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Steve Kornacki, National Treasure, Is Game for the NFL Playoffs

NBC News and MSNBC’s election guru is ready to call the NFC East race

NBC/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

It’s been a weird few weeks in the midst of a weird year, and that was before Raiders-Jets kicked off. But if you tuned in at 7 p.m. ET to the Football Night in America pregame show, NBC offered an oasis of sanity in the form of elections analyst/expert map-pointer-ater Steve Kornacki, who brought his Big Board and his Kornkhakis to the program to break down the NFL playoff picture.

If you are not familiar with Kornacki, the first thing you need to know is that he is spectacular and must be protected at all costs. Kornacki is a national political correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC who guided many a frazzled viewer through sleepless nights in early November by playing a touch-screen display of election results like a Stradivarius while chugging Diet Coke and becoming a viral sensation.

America has a long history of forming emotional attachments to news anchors—they’re often the authority figures who guide us through major events, but loving Kornacki is different. He is a data devotee uncorrupted by partisan politics. He is guided by logic. He buys clothes at the Gap and will remind you that there are still 60,000 outstanding votes in Allegheny County and it’s all going to be OK. He is a massive fan of the New England Patriots, which you will not hold against him unless you would like to fight me.

Anyway, after a few days of election coverage, Kornacki was in such high demand that MSNBC made it possible for viewers to keep eyes on him during commercial breaks with a “Kornacki Cam,” where Kornacki could be seen doing things like texting or eating pretzels. He was recently named one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive.

Maybe Map Daddy Kornacki is already your jam, maybe you own at least one Ronald Reagan biography and CNN’s John King is more your style, or maybe you were uninitiated up to this point and are reading this post in confused horror. But if the appeal of the cable news quants is to provide a voice of reason, then Kornacki is unquestionably an essential voice given the state of the NFL after Week 13. The electoral college map may be a twisted mess, but have you seen the NFC East race?

“As we push to the playoffs, who better to spot the trends, make the call about division and conference races, and identify the toss-up games that can flip the standings than the man in the khakis?” said NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood in a statement announcing Kornacki’s appearance on Sunday.

Indeed.

If you weren’t sure how to view the Raiders after a last-second win against the lowly Jets, allow Kornacki to explain, as he did on Football Night in America, that Las Vegas avoided seeing their playoff odds fall to “10 or 15 percent,” he said. With the win, the Raiders have a 49 percent shot to make the postseason as a wild-card team.

The Browns have been dogged by questions about their point differential and their weak strength of schedule, but they are officially a legitimate contender now that Kornacki, using Pro Football Focus’s playoff probability model, gestured to an on-screen graphic showing them with a 97 percent chance of making the postseason.

The Cardinals’ recent struggles have been surprising to some, but Kornacki sounded the alarm by squatting to reach the far side of the Big Board in order to point out how Arizona is currently on the outside of the playoff picture. Kornacki, by the way, has a better two-point stance than multiple defensive linemen in the NFL.

Even Cris Collinsworth loved it.

“I never thought I was going to miss election coverage but that was awesome, I love all those Big Boards over there,” he said.

Same, Cris. Same. Steve Kornacki forever.

Kornacki, who loves football, looked very happy to be part of the show.

“Truly a thrill to get this chance, especially as the season reaches its most exciting point. I spent the last year using the Big Board to map out all of the various roads to 270 and I can’t wait to put it to use breaking down all of the paths to the playoffs,” he said.

By the way, America’s chartthrob thinks the Giants are winning the NFC East.