into this matchup:

RAMS -6 over Falcons

With all of the talent the Falcons boast on offense, both the offense and Matt Ryan slipping from first in DVOA to ninth in their respective categories is less of a “regression to the mean” and more of a result of losing Kyle Shanahan to the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a pretty steep decline in production for an offense that put up 540 points last year only managing to put up 353 points a year later.

Also, Todd Gurley is the league MVP. Find me @Ryan_POD.

JAGUARS -8.5 over Bills

A couple of weeks ago, I decided the Buffalo Bills were my new AFC team. Shortly thereafter, they miraculously made the playoffs on the arm of Andy Dalton and #BillsMafia has been doing everything they can to impress an already had man.

Nothing says thank you like six gallons of blue cheese. Not even donating over $315,000 to Andy Dalton.

It’s the end of the line for the Bills, however. With LeSean McCoy, clearly the team’s best player on offense, nursing an ankle injury he suffered in Week 17, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Buffalo can muster up enough offense against the Jaguars, owners of one of the best defenses in the NFL.

SAINTS -6.5 over Panthers

New Orleans is paced by the most dynamic rushing duo in the league, and this is legitimately one of the few things that gets me excited about football. Last year, we saw how well a two-headed backfield worked for the Atlanta Falcons when Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 2,482 yards from scrimmage.

This season, rookie sensation Alvin Kamara and former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram combined for a whopping 3,094 yards from scrimmage during the regular season—the most by any running back tandem in NFL history.