MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Allow me first to congratulate myself, for not only picking all six winners of last weekend’s opening round of the #NFLTheTVShow playoffs, but for also going 4-2 against the spread. That’s right, I had underdogs Jacksonville and the Giants to both win and to cover, which ain’t too shabby. Now, if only I had had any money on it, I’d be coming to you right now from sparkling Las Vegas.

Which isn’t true, actually. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I’m not much of a gambler, but I’ve never had the desire to go to Las Vegas, and at this stage neither should Tom Brady.

This week, we have Jacksonville at Kansas City (-8.5) and Cincinnati at Buffalo (-5) in the AFC and the New York Giants at Philadelphia (-7.5) and Dallas at San Francisco (-3.5) in the NFC.

The reflex inclination is to take all four home teams and favorites to win and to cover, but I have a hard time shaking the roll that Jacksonville has been on for well over a month and the gritty intangible of the Giants, not to necessarily win, but to at least cover the 8.5 and 7.5 points respectively.

Then again, there is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel by fashionably ignoring just how good both Kansas City and Philadelphia have been this season. That shouldn’t be overlooked, but that 8.5 the Chiefs are giving to a very hot team seems like a lot to me, even at home.

I like Buffalo, coming off a huge scare from Miami, to cover the 5 at home against Cincinnati because I had forgotten how shaky the Bengals’ offensive line has been, even when healthy. So unless they get back the two linemen they lost during their win over the Ravens, that could provide even bigger problems in protecting quarterback Joe Burrow, who already takes more sacks than most quarterbacks do on good days.

Then there is Dallas, sky-high over its dominating win over Tampa Bay, getting 3.5 at San Francisco. What little I understand about any of this is that right out of the shoot, homefield is worth three points in every betting line. So that leads me to believe that Vegas is saying on a neutral field the 49ers would be favored over the Cowboys by a half-point. That has my attention.

As I am not the owner of the team, I am not ready to put the Cowboys in the Super Bowl, but, really, if they can get by San Francisco (they might want to find a kicker first), that would certainly be a possibility as either way they would be facing an NFC East rival for the third time against whom they are a combined 3-1 this season.

I understand the 49ers are going to be tough to beat, but I am stuck with this feeling that the magic carpet ride of third-string quarterback Brock Purdy has to come to a crash landing at some point. I have also convinced myself that Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott at some point is due to have his great moment of met expectations.

Then I think of Prescott and Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy and how the playoff game between these teams ended last year and how most of the playoff games seem to end for McCarthy-coached teams from two different cities.

I listen to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gush like a teen-ager with a crush in comparing this Cowboys team to the Cowboys teams of Aikman, Emmitt and Irvin that won three Super Bowls in a row, and then reality returns in the realization that this Cowboys team just beat the only team in the playoffs with a losing record and a 45-year old quarterback, who didn’t seem real sure of himself being in that position on Monday night.

Well, this Cowboys team ain’t that Cowboys team. No team has won three Super Bowls in a row since that team did it 30 (count them, 30) years ago. And this week, these Cowboys are playing the varsity, even with a third-string quarterback. I’m taking the varsity – the 49ers – to win and to cover.

I’ll take the Jaguars and their star-in-the-making quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the 8.5 points, but I’ll take the Chiefs and their already-a-star quarterback Patrick Mahomes to win; and I’ll take the Giants and the 7.5 points, but I like the Eagles for the win.

As for Cincinnati-Buffalo, the Bengals have already made it deeper than most teams do the year after losing the previous Super Bowl, and the Bills, to me, just have the IT to them this year and did even before the world embraced them and Buffalo through the miracle of Damar Hamlin.

I can’t shake the feeling that this is going to be the year the Bills finally do it. Take Buffalo and the points.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT