Friday, January 11, 2013

18 comments NFL Playoffs Divisional Weekend Picks

Last weekend's Wild Card Weekend games were pretty underwhelming. The games that were close, weren't well-played, and the well-played games weren't overly exciting. Because I am a positive person, I am hoping for better things this upcoming weekend in the Divisional Round. Those who are participating in the playoff picks against Peter King and Bill Simmons put your picks in the comments and I will take note of them. Last week Peter King went 1-3, but Bill Simmons went 3-1. Peter, who is afraid to offend anyone, pretty much picked every game as being close which didn't bode well for picking against the spread apparently. Tweaksmahoni had a chance to go perfect until the Redskins screwed it up for him. So on to this next weekend of four games. I am looking for a perfect weekend, though 2-2 is probably a more reasonable expectation. Actually, I just want competitive games. It appears (not shockingly) the home teams are all the favorites this weekend. Let's just say I can see how I would have an 0-4 week based on my picks below.

Here are Peter's picks.

Here are Bill's picks. 

Here are the lines I will be using:

Baltimore at Denver (-10.0)
Green Bay at San Francisco (-3.0)
Seattle at Atlanta (-2.5)
Houston at New England (-10.0)

Baltimore at Denver (-10.0)

1. We all know the Broncos are on a roll. They have won 11 straight games (haven't lost since October 7) and have only lost to playoff teams so far this year. They are a very good team. They have also played only two playoffs teams, including this Ravens team, in that span of 11 straight wins. So the 11 straight wins is very impressive, but they also haven't played the strongest of competition over that time. Still, they won these games so that counts for something. The Ravens are a 4-4 team on the road this year, while the Broncos have only lost one game at home, and that was to the Texans. The Ravens were struggling a little bit prior to last week's win, so on paper it seems like the Broncos have the advantage in this game. They are very well-balanced, playing off a bye week, and have already beaten the Ravens. Plus, they have Peyton Manning and the Ravens have Joe Flacco (smacks dead horse one more time).

2. John Fox is an excellent head coach. He tends to get a bit conservative and when he doesn't have a Hall of Fame quarterback then his play-calling tends to be a bit predictable, but overall he is a great head coach. He has a good playoff record and it is not an accident. Of course John Harbaugh is a pretty good head coach himself. I think Harbaugh is going to have the Ravens ready to play in this rematch of the semi-beating Baltimore took during Week 15. Peyton Manning's offense is a well-oiled machine and Harbaugh is going to have to figure out a way to throw the machine off. The Ravens have to disguise their coverage so that Manning doesn't feel comfortable knowing where the ball needs to go when he drops back to pass. It would also be helpful if the Ravens could shut down the Broncos running game and force Manning into obvious passing situations. The Broncos would like to do this to the Broncos as well, of course.

3. Here is a stupid reason that is affecting my pick in this game. Peyton Manning has played his entire career in domes. Yes, he can play outside, but he hasn't been great in cold playoff games. Granted, a couple of those games were against the Patriots, but Manning will be playing this game with a glove on his hand. For a guy who is a slave to procedure and routine, I can't help but think this won't throw him off just a little bit. The grip on the ball changes because of the glove and so how Manning throws the ball changes. I was also the one who wasn't sure Manning's arm strength would be good enough for him to last all year, so take any of my analysis with a grain of salt. Clearly, I'm not an expert on Manning. I know he likes routine and he most likely doesn't like wearing a glove when throwing the ball or the change this glove brings. I think it factors into this game.

4. I'm Captain Obvious here, but the key to this game is going to be Joe Flacco. I historically haven't trusted Flacco because I don't think he is an elite quarterback. So now I am supposed to trust him to play well on the road against a Broncos defense that is third in the NFL against the run and third against the pass? I'm supposed to believe Champ Bailey isn't going to hound either Torrey Smith or Anquan Boldin all day allowing the Broncos defense to take away part of the field and free up guys like Von Miller to blitz and disrupt Flacco's timing? It's hard to believe, but I think it is going to happen. The Ravens aren't the same team they were in Week 15. Bernard Pierce has stepped up and starting helping Ray Rice out in the running game and considering this is a contract year for Flacco, so why wouldn't he play the game of his life against an excellent Broncos defense? I think the Ravens are going to find a way to run the ball and will look to utilize more of the field against the Broncos defense by using Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson in the passing game.

5. I think the Broncos are the better team and I am trying to talk myself out of picking the Ravens in this game. The Broncos are better on offense and on defense. A glove isn't going to turn Peyton Manning into Rex Grossman. John Fox is an excellent coach and will have the Broncos ready to play against a Ravens team that statistically isn't terrible or great at anything. Home teams win their divisional games. Yet, the Ravens have won tough road games under John Harbaugh before and they were one dropped pass away from beating the Patriots and going to the Super Bowl last year. I do realize last year isn't this year. I think a mixture of the glove, the Ravens new-and-improved game plan, and Joe Flacco having the game of his life in the very game he knows he needs to shine will cause the Ravens to pull the upset. Ray Lewis dances once more against my own better judgment. Feel free to call me an idiot when the Broncos are up 31-10. Hey, maybe I am wrong that I am wrong and at least the Ravens cover. I hate myself and my gut feelings.

Baltimore (+10) over Denver 28-24

Green Bay at San Francisco (-3.0)

1. It's so tempting for me to pick the Packers to win this game due to my overwhelmingly like for Aaron Rodgers. In a game between Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick it almost feels like I have to pick Aaron Rodgers and his team simply out of principle. Of course that would be a very "Bill Simmons" way of choosing a game, by choosing the team with the better quarterback. I just picked Flacco over Manning so clearly I pay more attention to such factors like my gut feeling and gloves when it comes time to pick which team will win a playoff game. So let's pay attention to the kickers in this game. Billy Cundiff may end up having a chance to kick for the 49ers since David Akers has not been great lately and Mason Crosby has been in a bit of a slump for the Packers as well. So if this game comes down to the kicking game, I don't think either team is going to feel good about their chances...well maybe publicly they will claim to, but privately have doubts.

2. This game is an example of two teams that go about scoring points in completely different ways. The Packers don't have much of a running game (though they were 20th in the NFL in rushing, which surprised me), while the 49ers have a great running game and rely on the running game to help set up the passing game. The 49ers have a suffocating defense and were even able to hold the Patriots down for a long period of time until the Patriots started scoring at will in the fourth quarter. The Packers defense has been sort of hit or miss all year. Some games they look good, others games they don't look so good. Creating turnovers is going to be huge for the Packers defense. They were lucky enough to face Joe Webb last week and Colin Kaepernick is a step or ten above Webb in terms of his ability to pass the football, plus there is always the threat of Kaepernick taking off and running.

3. Protecting Aaron Rodgers is of the upmost importance. The 49ers aren't going to have to worry too much about the Packers running game and I see the Packers trying to run some delayed handoffs, when they do run the ball, in order to stop the 49ers' pass rush. I don't have faith in the Packers offensive line and think the 49ers are going to be able to get enough pressure with their front four to give the Packers' offensive line problems. Aaron Rodgers is going to want to get rid of the ball quickly and the 49ers are going to look to be physical with the Packers receivers to throw them off their routes. In the last matchup between these two teams the 49ers were able to get out to an early lead which took some pressure off their offense to score points and try to keep up with the Packers. The Packers don't have much of a running game, but the 49ers still want to stop what running game the Packers do have to take shots at Rodgers in passing situations and pin their ears back to get to him.

4. The Packers are going to obviously want to stop the 49ers from taking over the game by running the ball. The easiest way to beat the Packers and Aaron Rodgers is to make sure he doesn't have the football. The easiest way to keep the football is to sustain long drives by running the ball and the 49ers are very good at running the football. While I have read Charles Woodson is going to be used to contain Michael Crabtree, I also see the Packers using him as a safety/additional linebacker hybrid in order to stop the 49ers running game. Clearly Woodson isn't big like a linebacker but he is a sure tackler and may be used to come up in the box and try to take away Frank Gore's running lanes. For this reason I can see the 49ers moving the line of scrimmage with bootleg play-action or trying to hit a few passes deep early in the game in order to move the Packers away from keying on the running game. All of this is much easier said than done of course.

5. The 49ers have a very good and physical secondary. There is no one key to beating the Packers, but being physical with their receivers and forcing Aaron Rodgers to throw the ball into tight windows is a good way to make headway in beating the Packers. Randall Cobb is a great receiver, but he is also a bit undersized. I think the 49ers offensive line is going to dominate this game. They will protect Kaepernick, get a push in the running game, and the Packers are going to be forced to blitz and leave some of the 49er receivers in man coverage to compensate for trying to stop the running game. Kaepernick is certainly more explosive than Alex Smith and I look for the 49ers to use his arm strength and running ability when the Packers do blitz. I think the 49ers made the change from Smith to Kaepernick for playoff games like this one. Kaepernick isn't a safe choice at quarterback, but he has the ability to make big plays against the blitz with his arm and in running the ball. I think the 49ers dominate the line of scrimmage on offense and defense and beat the Packers for the second time this year.

San Francisco (-3.0) over Green Bay 24-13

Seattle at Atlanta (-2.5)

1. I think this line is wrong. I get that Seattle is red-hot right now, but they are 3-5 on the road and the Falcons are 7-1 at home this year. The #1 NFC seed is a 2.5 point favorite at home? Maybe the Falcons playoff troubles go into this line a little bit more than I would expect. Still, the Falcons have lost their last three playoff trips to the team that ended up making the Super Bowl (Arizona, New York Giants, Green Bay) from the NFC, so it isn't like they are losing playoff games to teams that suck. I favor the Falcons dramatically here. The Seahawks didn't look great in the beginning of the Redskins game on Sunday, but started to play better the worse Robert Griffin's injury got. I'm not saying they wouldn't have beaten the Redskins if Griffin was healthy, but it would certainly have been a closer game. I picked the Seahawks last week and it seems hard to go against them since they are on such a roll and Russell Wilson is playing so well right now, yet that's how I lean.

2. I tend to have very little faith in the Falcons defense. They are 21st in the NFL in rushing defense and 23rd in passing defense. They aren't an extremely good defensive team and they can be run on. This doesn't bode well since the Seahawks are a team that loves to run the football and won't give a shit if the Falcons can't stop them. This game is the test for the Falcons. It's nice when a franchise gets to the point the playoffs seem almost inevitable and the question then becomes if that team can win a playoff game. It's bad when that question constantly gets brought up and the franchise can't win a playoff game. The defense is going to have to come out and get turnovers against the Seahawks. I am not sure the Falcons defense is good enough to beat the Seahawks without getting a few turnovers. It's how they beat the Broncos and how they can go about beating the Seahawks. Now the Seahawks have to oblige and commit a few turnovers.

3. The good news is that as good as the Seahawks offensive line has been in the run game, teams have shown it is possible to get pressure on Russell Wilson and sack him. Wilson is also pretty good at escaping trouble and making a play by running the football. The Falcons need to keep the Seahawks in tough passing situations and try to contain him in the pocket. The Seahawks have good, but not great, wide receivers and the weakness of the offense is the passing game. Wilson can pass the ball when he needs to and the Falcons secondary can be thrown against. The Falcons have to commit to stopping Marshawn Lynch and not wear down against his pounding running style. I don't know if I can believe the Falcons will be able to do this because I think the Seahawks offensive line has the advantage over the Falcons front seven.

4. The Seahawks have very tough, physical corners. Richard Sherman seems to want to pick a fight with nearly anyone who comes his way and Brandon Browner is (I think) the tallest corner in the NFL. The Falcons have two great receivers in Julio Jones and Roddy White. Both guys are fairly big and will be as tough of a matchup for Browner and Sherman as Sherman and Browner are for them. The Falcons can run the ball with Michael Turner (even if he has a fork in his back), but they were 29th in the NFL in rushing, so a lot of their offensive points are going to have to come from the arm of Matt Ryan. The Falcons still have Tony Gonzalez and his presence is going to prevent the Seahawks from being able to bring too much safety help on Jones and White. Still, the Falcons are going to have to find a way to run the ball so Matt Ryan isn't slinging the ball 50 times into the talented Seahawks secondary.

5. I want to pick Seattle since they are on such a strong run right now. I do think Atlanta will play good enough defense and throw the ball well enough to win the game. Seattle is going to have success running the ball, but I believe Atlanta is motivated and ready to put their three game playoff losing streak behind them and win a home playoff game. Michael Turner may be done, but Jacquizz Rodgers is a good second banana and a valuable guy to bring in on third down. Russell Wilson has been on a hot streak and the Seattle defense is very tough, but I think Atlanta prevails. At worst if the Seahawks win and the history of Matt Ryan teams losing in the playoffs hold, then we know the Seahawks are going to win the NFC Championship Game, right?

Atlanta (-2.5) over Seattle 24-10

Houston at New England (-10.0)

1. Arian Foster has used Dan Shaughnessy's comment that the Patriots have two bye weeks as motivation in this game. He has the criticism by Shaughnessy as his Twitter avatar. I'm sure Bill Belichick is none too please that Shaughnessy is running his mouth and getting Foster more motivated. I am sure Shaughnessy is doing it in the hopes he can motivate the Texans to beat the Patriots and this will allow Dan to troll his New England audience with comments about how the Patriots are chokers at home. Regardless, I don't look for this to be the blowout game it was the first time these two teams met. Much like the Ravens, the Texans have struggled coming into the playoffs while the Patriots have looked mostly strong, much like they did against the 49ers (even though they only looked strong late in the game). So even after the win against the Bengals last week it would seem momentum is on the Patriots side...whatever momentum is worth.

2. I think the Texans are going to make this a closer game than the line indicates. The Texans were absolutely terrible in the first game and got off to a horrid start. I don't see that happening this week. The Texans are going to want to establish their running game, which is something they completely failed to do in the first meeting between these two teams. The Texans didn't get close to running the ball like they wanted and the Patriots jumped out to a 21-0 lead, which put Houston in a hole they weren't able or prepared to get out from. J.J. Watt was a non-factor in the game, so Peter King's favorite little guy had better step it the hell up in this game. If Houston gets off to a slow start and the Patriots don't then at 5:30pm EST on Sunday 50% of the viewing audience is going to be looking for something else to watch on television.

3. The Patriots have Rob Gronkowski healthy and will undoubtedly use him to occupy the Texans linebackers and safeties in the hopes of getting favorable matchups with Wes Welker and getting single coverage on Brandon Lloyd. As seen by pretty much any team that has beaten the Patriots, the best way to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots is to get pressure on him and force him into making decisions quicker than he would like. Quarterbacks need time to throw and the Texans are going to need Brooks Reed and J.J. Watt to provide pressure up front so that Brady doesn't feel comfortable in the pocket. Of course the Patriots have a great offensive line and were 7th in the NFL in rushing yards this season, so it won't be easy just to rush Tom Brady and get pressure on him. The Patriots can run the ball, so the Texans are also going to have to pay heed to stopping Ridley and Woodhead. It's not easy beating the Patriots. The Texans were 7th in the NFL at stopping the run, so they are up to the task.

4. On offense, the Texans are fairly balanced. They like to establish the run and then throw off play-action. If the Patriots can't stop the Texans from running the ball, they are going to have a hard time stopping and beating the Texans. The Texans offensive line is pretty good and doesn't easily allow opponents to get pressure on Matt Schaub and get a good push for Arian Foster and Ben Tate to run the ball. It has been fairly easy to throw the ball on the Patriots this year, seeing as they are 29th in the NFL in pass defense, but some of these numbers are misleading in that teams throw the ball in an effort to catch up. This also goes for the Patriots defense being 9th in the NFL against the run. Teams don't often have the chance to run the ball against them because they are busy throwing the ball. The Patriots need to dedicate themselves to stopping the Texans from running the ball, because the rest of the offense flows through what the Texans are able to do on the ground.

5. I think the Texans are going to be highly motivated coming into this game to show the first game was a fluke and they are a better team than to get blown out like they did. The Patriots are always motivated and are used to teams coming into Foxboro during the playoffs and taking their best shot at getting an upset. I don't know if the Texans are going to be able to stop the Patriots offensively. It's not going to be as ugly as it was in the first meeting between these two teams, but in the end, the Patriots are getting Gronkowski back and I think they will find favorable matchups in the passing game. The Patriots offensive line will also be able to do a good job of keeping Brady clean. The Texans aren't going to let this game get out of hand in the very beginning and Wade Phillips is the kind of defensive coordinator who can learn from his mistakes in the first game. It's a closer game, but I see the same outcome.

New England over Houston (+10.0) 31-24


Steve said...


Den 27 Balt 20
GB 24 SF 17
NE 35 Hou 24
Atl 31 Sea 21

tweaksmahoni said...

redskins are my team, i had to go with them even tho rg3 was "ailing'. its nice they won the division for the first time in ever. im a seattle season ticket holder and for them to be matched up wk 1 wasnt my ideal situation.

tweaksmahoni said...

put me down for


ivn said...

tough slate this week. three games that I think might be able to go the other way...and also the Pats-Texans game.

Denver 28, Baltimore 17 (after watching the Ravens last week, I thought for sure Denver was going to run away with this one. then over the week I kept thinking maybe the Ravens can steal this one...which probably means the Broncos will win here)

Green Bay 24, San Francisco 20 (

Atlanta 27, Seattle 17 (the key to this game for Atlanta might be Gonzalez. Browner hasn't looked right recently, so I think the Seahawks will have Thomas help him out with Julio/White, and Gonzalez will be covered by Chancellor or a linebacker...should be an easy matchup for him. I might have gone Seattle if Chris Clemons was playing, though. surprised you didn't mention that injury)

New England 31, Houston 16 (the Patriots have only one real dominant playoff win in the last 8 years or so, so this might be too optimistic. I don't really know how the Texans are going to be able to hang with them, though)

ivn said...

oh left out my justification for the GB-SF pick. these teams look a lot different from Week 1 (obviously). the Packers have mostly everyone healthy, and we don't know how effective Justin Smith will be. the Niners also aren't running the ball as well as they were to start the season, and I think the Packers' defense should force some turnovers from Kaepernick.

Snarf said...

Against the spread, give me:
San Francisco
New England

Bengoodfella said...

Got everyone's picks for this week, first off.

Tweaks, Seattle is a tough matchup for nearly any team that would face them right now. They are red hot and playing very well.

I really like Seattle, but I think Atlanta is going to be pissed off and ready to show they are a great team that can win a playoff game. I think Atlanta wins.

I'm very much excited for this week's game, even though my Baltimore pick isn't looking great right now.

tweaksmahoni said...

im thankful for satellite radio. im away at an oilfield camp with no cell service but my sirius radio lets listen to the game. it feels so old fashioned to listen to sports on the radio.

Bengoodfella said...

And it was a hell of a game to listen to as well!

tweaksmahoni said...

that was the same throw favre made against the saints. think peterrrr will bring that up monday?

Bengoodfella said...

I'm betting he doesn't bring up that exact comparison. I don't know though, it has been bandied about a lot on the Interwebs. I doubt Peter will intentionally recall a bad Favre moment like that though.

JD said...

Looks like hating yourself and gut feelings worked out for that Denver/Baltimore pick.

Nicely done Ben.

Bengoodfella said...

JD, I got lucky. I wish I could take more credit for knowing something. I had a gut feeling though and I hated myself for because it didn't make sense for the Ravens to beat the Broncos. I'm surprised I was correct...

Eric C said...

From an earlier post by Gregg:
Footnote: When Lewis sent in the kicking unit on fourth-and-2, Andy Dalton passively trudged off the field. Brett Favre, Tom Brady, even young-gun RG III -- they would have gone nuts if the coach wouldn't let them try to win in this situation. Next season, Dalton needs to become a leader.

Like Peyton Manning was at the end of both halves this weekend?

Bengoodfella said...

Eric, exactly like that. I guess Peyton didn't show good leadership by not acting like a child and publicly questioning his coach's decision.

Of course Peyton should have questioned Fox's decision at the end of regulation. I think he absolutely should have taken a shot to get in FG range w/ 2 timeouts and Manning as his quarterback. I don't get why he relied on a coin flip like he did, but that's John Fox. Conservative until the end.

Ericb said...

"Of course Peyton should have questioned Fox's decision at the end of regulation. I think he absolutely should have taken a shot to get in FG range w/ 2 timeouts and Manning as his quarterback. I don't get why he relied on a coin flip like he did, but that's John Fox. Conservative until the end."

That's the point in the game when I wrote "Gregggggg writes 'game over' in his notebook" in my notebook.

Snarf said...

by the way, speaking of Gregg...

I know that he doesn't do predictions (at least not before the game), but did you notice in his last column where he was talking about betting? It was preceded by his pro-topless, anti-gambling statement, so I can understand if you missed it. Anyway, he suggested that if you were so inclined to make a wager, take the home teams. I'm not sure he's aware of what a point spread is. If my count is correct, home teams were 3-1 yesterday, but 2-2 against the spread.

"TMQ readers know my compromise with my Baptist upbringing is to be pro-topless but anti-gambling. Serious wagering brings loss and regret, and can destroy lives. But if you're making the harmless $5 workplace bet on the NFL playoffs, take the home teams this coming weekend. Home teams in the NFL divisional round are the surest thing in sports."

Also, out of curiosity, how is Peter 2-4-2? That means he went 1-1-2 this weekend?

Bengoodfella said...

Eric, you know Gregg wrote "Game Over" in his notebook. He did, but won't mention that he did.

Snarf, I did notice that. I think Gregg was completely ignoring the spread in the games. I think it is obvious he isn't a professional gambler.

Peter picked the Packers to win by three and the line in the game was (-3) so neither team was the correct pick and I gave him a tie. Same thing with the Pats-Texans game. He picked a 34-24 game, which means he got tie since the game's line was 10 points. I couldn't think of another way to acknowledge this.