Friday, January 6, 2012

Wild Card Round Picks

This would be a literal miracle if Tebow can pull a win against Pittsburgh. Entire religions have been started on lesser things.
In looking ahead to the Wild Card Round, here are three things that stand out to me…

1. Tebow! – Let me start off with a positive…no matter what you want to say about Tim Tebow, the Broncos are in the playoffs and he’s a huge part of why that happened. It’s no coincidence that they started winning games when he took over. Is Kyle Orton a better QB right now? Absolutely! Were the Broncos going to win more than 4 games with him? Probably not. No matter the reason, no matter the logic, Tim Tebow transformed this team. That having been said, I believe the gimmick is up for them, and I believe they have absolutely no chance against Pittsburgh. Long term, the Broncos can absolutely win with Tebow. Short term, it’s probably going to be a long Sunday for them.

2. An Unwatchable Game – It’s rare that I will consider not watching an NFL playoff game, but I’m honestly considering it with Houston and Cincinnati. What possible reason would I have to watch those two teams engage in a battle of dueling FG’s again? Two rookie QB’s, a couple idiot coaches, and upwards of 80 combined running plays is what’s in store for viewers come Saturday afternoon. And the winner gets to play either the Patriots or Ravens? Yeah, that sounds like a great matchup…

3. Pittsburgh’s Health – While everyone will obviously be fixated on Tim Tebow, and for good reason, it’s probably a better idea to pay close attention to how healthy the Steelers look, particularly Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh has been beset with injuries this season, but they still have a legit shot at reaching their second straight Super Bowl if everyone falls into place. If Big Ben can regain his mobility, if Isaac Redman can replicate Rashard Mendenhall, if Maurkice Pouncey can stay on the field, and if the defense can stay intact…that’s a lot of “if’s” but it’s not at all unlikely.

As for the Week 17 picks…(hanging my head in shame) this thing is over.

(Remember, Prince and I are going head to head with our picks. No prize has been determined yet, but ideas are happily accepted.)

Week 17 Results (point spread in parentheses)

Landrum: 9-7 (6-7)
Prince: 12-4 (8-5)

Week 17 Winner: Prince +5

Results through Week 17 (point spread in parentheses)

Landrum: 161-95 (127-106)
Prince: 172-84 (130-103)

Overall Leader: Prince +14

Fox News projects that Prince has won this contest. Moving on to the Wild Card Round picks…

Cincinnati at Houston (HOU -3)

Jon: Houston (HOU -3)
Prince: Houston (HOU -3)

I’m literally infuriated at this game, because the relative crappiness of both teams forced me to spend far too much time on this pick. I mean, seriously, who wants to waste their time considering the merits of Andy Dalton over T.J. Yates? It’s a horrible existence!

We saw this matchup just a few short weeks ago, and we know for a fact that these teams are as evenly matched as anyone could expect. The only real difference this time around is that Andre Johnson will be back in the lineup for the Texans. That puts them over the top for me. Even without Johnson, I have no faith in Cincy to win a big game. An 0-7 record against fellow playoff teams will earn that type of distrust. I expect this game to be ugly, I expect it to be close, and I expect that things will more closely resemble the MAC championship game rather than an NFL playoff game. At the end of the day, Houston has a better defense, the home field advantage, and the best player in the game (Arian Foster). There’s just no way I can NOT pick that.

Detroit at New Orleans (NO -10)

Jon: New Orleans (NO -10)
Prince: New Orleans (NO -10)

Much like the HOU/CIN game, we got a preview of this game not too long ago, and the results were pretty clear. New Orleans, at home, is way better than the Lions. Heck, they might be better than anyone when playing at home.

I know Lions fans want to believe that their team can pull this one out, and I’m sure TV execs hope they can at least keep it close, but I don’t see any way the Lions defense can keep them in this game. Once thought of as a great young unit, the D has allowed 27 or more points in 7 of their last 8 contests. While two of those have been against Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, the others have been Chicago, Carolina, Minnesota, Oakland, and Green Bay’s backups. So no, I don’t think they’ll be keeping New Orleans under 35 in this one.

Atlanta at New York Giants (NYG -3)

Jon: Atlanta (ATL +3)
Prince: Atlanta (ATL +3)

Hard to call this game particularly interesting, but it’s likely the most volatile of all the Wild Card matchups. Despite the Giants obvious personnel advantages (QB, defensive line), their maddening inconsistency makes them far from an easy pick. I mean, it wouldn’t really be a shocker if Atlanta came out and stomped the Giants by 3 TD’s, would it? On the other hand, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Giants did the same to Atlanta! In the end, I found it too hard to pick a perennial choker. Yeah, you can point at that Super Bowl win all you want…what have the Giants done since? They have this reputation for a reason. Considering that the “Good Giants” played last week, I’m betting on “Bad Giants” to show up this week. Also, I’m betting on Colin Cowherd using the occasion to anoint his man-love, Matt Ryan, as the greatest QB in the history of the game. And then I’m betting on him to completely ignore it after the Falcons get murdered by Green Bay for the second year in a row.

Pittsburgh at Denver (PIT -8)

Jon: Pittsburgh (PIT -8)
Prince: Pittsburgh (DEN +8)

Too bad I didn’t make a glorious comeback last week, because Prince seems intent on giving me the spread in this one. How anyone could take the points for Denver is beyond me, because the Broncos time is clearly up. The gimmicky, run-heavy, triple-option offense they’ve been running has clearly gone the route of the Wildcat, and if the Patriots can figure out a way to stop this thing, then what do you think the Steelers are going to do? The time has now come for Tim Tebow to deliver with his arm, and he looks severely overmatched. It makes me very sad to say it, and I certainly hope I’m totally wrong, but I don’t see any way the Broncos can score this week. Not a single point. Don’t take that as a long-term indictment on Tebow, as I still believe a full offseason/training camp would do wonders for him. Right now, though? Not happening. The guy was already limited in what he can do, but his new-found fear of turning the ball over has stripped him of the only good qualities he has. I hope he breaks out of his funk in this one. I hope he has the greatest game of his life. I hope the Broncos defense can get back on track. I hope I’m totally wrong on this. Kinda doubt it though.


  1. I think I might side with Prince on this one for one reason: Ryan Clark. The leading tackler for the Steelers will not play in this contest, and comingfrom the safety spot (the one you use to spy on Tebow,) it will force (I think) Polamalu into that role more often. If not, I think that Tebow can avoid Harrison, Woodley, and the like for enough to put some points on the board. If Head & Shoulders does become the Tebow spy, however, I think it changes the entire scope of the Pittsburgh secondary, making them much more susceptible than the (2nd ranked?) pass defense they were for the regular season. Even with Tebow's erratic passes, I think they may yet end the game within 8.

  2. Bloomy... good call! Where in the world were Pittsburgh's safeties on that OT play?!? By the time Tebow had snapped the ball, 9 men, including BOTH safeties, had descended into the box, leaving only two corners on single-coverage matchups down each sideline. Naturally, Tebow threw to the one that was playing tight... 80 yard TD, game over. Wow.

  3. They were brought up on a run blitz since Denver almost exclusively runs on first downs. Really dumb play call. Actually, Clark's replacement made a pretty good recovery to get involved in the play!