Monthly Archives: January 2015

NFL Divisional Round Picks – The Panthers Are Really Really Going To The Super Bowl

How exciting is it that the Panthers are going to win eight games in a row in consecutive seasons for the first time ever?

Almost as exciting as the Panthers getting revenge on every team to wrong them along the way to their first Super Bowl title. Let me explain.

On January 10, 2009, the Arizona Cardinals beat the Panthers 33-13 in the Divisional Round in Charlotte after the Panthers went 8-0 at home and earned a first-round bye. On January 3, 2015, the Panthers avenged their loss with a dominating 27-16 victory in Charlotte.

Sometimes I yearn for the days of Nick Goings...

Sometimes I yearn for the days of Nick Goings…

On January 22, 2005, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Panthers 34-14 in the NFC Championship Game in Seattle when the Panthers were just down to Nick Goings at running back. On January 10, 2015, the Panthers will avenge that loss in Seattle to move on to the NFC Championship game.

On January 12, 1996, the Green Bay Packers beat the Panthers 30-13 at Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship Game in just the Panthers’ second year of existence. One week from now, the Panthers will avenge that loss in Green Bay to go back to the Super Bowl.

On February 1, 2004, the New England Patriots beat the Panthers 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII on an Adam Vinateiri 41-yard field goal with four seconds left. On February 1, 2015, the Panthers will avenge that loss 11 years later with their first Super Bowl title.

The stars are aligning. It’s meant to be. I mean I’ve been saying it for the past two weeks.

Furthermore, Madden 15 predicted the Panthers would win back in August. Their intro to the video game shows the Panthers making an improbably fourth quarter comeback in the playoffs with the Super Bowl on the line. The gods have already decided the outcome!

Somehow, though, people don’t tend to see the light as I do. Vegas opened the line on this game at 11.5 points. Eleven and a half points! Mischievous and deceitful. Chicanerous and deplorable.

The Seahawks and Panthers have played each of the last three years and the final scores have been 13-9, 12-7, and 16-12 in favor of Seattle. For those non-math majors out there, that’s a combined 13 points or just a tad over the line for this game alone.

It’s just too hard to see the Panthers giving up enough points for the Seahawks to cover a nearly two-touchdown spread. If it were not for a muffed punt and interception on a miscommunication, the Cardinals wouldn’t have even scored last week.

This line is insulting. It’s ridiculous. The Seahawks beating the Panthers by 12 points and stopping their Super Bowl run is so improbable and ridiculous that I’m going so far as to call this game the Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week o’ the Year o’ the Eon.

As always, home teams are in CAPS, and here’s a run through of each section:

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games are worth 5 apples.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games are worth 10 apples.

KFC Double Down Games are worth 20 apples.

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week is worth 50 apples.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game:

BRONCOS (-7) over Colts

Peyton Manning versus Peyton Manning’s old team. I don’t know if I can muster up enough hate for this game.

All biases aside, the Colts haven’t been particularly good for a 12-5 team in any facet of the team aside from the passing game, which is admittedly first in the league. The running game is a disaster (their leading rusher last week was somebody named Daniel Herron), and they’ve played just two winning teams in the past seven weeks.

While I do worry about Peyton Manning at this point in the season, I don’t see the Colts as a huge obstacle, especially on the road, where the Broncos are 8-0 with an average margin of victory of 14.6 points.

I’ll save the Peyton Manning bashing for later in the playoffs when he’s in a more competitive game.

Prediction: Broncos 30 Colts 17

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Game:

Cowboys (+6) over PACKERS

Let’s try and think of all the things Tony Romo could do and still be called a choker:

– Save a dozen paraplegic kittens from a burning building

– Lead the NFL in completion percentage and yards per attempt

– Bring the Double Down back to KFC

– Beat the Packers on a game-winning 90 yard scramble

– Heal Jose Fernandez’s torn UCL with voodoo

– Wear his hat forwards at a press conference so Colin Cowherd will shut up

I think the Cowboys will still lose this game, but a 6-point line is just a bit too high for me.

Prediction: Packers 30 Cowboys 27

KFC Double Down Game:

PATRIOTS (-7) over Ravens

Yes, I’m aware the Patriots are 1-2 against the Ravens in the playoffs since 2009. Yes, I’m aware that Joe Flacco has 20 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the playoffs since 2010. I really don’t care.

There’s all this hubbub about Joe Flacco flipping on a switch in the playoffs, but I don’t really buy it. For starters, his career completion percentage is worse in the playoffs (56.0% versus 65.0%). Also, I’ve got 112 games of evidence to show that Flacco is an incredibly average quarterback, and 14 playoff games isn’t enough of a sample size to make me think otherwise.

The Ravens beat the Steelers last week by forcing three turnovers, but that’s not very likely for a team run by Tom Brady that will also feature a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount.

Give me Touchdown Tom and another Super Bowl run.

Prediction: Patriots 24 Ravens 13

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week o’ the Year o’ the Eon:

Panthers (+11.5) over SEAHAWKS

Go read the intro.

Panthers 13 Union Seahawks 12

Overall Record: 123-131-5

Last Week: 2-2

Apple Total: 0

Apple Total Last Week: 55

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NFL Wild Card Round Picks – The Panthers Are Really Going To The Super Bowl

Last week you might have thought that I was joking when I said the Panthers are going to the Super Bowl. Little did you know I meant the Panthers are really going to the Super Bowl.

Exactly as I predicted last week, Carolina manhandled the Falcons and advanced to the postseason for the second season in a row. And just like I predicted, the Panthers will continue on their Super Bowl march by hosting the Cardinals for the worst playoff matchup (according to DVOA) since 2004.

But it’s not like “worst playoff matchup” is some suggestion that this Panthers team is bad. Au contraire! It’s a suggestion that the Cardinals are the biggest piece of crap playoff team ever.

Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 2.00.30 PM

I like this GIF a lot, so I’ll leave it right here.

Ryan Lindley? Are you kidding me? Who’s going to put their faith in a quarterback on the road on short rest who started his career with an NFL record for 228 pass attempts in a row without a touchdown? And that’s a record for quarterbacks at any time of their career.

That this game’s line started at 4.5 points is a downright abomination. Over the past seven weeks, the Cardinals are averaging 11.3 points, including just 9 points per game when Lindley plays. The Panthers have a larger margin of victory the past four weeks (17 points) than the Cardinals are even scoring.

This game is beyond a lock. The Panthers have never lost in the Wild Card Round, and Bruce Arians has never won a playoff game (FACTS!!). I’d wager Nick Vitucci’s 1995-96 Riley Cup MVP on this game. I’d wager the Bojangles franchsie on this game. Hell I’d wager selling Cheerwine to the North. I’d go there.

But alas, all of this would be illegal, since sport gambling is not allowed in the United States and most definitely not encouraged by The Knuckle Blog. So instead I’ll just wager 50 apples on his game, making it my HICKORY SMOKED PULLED PORK LOCK O’ THE WEEK O’ THE YEAR O’ THE MILLENNIUM.

Also Ohio State sucks.

As always, home teams are in CAPS, and here’s a run through of each section:

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Games are worth 5 apples.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games are worth 10 apples.

KFC Double Down Games are worth 20 apples.

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week is worth 50 apples.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game:

STEELERS (-3) over Ravens

Gather round, children, and listen to Old Ben tell you a story.

Not so long ago, Steelers-Ravens was an incredible fun rivalry. Now, don’t be so quick to laugh.

This was a rivalry between two smashmouth teams led by heavy running games. I know that can be hard to believe with Ben Tate facing off against Justin Forsett, but it was true! Jamal Lewis versus Jerome Bettis. Ray Rice (when he didn’t beat women and did average more than 3.1 yards per carry) versus Willie Parker.

Jimmy. Quit playing with that fancy schmancy iPhone 6 Plus. Back in my day, we didn’t have those fancy gadgets; we were happy playing Angry Birds on our iPhone 5, and we listened when people told each other stories.

If you can believe it, once upon a time the Ravens-Steelers games were almost always close and competitive. From late 2007-2013 10 of the 15 matchups were determined by a field goal or less. Don’t get dismayed by the 20-point games this season: these games used to be fun.

Maybe you kids will get to see a good Ravens-Steelers game. Those were the good ol’ days. Back when Mariano Rivera wasn’t retired and Chip Kelly was still in college.

Prediction: Steelers 17 Ravens 13

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Game:

COWBOYS (-6.5) over Lions

It’s fun and all to rip on Tony Romo, but he was actually really good this year with the highest completion percentage in the NFL  and yards per attempt while he had a broken rib. Not only that, but his running back led the league in rushing by 484 yards while he had a broken hand.

Like it or not, the Cowboys are really good on offense this year. Then again, the Lions’ defense is really good, and something’s got to given with the #1 rush attack going up against the #1 rush defense.

What I worry about for the Lions is that they haven’t been battle tested much this season. They’ve played just one competitive team the past five weeks (Green Bay after beating Chicago twice, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota) with just a 2-4 record against teams with winning records.

One last note: Romo faces a disproportionate amount of criticism compared to Matthew Stafford, who has consistently done less with more over the past six seasons. Hopefully this game puts a stop to the discussion over which quarterback is better.

Prediction: Cowboys 26 Lions 16

KFC Double Down Game:

COLTS (-3.5) over Bengals

I hate to boil playoff games down to which team has the better quarterback, but I’m going to do just that here. The Colts get a major plus here for having Andrew Luck (and not Andy Dalton).

But of course, there’s more than that. A.J. Green is doubtful with a concussion, so even if he does play, he isn’t expected to do much. Green has already missed three games this season with an injured toe, including the Bengals’ 27-0 drubbing… in Indianapolis.

Now, I’m not going to call for another shutout, but it’s hard to see much in the favor of Cincy. They have plenty of big names in their secondary (Leon Hall, Terence Newman, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Pacman Jones), but they’ve largely been ineffective, which doesn’t bode well against then NFL’s top passing attack.

Cincinnati was able to handle a big passing attack in Denver by picking off Peyton Manning 4 times and rushing for over 200 yards. That seems unlikely to happen in Indy, though, because the Colts have allowed more than 142 rushing yards just once all year (allowing 32 yards to the Bengals), and Luck hasn’t thrown more than 2 interceptions in any game this season.

Prediction: Colts 24 Bengals 10

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork Lock o’ the Week o’ the Year o’ the Millennium:

PANTHERS (-4.5) over Cardinals

Go read the intro.

Panthers 56 Cardinals 0

Overall Record: 121-129-5

Last Week: 8-8

Apple Total: -55

Apple Total Last Week: 55

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