NFC ‘Least’ like watching a train wreck

Steve Brownlee

It’s interesting to watch whether the new vanguard or the old guard will be better represented when the playoffs start in just a few weeks.

Teams like Green Bay, Seattle and New Orleans are being challenged by Minnesota and San Francisco in the NFC. Eh, not such a new vanguard there.

The AFC is the more interesting conference with new hot-shot quarterbacks in Baltimore, Houston, and to a lesser extent Buffalo and Tennessee challenging the likes of New England, Pittsburgh and even Kansas City.

Then there’s the NFC East, which this year really earns the moniker NFC Least with the Cowboys and Eagles ruling the division with 6-7 records.

Only their end-of-the-season schedules against each other and the really sad-sack Redskins and Giants keep the chances of having a division winner with a losing record just a remote possibility.

Remember the NFC West in 2010? That was when Seattle beat out the St. Louis Rams in a tiebreaker to win the division as each had 7-9 records. San Francisco at 6-10 and Arizona at 5-11 were also in the hunt.

People that year were calling for no team of that group to go in the playoffs, instead replacing it with the first wild card team out.

And as a division winner, the Seahawks got to host a first-round playoff game and ended up defeating New Orleans 41-36 before being knocked out by the Bears 35-24 the following week.

Will we get that this year, with say, the Cowboys at 7-9 hosting Seattle at 11-5?

Let’s watch and see.

On to this week’s picks:


Today, 8:20 p.m.

New York Jets at Baltimore — The Jets have been playing much better since getting Sam Darnold back, while there’s some issue with Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson’s leg. Still, there’s quite a distance between these two. Ravens, 27-20.


Sunday, 1 p.m.

Seattle at Carolina — I thought the Panthers’ would get an immediate lift with a new coach coming in. Didn’t turn out that way as Ron Rivera has been known as popular with players. Don’t look for it to get better this week. Seahawks, 33-23.


New England at Cincinnati — How can you pick against New England? They’ve shown they know all the Bengals’ hand signals with their latest videotaping scandal. But why bother against a team that was winless until two weeks ago? Patriots, 30-21.


Tampa Bay at Detroit — Jameis Winston may throw four interceptions to the Lions’ secondary, but so what? They’ll still have enough to hand Detroit another one-score loss. Buccaneers, 24-19.


Chicago at Green Bay — After the Bears upset of Dallas last Thursday, I was tempted to pick Chicago. But I just can’t see Aaron Rodgers allowing himself to be shut down by this rival, even by a defense as supposedly good as the Bears have. Packers, 29-20.


Denver at Kansas City — KC is still in the hunt for a first-round playoff bye. Enough incentive. Chiefs, 35-26.


Miami at New York Giants — Another tempting upset pick. But I think the Giants statue of a QB, Eli Manning, will have more success picking apart the Dolphins’ secondary than Miami will have in mounting a pass rush to pressure Manning. Giants, 26-20.


Houston at Tennessee — I see the Vegas line is picking the Texans. I don’t understand why as Houston had everything to play for last week and couldn’t beat Denver at home. Titans, 23-17.


Philadelphia at Washington — Philly had just enough to mount a comeback and beat the Giants in overtime. Aren’t Washington and the Giants one and the same? Eagles, 29-28.

Sunday, 4 p.m.


Cleveland at Arizona — As thing fall apart with the Browns, Arizona should be there to swoop in, more like a vulture than a cardinal. Cardinals, 20-16.


Jacksonville at Oakland — Much the same, but with a nickname like the Raiders, I see how Oakland picks the Jaguars’ carcass clean. Raiders, 34-23.


Los Angeles Rams at Dallas — As Todd Gurley goes, so does the Rams’ offense. I like L.A. better without Gurley than I like the Cowboys with the Rams having Gurley. Rams, 24-16.


Atlanta at San Francisco — If San Fran could score nearly 50 points in New Orleans, imagine what they can do at home vs. the Falcons. 49ers, 37-29.


Minnesota at Los Angeles Chargers — The Minnesota defense should be able to goad Chargers QB Philip Rivers into at least a few poorly timed decisions. Vikings, 28-20.


Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

Buffalo at Pittsburgh — It feels like an upset to pick against the Steelers at home, but an offense led by a third-string QB just doesn’t fit Pittsburgh either. Bills, 20-16.


Monday, 8:15 p.m.

Indianapolis at New Orleans — N’awlins should be pretty riled up after the way the 49ers lit up their defense last week. Saints, 33-26.


Last week — 10-6, 63 percent. Season — 135-72-1, 65 percent.

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


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