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Kibbles and Picks – Wild Card Round 2018

January 3, 2018
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Longtime readers of The Maine Edge are likely aware of our ongoing web-based feature Kibbles and Picks, wherein I spend every NFL season attempting to pick more winners than my dog Stella. The 2017 season marked our fifth foray into these waters. Stella had emerged triumphant in three of the four previous years, including the last two.

And now it’s a three-peat.

I managed to get a couple of games back in the final week, but Stella wound up beating me by three games. For the third year in a row – and fourth out of five – I have been humbled by the surprising prognostication acumen of my beloved pooch.

Our final regular season tabulations:

ALLEN

Week 17 record: 10-6

Season record: 163-93

STELLA

Week 17 record: 8-8

Season record: 166-90

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But we’re not done. Oh no. Not by a long shot. It’s playoff time now, my opportunity to try and regain some tiny scrap of my dignity. And with differing opinions on half of the weekend’s contests, it certainly looks like things could get interesting in this ongoing battle betwixt man and beast.

We’ll start with the games on which Stella and I agree. Strangely enough, both of us like the same teams in the AFC; we’re looking at chalk this weekend.

In the first game of the weekend, we’re thinking that the Chiefs will have little trouble handling the Titans at home. Kansas City has long been a difficult place for opposing teams to play; one imagines that a playoff atmosphere would only exacerbate that issue. We’re expecting a big game from Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt; the rookie led the NFL in rushing this year and should have no problem against a questionable Tennessee defense. Stella thinks it could be a close one; she’s not as down on Titans QB Marcus Mariota as most pundits and thinks he could put a scare into the KC crowd. Still, we’re both onboard with a Chiefs victory.

In the early Sunday game, neither one of us thinks that this Bills team is going to get much beyond the “just happy to be here” phase of things. Sure, Jacksonville has its issues – primarily with the erratic and unpredictable play of QB Blake Bortles – but there’s just no way that Buffalo is going to be able to get anything going against a Jaguars D that has been strong all season. When you take into account that star Bills rusher LeSean McCoy is potentially hobbled by injury, things look pretty bleak for a Buffalo team making the postseason for the first time in the 21st century. Neither Stella nor myself gives the Bills much of a chance against this ascendant Jags squad.

As for the NFC games, well … I’ve just got a feeling about Atlanta. Yes, they’re playing on the road. And yes, they’ve struggled with consistency over the course of the season. I can’t explain it, but I’ve got a hunch. There’s something about this Rams team that I don’t trust. I think Todd Gurley is due to put up a bit of a stinker and I don’t believe Jared Goff is quarterback enough to put this team on his shoulders. I think the L.A. defense might well struggle against an Atlanta team with more playoff experience. Stella thinks I’m talking utter nonsense and that I’m letting my feelings about Todd Gurley destroying me in my fantasy football championship game cloud my judgement. She’s expecting the Rams to roll over the Falcons, with Gurley leading the way and defensive stalwarts like Aaron Donald and Alec Ogletree putting Matt Ryan and company back on their heels.

And finally, I’m going with New Orleans to win at home against the Carolina Panthers. Drew Brees remains a stud – he finished fourth in the league in passing yards. The Saints defense is as good as it has been in nearly a decade. The one-two rushing punch of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara is as good a duo as any in the league. The pieces are there for a win going away. Stella, on the other paw, sees a big game coming from Panthers QB Cam Newton; she thinks he’s going to put it all together in a game reminiscent of his 2015 MVP season. She doesn’t think the Saints’ defensive breakdown against Tampa Bay last week was a fluke – and Newton is a hell of a lot better than Jameis Winston. She doesn’t love the Panthers on defense, but she thinks they can slow down the New Orleans offense just enough to eke out a W, so long as Newton plays up to the level of his abilities.

So there you have it. Yet another regular season in the books, one that leaves me humbled once more by the prognostication skills of sweet-faced Stella. But it’s the playoffs now – everybody is 0-0. Here’s hoping I can restore a modicum of pride; wish me luck.

Stella, as always, remains unconcerned.

(winners in caps)

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ALLEN’S PICKS

Saturday, Jan. 6

Tennessee at KANSAS CITY

ATLANTA at Los Angeles

Sunday, Jan. 7

Buffalo at JACKSONVILLE

Carolina at NEW ORLEANS

STELLA’S PICKS

Saturday, Jan. 6

Tennessee at KANSAS CITY

Atlanta at LOS ANGELES

Sunday, Jan. 7

Buffalo at JACKSONVILLE

CAROLINA at New Orleans

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