NFL playoff predictions: Picks for four divisional-round games
On the road to Miami
One week of NFL playoff football is in the books and my predicted NFC champion is sitting in the carpool lane at their kid's school. Not great.
The wild-card round saw three of the four road teams spring upsets, with only the No. 4 seed Houston Texans protecting their home turf.
Deshaun Watson and Co. now will travel to Kansas City to face reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Meanwhile, with Drew Brees starting to binge the second season of "You," the Minnesota Vikings head to the Bay to face the top-seeded 49ers in a game that promises to be closer than most think.
So, who will move onto Championship Weekend?
AFC Divisional Playoff Game: No. 6 Titans at No. 1 Ravens
Ryan Tannehill threw for only 72 yards Saturday in the Tennessee Titans' upset over the New England Patriots.
The recipe was simple: Give the ball to running back Derrick Henry early, often and all the time, and pray Tom Brady's receivers -- one of whom moonlights as a bar back at the 99 and the other is a janitor in Saugus, Mass. -- don't make plays.
It worked, and now the Titans walk into M&T Bank Stadium to face the best team in football.
Lamar Jackson is the youngest quarterback remaining in the playoffs, but it won't matter. The likely NFL MVP puts on a show, throwing for 250 yards and rushing for another 100 while finding the end zone three times. The Ravens' defense bottles up Henry and Tannehill rips off the mask to reveal he's still the same pumpkin he has always been.
Prediction: Ravens 28, Titans 14
AFC Divisional Playoff Game: No. 4 Texans at No. 2 Chiefs
Deshaun Watson vs. Patrick Mahomes? Just hook me up to an IV, and get out of my way.
Watson saved Bill O'Brien and the Texans from what would have been another brutal home wild-card game loss when he somehow escaped a sack in overtime, found Taiwan Jones for a 34-yard gain and the Texans eked out a win over the Buffalo Bills.
Does Watson have enough magic to walk into Arrowhead Stadium on a Sunday in January and outduel Patrick Mahomes? Seems doubtful.
The Texans once again fall down early, trailing 21-7 at the break. Watson gives them a spark with a 53-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins to open the third quarter, but Mahomes slams the door with touchdown passes of 42 and 35 yards to Mecole Hardman.
Prediction: Chiefs 35, Texans 21
NFC Divisional Playoff Game: No. 5 Seahawks at No. 2 Packers
The Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers in the playoffs just feels right.
The Seahawks have been eviscerated by injuries, but quarterback Russell Wilson just won't let them die. The Packers' defense is as middle of the road as they come, so Wilson finds ways to make plays to DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jacob Hollister, giving the Seahawks a 17-14 lead with nine minutes to play in the game.
But Rodgers quickly moves the Packers down the field with completions of 18, 21,17 and 15 before finding Aaron Jones for a 4-yard score to take the lead.
He left too much time for Wilson, though. The Seahawks quarterback evades a sack on third-and-11 and finds Metcalf for 35 yards down to the Packers' 12-yard line. Then, on the next play, Wilson hits Lockett in the corner of the end zone with 10 seconds remaining, sending Seattle to the NFC Championship Game.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Packers 21
NFC Divisional Playoff Game: No. 6 Vikings at No. 1 49ers
The 49ers avoided the Seahawks for another week.
Kirk Cousins won the biggest game of his career mainly by throwing balls into the flat and handing it off to Dalvin Cook. But the 49ers' defense got healthy during the bye. Going against the 23rd-ranked pass blocking team by DVOA, the 49ers bottle up Cook early and then start to tee off on Cousins.
But the Vikings' defense makes life equally tough on the Niners' offense, with SF holding a slim 10-6 lead at halftime. A third-quarter interception by Jimmy Garoppolo leads to Cousins hitting Stefon Diggs for a go-ahead touchdown, momentarily silencing Levi's Stadium.
A Robbie Gould field goal ties the game at the end of the third quarter, setting up a nail-biting final frame.
The 49ers get a stop on third-and-9, giving the ball back to Jimmy G to deliver his signature moment. Minnesota's leaky secondary finally bites them as Garoppolo engineers a 10-play, 75-yard drive, culminating in an 18-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders to give the Niners a 20-13 lead with 1:15 to play. Cousins' Hail-Mary attempt falls to the turf and the Niners prepare for Round 3 with the Seahawks.
Prediction: 49ers 20, Vikings 13