First, of course, the season pick numbers.
Last Week: 11 - 5, 69%, Overall: 163 - 93, 64%
That's a better record than all but one of ESPN's NFL Experts. By that metric of competition, this was the best I have ever done in a season. I'll take it.
There really isn't much to say about the Black Monday coaching situation because nothing really happened. Coach McCoy is out in San Diego and Chip Kelly is gone by the Bay. No surprises at all from the firings. What was surprising if one doesn't believe rumors, was Coach Kubiak retiring in Denver. If I am honest, this is still a little too personal and emotional for me to write about right now. It is one of those rumors I had hoped was true, for Kubiak's sake as much as anything else, but is still painful for those of us fans entrenched in the Broncos family. If one steps away just a little bit, and attempts to remain objective, than it is certain that the Head Coaching job in Denver is probably the most coveted of all the vacancies currently in the NFL. The most high profile candidate for an HC job is Kyle Shanahan, OC of the Falcons, who truly has his pick of positions after Atlanta ends their season. No one has to spell this out for Broncos fans. Yes, Shanahan is young and untested as the Head guy. Yes, Elway is a demanding boss with the highest of expectations. But the Denver defense is set and the offense needs some balance and a little work for Denver to contend again even next year. Mike Shanahan is the best coach Denver has ever had, and his son is the best coaching option the Broncos faithful could hope for. The NFL needs its stories and to re-engage the fans emotionally. The Broncos family does that, just as their embrace of Peyton Manning spurred record veiwership and joy. It is a "duh now" decision, for Elway, Kyle Shanahan, the Broncos and their fans, and for the NFL itself to get Kyle Shanahan to Denver. Make it happen.
Since the first game is quickly approaching, on with the picks:
Oakland (5) at Houston (4)
It seems that hope has been abandoned for the Radiers with the loss of both Carr and McGloin. Connor Cook's first NFL start is in the playoffs, and the Texans defense is expected to tee off on the nOOb. I just don't think that the Oakland offensive line will have a poor showing they did against a savage Broncos pass rush. That O-line is still among the league's best. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler, arguably he biggest free agency bust in some years, starts for the Texans. He has DeAndre Hopkins against one of the league's most suspect secondaries, but Brock's overthrow game is strong, huge even. And the Raiders D front is defined by speed and excellent scheme play, which should contain Osweiler and harass him at will. This will not be a pretty game by any stretch, but I'm going against conventional wisdom here at calling it ...
Oakland -19, Houston - 13
Miami (6) at Pittsburgh (3)
This match certainly hearkens back to history past. Miami faced Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh, in the AFC Championship game of their undefeated '72 season. Both teams relied then on a power running game and stuffing the run on defense. It seems that most times these teams have faced off in the playoffs, that has pretty well defined the meeting. This could shape up much the same, with LeVeon Bell and Jay Ajayi doing the bulk of the lifting for these teams over the last month of the season. That written, Pittsburgh has 3 things that the Dolphins do not, 1) Home Field weather on their side, 2) Ben Roeslisthberger and 3) Antonio Brown. I think that's enough to safely put the W in the Steeler's column.
Miami - 17, Pittsburgh - 27
Detroit (6) at Seattle (3)
Backing into the playoffs after 3 straight losses is never, EVER, a good sign. The only time in recent memory that such a team escaped the Wildcard with a win was when Tebow shocked the Steelers on the first play of overtime back in January 2012. Denver had home field then. Detroit does not. They travel to the loudest stadium in the NFL to face one of the best defenses in the NFL. Michael Bennett has come on like a savage beast over the last few weeks. Seattle still has a stellar secondary. If they are susceptible, it is to a superior ground game, which Detroit doesn't really have. Of course, neither does Seattle. I fully expect this game to come down to time for the Quarterbacks, and turnovers. Edge - Seahawks.
Detroit - 17, Seattle - 24
New York Giants (5) at Green Bay (4)
Let's just get the obvious out of the way, shall we? No team in the last ten years has overachieved in the playoffs like the Giants have. You simply can't look at this game and not have flashbacks to the 2011 season. No quarterback in the NFL has performed with such ease and dominance as Aaron Rodgers over the last 4 weeks. Ryan and Brady have been excellent all season but especially in the last 3 games, Rodgers has been nothing short of brilliant. The weakness of the Packers is in their statistically poor defensive play, but even on that side of the ball, Green Bay has stepped up for the playoff run. That will be apparent against the weakness of the G-men which is inconsistent offense and often mediocre play from Eli Manning. The Giants just don't seem to be able to push the ball down the field on passing plays without serious run after catch from Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. If the Giants' defense can keep them in the game, which they are capable of doing, then it will come down to some magical play from those two receivers. This is an either-or contest. Either it will be a blowout, or a very low scoring affair. I expect the former.
New York - 13, Green Bay - 30