Put ‘ultra’ in front of competitive for Sunday’s NFL playoff games | News, Sports, Jobs

Steve Brownlee

There are a few ways to look at this ultra-competitive conference championship round in the NFL playoffs.

There were no real surprises in last weekend’s divisional round, which is good in that only the top four teams in the league remain.

We’re going to have a great Super Bowl matchup no matter what happens this Sunday.

Another thing that came to mind while watching Saturday’s games — I’ve been busy here at the Journal during Sunday’s games — is that it’s not such a bad thing that neither my Detroit Lions nor your (I’m assuming) Green Bay Packers did I don’t really miss that much if I don’t make the playoffs.

Would you have expected either of the two “our” Teams to really put up a good fight with the Eagles or the 49ers?

Unfortunately I don’t, although they might have survived Minnesota if they were lucky enough to pull them first.

Just getting to the playoffs would certainly have made a pretty story, especially for the Lions, who have earned nearly all of their top draft picks for the past two decades.

But I think we would have seen how far they have to go to join the league’s elite.

It couldn’t have been better in the AFC. Can you imagine Green Bay going to Kansas City or Detroit to Cincinnati with those teams’ full attention in the one-and-done atmosphere of the playoffs?

Let’s lick our wounds this off-season and maybe one or both teams can come back better next year.

Now for this week’s picks, listed by Seeding, Records, Playtime and TV Network:


NFC No. 2 San Francisco (15-4) at No. 1 Philadelphia (15-3) Sunday, 3 p.m. , Fox — As for point spreads, they say these two games are the closest matchups in decades.

i understand why I think I can make an exhaustive and compelling case for picking one of these four teams.

So I tried to boil it down to what will really make a difference on Sunday.

Here’s what I could come up with – each matchup has team strengths that are close enough for me to just pick them up.

In the NFC game, it’s defense. San Fran has been consistently named the best defense in the NFL, then I hear Philly is basically just as good.

Even if the 49ers have a small advantage, anyone could step up and take over the game.

Here’s what’s different — while Philly has a slightly inexperienced quarterback in Jalen Hurts who’s also recovering from a shoulder injury, San Fran has a QB with only half an NFL season under his belt and has been completely unnoticed as a signal caller of any kind. I just heard on Friday that he’s also only played two away games.

Despite hurting Hurts, I give Philly a distinct advantage here, especially when quality of defense comes into play.

So give me, the Eagles, 24-19.


AFC No. 3 Cincinnati (14-4) at No. 1 Kansas City (15-3) 6:30 p.m. Sunday, CBS — This has to be it “sexier” Matchup with explosive offenses just waiting to be ignited, perhaps reminiscent of last year’s Chiefs 42-36 victory over the Bills in the divisional round in overtime.

Of course, Cincy spoiled the rematch by beating Buffalo last Sunday in snowy upstate New York.

Here’s one where I think the QBs are about evenly matched, and the offensive weapons surrounding them are pretty strong too, enough for me to declare that part of it a tie.

Cincy has an advantage with what appears to be better overall defense and KC’s Patrick Mahomes limped with his ankle sprain.

The Chiefs have an advantage as the majority of starters on the Bengals offensive line are out.

That, in turn, seems to roughly offset the offenses.

So with the allusion to Cincy’s “D,” I’ll take the Bengals, 34-28.


Last week – 4-0, 100 percent. Playoff overall – 9-1, 90 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is [email protected].

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