Chris Berman has taken his Swami Sez NFL picks segment, seen on SportsCenter, to ESPN Chalk. He gives his favorite picks against the spread here with a little further analysis.
Playoff record: 2-2 ATS
Season record: 51-32 ATS
I like what Atlanta has done this season, especially on offense. The Falcons scored 540 points, tied for the eighth-highest total in NFL history, and 13 different receivers caught a touchdown pass (an NFL record). Matt Ryan is a legitimate MVP candidate. And the defense is much improved. I get it. But this Seattle group, even without Earl Thomas, is a unique one. The Seahawks have a core of group of young guys who have more postseason experience since 2012 than most vets. Russell Wilson is 8-3 in the playoffs. Of all the units on the field, I think the Seattle offense has the biggest hidden ceiling. It can be much better than we’ve seen. And the Seahawks still have the best defense left in the NFC. Seattle edges out Atlanta.
Score: Seattle 29, Atlanta 27
I got cute last week taking the points with a team (Miami) that I didn’t think could win the game. I’m not going to make that mistake again. I have a hard time seeing how the Texans win this game, and barring a gift (like Houston gave New England by fumbling two kickoffs in Week 3) or a special-teams TD, I’m not sure how Houston scores — even with a good defense. New England rolls into the AFC Championship Game.
Score: New England 29, Houston 9
The best defense against Aaron Rodgers is keeping him off the field, and Dallas is fully equipped to do just that. The Cowboys have the best O-line in football and a fantastic rookie running back in Ezekiel Elliott. Dak Prescott hasn’t made typical rookie mistakes yet this season — and I don’t see him doing that here. Dallas’ defense has been coming on and now is healthier than it has been all season; Morris Claiborne is also back at corner. Dallas was one of the best teams I saw this season, and that Pittsburgh game in Week 10 sticks in my mind. They’re not a mirage.
Score: Dallas 27, Green Bay 21
The Chiefs are a team whose sum total is greater than the parts. I also like that a lot of their players are finally getting healthier and should be ready to go (Justin Houston, Spencer Ware, etc.). With Alex Smith‘s mobility, Travis Kelce, Jeremy Maclin and Tyreek Hill, I think they have enough offense to win this game. And the defense is good enough to slow down Pittsburgh. I’m not concerned with Ben Roethlisberger‘s injury — he’s like John Wayne in the pocket. Kansas City fans have had only two home playoff games since 2003; they’ll have to wait a few more hours until Sunday night because of weather. Andy Reid is 19-3 after a bye in his career. Make it 20-3.
Score: Kansas City 23, Pittsburgh 20