• Tough Challenges Ahead for Some Teams: Pigskin Pundit’s Picks, Divisional Week

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    Surge Summary: NFL divisional playoff week begins. Tough games ahead for some franchises — at least according to Pigskin Pundit …

    by Pigskin Pundit (Nate Clark)

    Last weekend was some exciting football, as the poseurs were ex-posed and the contenders were content to advance.  After a 7-9 massacre the last week of regulation, like the Buffalo Bills I enjoyed a perfect weekend at 6-0.  This week will be much tougher to duplicate, as the bye teams are either fresher and stronger, or slack and sluggish.  Let’s find out!  Here’s the picks.

    Bengals at Titans – Cincy powered past Vegas, although the game didn’t go the way I thought it would.  That terrifying offense ‘Playoff Joe’ Burrow commands was underwhelming against a determined Raider defense.  I kept waiting for the big breakout plays we are so accustomed to seeing from The Three Passketeers receiving threat of Higgins/Chase/Boyd, and it never materialized.  There were some nice catches outside the red zone, but Cincy will need to score touchdowns instead of field goals if they want to play next week.  Tennessee gets DeWreck Henry back this week, has all their receivers ready, and while Tannehill isn’t anybody’s dream QB, he has improved his triple-digit QB rating numbers each of the last three weeks.  The factors that matter here are Cincy’s loss of Ogunjobi (huge), Burrow’s lack of protection against a solid Titans rush, the Bengals’ difficulty with runners outside the tackles where Henry makes his living, and whether Mixon shows up or vanishes against a stingy Titans D.  Both sides can defend the pass, and neither team can protect the QB.  As for bye-week lethargy, don’t expect to see anything less than ferocious intensity from a Mike Vrabel team.  This game should be close, but if Henry is ¾ of his normal self (likely more), he will allow Tennessee to control the clock, and therefore the game.  Titans brighten their outlook by making the red zone a dead zone for hungry tigers.

    Niners at Packers – I love this game.  No team really comes into Curly Lambeau’s sandlot as a favorite to win this season.  Rodgers has again risen to his established level of superb execution, like a perfect machine of quarterback proficiency.  But here come the 49ers, hot at the right time and playing with house money.  Samuel is a matchup nightmare for every team, including this one.  He reminds me of Kellen Winslow Sr., which is high praise.  Double him with your best cover guy, and George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk or Juszczyk will make you pay.  Davonte Adams is as good a receiver as any in the league, and nobody blanks him for 60 minutes.  CB Emmanuel has been Mosely great on coverage this year, giving up NO touchdowns.  Watch how Frisco runs the ball against Green Bay’s weak run D, as this will set up everything else they do offensively.  Shanahan won’t have to hang the game on Generous Jimmy G’s arm in frozen Wisconsin, which is a good thing, considering how often that arm coughs up the football.  Frisco boasts the best pass rush in the 2nd half of the season, which will ratchet up the pressure on Rodgers to avoid losses waiting for plays to develop downfield.  If Bosa and Warner are unavailable for the Niners, that will be a huge (maybe deciding) factor, due to each player’s ability to change the direction of a game.  Robbie has been Gould for Frisco, while Mason Crosby has missed 7 field goals this season, earning him the nickname ‘Bing’ Crosby for the sound his klunkers make hitting the uprights.  Flawless football is required in a game like this….and Green Bay does that really well on both sides of the ball.  In this latest Battle of the Bays, either team has the tools to win.  I’ll take the team whose namesake made its living in a frozen meatlocker like Lambeau Field.  The cheese stands alone.

    Rams at Buccaneers – Another grapple between two teams that match up so tight they appear conjoined.  The Rams have great pass coverage and an epic pass rush, but struggle against a solid ground game.  Matt Stafford has been very good against blitzes, and nobody does that more than Tampa, so if they don’t get home frequently Staffie will carve them up with Kupp.  Stafford has a perfect record in games where his QB rating hits triple digits…but the Bucs have only allowed ONE QB to do that all season.  Brady is the least-sacked QB in the league this year, due to a great line and his quick release.  However, his O-line took a serious hit last week when he lost his All-Pro right tackle to an ankle injury, and it’s safe to say ‘There’s nothing worse than losing Wirfs’.  Tristan’s replacement got manhandled and mauled, which led to problems for the GOAT.  Tampa is okay against the run, and having watched Sony Michel’s career body of work in New England, I don’t think LA’s groundpound is going to present a big challenge for Todd Bowles.  Biggest questions in this game are whether Leonard Fournette plays, and whether Brady’s receivers can find daylight to snare his precision throws with Jalen Ramsey and Ernest Jones patrolling the passing lanes.  Still, LA gave up the 4th most catches and yards per catch this season, so a good quarterback can take advantage of them…a great one might just shred them with his second and third reads.  Don’t forget, Fournette is deadlier releasing from the backfield for a play-option pass than lugging the rock.  There’s more that can be tabulated here about this game, but I am going to cut to the chase.  LA is playing well, but they have been spotty this year, and we all knew the Cardinals weren’t for real, deep down.  Tampa is a proven champ with the greatest QB to ever engineer a storybook win in the biggest games, and that means a lot against a team that hasn’t proven anything in the post season since moving to Tinseltown.  Skulls school the Sheep.

    Bills at Chiefs – So many pundits have been ready to hand the Chiefs the AFC title since the second half of this season, but I’m going back to the football bible for my take.  Defense wins championships, and Buffalo has the #1 overall defense in the AFC, while KC comes in at #27.  That would be a less mitigating factor IF Buffalo wasn’t a balanced offense, but they are.  Mahomes vs. Allen?  They look like the same player…except that Allen is a major threat to run at any point, and he’s fast and HUGE when he does.  Just the threat of him taking off freezes linebackers and safeties, which extends plays so he can then hit open receivers.  Mahomes’ unorthodox shovel passes and forward flips to receivers?  Allen does it as well or better.  This game really isn’t an even matchup, even though these teams are modeled very similar.  The Bills like to play from ahead, as it keeps all their options open and puts the pressure on the opponent.  KC is famous for engineering lightning-strike second half scoring to come from behind.  That’s much harder to do against a top defense like the Bills, who won’t need to make too many plays or takeaways to slow you down enough to take the win.  The Patriots team Buffalo just whipped never showed up for the game, but that takes nothing away from the Bills’ perfect win.  This is a very good, maturing, fast and talented team.  A dangerous team, whose quarterback can be unstoppable.  Wanna see how the West was won?  Ask Buffalo Bill after this weekend.  Yee haw!

    Enjoy these great games!


    The views here are those of the author and not necessarily Daily Surge

    Image: 2020 Bengals; adapted from:  AlexanderJonesi – https://www.flickr.com/photos/alexanderjonesi/50644237098/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=97167584

    Nathan Clark is a conservative commentator who resides with his wife in New Hampshire. He is passionate about preserving the vision of our nation’s Founders and advancing those tried and true principles deep into America’s future. His interests range broadly from flyfishing, cooking and shooting to pro sports, gardening, live music and fine-scale modeling.

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