Saturday, January 3, 2015

The NFL Wild Card Round Picks

When I wrote in the preamble for the Week 17 picks that I was doing them for the sake of finishing what I started, I kind of figured that the season would effectively be over for me at that point because there was no way Bill Simmons' karma police* were going to give the Ravens a shot by having the Chiefs beat the Chargers, especially after Alex Smith went down with a lacerated spleen. (The poor guy was just going along without a clue that he would be collateral damage in the conspiracy to keep the Ravens down and someone came along and stuck him with a shiv . . . at least that's what I'm assuming happened). But lo and behold, the Chargers went and opened the door by doing typical Charger things meaning that all the Ravens had to do was win at home against a team on a four game losing streak starting its third string quarterback. I mean how hard could that be?

The answer? Pretty damn hard as they found themselves trailing the Browns and Connor Freakin' Shaw 10-3 heading into the fourth quarter. Fortunately, someone got to Joe Flacco with some smelling salts and mentioned that he might want to stop throwing it at the guy being covered by Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Hayden. Bing Bang Boom Flacco throws two touchdown passes, the Ravens are heading to Pittsburgh for round one of the playoffs and my interest has been rekindled in a big way. It's like I was standing on deck to tee off at Bethpage Yellow when the starter tapped me on the shoulder and told me a spot just opened up on the Black. (Got to keep it somewhat golfy). I have to admit, I'm a bit giddy and on that cheerful note and just in time for your Saturday morning constitutional, here are the first round picks . . .

Carolina by 6.5 over Arizona: The Pick - Panthers

They're calling for rain on Saturday and you
know what that means . . . everything is going
to be really wet. (Hey, thanks creepy Rob Lowe).
In the space of a few weeks we went from the possibility of a home team being a double digit playoff underdog to a 7-8-1 team being a 6.5 favorite over an 11-5 team. And on top of that, the 7-8-1 team is probably the closest thing to a straight-up lock in the first round as the other three favorites all find themselves in very precarious positions with major question marks (we'll get to those). The Panthers have won four games in a row while rushing for about 800 yards in the process (seriously). Meanwhile, the Cardinals are starting a quarterback who looks like Jason Bateman and completes less than half his passes. This game feels like a bit like the crazy hairy Rob Lowe Directv ad.**

Pittsburgh by 3 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

These two teams split the regular season match-ups with the Ravens hammering the Steelers by 20 points at home and then the Steelers returning the favor by the same margin in Pittsburgh in the second of Ben Roethlisberger's back to back six touchdown games. What those two games tell us about the upcoming match-up is absolutely nothing because this one is invariably going to be decided by seven points or less and it will be in doubt heading into the fourth quarter. That would have been less likely a week ago but now Le'Veon Bell is out and you can't remove arguably the best running back in the game from the equation and not have it tip the scales. Add that to the fact that the mere sight of Roethlisberger turns the Ravens' front seven into something they'd unleash in the Hunger Games and you have the recipe for a sixty minute brawl. Did I mention I'm a bit giddy?

Indianapolis by 3.5 over Cincinnati: The Pick - Bengals

"Please stop bothering me. 
I told you. I'm tired."
The last quality win the Colts had was against the Bengals in Week 7 but since then they've played three playoff teams (Pittsburgh, New England and Dallas) and lost those games by a combined score of 135-61. Apparently averaging 3.9 yards per carry and leading the league in fumbles makes you blowout prone. Not to mention, when you run those numbers plus the sketchy Colts defense through the Tandy 2000, it just sits there silently because the damn thing hasn't worked in over 20 years but if it did, it would tell you that's a lousy playoff formula.

Dallas by 6.5 over Detroit: The Pick - Cowboys

Matthew Stafford's career road record against winning teams is 0-16 which is a really bad stat if he happens to be the quarterback of your wildcard playoff team. What that dismal record is trying to tell us is that Stafford just isn't that great, especially when you consider that he's been throwing to arguably the third best receiver of all-time for the past six years and he can't even manage to complete 60% of his passes. (Jerry Rice and Randy Moss are #1 and #2. After that the debate broadens).*** In most cases involving the Cowboys and a playoff game, the combination of Jason Garrett and Tony Romo would cancel-out such a glaring weakness in their opponent, however, the Lions will see the Cowboys' pair of un-clutch leaders and raise them all-in with Jim Caldwell and that will be more than enough to take the pot . . . or lose it . . . the game I mean. Oh screw this analogy. Just take the Cowboys. 

Last Week's Record: 9-7 . . . Regular Season Record: 122-130-3.


* As a Patriots' fan, Simmons knows all about karma as the Pats haven't won a Super Bowl since Bill Belichik was caught cheating. Simmons is also dreading the prospect of Terrell Suggs, Courtney Upshaw and C.J. Mosley snapping Tom Brady in half next weekend . . . as he should be.

** I'm guessing a decision was made by Directv to either write-off the hairy guy demographic that I fall squarely into or they just assumed that if we care that little about personal grooming then we probably care equally as little about an ad that tacitly offends us. And they'd be right.   

*** I'm always happy when I'm reminded of a Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest finalist for the worst opening sentence to a novel. In this case, "the debate broadens" calls to mind the opening line . . . "Just beyond the Narrows, the river widens." I know you have no idea what I'm talking about but I landed on my head skiing today so bear with me and just be thankful this is in English. And speaking of thankful, my appreciation goes out to the guy who thought it would be a good idea for recreational skiers to start wearing helmets. Now how about a sign to keep people over 40 out of the terrain parks? Sheesh. 

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