The first round of the playoffs went nicely for me. I’m bout to pop some tags, only got 280 apples in my pocket. Home teams in CAPS.
Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game:
Ravens (+10) over BRONCOS
Yes, the Broncos might be the best team in the NFL. Yes, the Broncos have one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. Yes, the Broncos have won 11 straight games. But I’m taking the Ravens here.
Peyton Manning, as I have always said, is one of the greatest regular season quarterbacks of all-time. He has a 65.2% completion percentage with a 5.6% touchdown rate and a 2.7% interception rate, but most importantly a .688 winning percentage. Come playoff time, though, he plays much worse. His postseason record is 9-10 with a 61.2% completion percentage, 3.3% touchdown rate and 2.0% interception rate after the Wild Card round. His lone Super Bowl win came against Sexy Rexy Grossman.
Say what you want about Joe Flacco, but he’s led his team better in the playoffs historically than Peyton has. Flacco has a 6-4 record, though he should be 7-3 if not for Lee Evans’ dropped touch down in last year’s AFC Championship game.
Also, chew on this: today’s game will be sitting around 17 degrees. Could it possibly be an advantage for a 36-year old quarterback who has undergone four neck surgeries within two years and has to wear gloves for this game? Peyton is 0-3 in game under 21 degrees, and he never had to play in poor conditions when he was in Indianapolis.
Baltimore has the emotional edge with Play for Ray, and I’m not willing to give up a double-digit line to take Peyton in a cold playoff game. But I’m not sure Baltimore has enough to win.
Prediction: Broncos 24 Ravens 23
Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Game:
NINERS (-3) over Packers
There’s been a lot of talk swirling lately about how not enough is being made about the Niners passing on hometown kid Aaron Rodgers for their first overall pick in 2005. Well not nearly is being made about the Niners beating down Green Bay 30-22 in Week 1–without Colin Kaepernick.
In a game of a high-powered offense against a high-powered defense, I look back to San Francisco’s Week 15 win against New England. The Patriots are better on both sides of the ball than Green Bay, and San Francisco still managed to win a shootout. One major difference, though, is that the Patriots have a strong run defense, while the Packers do not.
In order for the Packers to win this game, they’ll need to get out ahead big early on. If they grab a double-digit lead quickly, the Niners won’t be able to pound the ball against Green Bay’s weak run D. The Packers can then play more against the pass–San Fran is missing Mario Manningham–and take the Niners away from their strength on offense. But if they fall behind early, the Packers will get Gored up the middle.
Ultimately, I’m a believer in Kaepernick–3rd best QBR this year, 9th best since 2008–and I think Green Bay will have problems stopping the Smith brothers, Patrick Willis, and NaVorro Bowman. We’ve seen how this ends already.
Prediction: Niners 30 Packers 22
KFC Double Down Game:
PATRIOTS (-9.5) over Texans
Picking the Patriots in the playoffs, a specialty of mine.
How can you not love this Patriots team? They dominate point differential. They dominate turnover differential. They have the best quarterback-head coach combination in the league. They finally have a running game. Their defense looks semi-competent.
Then we have the Texans. Matt Schaub has not looked good since before Thanksgiving, and Arian Foster has had one decent game since December. The team faded down stretch worse than a 2-year old Expo marker, culminating by them losing to the Colts by 12 in Week 17 and losing their first-round bye and home field advantage. Then they barely squeaked by the lowly Bengals 19-13.
This line may seem high, but then consider that Bill Belichick had two weeks to prepare for the Texans, while Gary Kubiak had just one week to prepare for the Patriots. This is the kind of statement game the Patriots have been winning this year. Say, like, Week 14 in their 42-14 annihilation.
For the third time this year, I’ll write this paragraph: “This is going to be the game the whole NFL recognizes the Patriots as the best team in the league. And there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Prediction: Patriots 34 Texans 16
Drink Cheerwine Lock o’ the Week:
Seahawks (+2.5) over FALCONS
When is the last time there was a number one seed with less respect than the Falcons? The lack of respect is deserved (or is it that any respect is not-so-deserved?), but the point still remains. They were never that dominant, they can’t run the ball, and their defense is just suspect.
That said, Matt Ryan had an amazing year. He’s never been great in the playoffs, but he was great this regular season. Maybe he’s got a bit of Peyton in him, for better or for worse.
Then we have the Seahawks, a team that went under-the-radar for most of the season until the busted out 150 points over three weeks to end the season. They have no weakness, especially now that Russell Wilson has broken out as of late, notably with the long ball. And just like in the Niners/Packers game, unless the Falcons go ahead early, the Falcons are in trouble because Seahawks can just pound the ball with Marshawn Lynch against Atlanta’s weak run defense.
The biggest key to me in this game is the Seahawks cornerbacks. The main source of offense for the Falcons will be the pass–because is sure won’t come from Michael Turner–and the Seahawks have the tallest secondary in the league. Roddy White and Julio Jones measure in at 6′ and 6’3″ and use their height to leverage big plays. That won’t be the case against 6’3″ Richard Sherman and 6’4″ Brandon Browner.
If the Seahawks do, indeed, shut down Matt Ryan’s passing attack, Atlanta won’t have a chance. Honestly, I’m surprised this line is so high, and everyone should know this season is destined for a Seahawks/Packers NFC Championship game. Wait, now I messed up the other NFC pick…
Prediction: Seahawks 31 Falcons 20
Overall record: 129-124-5
Last week: 3-1
Apple Total: 280
Apple Total Last Week: 75