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.
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