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Forecaster Frank NFL Divisional Round Picks

Colts 27 Chiefs 24

It happens every year; the Kansas City Chiefs have a great season, get a home playoff game and go down spectacularly. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game in 25 years, since beating Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 in a Wild Card Game that went to overtime. That game was just the second playoff game in the career of Bill Cowher, as Joe Montana making his first playoff appearance with Kansas City should the old Montana magic. A week later, the Chiefs beat the Houston Oilers to advance to the AFC Championship where they lost to the Buffalo Bills. Since then the Chiefs are 1-11 in playoff games, including a record six straight losses at home. Notable that the Oilers are no longer around, the Bills have made the playoffs once since the millennium and Joe Montana is approaching Social Security age. Just put this way, O.J. Simpson was still roaming the sidelines in his Bruno Mali shoes the last time the Chiefs won a Divisional Playoff Round game. The Indianapolis Colts were there when the Chiefs home playoff hex began as Lin Elliott missed three field goals as the Colts won 10-7 to advance to the 1995 AFC Championship Game led by Jim Harbaugh. In fact, the Colts have beaten Kansas City four times during this Chiefs’ postseason tailspin. It sounds like it was eons ago because it was eons ago. Patrick Mahomes was not even born yet and Andrew Luck was four. The Colts come in as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, losing just once since Week 6, as Luck has again shown he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Now he has a running game to help him with the emergence of Marlon Mack, while their defense has been one of the best in the league since November highlighted with their shutout of the Cowboys. Along with the Chiefs struggles in the playoffs is that of their coach Andy Reid who has the habit of tightening up in these big games. Look for that to happen again as he has Mahomes play it safe, which takes away his magic. This, in turn, will open the door for the Indianapolis who come storming through and get the upset win.

Cowboys 27 Rams 17

The Los Angeles Rams had another great season, led by Jared Goff and Todd Gurley. However, until they can show they can win in the postseason it is hard to trust them. The game may be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but it will quickly turn into a Dallas Cowboys home game, as the fans of LA have yet to fully embrace their local teams, despite them both being in the playoffs. In the 20 years, the City of Angels was without a team; Los Angelinos chose a variety of teams to root for. Naturally, this includes America’s Team who even against hated rivals with strong fan bases always get large pockets of their fans in the stadium. As the regular season came to an end the Rams were not at their top level, as they lost twice in December, including a home game against the Eagles. The Dallas Cowboys conversely have been getting stronger as the season came to a close. At 3-5, postmortems were being written as fans were lining up to fire Jason Garrett. The Cowboys eight of nine since and are looking like a team that is ready to make some noise as the addition of Amari Cooper has reawakened America’s Team. A big factor in the Cowboys play has been their defense led by Leighton Vander Esch, who seems to be in the middle of every play stopping the pass, stopping the run and blitz the quarterback. Teams that have been able to slow down the run and get at Jared Goff have been able to beat the Rams. Meanwhile, the Rams defense has at times been soft, as their secondary has struggled at times. With the Cowboys offensive line able to keep Aaron Donald n check the door is open for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper to exploit the Rams weak underbelly. As the Cowboys get control and get the crowd on their side the Rams will get disheartened and fall into a funk. Look for the Cowboys to win the game stunning easily as the Rams have to answer for their postseason struggles again.

Patriots 23 Chargers 17

The odds are stacked high against the Los Angeles Chargers, as they have to go into Foxboro and play the early game with snow in the forecast. It is tough enough for West Coast teams coming East to play with the time change. To do it two weeks in a row seems nearly impossible, especially playing a rested New England Patriots team that is in a familiar position needing one win to get to the AFC Championship Game for the eighth year in a row. Winning in Foxboro in January is not mission impossible, the Ravens have done it twice, and heck even the God Damn Jets did it once. The Chargers, however, have not fared well at all against the Patriots, as Tom Brady has never lost to Phillip Rivers. This Patriots team has appeared vulnerable at times as they suffered five losses including two in December. However, with their trouncing of the Jets in the finale, it looks like all systems are go for that big annoying boat horn to be blaring all day. One player on the Chargers who will be playing with a heavy heart is Brandon Mebane, who announced on Wednesday that his infant daughter passed away. She had been born seven weeks premature, with a severe heart defect. Mebane has stated he will play, but the question is how effective he can be after dealing with such an awful loss has to be questioned. The Chargers did manage to make the big plays last week in Baltimore, but there were troubling signs all around, as they settled for field goals too often and nearly squandered a 20-point fourth quarter lead. Those cracks can be overcome against the Ravens against the Patriots those mistakes are the same as forfeiting. There is a reason the Patriots win these games repeatedly and that is not because they have the best players, but the smartest players who are always prepared. That is what will be the difference, as they get ready for another Super Bowl run, which could again go through Foxboro if the Chiefs cannot snap their six-game home losing streak.

Eagles 24 Saints 20

There is some kind of magic surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles when Nick Foles plays. Ideally, Carson Wentz looks like the better quarterback, but Foles finds a way to win each and every time he is asked to play. The Eagles were given up for dead when they shutdown Wentz, but three straight wins with Foles finding a way and a little help along the got the defending champions the sixth seed. This included a Sunday Night road win against the Rams in Los Angeles when the Eagles were 6-7. A great two-minute drive and a Cody Parkey hitting the uptight and the Eagles are now one game away from getting back to the NFC Championship Game. When they won the Super Bowl last year, they were underdogs at home as the #1 seed and won; they were underdogs in the Super Bowl and beat the Patriots. They were underdogs last week in Chicago and won because Nick Foles always finds a way.  The New Orleans Saints may have beaten the Eagles 48-7 at the Superdome in the regular season, but that was against Carson Wentz, and the Saints have not played all that well in the last month of the season. The Saints may have the best record in the NFC at 12-4 but they have not been that sharp since their post-Thanksgiving loss in Dallas. I am also concerned about Sean Payton’s decision to rest everyone in Week 17. It is one thing to rest up when you have to play on Wild Card Weekend, but resting up as the one seed means two weeks off, and the possibility of getting rusty. The Eagles are playing much better than they were in November when they were picked apart as their makeshift secondary has begun to make big plays, perhaps it is that Nick Foles magic wearing off on them. The Saints will start the game in a funk, which will allow Foles and the Eagles to take control of the game. From there it will be up to their defense. Look for the game to come down to the fourth quarter, where Nick Foles finds a way once again to stun the Saints at the Superdome.