January 7, 2012

NFL wild card wackness

by Dan Bilicki In: Football, Picks

Looking at the slate for wild card weekend, I couldn’t be more disappointed. There are really only 1.5 games out four that I truly want to watch: Saints-Lions and the second half of Giant-Falcons.

Let’s face it, unless you’re a huge fan of the teams in the AFC or a defensive nut, these two games will no doubt be bores for the audience. Let’s break them down with my picks.
The lines are from Vegas and the home teams are in CAPS

HOUSTON -3 over Cincinnati
It’s T.J. Yates facing off against Andy Dalton in the playoffs. Who could have predicted this would be happening at the beginning of the year.

The Bengals haven’t beaten a team with a winning record all season, but it’s not like the Texans have set the world on fire recently, backing into the playoffs by losing their lat three games. Who’s excited to see that?

In the end, the Texans’ running game and defence are strong enough to handle the Bengals and it’s easier to back Yates to not make mistakes than it is to expect Dalton to move the ball under pressure.

Detroit +10.5 over NEW ORLEANS
When Saints coach Sean Payton brought up that this could be a defensive battle, he was nearly laughed out of the press conference this week. The weird thing is, I actually believe him a little bit.

Weird things tend to happen on playoff Saturdays and this could surely be one of those situations. Look at last year when the Seahawks stunned the Saints. Would there be anything weirder than these two teams, which scored a combined 86 points last week, shutting each other down?

OK, asking for a 13-9 battle isn’t very likely, but can’t you see either the Lions running with Drew Brees and Co. or scoring a late garbage-time TD to lose by less than 11?

This line is too high, just like the inflated over/under of 59.5. If I were a betting man *wink* I’d parlay the Lions with the under here.

NEW YORK GIANTS -3 over Atlanta
It’s really tough to like the Falcons on the road and even tougher to trust them outdoors. They were 4-4 on the road this season and out in front of Mother Nature they were 2-2 including a loss at lowly Tampa.

The Giants on the other hand, are completely unpredictable and built for the playoffs. They can pressure the passer and turn nine-yard passes into long touchdowns. Did you not see what Victor Cruz has done the past two weeks? The man is the master of Yards After the Catch.

Atlanta is weaker on the offensive line this year than last and their defence is mediocre at best. The only place the Falcons have the edge here is in the running game, but that’s not nearly enough.

DENVER +9.5 over Pittsburgh
There’s two factors at work here: The Steelers are totally banged up and the Broncos have Tim Tebow.

Granted, the Steelers are the superior team here, but there’s just too much going against them.

Here are the following key players that are either out or will be playing through pain and hobbled: Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Clark, Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel and Jonathan Scott. Does that list not scare you a bit if you’re betting on Pittsburgh?

There’s also the Tebow factor. Sure, he hasn’t been playing great for the past few weeks, but would you really doubt him coming into the fourth quarter down by less than 14? He’s at least going to cover then, right?

You can’t count out the Mile High factor either. As the season drags on, it gets harder to play in altitude unless you have supreme conditioning. The Broncos, obviously, are used to playing in those conditions. The Steelers, not so much.

Of course, this pick won’t be sitting so well once Big Ben starts hooking up with Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown for big plays and build up a 24-point lead in the first half. I still won’t regret it though.

Last week: 8-8
This season: 131-120-2

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