Picking Patriots safe bet in playoffs
New England 151/2-point favorite to defeat Texans and reach AFC championship game
When the point spreads came out for the divisional playoff round, the line getting the most attention was for the game at Foxborough, the one projected blowout.
While all four teams coming off byes are favored, the Patriots (142) opened as a 13 1/2-point choice against the Texans (10-7). The money started flowing in, and the line moved up to 15 1/2.
The players and coaches have no interest in such things, of course, reasoning that betting lines have no impact on what happens on the field Saturday night.
They are right. Talent makes the difference, and there rarely has been such a mismatch in skill as in this one.
Not that the Texans, fresh off a rout of the injury-wrecked Raiders, will simply forfeit. They recognize the challenge and sound eager to face it.
“You have to make sure that, No. 1, that you do your job,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “That your players understand what their role in the game is and how they’re supposed to perform on every single play.
“They’re going to make their share of plays. I think one of the big things for us is we have to play good, sound, fundamental football.
They’re the type of team that if you make too many mistakes, they’re going to bury you.” Let the romping begin. New England has won its past four meetings with Houston at Gillette Stadium by a combined 150-49. It’s tempting to pick that score, but we’ll go with the average of those results.
BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 38-12
Steelers (plus 2) at Chiefs, Sunday
That boot being worn by Ben Roethlisberger after Pittsburgh’s win against Miami is very worrisome. But Roethlisberger tends to always show up in the playoffs and perform superbly much of the time.
The Steelers eased past the Chiefs on Oct. 2, but that was in Pittsburgh. Kansas City is better now than it was back then, although so are the Steelers.
If KC can get pressure on Big Ben and somewhat control Antonio Brown, the league’s most dangerous receiver (and non-quarterback), and RB Le’Veon Bell, it can use its relatively conservative offense to its advantage. But will Andy Reid turn the reins loose a bit when the Chiefs have the ball?
A matchup we can’t wait to see is Brown vs. All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters.
The feeling is that only the Steelers could derail another trip to the Super Bowl for New England. Pro Picks would like to see if Pittsburgh can do that, so ...
UPSET SPECIAL: STEELERS, 23-21
Seahawks (plus 4 1⁄2) at Falcons, Saturday
Experience, coaching and swagger — they all are on
the side of the visitors.
Seattle is as accomplished as any NFC playoff team, and many of the key contributors to its recent success remain on the scene: Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin.
Now that Thomas Rawls seems healthy, there’s a running game to complement Wilson, Baldwin and tight end Jimmy Graham.
But this is one of those prove-it games for Atlanta’s All-Pros, quarterback Matt Ryan and wideout Julio Jones. Which opponent to better prove that your offense, and an improving defense, are capable of a long postseason run than against the big kid on the NFC block?
Falcons coach Dan Quinn gets the better of his mentor, Seattle’s Pete Carroll, in a squeaker.
Packers (plus 4) at
Tom Brady and Patriots are a 15 1/2-point favorite to defeat Texans on Saturday.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are a 4-point underdog for Sunday’s game against Cowboys.