BETONLINE PRO PICKS BY BARRY WILNER: DIVISIONAL ROUND WEEK
So much attention is paid, week after week, to the quarterback encounters in the NFL. For the divisional round of the playoffs, let’s concentrate on the coaching matchups.
And there are some juicy ones, starting with Andy Reid and the Chiefs hosting Doug Pederson and the Jaguars.
Those in the know would never look askance at anyone suggesting that Reid is the best head coach in pro football. His approach certainly is fun to watch, and he is almost unbeatable coming off a bye, which Kansas City will do on Saturday.
He faces one of his proteges in Pederson – each has won a Super Bowl as a head coach – and has the highest respect for the Jaguars boss.
“He played, obviously, and he knows what kind of coach he liked and didn’t like,” Reid said. “And so within his own personality, he presents it in a friendly manner, but yet (he’s) demanding of the guys and I think that’s a positive thing. He was that way – I was with him when he was a player and I was with him as a coach, so he’s got a good way about him.”
Pederson admits to and is proud of being a disciple of Reid.
“We talk during the season, we do,” Pederson said. “Obviously, this week is different and when we played them a while back, but I owe a lot to Coach Reid: my career, not only as a player but as a coach, and I want to pick his brain and learn. He’s been doing this a long time, and he’s been really, really successful at it. Anything I can learn and take away from him is a blessing for me.”
Another intriguing situation has the Brian Daboll and the Giants heading to Philadelphia for a third meeting with Nick Sirianni and the Eagles. Both are former offensive assistants who have flourished, as has their teams, under their guidance. Each has re-established a winning culture, not an easy thing to do nowadays.
On Sunday, two more coaches whose expertise is on offense, Dallas’ Mike McCarthy and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan, face off. Both have taken teams to the Super Bowl, but the comparisons end there; McCarthy won with Green Bay, Shanahan lost with the 49ers.
McCarthy always seems to be under fire in Big D, though the Cowboys have made the postseason in 2021 and ’22. Shanahan’s 49ers, buoyed by the best defense in the NFL, hasn’t suffered a bit with a rookie, former third-string quarterback, Brock Purdy, behind center.
Finally, we have the rare coach with a defensive background, Sean McDermott of Buffalo, against Zac Taylor, who guided the Bengals to a surprising AFC title last season. This is the class matchup of offense vs. defense.
Oh yeah, one more thing: McDermott comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree.
Jaguars at Chiefs (-8)
One thing is certain here: If Trevor Lawrence has a nervous, turnover-filled first half, this game will become a rout. These are not the misguided Chargers on the other side of the field.
BEST BET: CHIEFS, 30-20
Bengals at Bills (-5)
To us, this is the most evenly matched of the divisional-round games, and Buffalo’s penchant for sloppiness could hurt the Bills. It almost did against weaker Miami.
Plus, the Bengals have proven they can win big contests on the road.
UPSET SPECIAL: BENGALS, 27-23
Giants at Eagles (-7 ½)
The well-rested Eagles should be much healthier this time around for the Giants, whose victory last week at Minnesota shouldn’t have surprised anyone. New York will make it close, maybe even razor-thin, but we like …
Cowboys at 49ers (-3 ½)
As crazy as this sounds, the 49ers’ offense with Purdy (and, naturally, Shanahan’s coaching) is far better than Tampa Bay’s with TB12. Dan Quinn’s defense might test Purdy, but in the end, it’s the other defense that will decide this one.
Wilner’s 2022 RECORD
Last Week – Straight up: 6-0. Against the spread: 3-3.
Season – Straight up: 174-85-2. Against the spread: 134-119-8.
Best Bet – Straight up: 14-5. Against the spread: 10-9.
Upset Special – Straight up: 9-10. Against the spread: 10-9.