Conference championship picks: That was then, this is now

Robert Perea and Jim Vallet, The Fernley Reporter

It is very easy to make the argument that “NFL” is an acronym for “not for long” instead of the “National Football League”. Just look at some of the perceptions generally believed to be true at the start of the 2022 season and how so many of them have changed dramatically. 

Last Labor Day, the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were seen as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. In 2022, neither team was even .500, and only the Bucs made the playoffs, although they probably wished they didn’t. The Panthers, Colts, Broncos, and Commanders all got new veteran quarterbacks and were poised to make serious playoff runs. None of the four teams made the playoffs and none of the head coaches lasted the year. The Seattle Seahawks would rue the day they traded Russell Wilson once they watched Geno Smith play quarterback for a while. Zach Wilson would finally be able to justify his selection as a high draft pick. Derek Carr and Davante Adams would team up to make the Las Vegas Raiders’ offense unstoppable. Raiders running back Josh Jacobs was on the trading block, right? Deshaun Watson would return in Game #11 as the Cleveland Browns’ QB and lead the Browns to the promised land. It was only a matter of time until Odell Beckham Jr. returned to the NFL and racked up a big contract and another championship. Jameis Winston would make New Orleans Saints fans forget Sean Payton. The addition of Von Miller would put the Buffalo Bills over the hump and into the Super Bowl, although it was an injury that destroyed that hope. Trey Lance and Malik Willis would emerge as the 49ers and Titans “quarterbacks of the future”. The Detroit Lions made a huge mistake selecting Aidan Hutchinson over Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Bears’ Justin Fields was a bust. Lions’ Head Coach Dan Campbell was going to cry himself right out of a job. The Giants made a mistake drafting Daniel Jones, and Saquon Barkley was too fragile to be an every down NFL back. Mitch Trubisky was the Steelers’ answer at quarterback, and Mac Jones was sure to get even better this year than last. Kliff Kingsbury was still considered a genius. The Tennessee Titans really didn’t need wide receiver A.J. Brown, and they had Treylon Burks, anyway. And I predicted that the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos would both make the playoffs. As S.E. Hinton would say, That Was Then, This Is Now.

Earlier this year, speaking of “That Was Then, This Is Now”, Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs compared their relationship to brothers. Well, I would be very unhappy if my “brother” showed me up on the field and on the sidelines the way that Stefon Diggs did to Josh Allen on Sunday. First, Diggs indicated that one of Allen’s passes should have been thrown to his highness higher. Not satisfied with just that, Diggs later was seen berating his “brother” as Allen sat on the bench. I guess, besides the title of this article, Diggs’ outbursts prove that relationships in the  NFL show that NFL really stands for “not for long”. True character is always more evident in defeat than it is in victory. In my first prediction for the 2023 season, I predict Josh Allen will be back. Although he is truly talented, I don’t want to say anything about Stephon Diggs.


Although I was 3-1 last week, how could anyone pick the Giants? That pick was SOOO bad, it should count as three losses (jk, boss). Only three games left, and I believe after all that has happened this season the best four teams right now are the teams remaining. And, I think any one of the four can win the Super Bowl. The run the Bengals are on plus the injury to Patrick Mahomes makes me believe the Bengals should be the favorite to win it all. And the Eagles have defense, offensive weapons, and home field against San Francisco. Here are my picks against the spread for the penultimate week of games for this season. Lines are from on Monday, Jan. 23.

Cincinnati Bengals (+1 ½) at Kansas City Chiefs I am writing this on Monday, and I already have seen this line at KC even to KC -1 ½. Patrick Mahomes is hurt, I don’t think he’ll be able to play effectively, and he may not play at all. The Bengals are hot. Joe Burrow, when he wears a stocking cap, looks like the ninth grade kid who says he plays quarterback but ends up being the waterboy. But Joe Burrow is no waterboy, in fact, he reminds me of another Joe, Joe Montana. I wish Mahomes were healthy, because I would still take the Bengals on the money line, but now there’s no good odds to be had. If you like the Bengals, I would bet this one early because I think the line will move Cincinnati’s way by kickoff.

Philadelphia Eagles (-2 ½) vs San Francisco 49ers. This one pains me, because I thought the 49ers were the best team in the NFL. Maybe they will end up that way, but the Eagles are loaded, the 49ers have a rookie QB, and the game is in Philadelphia. Plus, the spread is less than a field goal. It all adds up to me picking Philly.

Robert’s picks

Eagles (-2 ½) over 49ers: By this point, I’m not sure why anyone would read my picks or analysis, since I’ve had such a terrible season. But now we’re down to the cream of the NFL crop and we have two compelling games to watch. I can think of lots of ways and reasons the 49ers can win, but the bottom line to me is the 49ers the past few years have had trouble defending running quarterbacks, and now they’re facing the one who might be the best in the league right now. In particular, the 49ers have struggled in recent seasons to stop the zone read. More specifically, their defensive philosophy has been to have the unblocked defensive end crash to the middle to take away the inside run and scrape a linebacker to the outside. The result is that they’ve been gouged by the outside run on the zone read, whether it’s a quarterback keep after a fake inside handoff, or a give outside with the quarterback as the inside option. They may come into this game with a different philosophy, but until I see them successfully defend that play, I’m expecting similar results. Their pass rush has been most vulnerable to inside scrambles by the quarterback. Jalen Hurts is going to make two or three explosive plays in the game. The 49ers chances to win depends on whether it’s only two or three, but the Eagles are also going to try to exploit cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, who can be beaten deep. This is the toughest test either team has faced this season, but I think if the Eagles get four explosive plays, they win.

Bengals (+1 ½) over Chiefs: The thing Patrick Mahomes does best is improvise, but with a high ankle sprain he suffered last week, that’s going to be tough for him to do. But even with Mahomes at full strength, the Chiefs would have their hands full here. The Bengals have won 10 in a row and they’ve beaten the Chiefs three times in the past two seasons. The Chiefs have thrived all season without the explosive element Tyreek Hill gave them, but none of the players they brought in this season have given them that element. I think this stage of the season is where that weakness begins to show. Tight end Travis Kelce caught 14 passes last week, but for only 98 yards, but he’s the Chiefs’ best big-play threat. If the Bengals can limit those, like when they held him to four catches on Dec. 4, the Bengals will make a repeat appearance in the Super Bowl.

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