Vikings (+7) over 49ERS As with last week, this is a pro-Vikings rather than anti-49ers pick. Shanahan and Lynch have done a great job in Santa Clara, and I’m inclined to think that the 49ers are the second-best team left on the postseason: they’re good and versatile on both sides of the ball, although one can quibble that their defense didn’t look quite as good as the schedule toughened in the second half and they lean a bit too hard on their overrated run game that generates more bulk yardage than efficiency. But the Vikings are also a really good, well-coached team. Krik Cousins has a rep damaged semi-fairly by some rough starts in big games and completely unfairly by the twerpish treatment he received from the league’s worst owner, but last week as a good QB having a good game. 7 points is a lot for a matchup this competitive, and if I were betting the game I’d take ’em.
RAVENS (-9 1/2) over Titans All hail the Team Trump slayers! The Titans have built a quietly impressive program, and granting that beating this version of the Pats isn’t exactly like 2007, a playoff win in Foxoboro is still a nice thing to have on your cv. But they’re running into a buzzsaw here. While their massively overhyped divisional “rivals” were engaged in galaxy-brained Silicon Valley deliberate losing so they could ultimately crank up the dry ice and triumphantly unveil a 6-10 also-ran with more holes than a Texas wildcatter’s ranch, one of the two organizations in their division actually worth treating as a model for others quietly rebuilt the best team in the league around the #32 pick in the draft at QB while remaining competitive. John Harbaugh has always been a good coach, but unlike a lot of good coaches he has rigorously built a new system around the available talent rather than trying to fit his talent into a procrustean bed and hitting what one might call the Rex Ryan wall in his career. This is also the third straight overachieving offense Greg Roman has put together. The results have been beautiful to watch. I dunno if the hiring Joe Judge will work out for the Giants, but it’s fair to say that coaches from a special teams background might deserve more consideration as head coaches than they currently tend to get. Like everyone without a rooting investment I want to see that Chiefs/Ravens conference championship, and I think we will.