Divisional Round NFL Picks – Vegas Can Kick Rocks

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve made NFL picks because I’ve been busy over winter break with vacation and following the crazy James Franklin saga, but I’m back for the second round of NFL picks.

Although this season has been… tough to say the least, I’ve actually been historically really good in the playoffs. Just last season, I was 7-1 and made 160 apples, and last week, I was 2-2 but still made 25 apples.

If you’re like me and are tired off all this college football drama, here are my picks for this weekend’s slate of games. Now that we’re out of the regular season, I promise you’ll make a killing off these picks.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games:

Chargers (+9.5) over BRONCOS

I’ll admit this off the bat: I’ve never been a huge Peyton Manning fan. But this pick doesn’t have to do with hatred, it has to do with stone cold facts.

Facts like Peyton Manning being 11-12 when the temperature is under 40 degrees at kickoff.

Facts like Peyton Manning being 9-11 in the playoffs.

Facts like Peyton Manning being 0-73 when his team has less points at the end of the game.

There’s a funny feeling to this Chargers team. And not just because Philip Rivers has brought bolo tie fashion to San Diego or because two weird trends say they will win the Super Bowl. Rivers is having a career year–partly thanks to Offensive Rookie of the Year co-favorite Keenan Allen–and the shockingly good combo of Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead has combined for 2,478 yards at running back.

There are certainly red flags in this game for San Diego–their defensive line is ranked last in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, and they’ve given up the 4th-most passing yards in the league. But at the same time, this Broncos team is slowly falling apart with Von Miller, Ryan Clady, Rahim Moore, and Kevin Vickerson all on the IR.

We’ve already seen that the Chargers can hang with the Broncos–they lost 28-20 at home in Week 10 and won 27-20 in Denver in Week 15–so I don’t think it’s out of the question for them to win. And pardon me for questioning John Fox playoff teams coming off a bye. (No, I don’t actually think you can draw any conclusions from one game, but I’m still bitter about 2009.)

In the end, I think that Denver’s offense is a little to strong for San Diego to keep up with, but this 9.5-point spread seems a bit high.

Prediction: Broncos 31 Chargers 27

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games:

PATRIOTS (-7) over Colts

Somehow, the Patriots and Colts have only faced each other in the playoffs three times (2004, 2005, and 2007), but each time, the home team went on to win the Super Bowl. Something tells me that trend ends this year.

Even as a noted Patriots homer, I’ve still been very vocal in saying the Patriots will not win the Super Bowl this year now that they’ve lost Vince Wilfork and Rob Gronkowski. But that’s not to say you should count out Touchdown Tom.

The Colts have been one of the most bizarre teams all year, beating the Niners, Seahawks, and Broncos, yet losing to the Dolphins, Rams, and Cardinals. They don’t have a single rusher over 550 yards on the season, and T.Y. Hilton is their best receiver. Their defense is a reinvigorated Robert Mathis and that’s it.

Although Tom Brady has had far from his best year, he’s had an excellent 70.6 QBR since his bye, if you exclude the weird Week 17 game. I really like Andrew Luck, but I’ll still take Brady in the playoffs, especially at Gillette, where he’s 11-4. The Patriots running game has really picked up lately, watch out for LeGarrette Blount, and that could be the difference in this game, since Denver is 26th in the NFL against the run.

Prediction: Patriots 30 Colts 20

KFC Double Down Games:

SEAHAWKS (-8) over Saints

I was tempted to pick the Saints here for a while, but then I thought better of it. Eight points is a large spread, but the Seahawks are incredibly good at home, and Percy Harvin should finally be healthy.

Most people agree that the Seahawks are the Super Bowl favorites between Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, their incredible defensive front, huge (roiding) cornerbacks, and steady QB play from Russell Wilson. But the bigger scare to me here is that the Saints’ passing attack is so good that Drew Brees could easily pull a backdoor cover.

Despite having a nearly absent running game all season, Brees has still flourished. Part of that is thanks to Jimmy Graham finally breaking out and Kenny Stills becoming the next in a long line of successful, young Sean Payton receivers, but his season is still impressive nonetheless. So impressive that he didn’t have a QBR under 50 until Week 13. Of course, Week 13 was against Seattle.

Seattle is the top team against the pass, largely because they have two 6’3″ defensive backs, another at 6’1″, and three-time Pro Bowler Earl Thomas as the last starter. That helps prevents mismatches against teams with tall receivers like, say, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Kenny Stills, and Robert Meachem.

We’ve seen how this game plays out in that Week 13 matchup–the Seahawks ran away with it 34-7 coming off a bye. It won’t be so lopsided, but New Orleans just doesn’t have much luck in the Emerald City.

Prediction: Seahawks 31 Saints 17

Cook Out Drive-Thru Lock o’ the Week:

PANTHERS (+1) over Niners

I’m upset that the Panthers are underdogs in this game. That’s just disrespectful. Carolina went into Candlestick Park and held the Niners to 9 points, and then Vegas pulls this?

You’re damn right I’m going to fill this section up with fan propaganda.

a

I’ll just leave you with this picture.

Sure, the Niners are getting back Michael Crabtree, and Aldon Smith only played limited snaps last game, but last time they played wasn’t even the Panthers’ best effort. The Panthers sacked Colin Kaepernick six times, and Greg Hardy wasn’t even included in that barrage. Now he said he’s going to break Kaepernick’s face.

The Panthers might just have the best front seven in the league–even after trading Jon Beason for pocket change–and we’ve seen them hold Kaepernick to 91 yards passing.

The Panthers have become a dominant team when Cam Newton plays well. They’re 8-2 with a +121 point differential when Cam has a QBR over 50, and they’re 5-2 with a +49 point differential when he doesn’t turn the ball over. With more consistent play and a strong running attack (they’re the only team to rush for at least 80 yards every game), this Panthers team is just complete across the board.

So you can kick rocks, Vegas.

Prediction: Panthers 24 Niners 16

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