I could try to put pretty makeup on my winless pig. Like: Had Bills in an upset and they led 16-0 deep into second half. Or: Had Eagles at home but they lost starting QB Carson Wentz two series in. And: Nobody had Drew Brees and Saints losing at home. Fairly good excuses. But they haven't invented one of those good enough to satisfactorily explain my 0-4 mark both straight-up and against the spread on wild-card weekend. Some bad luck, yeah, but still no excuse for our first double-winless start to the playoffs in 29 seasons of picks in the Miami Herald. That made it a quirky, dubious first. It will also be a last - guaranteed. Let's run the table from here!
Overall; Vs. spread
Last week/playoffs - 0-4, .000; 0-4, .000
Final 2019 - 169-86-1, .663; 129-120-5, .518
Final 2018 - 179-75-2, .705; 145-104-7, .582
Chaff? Gone with the wind. Only the wheat remains as the NFL playoffs reach divisional-round weekend with the highest seeds coming off byes and last week's surviving winners the only eight teams still standing on the road to Miami and the Feb. 2 Super Bowl crowning the league's 100th season. Road teams won three of four games last week, but that trend faces a brick wall this weekend with the home quartet favored by a combined 31 points. Our previews and picks:
NO. 6 TITANS (10-7) at NO. 1 RAVENS (14-2)
Line: BAL by 10.
Cote's pick: BAL 34-16. (Saturday, 8:15 p.m., CBS).
Old friend Ryan Tannehill, you have had a great run. Led Tennessee this far. Earned a big payday from Titans as free agency looms. But this is how it ends. Harshly. With the best team in football home, coming off a bye and flexing its might. Tannehill needed only 72 passing yards last week as Titans dethroned Patriots with NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry and defense. But the QB will need to do much more Saturday night, and Baltimore's pass defense will be trouble. Ravens and sublime dual threat Lamar Jackson also will be much more a handful for Tennessee's defense than was New England. Crows broke league record for most rushing yards, although top back Mark Ingram (calf) is legit questionable, and his absence would be a much-needed break for Titans, who would be first No. 6 seed to advance in this round since 2010. Tennessee is the Cinderella of these playoffs. Baltimore is the team that reminds us fairy tales aren't real.
NO. 4 TEXANS (11-6) at NO. 2 CHIEFS (12-4)
Line: K.C. by 10.
Cote's pick: K.C. 30-17. (Sunday, 3:05 p.m., CBS).
Marquee matchup Deshaun Watson vs. Patrick Mahomes is the first under-25 QB duel in this round since 2000 (when both were 5), but there are reasons to believe fate will love only one of them Sunday afternoon. Andy Reid-coached teams have played 26 games following a bye in his career. They have won 22. But that doesn't make me like the home team coming off a bye here as much as this does: Mahomes vs. the NFL's 29th-ranked pass defense. Yes, Houston won in KC 31-24 in Week 6 (and yes, Mahomes played), but I'm seeing that less as a harbinger than as added incentive for the Chiefs. K.C.'s defense is so much better since then and team has won six in a row, while the banged-up Texans needed a frantic comeback, luck and Buffalo charity to barely survive the Bills last week. It isn't all on Mahomes anymore. A big ground game and hugely improved D give him all the help he might need.
NO. 6 VIKINGS (11-6) at NO. 1 49ERS (13-3)
Line: S.F. by 7.
Cote's pick: S.F. 24-20. (Saturday, 4:35 p.m., NBC).
Vikings' huge upset at New Orleans last week was fashioned by a healthy Dalvin Cook and the answer to whatever happened to Adam Thielen. Now Thielen and Stefon Diggs both are questionable, while the Niners' defense looks to be healthier with the anticipated return of DE Dee Ford and LB Kwon Alexander. The NFC divisional matchups are tighter than in the AFC, though. It would not entirely shock if Seattle-Minnesota gave the NFL its first No. 5 vs. No. 6 seed conference final since the league adopted the current playoff format in 1990. Predicting it? No. But not discounting it, either. Taking Jimmy Garoppolo at home late Saturday afternoon, off a bye, but leaning Purples with points. Minnesota ain't no joke, as Sean Payton and Drew Brees would testify.
NO. 5 SEAHAWKS (12-5) at NO. 2 PACKERS (13-3)
Line: G.B. by 4.
Cote's pick: GB 23-20. (Sunday, 6:40 p.m., Fox).
This is the Prove It wing of this NFL playoff round. Two gaudy records - but is either team great? Can you see either reaching Miami and perhaps even reigning? Seattle and Russell Wilson only beat banged-up Philly and ancient Josh McCown by one score after Carson Wentz went out early last week. Green Bay had eight single-score wins this season and Aaron Rodgers pilots an offense that was a middling 15th in scoring average. Seattle can win Sunday night if: 1) Travis Homer and a much heavier dose of Marshawn Lynch can win the ground vs. a Pack run D not nearly as strong as Philly's. And 2) if Hawks' O-line protects the much-sacked Wilson, a dicey maybe. Give us Rodgers at home off a bye but see it as a near pick-'em game.
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