Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Wild Card Picks

I was so ahead of the game having written 90% of this on Monday which gave me three days to touch it up before posting it Thursday morning.  When I blew that self-imposed deadline I knew I was in trouble because Thursday night was fantasy golf draft night and the excitement of golf draft night always seems to get the best of me.  I know that's probably hard to imagine until you consider that I write something called the Fantasy Golf Report and even then, it's probably hard to imagine.  This one was no exception.  Without going into great detail, let's just say that I decided to leave my car in the driveway and walk the 3/4 mile to the bar . . . and it would be the last good decision I made all night unless you count having the cab driver wait outside at 1:00 a.m. because "we're just going in for one more drink."  (Kind of a weird place.  They just kept playing the same Def Leopard and Motley Crue songs over and over again).  Time to change the subject before I write any more of the closing argument for my wife's future divorce lawyer.

Ben's been looking up at his feet
a lot against the Ravens lately.
I realized I left one minor detail out of the playoffs preview - a Super Bowl pick.  I've got the Saints beating the Lions, 49ers and Packers and playing the Ravens who will beat the Texans and the Patriots.  Unfortunately, I don't like the Ravens' chances of keeping-up with Drew Brees and company in a dome so my gut is telling me Saints - 27 . . . Ravens - 17.  The Ravens only played one team this year with a top flight quarterback and multiple tall receiving threats and that was the Chargers who blew them out.  I'm not counting the Steelers because Roethlisberger isn't a pure passer like Rivers and Brees and the familiarity of those two teams (who I bet have played each other more than any other two teams over the last four years) makes their games impossible to factor into the analysis.

On to the picks.  My procrastination cost me a point in the Texans game which almost changed my mind and a half point in the Steelers game but that line would need to go to about 20 before I picked the Broncos.  I expect there to be a lot of empty seats in Denver by the middle of the 4th quarter.

Houston by 4 over Cincinnati:  The Pick - Texans

"How's the ankle Ben?"
The most intriguing thing about this match-up is that it might determine who represents the AFC in the Super Bowl.  As noted in Wednesday's NFL Playoffs Preview, a Texans' win creates a nice little channel for the Ravens to paddle through.  On the other hand, if the Bengals win, the Patriots' path becomes a lot smoother with the Bengals at home followed by the remains of the team that wins the Ravens-Steelers game.  (Picture the Patriots as Joaquin Phoenix fighting Russell Crowe after he's already taken a dagger to the gut).

I've been back and forth on this game a few times but the one thing I keep coming back to is Ray Rice ripping off two long runs to closeout the Bengals last weekend.  The Texans were the second most productive running team in the league and, unlike the Denver Broncos who were first, they actually have a modicum of a passing game.  I see them just pounding the Bengals into submission and throwing a few deep balls Andre Johnson's way to keep them honest.  The Texans also have a psycho high motor white defensive lineman in the mold of Jared Allen named Connor Barwin who is going hit Andy Dalton before, during and after he throws the ball.  This one is going to be really close to the line but I'm going with 20-13 Texans.  

New Orleans by 10.5 over Detroit:  The Pick - Saints

Do you remember back in the days before Netflix, Apple TV and even video rental stores when you and your friends would end-up with a VHS tape of some random comedy (you thought I was going to say "porn" didn't you) and you'd watch it five times a week and lay so much of your own commentary over it that every scene ended-up being hilarity of the highest order and then someone from outside your crew would watch it with you, not get any of the inside jokes and rightfully say "you guys are idiots."  (If that never happened to you, you're just going to have to trust me like with the golf draft thing).    

"I know.  Let's cast Belushi
as an unfunny rube."
For us that movie was Neighbors, a critically un-acclaimed box office failure by John Belushi and Dan Akroyd made to capitalize on their Blues Brothers success.  (Think Night at the Roxbury).  It was dark, awkward and downright weird in places but we loved it so much that we spent an entire summer talking about finding a video camera and trying to remake scenes of it (a plan that died when we are all too lazy to even look for a video camera).  There were four or five scenes that we would watch and rewind ten times and we'd laugh just as hard the tenth time as we did the first (and we weren't even stoners . . . again, you'll just have to trust me).

Anyway, that's how I picture Drew Brees and Sean Payton when they watch tape from the Lions-Packers game last Sunday when Packers back-up QB Matt Flynn threw six touchdown passes against a woeful Lions' secondary.  "Watch this one Drew.  The cornerback doesn't even turn around.  Wwwaaaahhhhhh . . . play it again, play it again!"  The over/under on this game is a December college bowl game like 59.5 points which means we're looking at something along the lines of a 38-24 final score.          

N.Y. Giants by 3 over Atlanta:  The Pick - Giants

The one thing this game guarantees is that at least one overrated quarterback is going to win a playoff game this year.  I've been banging on Eli Manning pretty hard lately but that's because he's overhyped which isn't his fault.  He has proven that he can step-up in big games while Matt Ryan shines when the Falcons are blowing out the Bucs or the Jaguars.  He doesn't have the glaring flaws of other 3rd tier guys like Tony Romo (turnovers), Mark Sanchez (more turnovers), and Matt Cassel (sucks against teams that play defense).  Ryan just seems to lack the ability to produce points when playing good teams which, you know, makes it kind of tough to beat them.  The G-men advance 24-17.      

Pittsburgh by 8.5 over Denver:  The Pick - Steelers

"Look for Tebow and the Broncos to get
Polamalu involved early and often."
There must be a lot of Tebow believers out there to keep this line under double digits.The fact that the Broncos ranked 24th in scoring defense has been somewhat obscured by all of the Tebow chatter.  The Steelers' defense on the other hand is ranked 1st and will be facing a quarterback who has seven turnovers and one touchdown pass in his last three games.  A more intriguing wager might be a prop bet of Tebow passing yards versus interception return yards for the Steelers.  It was fun while it lasted.  Steelers - 24 . . . Broncos - 3.                

Last week:  4-8 . . . . Season:  88-81-3