A Jacksonville Jaguars fan holds a homemade sign outside the stadium before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
A Jacksonville Jaguars fan holds a homemade sign outside the stadium before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
We’ll get to football in a second, but I’m going to start us off this week with some exciting personal news.

Anybody that knows me can tell you that while sports have always been my first love, my second has always been LEGO. I’ve mentioned it briefly in previous columns but now seems as good a time as any to delve deeper into my obsession. Yes, the 25-year-old man that runs the sports section of your favorite newspaper spends a good chunk of his free time playing with plastic bricks. And for what it’s worth, I love every single minute of it.

I started playing with LEGO when I was a little kid and I asked my parents for every set imaginable. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Castle theme and my favorite of them all, Bionicle. You name it, I probably had it. I even had sets that went down in history as LEGO’s biggest failures such as Galidor. The only thing I never got as a kid were some of the ultimate collector series sets aimed at adults that were a little bit more expensive. When I see what some of those sets are going for at resale today, I wish I pried just a little bit harder.

In my teenage years, I took an extended break from LEGO as other interests, such as baseball and broadcasting, heated up. I had a few other interests that I’m not going to bother publishing but what teenage kid didn’t go through a rebellious phase? Anyways, I got back into building with the colorful bricks my junior year of college with some smaller sets to scratch the itch that was starting to develop again.

Once COVID hit, I got back in HEAVY. With nothing to do, nowhere to go and nowhere else to spend my money, I started getting bigger and bigger sets and started up what I think to be a pretty impressive collection. With no parents to tell me which set I could or couldn’t get, my power is unlimited. Sadly, my bankroll is not.

With our phones, the internet and television taking up so much of our attention in our daily lives, I love the opportunity to sit down, pour out a bag of bricks onto the table in front of me and go to work. The combination of calmness coming from the ability to build something with my hands while tuning out everything else with the sense of accomplishment once things start coming together is unmatched.

Why am I bringing all of this up now? Is it because with only eight teams remaining in the NFL there’s just not much to talk about? Kind of. The main reason I’m discussing this today is because over the weekend, I finished what is now the crown jewel of my collection: the 9,000 piece LEGO Titanic.

To put it in perspective, the largest set I had ever built before attempting 1912’s greatest marvel was 4,000 pieces. The model sits at 53” long and is a 1:200 scale replica of the ship. I was lucky enough to get it for Christmas and spent the next three weeks taking my time putting it together. The tragic story of the Titanic was one that stuck with me ever since hearing of it as a little kid. Putting together every last detail while watching documentaries on the ship being built as well as her faithful final night on April 14, 1912 was such a surreal experience that I might take the set apart just to build it again.

I finished at the perfect time too, with James Cameron’s Titanic being rereleased in theaters on February 10. I’ll be there that weekend.

The ship now sits on my kitchen island, the only surface in my apartment long enough to fit the build safely and securely. I don’t know what’s next for me in the LEGO world, but the company comes out with so many awesome sets a year that I’m sure I won’t struggle too hard to find my newest project. Eventually I’ll start buying bricks in bulk to get better at building whatever I want.

Now, let’s get into the football.

I mentioned last week that Wild Card Weekend has given us some really bad and uncompetitive games in recent years. That certainly wasn’t the case this week, as five of the six contests were one-score games that featured big comebacks, a few favorites on upset watch and of course, tons of plays to discuss around the water cooler all week long. We are now left with just four teams in each conference, and only seven total games remaining. Give me a moment to wipe away some tears.

Last year’s divisional round gave us some of the best games of the last decade and while some of this year’s games may not look as sexy as Bills-Chiefs did on paper, I think we could be in for a real treat. We have some great young quarterbacks facing off, one of the leagues oldest rivalries is renewing and we get yet another divisional showdown. The storylines are there; I can only hope the games deliver.

I went 3-3 picking the games last week, with my downfall being my lack of faith in backup quarterbacks covering lopsided spreads. I should have expected Bills-Dolphins and Ravens-Bengals to be closer, especially with it being the third time the teams had played this season.

Fewer games to pick each week means less margin for error. I’ve got to bring my A-game from here on out. Not that I wasn’t trying to and failing before.

Let’s do this.

SATURDAY

Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5)


The Jaguars came back from down 27-0 against the Chargers last Saturday, overcoming four first-half interceptions by Trevor Lawrence to get the job done. The Chiefs had an extra week to prepare for this one as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. I’d be surprised to see Kansas City drop this one, but to be fair, I’m surprised any time Patrick Mahomes loses a football game. While the Chiefs’ defensive line has some game breakers like Chris Jones, their secondary has struggled at points this year. Jacksonville and Lawrence keep it close through the air.

The Pick: Jaguars +8.5

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5)

The Eagles have already handled the Giants twice this season, but New York played perhaps its best game of the season last weekend in handling the Minnesota Vikings. Philadelphia should be healthier than it has been in recent weeks, which should make a big difference. Perhaps this is just me overcorrecting picking the lopsided favorites last week, but I kind of think this ends as a one score game as well.

The Pick: Giants +7.5

SUNDAY

Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills (-5)


This is probably my most anticipated matchup of the weekend. Obviously, emotions will be high as the two teams meet just weeks after Damar Hamlin collapsed in Cincinnati. Both sides somewhat underperformed in their wins last week and will need their best game to advance once again. I have a hard time believing the Bills will let their season end in the same place it did last year, but there’s just something about Joe Burrow that has me in his corner.

The Pick: Bengals +5

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5)

Dallas, specifically Dak Prescott, quieted a lot of doubters on Monday with a fantastic performance against Tampa Bay. The Niners started slow against Seattle but turned it on in the second half to earn a big win. I like what the Cowboys are capable of and wouldn’t be surprised if they made a deep run, but I already picked against one of my Super Bowl teams this week, I can’t pick against both.

The Pick: 49ers -3.5

Really liking the underdogs this week, it appears. Hopefully it pays off and I can get some momentum going forward into the final few weeks of the year! When we meet again, there will only be three games left, not including the Pro Bowl. Never include the Pro Bowl. Have a great weekend! Go build a LEGO set while you watch the games!