The second round of the National Football League playoffs kicks off on Saturday and both AFC games appear to be mismatches – at least on paper.
Saturday: Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots – 8:15 PM ET
This one should only be entertaining to those who enjoy watching the clubbing of baby seals.
The Titans have almost zero chance of winning this game quite simply because nobody wins at Gillette Stadium in January except the Patriots.
Now the entire Patriots team could come down with a bad case of food poisoning or the flu but this one is likely to be a rout that will end the Titans season after their Kansas City miracle last week.
Ironically, the Titans actually have a better chance at springing the upset, there is no way in HELL that an offensively-challenged Chiefs team would have been able to challenge the Pats without their best offensive layer in tight end Travis Kelce out with a concussion.
Tennessee has had a nice run but unless up-and-down running back Derrick Henry has a monster game and is able to help the Titans control the clock this could get ugly quickly.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota was the beneficiary of a couple of dubious calls last week but did make some spectacular plays, almost reminding one that he won the Heisman Trophy with the Oregon Ducks, but he has been even more inconsistent than Henry during his three-year professional career.
On the other hand, you have the Patriots coming in rested after a first-round bye.
Despite the distraction caused by an ESPN story about dissension between owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, all three will be determined more than ever to win one more trophy before the dynasty ends.
Brady was his usual excellent self and although he is losing a bit of his mojo at age 40, there is no more experienced nor clutch performer than him. Look for him to once again rely on favorite target Rob Gronkowski who is as unstoppable as a force of nature, especially against mediocre teams like the Titans.
Tennessee’s pride are 13.5 point dogs in this one which seems a lot but again, NOBODY wins in Foxborough in January unless they are wearing silver and blue.
Sunday: Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers – 1 PM ET
The winner of this game earns the honor of being the sacrificial lamb for the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.
Jacksonville’s offense was horrid during their 10-3 Wild Card win against the Buffalo Bills and it’s hard to see Blake Bortles being able to go into Heinz Field and pull off the upset against Ben Roethlisberger and a well-rested Steelers team.
There is, however, hope in that if there is a team that always has found new ways to lose in the playoffs under head coach Mike Tomlin, it’s the Steelers.
Despite their offensive woes, the Jags did finish with the number two overall defense which could make it a tougher than expected task for the home team to close them out.
The big question is how will Pittsburgh’s Big 3 (Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown) fare.
The three have consistently blown postseason games, whether it be due to inconveniently timed injuries and an unwillingness to play hurt (Big Ben excluded) and a proclivity for allowing distractions at the worst time.
Bell has just started bitching about his contract to the media again, not a good omen for a selfish dude who has a history of letting his team down.
It’s still hard to see how the Steelers gag this one away against a clearly inferior opponent though even if the final score may be closer than the 7-point line would indicate.
They are saving their big fiasco for next week when they’ll be pasted by the Patriots. The NFL’s stellar officiating crew in New York put their thumb on the scale in favor of the bigger Super Bowl draw of the Pats when they raped the Steelers out of the winning touchdown and guaranteed the homefield advantage to the Pats.
Fans would probably be better off rooting for the Jags if they want to see an AFC title game that has any mystique because Pittsburgh just cannot beat the Pats.
Both of these games should be horrible, fortunately for those of us on the East Coast, the NFL scheduled the Pats-Titans as the night game so nobody will have to worry about losing any sleep staying up to see a thrilling cliffhanger.