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Kibbles and Picks 2019 – Regular Season Wrap-Up & Wild Card Round

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Man – where was this a month ago?

I had the best week of the season – for either of us – putting up a 14-2 record. I went five-for-five in head-to-head picks; Stella went 9-7.

And for all that, my sole reward is the fact that I cut her final margin of victory to nine. Sure, I got beaten in this Godforsaken competition again – for the fourth year in a row and for the fifth time out of six years – but at least it wasn’t by double digits this time.

Stella has once more dominated Kibbles and Picks with an adorable iron paw, illustrating to me the ongoing foolishness of engaging in this exercise. I am forced to admit yet again that my dog is better at picking football games than I am.

Final Standings

Allen’s season record: 154-100-2

Stella’s season record: 163-91-2

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Ah, but we’re not done! The postseason awaits us! And I have proven much more adept at this much smaller sample size-style of picking. I’ve won this face-off more than I’ve lost it over the years; four of six times, I’ve been the better prognosticator.

In this year’s Wild Card Round, we differ on three of the four matchups, so there’s a possibility that one of us establishes a nigh-insurmountable head start after this first weekend.

In the Indianapolis/Houston matchup, I’m going with the road team. The Indianapolis Colts have looked as good as any team in the league over the past couple of months. Quarterback Andrew Luck has shaken off the rust after a shaky start and has once more looked like one of the best QBs in the league. Coach Frank Reich’s offense has been top-notch, while the Indy D is rife with young talent. Stella is much more on the home team’s side in this one. She loves what she’s seen from Deshawn Watson, and while the Houston offense has been a bit inconsistent, she feels like they’re poised for a productive afternoon against the Colts; look for a massive game from DeAndre Hopkins. She also thinks the Texans D is good enough to cause Indy some trouble; the Colts got shut out not long ago by a Jacksonville defense that wasn’t that much better than this Houston group. Expect a slugfest, one defined by who can get to the quarterback more readily and pull off a couple of big plays.

Next up, I’m picking the Cowboys to win at home against the Seahawks. This one feels like a bit of a gamble; Dallas has given the impression of overperforming its talent for much of this season. And yet – there’s something about them. Maybe it’s the fact that they have a running back who can potentially take over the game – a big night from Zeke Elliott practically ensures a win. Amari Cooper has been a season-changer at wideout. The defense is quick and rangy. And they have a legitimate home-field advantage. Stella concedes all that, but still thinks that Seattle can come into JerryWorld and knock off the Cowboys. For her, it starts with the guy under center. She LOVES Russell Wilson in this game and thinks he’ll step up big. She also thinks that the remade Seahawks defense will do a good job shutting down the Cowboys; they’re one of the few teams capable of shutting down Elliott.

I’ve got the Ravens holding serve at home against the Chargers. I love Baltimore’s offense and its old-school focus on the run. Lamar Jackson has shown himself to be an electrifying playmaker at quarterback; his passing is inconsistent, but he’s unafraid to use his legs. The Chargers will have some trouble with the unrelenting pressure of that ground attack. And of course, there’s the defense – by some metrics, Baltimore’s D is the best in the league this season. Even a high-octane attack like the Chargers could struggle. Oh, and the Ravens have the NFL’s best kicker in Justin Tucker, while L.A.’s kicking situation is weirdly bad. Stella believes that Philip Rivers is ready to take a postseason step forward – she likes him to have a big and efficient game, even against the gifted Ravens secondary. The Chargers have been a great road team this season and she anticipates that that trend will continue.

Finally, we both like the Bears to win at home against the Eagles. While we’re both leery of picking against the strange postseason wizardry of Nick Foles, we just can’t see Philly mustering up the necessary offense against this capital-G Great Chicago defense. Expect a lot of game management from Mitch Trubisky and plenty of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen on the ground. It’ll be a low-scoring game – there’s not a lot that impresses about the Bears offense, but the Eagles won’t be able to put up much against this D. In the end, we’re in agreement – Chicago wins.

And that’s it. Let’s see if I can avenge my regular season defeat with another postseason triumph.

(winners in caps)

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ALLEN’S PICKS

Saturday, January 5

INDIANAPOLIS at Houston

Seattle at DALLAS

Sunday, January 6

LA Chargers at BALTIMORE

Philadelphia at CHICAGO

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STELLA’S PICKS

Saturday, January 5

Indianapolis at HOUSTON

SEATTLE at Dallas

Sunday, January 6

LA CHARGERS at Baltimore

Philadelphia at CHICAGO

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