No. 2 seed an ideal place to be in the NFL playoffs

Steve Brownlee

Maybe it’s a little early to talk about the playoffs, but we are in the final four weeks of the regular season and the playoffs start in almost exactly one month.

You would think the biggest difference in seeds is between Nos. 1 and 2 in each conference. In all likelihood, that’s what decides where the NFC and AFC championship games are played.

But looking at it the overall picture, I’d say that the biggest difference is actually between the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds.

With six teams from each conference making the playoffs, both the Nos. 1 and 2 get a first-round bye, then host a game in the second week.

No. 3, on the other hand, gets no bye and is guaranteed to go on the road for the second round.

That isn”t a drawback to the current playoff system, just something that has to be dealt with no matter what structure is used.

Now onto this week’s picks:

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Today, 8:30 p.m.

New Orleans at Atlanta — With this close of a matchup, I often opt for the home team. But the Falcons have proven they can lose at home and New Orleans can win on the road, so I’m more comfortable going with the Saints, 34-30.

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Sunday, 1 p.m.

Indianapolis at Buffalo — The key here is the status of Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Last I saw, he’s listed as day to day, but that usually means a player will make it through the week to play on Sunday. Bills, 19-17.

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Minnesota at Carolina — I’m bullish on Minnesota’s defense disrupting Panthers QB Cam Newton and his offense. Vikings, 23-19.

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Chicago at Cincinnati — Until I saw Monday night’s game, I didn’t realize how well Cincy has been playing lately. Bengals, 27-17.

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Green Bay at Cleveland — The Packers, in possibly the final week without QB Aaron Rodgers, aren’t really that much better than the Browns. But Cleveland has a knack for pulling defeat out of the jaws of victory. Packers, 24-22.

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San Francisco at Houston — San Fran looked improved in the first appearance of Jimmy Garoppolo at QB. He should get even better with more playing time. 49ers, 24-20.

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Oakland at Kansas City — I want to see a slowing of the freefall before I take KC against anyone other than Cleveland. Raiders, 33-25.

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Detroit at Tampa Bay — Yes, the Lions play better on the road. But their porous defense of late gives Jameis Winston a chance to shine. Buccaneers, 28-20.

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Dallas at New York Giants — Was firing their coach and general manager supposed to wake up the Giants? Not enough with Dallas hanging on by its fingernails for a playoff spot. Cowboys, 29-23.

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Sunday, 4 p.m.

Seattle at Jacksonville — The Jags seemingly have warded off their home curse, while the Seahawks still significantly drop off when away from home. Jaguars, 20-16.

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Tennessee at Arizona — Home field not as big a difference as the gap in quality between these teams. Titans, 30-20.

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New York Jets at Denver — The Broncos are another team in freefall who I don’t want to touch until they slow their descent. Jets, 22-16.

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Washington at Los Angeles Chargers — This L.A. team can see the light in the weak AFC West. Chargers, 32-27.

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Philadelphia at Los Angeles Rams — Another stat brought up in last weekend’s prime-time games — the Eagles have only beaten one team with a winning record this season. Hmm. Rams, 24-23.

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Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh — The hardest game to pick this week, at least among teams with playoff potential. I like Pittsburgh’s home-field advantage. Steelers, 20-17.

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Monday, 8:30 p.m.

New England at Miami — Give me Bill Belichick and Tom Brady just about every time against divisional opposition. Patriots, 31-24.

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Last week — 13-3, 81 percent. Season — 123-69, 64 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.