NFL PLAYOFF PICKS – WILD CARD, BITCHES! EDITION

WEEK 17 RECORD:

DAN K: 3-1

ESPO: 2-2

DICK: 2-2

OVERALL RECORD:

DAN K: 27-26-2

ESPO: 37-17

DICK: 29-23-1

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS +1 AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

ESPO: We kick off our slate of Wild Card games with maybe the unsexiest matchup of ’em all, the Colts hosting the Chiefs. The Chiefs have predictably cooled off after their hot start, with their 11-5 win record being the worst of any team to start 9-0. I mean, that should really be 12-4, but whatever. The Chiefs showed some serious depth last week – with Andy Reid resting 20 of 22 starters, the backups pushed a fully loaded Chargers team to the brink of overtime, and by all rights should’ve had a victory at the end of regulation. Crazy stuff. Now, they head to a Colts team that quite recently beat them handily in Arrowhead, 23-7. I had a really hard time on this one. The Chiefs are solidly above average, but the Colts have looked downright terrible at times. However, it does seem that these teams are trending in two opposite directions at the moment. The Colts have made strides to figure out some of the growing pains they’ve gone through in this post-Reggie Wayne world. They’re finally treating Trent Richardson like the guy he is, which is a guy with 3.3 yards per carry. Donald Brown has been a revelation, with two of his big breakaway scores being the difference in the prior Chiefs game. They’re incorporating some up-tempo passing to take advantage of their, y’know, best player, Andrew Luck. The defense is… scrapping. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have been good on offense lately, but the bigger sticking point has been the defense, which went from giving up 17 points or fewer in the first nine games to 27.7 over the last seven. That’s obviously based on strength of schedule as well, and the fact that they faced the Broncos twice, but it passes the eyeball test too. They haven’t been able to rush the passer quite as well, and some more formidable wide receiver corps have found holes in their pass coverage, which has been giving up lots of big plays lately. These teams really are pretty even. Assuming the game doesn’t get out of hand on some fluky shit, this should go close down to the wire. And I have to ask myself, who are the two best players on the field? Undoubtedly, it’s Jamaal Charles and Luck. Charles has been an absolute beast this year, but I think at the end of the game, needing a score… you gotta go with Luck. The quarterback engineers that drive, not just a running back. No knock against Smith, but I gotta on bet the guy who had more game-winning drives in his first year than anyone in the league. Andrew Luck and the Colts take a nail-biter.

 

THE PICK: COLTS -1

 

DICK:  This is the only game of the week that won’t be played outdoors and it’s the only one featuring a team that got to moonwalk its way into the playoffs while losing five of its last seven games. I have my eye on you Kansas City and I hate what I see. Sure, you’ve had plenty of time to rest your guys and get healthy for a playoff run, the only problem is that you have been terrible for almost the entire second half of the season. I know, it’s not your fault that you had to play those bullies from Denver twice in three weeks and got totally exposed as a paper tiger, but this is what happens when good teams face juggernauts. It sure was inspiring to see your second-stringers give San Diego all they could handle on the road and it was reminiscent of when your first stringers lost a close one to San Diego at home. You know, looking at your last seven games I see two losses each to Denver and San Diego and one to Indy with your only victories being blowouts against the stripped and clipped Redskins and Raiders. Teams generally don’t come out of a stretch like that and go on a big run just because they got to rest their starters for one week. But, it’s not like Indy is some beast ready to come undone and wreak havoc and rip the league apart. Since their nifty little run against the Niners, Seahawks, and Broncos, they’ve gotten stomped by the Rams, Cardinals, and Bengals. Yuck. They’ve been winning the games they are supposed to, I guess, but beating up on Tennessee, Houston, and Jacksonville is sort of like beating up your little brother every other week. Kansas City can deploy Jamaal Charles and hope for him to rain down death and pestilence on the Colts’ 26th rated rushing defense, but the deciding factor for me has to be the quarterbacks. Between the game being at home, the Chiefs being on the schneid, Alex Smith not being the most dynamic passer in football, and Andrew Luck having a penchant for managing a game really well while also making tough plays work, I gotta tip the edge to Indy.

 

THE PICK: COLTS -1

 

DAN K: Well, thanks Chiefs. I feel like I have to make a perfunctory statement expressing my hatred for the Chiefs’ kicker Ryan Succop at his inability to make a routine FG that would have put my beloved Steelers in the playoffs. It was awful, sure, but I can’t get too broken up about it considering that it only came down to that because of the Steelers starting 2-6 and having an inability to do what they needed to control their own destiny. Anyway, it’s a moot point, so on to the game at hand. The Colts have kind of been under the radar the last few weeks. Seriously, have you heard anything about them at all? After getting blown out by the Bengals, they quietly took care of business and won their last three games against divisional opponents. Sure, two of those games were the woeful Texans and Jaguars, but they beat them both by a sizable margin, and only two weeks ago they shut down the Chiefs 23-7. Greasy caveman looking bastard Andrew Luck was able to torch the Chiefs secondary, and although the D was missing Justin Houston, who will be playing in his first game since week 12, I think Luck will still be able to pass against them (especially since it’s looking like their other bookend pass rusher, Tama Hali, may not play). He’s mobile enough to nullify the Chiefs fearsome pass rush at least a little bit, I think. Luck will need to put Indy on his his shoulders for them to have any chance of winning, because his playmakers are all mediocre at best. Trent Richardson has looked like a free agent bust, TY Hilton is a glorified slot receiver, and Donald Brown and Lavonn Brazell aren’t exactly what you’d call weapons. However, Luck is good enough, and elevates his game so much in crunch situations, that it makes up for their deficiencies in offensive role players. Note: expect the awesomely-named Da’Rick Rogers to be a key part of the Colts’ offensive strategy. On the KC offense, it goes without saying that their game plan should be to get Jamaal Charles the ball in any way possible. Dexter McCluster is a great player, but let’s not fool ourselves, this is going to have to be the Jamaal Charles show. If the Colts can’t slow him down, they lose. Alex Smith is a game manager and doesn’t have the arm or the ability to it himself. If it comes down to a duel between him and Luck, Smith is going to the Big Mormon Afterlife in the Sky. Last time they played, the Colts D, which can’t be called elite by any definition, picked Smith off twice and held him to 153 yards passing. Plus, everyone knows that momentum is important in the playoffs and the Chiefs have dropped 5 of their last 6 games. I’m going to take the team with a better QB on a win streak playing in his home stadium more often than not. I think Colts take it and advance to the divisional round.

THE PICK: COLTS -1

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS +2.5 AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES


ESPO:  Yeah yeah, we know, the Saints are a different team on the road than at home. I can’t decide if it’s that, or if it’s “the Saints are bad against a good defense on the road.” Something else everyone is overlooking is that the Eagles haven’t been all that great at home, only 4-4 there this year, and have something like the 3rd worst home record over the last several seasons. But any given Sunday and all that, right? I already took the over on this one, which I’m starting to regret a little bit, because it’s reeeeally high (53.5) and it’s gonna be cold and windy. It’s gonna be 28-24, 52 points, I can feel it. FEEL IT! Anyway, like the KC/Indy game, this one comes down to two matchups to me – the Eagles defense against Jimmy Graham and the Saints defense against LeSean McCoy. No one on the Eagles is really suited to cover Graham, and they’ve had trouble against tight ends all year. Check out big Jason Witten carving them up last week, for a buck-30 yards. And Jimmy Graham is barely even a tight end, more like a huge, surehanded wide receiver. Shady McCoy is the best running back in the playoffs, and the reason I’ve got some money on an Eagles Super Bowl future… he’s simply unstoppable. Having a safety valve like him, who can sit in a draw position or catch a ball in the flat and seemingly instantly go from zero to 60, is a huge boon when it comes to nullifying a pass rush, and the Saints have been able to rush the passer effectively this year under notorious blitz-lover and angry pirate, Rob Ryan. Despite the “Saints suck on road” angle, there’s no real reason for their offense sputtering out so many times this year. They’ve got their own spunky running back in Darren Sproles who hasn’t done all that much this year, a viable set of receivers, and one of the best quarterbacks in the game. It’s hard to doubt Brees, road or not, and while the Eagles defense has been a lot better in the second half of the reason… if this game was happening in New Orleans, I think we’d all predict a Saints blowout. So are the teams really that different? Foles is a bit of a wild card, I mean he’s played really well this year, too well for someone to realistically expect him to maintain. I mean, 27 TDs to 2 picks? A 119.2 season passer rating? Lawdy. That just screams “fall back to Earth,” no? Aghhh. I don’t know. I’m going with the Eagles, only because I am that high on Shady. Do you know that he supposedly whispers “McCoy” when he jukes you out of your jock? Multiple players have said this. That’s so fucking awesome. McCoy, McCoy, McCoy…

 

THE PICK: EAGLES -2.5

 

DICK:  OH GOD, THE SAINTS ARE A ROAD DOG AT UNDER A FIELD GOAL! Calm down public voice stuck in my head. You are retarded and have cost me too much money in the past, so shut the fuck up. This game will be played in frigid temperatures and turn the football into a hard rock and kind of put a damper on the Saints fast moving game. Also, Shady McCoy. Also, Nick Foles at home. Also, Philly has a +12 turnover differential. Also, the Saints have lost four of their last five road games and Philly is on a four game winning streak at home. Did I mention it’s gonna be between 23 and 31 degrees in Philly? At night? Listen, there is no doubt that Brees and Graham and company can go and get theirs, but this one is lined up perfectly for the Eagles. They are red hot, playing at home, confident, and playing a hugely popular public team that has about 55 percent of bettors backing them. I’m glad I am not going to be in Austin for this game because the bar I usually watch football at is populated with Saints fans who don’t even know what the Red Zone Channel is because it’s all Saints all the time. In a vacuum I hear these people and their chants and see their ratty 80’s t-shirts from the Bobby Herbert days and shake my head knowing that these proud people are in for a really disappointing evening when the Eagles cover easily and send them home moaning about how the Saints really aren’t that bad on the road.

 

THE PICK: EAGLES -2.5

 

DAN K: Now this is a good matchup. The Eagles were a bit of a surprise team for me this year, as I assumed it would take a year for Chip Kelly to get his system installed and get the players he wanted in there. After I saw that Vick was going to start the season, it was just a countdown until he got injured and the Eagles were forced to start Nick Foles, who seemed to be on the trading block at times due to being drafted by the previous staff and not being the best fit for the Kelly spread. Boy, was I wrong, Vick did get injured of course, but Foles stepped in and seemed to be a natural. He had two notable hiccups in the Dallas games, but by and large he’s appeared to be Philly’s QB of the future. Now he gets to play his first playoff game at home against one of the best QBs in NFL history! He won’t do it alone of course, because he has Shady McCoy, arguably the best RB in the NFL and unarguably the best one this season. The Saints are 26th against the rush so they’ll have to establish the running game with McCoy to take the pressure of Foles, because the Saints are also ranked 3rd in the league in sacks. In both of Foles’ games against the Cowboys this year, Dallas was able to slow him down with constant pressure. He doesn’t yet seem to be able to make quick decisions and get rid of the ball with people in his face, and consequently scrambles around without keeping his eyes upfield to look for a target. It seems like New Orleans could win this game handily by exploiting this deficiency in his game. Meanwhile, the key for New Orleans will be Brees throwing to Jimmy Graham early and often, because the Eagles D doesn’t have anyone that can cover him. Their rush D is the best in YPA of all of the playoff teams, so Brees is going to have to throw it to win (I’m sure he won’t mind). The other factor that everyone is bringing up is the Saints’ oft-discussed road woes – they’re 8-0 at home, and 3-5 on the road this year, not to mention being 0-5 in road playoff games in their history (as you can imagine, most of those playoff games were in the Brees era, because they sucked ass for decades before that). The biggest question for me is Foles though – it’s his first playoff game, and even if it’s at home, will he be able to handle the pressure? Like I said before the Dallas elimination game last year, we really don’t know. And that leads me to my pick. I know that the Saints are bad on the road, but I feel like any time you get one of the top QBs in the game as an underdog you take it. Plus, while I think Foles could be very good, I won’t give him the benefit of the doubt as a playoff favorite yet, even at home. Saints take it.

THE PICK: SAINTS +2.5

 

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS +7 AT CINCINNATI BENGALS


ESPO:
Kind of weird to put this game in the Sunday night primetime slot, but hey, if I was a big-brain NFL exec, I wouldn’t be hanging out in this janky-ass site with a bunch of a degenerates! The Chargers backed into a playoff spot in the most pathetic way possible aside from outright losing and still getting in. I know these guys are all professional football players… but it really seems suspect when a team resting 91% of its starters is pushing you to edge of overtime, and basically should have won outright. It was so funny/sad to see Rivers doing his whole “we won at kickball in recess” routine where he’s all WOOHOO and jumping all over the field and slapping his coaches on the butt as they roll their eyes. It’s like, congratulations guy, you just barely scraped into the playoffs against a preseason roster. Yes Philip, we can stop at DQ on the way home. I know, I know, ANYYYYYThinING can HappPPppPennn in the playoffs, but fuck, how can you feel confident in this team? Especially when they’re going up against a Bengals team that has been downright dominant at home, mostly blowing teams out en route to a 8-0 home record. And they ended the year with a statement, dick-smacking their division rival Ravens all over the god damn field. But there was more Dalton being Dalton, who threw three picks in the first half and remains pretty much the one thing standing in the way of this team being elite. I do truly think the Bengals are an elite team with a hot-and-cold quarterback. He’s capable of making reallllly nice plays, too, which is what makes his inconsistency so frustrating. He’s kind of like a ginger Eli, come to think of it. And Eli’s got two rings, so who’s to say he can’t do it? He’s got a defense on par with the Giants teams Eli had to work with. He’s got a steady-Eddie running back in BJGE, and a little mini Barry Sanders with Giovani Bernard. AJ Green will probably be the best guy on the field. The defense has barely skipped a beat without stud defensive tackle Geno Atkins and top cornerback Leon Hall, which speaks to some great coaching from Mike Zimmer. I think the Chargers put up a fight, but the Bengals step on their throat and win decisively. It’s tough to lay a touchdown in a playoff game, for sure, but for the playoffs I try not to worry about the spread too much. You kinda gotta just go with your winner and cross your fingers. I mean, I don’t think the Chargers win this game, so why take them and pray they lose by 6? The Bengals have been so good at home and the Chargers looking so middling that I can’t say no. WHO DEY!


THE PICK: BENGALS -7

 

DICK: Which Bengals team shows up? The one that squashed Indy and took the Chargers apart in the California sunshine? Or will it be the one that lost two overtime games in row to Miami and Baltimore? Or will it be the one that closed out the season 5-1 with their average margin of victory being 17.4 points? I’m willing to bet it’s the last one and that San Diego is in a heap of trouble. Sure, any given Sunday, but I like the match ups in this game for the Bengals. Even the red-headed stepchild who may or may not be the next Terry Bradshaw sans fading hairline and clinical bipolar disorder sounds good to me against the Chargers defense that can’t be trusted. Giovani Bernard, AJ Green, and the Law Firm make me happy. Phillip Rivers and his enthusiasm in a potential freezing rain or snow storm is sort of the equivalent of God letting him know that last week’s win against Kansas City’s second stringers was in fact the result of His divine influence, but that his faith shall be tested today.

 

THE PICK: BENGALS -7

DAN K: Fuck the Chargers. While I’m obviously mad the Chargers are in this game instead of the Steelers, my main problem with having to pick a Chargers game is that I never get it right. No matter which side I pick, the Chargers or their opponent, I choose….poorly. Anyway, I guess I have to pick someone so let’s break this garbage fire down. The Chargers were another surprise this year, inasmuch as people didn’t just assume a team that got rid of inept clowns like Norv Turner and AJ Smith wouldn’t automatically improve due to the “addition by subtraction” factor, which doesn’t seem that bright in retrospect. Who knows what the Chargers could have done if those two assholes hadn’t been canned sooner. Whatever the reasons for it though, Philip Rivers is having a career year for a different reasons – Ryan Mathews finally playing in every game, the emergence of rookie WR Keenan Allen, the agelessness of Antonio Gates, the versatility of Danny Woodhead, and his O-line finally being able to protect him.  Their defense is nothing to write home about, having just allowed KC’s 2nd stringers to score at will against them, but I think they’re up to the task of containing the ridiculously inconsistent Andy Dalton. Sure, the Ravens’ defense is good, but not so good that you should throw four picks against them. These were some bad throws too. The Bengals have one of the best defenses in the league, but can Dalton keep up with Rivers, who is sure to score at least some points? He has one of the best wide receivers at his disposal in AJ Green, but if he can’t get the ball to him without getting intercepted it wouldn’t matter if he had Randy Moss. Regardless of how good the Cincy D is, Rivers will at least be able to throw a bit against them. I just think this spread is way too high. Sure, West coast teams coming East and playing in early games usually leads me to lean toward the host, and the Chargers did barely squeak into the playoffs, but they’re still a good team. I don’t think the play of Dalton has done anything to warrant them getting a full TD. As far as who wins outright, that’s a tossup, but I actually think the Chargers will pull off the upset. I definitely like them to cover though, quite a bit actually. Chargers.

THE PICK: CHARGERS +7

 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS -2.5 AT GREEN BAY PACKERS


ESPO: Man, I do not envy the people at this god damn game. A high of -3º in Green Bay on Sunday! Holy fack, boys. Nooo thank you. One of the reasons I moved to breezy San Francisco, right there. So, I was foiled in my one last attempt to fade Krappendouche and the 49ers last week. But I am nothing if not a fair king, and it is not fair to be fading this Niners team. They are a good team. They are big, strong, and fast. Kap is a dick, but this team is no joke. With Crabtree healthy, they’ve got 3 big, reliable targets with Boldin and Vernon Davis. The running game is solid as ever, with Hunter spotting Frank Gore admirably. The defense is monstrous, and I really believe their linebacker quartet of Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, and Ahmad Brooks is the best set in the league. The front line is stout, but the secondary does have big holes, which is what gives me pause in this game. Aaron Rodgers, back from injury last week, looked a bit rusty, but still looked like Aaron Rodgers, which is clearly the shot in the arm this Green Bay team needed. Matt Smugface McFuckshit Flynn just couldn’t take advantage of the pass catchers they’ve got. And it really is hard to bet against a quarterback like Rodgers at home, but I don’t think Green Bay as a team is good enough to take down these guys. In fact, Green Bay didn’t beat one team that made the postseason this year. The defense has been a sieve all year (most points allowed in the playoffs), and there’s no reason to think it should magically get better on Sunday. Eddie Lacy, the rookie who was able to stabilize their beleaguered run game this year, is pretty dinged up, and I can’t imagine it’s going to feel good running on a bum wheel in subzero temperatures. His backups don’t have the size necessary to move that Niner pile. So yeah, I feel that the Niners will take this one. I got the Niners at a pick’em earlier in the week, but I feel pretty confident laying the 2.5 as well. Hey, they’ve got a way more reliable kicker too, so there’s that.

THE PICK: NINERS -2.5

DICK: This game gives me hives. The Packers have not been a safe home bet in the playoffs in over a decade. Before 2002 they were 13-0 at Lambeau. Since then? 3-5. Even if the skies open up and dump 20 tons of snow onto the field I can’t back the Packers until they learn how to stop San Francisco on all fronts. The Packers defense stops the run option, then they get burned against the pass. Focus on the pass and Kap and Gore tear them to shreds. Sure, the Niners’ wins against Rodgers have come in San Francisco and before Eddie Lacy established himself as the Pack’s number one back, but that doesn’t change the fact that their defense is hurt and not very good when they are healthy. I’m usually a fan of a small home dog, the Packers are going to be a live dog, and I think Green Bay has been quietly seething and thinking they might finally have the Niners offense figured out. The only problem is they don’t have a good enough front seven to shut down Gore if this turns into a smash mouth game. I want to take the Packers, but I can’t because the only logic I have to go on for that is that the third time’s the charm. For now I like the Niners when I’m sober. Ask me again on Sunday after I’ve had a six pack and logic goes out the window.

THE PICK: NINERS -2.5

DAN K: Gotta say, the Wild Card matchups this year appear to be uniformly awesome. Usually there’s at least one or two teams who clearly don’t belong but I could make a reasonable case for any of the teams playing this weekend making it to the Super Bowl. The Packers barely made it in, but that’s due to Aaron Rodgers missing multiple games with injury, as well as one of their best playmakers, Randall Cobb, being out for a large portion of the year. Rodgers looked a bit rusty in his first game back but as time went on he showed why the Packers can never be counted out with him starting. Rodgers at QB, throwing to Cobb and Jordy Nelson, with Eddie Lacy’s punishing runs and James Starks as a change of pace…damn. The 49ers are lucky they have one of the best defenses in the league. The Cardinals made a game of it last week but the Niners managed to to close it out and enter the postseason with some momentum. I’m not as convinced about their offense as some are though. My fellow picker Espo has serious concerns about Kaepernick and I’m inclined to agree. At some points in the season teams appeared to have him figured out and made him a one-dimensional player. While he has a strong arm, his passing ability isn’t as much of a threat as it was last year when he came on the scene because teams have enough tape on him to slow him down. He was missing his favorite target Vernon Davis for a few games and that contributed to his slump, but I’m just not that confident in his ability to go throw for throw against Rodgers. Even though the Niners have a good defense it’s impossible to keep Rodgers in check totally, and the fact is that it’s going to be fucking COLD at Lambeau Field this weekend. The Niners are used to playing in their nice warm Pacific Coast climate and may not be ready for January football in Green Bay, whereas Eddie Lacy probably relishes breaking through tackles and grinding out some tough yards on the FROZEN TUNDRA. Kaepernick admitted as much when he said that it wasn’t exactly his dream to be playing in sub-zero temperatures. The Packers are looking forward to showing these California sissies how cold-weather football is done. If the Niners have any hope of winning this game they’ll have to build up a lead early against Green Bay’s suspect defense and let their own D close things out. I like the Packers though. They’re still much better than their record because most of those losses came when Rodgers and Cobb were out. Plus, we again are able to take a top-5 QB as an underdog, which sounds tasty to me. Pack all the way.

THE PICK: PACKERS +3

About Dan K

Dan is a Southern hip-hop historian who hitchhiked from his home in rural Pennsylvania to Montreal to pursue his dream of working in a call center. Within days of seeing his first computer, @dankmtl became a twitter celebrity by skewering the evil and stupid in immensely entertaining fashion.