The Fantastic Divisional Round of Playoffs
Our pal, Chris Degrande is back on The Bro Journey getting you all caught up for this weekend’s NFL Divisional Playoff matchups. If you know nothing about what’s going on, this is your guide. Holler at us at @thebrojourney in between pulls on grandpa’s cough syrup and chicken wings while you “train” for the Super Bowl and let us know what you think of Chris’ predictions / thoughts.
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Juuust A Bit Outside by our pal Chris.
You heard right, I did in fact go 3-1 in my playoff picks against the spread last week, continuing a pretty fine season of picks if I may say so. And I still stand by taking Cinci and the points last weekend against the Texans. The Texans looked as lackluster as I predicted – the Bengals just decided to take a bigger dump on the offensive end than I saw coming. So I figured, since I won all my picks last week, why not totally ruin it by picking what are sure to be incorrect picks this week? As I say at the blackjack table, why quit when I’m winning? I’m just getting started…. (Games picked in the order they are played, home team in CAPS)
DENVER (-9.5) over Baltimore
Making this pick has held up finalizing this post for at least a day, maybe two. First things first here, don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt Denver is going to win this game, and win it by more than a field goal or something. The two AFC games have one major thing in common; in both games there is a major favorite who would have to do some major bed-shitting in order to lose the game. That being said, the 9.5 points gave me pause here. If there is to be any way that this game remains close, it has a specific formula: (The Ravens come out still fired up on behalf of Ray Lewis and really turn on the defense that has been average at best all year) + (Ray Rice) + (a couple of Joe Flacco’s deep passes at key spots getting caught or turned into pass interferences) + (Ray Rice) + (Peyton maybe throwing a couple of those Atlanta Falcons game type picks) +(More Ray Rice) = Close game. See, right there I almost just gave you some reason to pause and think, “hm, you know all of those things very well COULD happen and this game could be closer than expected…..maybe even a WIN for Baltimore.”
Problem is, that’s a lot of things that need to happen and I think one of them in particular will definitely NOT happen. I would venture a guess that Peyton Manning probably guessed (like everyone else) that he would be seeing Baltimore this round and has now had two weeks to “Manning out” a game plan to attack them. Very rarely does that work out well for whoever he is “Manning-ing out” against. If even I can tell that Ray Lewis hasn’t been able to drop into coverage over the middle in three years, I have the sneaking suspicion that Peyton has picked up on this, too. Look for a big game from the tight end Tamme on play action with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker having a field day over the middle as well. Oh, and also (simple observation of the day alert!)…….we’ve seen this before. Denver already kicked Baltimore around not too long so this will probably be outside of ten points.
Green Bay OVER SAN FRANCISCO (-3)
This game has some serious wow potential, especially for a game that is happening in only the divisional round of the playoffs. This is another really tough game to pick, but for a different reason than the Broncos game. This game is tough because you can probably make an argument for either team to win this game flat out (as is demonstrated by the line being -3, essentially saying the two teams are even but San Fran gets the home field 3 points). I think if I go position by position, I pick the 49ers to be a better team than the Packers, as they seem to be better at just about every position except two of them. The problem? The two positions that the Packers are better at are quarterback and wide receiver, and by a long shot. I say it over and over, but when Aaron Rodgers gets going, I really don’t know that there is anything anybody can do to stop him, no matter how good your defense is. The receiving corp for the Packers is now healthier than ever, giving him his full repertoire of weapons to use.
Outside of the Rodgers factor, there are two other main reasons I pick with the Packers in this game. The first is that the best game plan the 49ers could ever have is to get in the back field early and often and knock Rodgers on his ass a whole bunch of times. Aldon Smith is a monster, but without full guarantees that Justin Smith is healthy as well, I just think the D-line of the 49ers loses a lot of its punch. The 49ers will still get in there enough to rattle Rodgers’ cage a couple times, but I don’t think it will be often enough to put the clamps on him. The second big reason has to do with the quarterback on the OTHER side of the ball from Rodgers. I don’t hate on Kaepernick one bit, I think he does have quite a bit of talent and might be a good NFL quarterback in the future. He seems to have a lot of poise and all that good intangible stuff as well, but that being said there is ALWAYS the potential of a wide-eyed rookie game emerging from Kaepernick here. Even if he doesn’t melt down and is just average or a little below average, that could cost San Fran the game against a very efficient Packers team.
Seattle OVER ATLANTA (-2.5)
I am obviously not the only person who has doubts about Atlanta being any good…..just look at the line of the game if you don’t believe me. Atlanta is giving 2.5 AT HOME, which means that Vegas believes the #1 seeded Falcons are actually WORSE than the #5 seeded Seahawks, they just make Atlanta the favorite for being at home. There are two great questions for anyone trying to stop the Atlanta Falcons offense and essentially the team in general: “Julio Jones?” and “Roddy White?” Fortunately for the Seahawks, while this is in fact a great question, there is an even more fantastic answer out there: “Richard Sherman.” and “Brandon Browner.” The Seahawks defense is almost PERFECTLY built to stop Atlanta’s offense. Put those two monster athletic corners with Earl Thomas running around creating havoc and I think this spells not good things for Atlanta. You might see Ryan forced to throw passes into windows tighter than he would like, leading to a couple turnovers. With no steady running game to turn to, the answer becomes what…Tony Gonzalez? The Seahawks will have an answer to that. As long as Russell Wilson keeps the football out of the hands of the ballhawking Atlanta secondary (which he will by handing it to Marshawn Lynch a billion times), Seattle has a great shot to win this game flat out.
NEW ENGLAND (-9.5) OVER Houston
This is a pretty huge line for a playoff game, but it’s probably warranted. The Texans continued to look lackluster last week against a dismal Cincinatti Bengals team. Meanwhile, the Patriots looked like their typical offensively inclined selves at the end of the season and have now had two whole weeks for Tom Brady to realize that the Houston secondary can’t guard anybody. Pair that with the fact that Gronk is coming back with more rest and as healthy as he has been in awhile, and this has blowout potential written all over it. The Pats used to have the problem in these playoff games that they couldn’t stop anybody, but they seem to have shored that up quite a bit, particularly when it comes to stopping the run. This spells trouble for Houston, because their offense is completely dependent on being able to run the ball. The one weakness New England has is guarding the deep ball, which Matt Schaub seems to have mysteriously lost the ability to throw over the past five weeks. I really can’t remember the last time I saw him complete a bomb down field. I think New England jumps all over Houston early and stays out ahead to coast to at least a 14 point win.
THE WORST FOOTBALL DECISION OF 2013
If you haven’t seen this, yes this did happen on ESPN’s sportsnation. Dumbest question ever. The answer is obviously TOTALLY his fault…
Okay, so I refuse to let this last week of football go by without first getting my two cents in on of the most discussed topics so far all season in the NFL – the RG3 injury. Put simply, Mike Shanahan has taken the crown for the worst football decision made in the entirety of the year 2013 a whole six days into the new year. I am aware that I am not making any kind of revolutionary statement, but a catastrophic mistake was made here and I can’t help but rant about it. I was fairly intoxicated watching that game and even I could tell that Robert Griffin needed to removed from that game. I get that they probably needed to send him in there and see if he could give it a go once the knee was tweaked. However, it became PAINFULLY clear (over and over again I might add) that he was risking not just his team’s chances of winning, but also a potential major injury by staying on that field. (Obligatory Bears tie-in) I may agree that Lovie Smith needed to be fired because things weren’t working in Chicago, but Sunday’s game made me appreciate the tough decision he made to shut Jay Cutler down in the NFC Championship game two years ago. It is incredible how ignorant the sports world is in that this is EXACTLY the reason Cutler was pulled from that game. If a player has made it to the NFL, there is undoubtedly a competitive streak in him that will drive him to make rash decisions to play when he shouldn’t. It is a coach’s job to see through that and make the right choice when a player is obviously making the wrong one (and when the best damn ACL doctor in the world is telling you it’s the wrong decision! This part of the story still blows me away). The Washington Redskins fans were shown a ray of hope and now need to face the fact there is indeed a chance their franchise saving player never comes back the same…..like ever……again. Not everyone is an alien like Adrian Peterson and returns to full strength in 7 months or whatever it was (As a Bulls fan I know this feeling that Washington has because of Derrick Rose. We STILL have it hanging over our heads Redskins fans, you’re not alone). RG3′s injury is incredibly disappointing for all of us really, because I don’t even like the Redskins and I would watch anytime Griffin was playing, and I just really hope we don’t have to deal with Shanahan’s incredibly bad decision for the rest of RG3′s career.