Conference championship picks: Take a check?

Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

It has not been easy being a Detroit Lion fan during my lifetime. Wearing my Barry Sanders Lions’ jersey, my Lions’ tee shirt, or my Lions’ sweatshirt has caused me to be the target of many “funny” jokes, catcalls, and questions about my sanity. When I was teaching, I would wear my Lions’ jersey to school the next school day after every game they won, and there was one year I never got to wear my jersey at all! Students and coworkers poked fun at me during morning announcements. One student even suggested that I should wear my jersey if the Lions came within 7 points of winning. I think it bore all the trials and tribulations of being a Lions fan with grace and dignity.

Ahh, but the tide has turned. This year, my Lions went 12-5 and won more playoff games in the last two weeks than in the last 66 years combined. They are fun to watch. Ford Field (where the Lions play home games) is “the” place to be, with noise levels surpassing that of a 747 jet taking off. They are making plays that I am accustomed to seeing good teams from other cities make. Their head coach, once a punch line, now is a savior. Other NFL teams want to interview Lion assistants to be their head coach.

And the bandwagoners are showing their chameleon faces. People that told me they were fans of other NFL teams now proclaim to be lifelong Lions fans. It now suddenly seems like every other reporter covering the NFL is from Detroit, and the Lions are their Lions. I used to be able to scan Facebook for months without seeing a single post about the Detroit Lions, today in 5 minutes on Facebook I saw over 20 posts praising “our” team. My in-laws and relatives, who chided me in the past for supporting the lost-cause Lions, now flood me with texts during Lions games that they previously claimed would never watch.


Since I was consistently loyal, it seemed only right that I go to the Super Bowl this year, if the Lions make it there. It would be great! We know lots of people we could stay with, because I know hotel rooms will be expensive. We could eat for low prices at friends’ houses. We can even avoid the cost of plane tickets and drive! We’re all set!

So we looked up ticket prices and OMG, OMG, OMG! When my wife asked the general question on google, she got the answer that tickets would be between $10,000 and $36,000 apiece!!!!! $20,000 for my wife and I to sit in the nosebleed section for one football game??!!

I couldn’t believe it, so I looked on on Monday, Jan. 22. Good news, they have single seats starting at $8,000 and maxing out at $76,000 apiece. I went to story. There was more good news, though. We were told that prices will likely change and wanted to know if we wanted a newsletter that would update us on current Super Bowl prices. No thanks, they would have to change to the tune of about $7,500 cheaper.

Ok, ok, I wanna go. Do you think they’ll take a check?

So, like most everyone else in the country, I will be watching the Super Bowl, with or without the Lions, on my TV. It’s not as cool as being there, but it is in my financial best interest. My wife’s snacks are sure to be better (and cheaper) than anything we can get in the stadium, and there’s no chance the guy behind me spills beer on my Lions’ jersey. If anyone stands in front of me, I get to tell them to move in my own living room. There will be no bathroom lines, because we have three of them. And there will be no traffic jams.

I guess I could go to the NFL Pro Bowl the week before the Super Bowl if I want to see NFL stars so badly. Tickets there start at $45 to watch a flag football game. I think I’ll pass on that, too, even though it’s possible (even probable) there will be Lions’ players participating, since teams playing in the Super Bowl do not have any players in the Pro Bowl. I can go to Southern Nevada and watch girls flag football for free. After I watched last year’s Pro Bowl extravaganza, I know the girls try harder.

Maybe buying season tickets is the answer. And, maybe not because  the cheapest Las Vegas Raiders season ticket price is currently $700 per ticket per game, plus a $500.-$76,000 per ticket license, which you must purchase before you can purchase season tickets. I’m not sure even my good friends down south would remain good friends if we stayed at their homes 11 times per year, though, so I guess we have to add hotel and restaurant food. Still, expensive as it is, my wife and I could get 6 years of season tickets for the same price as two Super Bowl tickets!

No problem, I can watch games on TV. I can do that now, with the exception of Thursday night games, which I must have Amazon Prime Video to watch, or the Super Wild Card Saturday Night game, which I can only watch if I have Peacock.

With all these bargains and that people keep paying to watch NFL football, how long until every game is on pay TV? The NFL better be careful, because I like other things besides football and I’m sure other fans do, too.

Christian McCaffrey is the best running back in the NFL. He is very fast and can use speed to beat defenders, but he is also very powerful and can run over opposing players as well. Packers’ defensive back Jonathan Owens must have studied McCaffrey film, because it appears to me he made a “business decision” on McCaffrey’s second TD run by not even attempting to wrap up McCaffrey in a half hearted attempt at tackle. It is easy to criticize from my couch, but it was the 4th quarter of a close playoff game and the Packers only lost by 3. Lucky for Owens there will be no film session for the other players to see that “effort”. The coaches will, though.

Here are my picks for the Conference Championships against the point spread. Lines are from on Monday, Jan. 22.

Baltimore Ravens (-3 ½) vs. Kansas City Chiefs: I thought Buffalo’s injuries on defense would hurt them last week, and I believe they did. Kansas City was able to move the ball as well as any time this year. This week, the best player in the NFL and his teammates are going to Baltimore, and I don’t think it’ll be the same. Even with the best player in the NFL, the Chiefs have little else on offense. I think Baltimore’s offense will struggle at first, but will eventually wear down the valiant Chief defense.

Detroit Lions (+7) at San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have the 2nd best offense in the NFL, the Lions are 3rd. The 49ers have the 8th best defense, the Lions are 19th. The 49ers have the best running back in the league, but the Lions have a good group, too. Both teams have good receivers. Both quarterbacks have had ups and downs this year. The 49ers have been to the NFC Championship game 4 of the last 5 years, the Lions have no players who were alive the last time the team was in a conference championship game. The 49ers are at home, where they have been very good. The Lions are on the road, where they have been ok. The 49ers have a much better defense, particularly in the secondary. But, that’s why they play the game! Go Lions!

Last week: 3-1

Season: 65-59-6

Robert’s picks

During the regular season, my threshold for making a bet is basically “I would be surprised if I lose.”

I don’t bet hunches, I don’t bet leans and I don’t bet just to have action.

Then comes the playoffs, and that approach goes mostly out the window. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs there have been two games where I made a bet that I would have been surprised to lose, and I won both of those. But the rest of the games bring me to a different place, trying to figure out what I think is most likely to happen.

Which brings me to this weekend’s games, where there is nothing on the board that jumps out as something I feel extremely confident in.

A few weeks ago, while the Bills were struggling, I bet Buffalo to win the AFC because I believed that Buffalo’s best game was better than anyone else’s in that conference. Unfortunately, we never saw Buffalo’s best game, and now they’re home and that ticket went in the shredder.

On the other hand, I think we saw Kansas City’s best game last week. The question is, do we see it again, and if so, is that good enough to beat the Ravens?

The Ravens have been the most consistent team in the NFL all season, but didn’t get acknowledged for that until they dominated the 49ers on Christmas night.

Nothing so far has indicated that the Ravens won’t continue to be that, so I have to take Baltimore, right? Except, Patrick Mahomes is an underdog again, and laying points against Mahomes have proven to be folly.

On the other side, the 49ers have shown their best game several times this season, blowing out Dallas, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh. But when the 49ers don’t reach that level, they had that losing streak in the middle of the season, and they were fortunate to beat Green Bay last week.

Meanwhile, the Lions have squeaked out two close games, against the Rams and Buccs, covering the spread last week because they stopped a late two-point conversion. Do they have what it takes to go into San Francisco and pull off an upset?

Here’s where I’m going with these two games.

Chiefs (+3 ½) vs Ravens: If the Chiefs offense struggles like it did for long stretches of the season, this game has blowout potential. But I think the defense is sound, and I think they’ll be in the game the whole way. This game sizes up like a boxing match to me. To beat the Chiefs, you’re going to have to knock them out, but the Chiefs will be working the jab, playing a little rope-a-dope and working the body. If it comes down to a decision, instead of a KO, the Chiefs will be putting the belt back on.

Lions (+7) vs 49ers: We still haven’t seen Brock Purdy play well in a playoff game. Maybe it was the rain last week, maybe it was the injury that knocked Deebo Samuel out of the game. But a lot of what I saw was pressure straight up the middle, which is a recurring problem because the 49ers’ offensive line is not great in the middle. Also, the 49ers’ secondary is beatable. I think unless Jared Goff just has a miserable game, he’ll work Amon Ra St. Brown and Sam La Porta over the middle. I think both offenses have success and turnovers are going to decide this game. I’ll take the points with a low level of confidence with the expectation that this game is going to be a battle, not a blowout.

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