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RANDALL THE HANDLE: Conference semifinal picks

Colts (11-6) at Chiefs (12-4)LINE: KANSAS CITY by 5½

Frank Reich and the Colts are to be commended for taking a 1-5 start to the season and turning into a 10-6 campaign before winning a playoff game last week.

The Colts have a top quarterback in Andrew Luck and management has finally provided some talented young players around him. With the AFC regarded as the weaker conference, few members wanted to draw this sizzling club in this post-season.

But if you’re to win a championship, odds are that you’re going to have defeat a worthy opponent or two along the way.

The Chiefs should be ready for this challenge. While history is on the side of the Colts with a 4-0 lifetime record against this host in playoffs and with K.C. claiming just one playoff win in 11 tries dating back to the 1994 playoffs, this is a new day for the Chiefs.

Patrick Mahomes is likely to be named league MVP, the dynamic quarterback became just the second player in history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in the same season.

Indy has had the luxury of playing in the suspect AFC South and, more importantly, the Colts’ schedule did not include a top-10 offensive opponent other than the Patriots, with that game producing a 38-24 setback in Foxboro.

Indy has also not faced many adept pass-rushing teams and while the Chiefs do have defensive issues, they still rank at No. 8 when getting to opposing quarterbacks.

After all is said and done, Kansas City breaks out of its playoff funk here.


Cowboys (11-6) at Rams (13-3)LINE: L.A. RAMS by 7

The Cowboys were solid at home this season when posting a 7-1 mark as hosts.

Leaving Arlington was a different story as Dallas was an unflattering 3-5 when traveling this year.

Four of the five road defeats were against teams that made the playoffs this season.

The only playoff-bound team that the Cowboys defeated in the trio of road wins was mid-season against struggling Philadelphia.

When battling those playoff teams on the road, the Cowboys averaged just 12.4 points per game.Few, if any, had the firepower that these Rams bring to this Divisional Round of the post-season. Jared Goff has tossed 22 touchdowns and just three interceptions on this field this season.

Dangerous RB Todd Gurley (1,800+ yards from scrimmage) returns healthy after missing last few games of regular season. The Rams surged last year but were tripped up in the opening round of playoffs to Atlanta.

Sean McVay is too good of a coach to let that happen again, especially against a Dallas team that has just six covers in past 19 vs. above-.500 clubs.

McVay’s counterpart poses little threat in the X’s and O’s department as Jason Garrett remains stuck in neutral with his conservative style.

The Rams are top-five in total yards, passing yards, rushing yards and points scored. The Dallas defence has performed well but they are stepping up in company here. This isn’t the Seahawks.Dak Prescott and mates will also have their hands full when facing a defence as intimidating as this

Los Angeles one, led by imposing stud lineman Aaron Donald. A lopsided Rams’ win would not surprise.


Chargers (13-4) at Patriots (11-8)LINE: NEW ENGLAND by 4

As the saying goes, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. With the Patriots, we can count on the experience, home record, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

The marketplace appears to either have forgotten about the attributes that New England brings to this one or it simply doesn’t have the same confidence as in years past with the team that has ruled the league this century.

Bettors can be a fickle bunch and are often reduced to referencing only what is fresh in their minds.

The public is on the Chargers with majority taking the points offered. That has reduced this number to Patriots minus-4.

Our concern lays with the Bolts’ authenticity. Granted, the Chargers have shown some tenacity, keeping games close. The Bolts were tied with the Chiefs for the best record in the AFC. Philip Rivers put up strong numbers once again. He has a stellar supporting cast. But sometimes you have to trust your eyes and ours see a missing component.

Maybe it was because the Chargers’ wins were against teams that were a combined 80-110-2 on the season?

Meanwhile, the Patriots are being undervalued. They were a perfect 8-0 at home this season (6-2 vs. spread) winning by an average score of 32.9 to 20.4.

This marks just the fifth time in their past 21 home playoff games that the Pats have been favoured by six or less, resulting in a 3-1 win and cover result. The sheeple can rely on the unknown commodity. We’ll stick to what we know.


Eagles (10-7) at Saints (13-3)LINE: NEW ORLEANS by 8

Next up: The Saints. While a huge challenge awaits the visiting Eagles, nothing seems to faze this Philadelphia squad. Sitting at 6-7 midway through December, the playoffs appeared to be nothing but a memory of last year’s Super Bowl run.

Carson Wentz was sidelined again and a road game at the Rams, where Philly was two-touchdown underdog, would likely seal the fate of the last season’s champion Eagles.

But Nick Foles came to the rescue once again, upsetting L.A. and winning the final three games to pave the way to these playoffs for Philadelphia. Not only has Foles covered six straight games as an underdog, he and his mates have won all six straight up.

Good coaching, enough quality players and stability on the front lines make the Eagles a formidable opponent.

New Orleans will be no pushover, that’s for sure. They own the best record in the NFL and the incomparable Drew Brees has an artillery of offence players that can inflict damage quickly and often.

However, we’ve seen the Saints deliver some lacklustre performances when cast in this roll as Brees brings a 7-6 career record in the post-season with him with past five home playoff games producing a 2-3 against the spread mark.

The Saints clobbered the Eagles in their regular season meeting by 48-7 but Wentz was playing injured and centre Jason Kelce exited early with an injury.

The Eagles continue to bring it and with plenty of points offered in this one, there is ample room for a cover.TAKING: EAGLES +8

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