WILD CARD RECORD:
DAN K: 2-1-1
DAN K: 29-27-3
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS +8 AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
DAN K: Well, it looked like Drew Brees finally proved his doubters wrong last week, now that he finally won a road playoff game. His reward? Having to do it again in an even more hostile stadium against arguably the best team in the NFL. The Seahawks have looked nigh-unstoppable this year, and while “12th Man” is a very lame turn of phrase, they do give Seattle a very real homefield advantage, even moreso than the Saints have in their own stadium. Honestly, even though the Saints pulled out a victory last week, he was a bit underwhelming in the win, throwing 2 picks and getting sacked twice. If he was sluggish against a just OK Eagles D, he’s going to be in for a long day against the NFL’s #1 defense, one that held him to 147 yards passing in early December. The Seahawks are #1 in pass and #7 in rush defense respectively, and boast the best secondary in the league, as well as the best defensive player overall in Richard Sherman. Suffice to say, Brees is going to have to pull out all the stops if they want to win on Saturday – that includes getting the running game going (which they were able to do last week) and using Darren Sproles in the passing game. The Saints defense will have their hands full as well, considering that Russell Wilson had his best statistical performance of the season in their last matchup. The Saints may be without their best corner, Keenan Lewis, who suffered a concussion against the Eagles, but it looks like he’ll end up playing – if not, the Saints are basically fucked because Nick Foles started lighting up their secondary once he was knocked out of the game. The Saints did do an OK job keeping Shady McCoy in check last week, but Beastmode fears no defense and could go off at any time. An interesting wild card is Percy Harvin, who will be in action for the first time all year, but it’s hard to tell if he’ll actually get the ball or if this is just to make the Saints gameplan for the possibility. Now, for the pick. I’m reading that a lot of public money is on the Saints, who have “proven” that they can play outdoors. I don’t think the win last week counts for that much – going against a team with a first-year NFL head coach and QB making his first playoff start is a lot different than going up against an elite team in the loudest stadium in the league. The Seahawks are so good on every level that I have to take them here. Maybe I’ll regret taking Brees as this much of an underdog, but my gut tells me that the ‘Hawks and Pete “Coaches for 9/11 Truth” Carroll win big here. Seahawks.
THE PICK: SEAHAWKS -8
ESPO: So that was a fun Wild Card weekend, eh? Three of the Wild Card teams beat their division-winning opponents, with an asterisk for the Niners who were the better team by record. But the Chargers strolled into Cincinnati and beat them handily, and the Saints set the stage for our first matchup of the weekend by shaking off their road woes and edging the Eagles in Philly. Now they travel to Seattle, who totally thrashed them in a much-hyped, but pretty damn disappointing, Monday night affair five weeks ago. That game was the Legion of Boom show, with Jon Gruden practically creaming his khakis with the impenetrable fortress of pass defense that the Seahawks deployed every defensive series. Seattle’s #1 ranked pass D absolutely choked the life out of the Saints’ passing game. Brees at least managed not to be picked, and only absorbed one clean sack from Cliff Avril, but that one sack also caused a fumble which was returned for a Seattle TD. The question is, obviously, if this game follows the same script as the previous matchup. The Saints played a solidly unsexy road game in Philadelphia, but unsexy probably won’t be enough to get it done this week. The Saints aren’t really built to field a consistent rushing attack, which is the way you probably want to attack the Seahawks. They’re going to have to fight fire with fire, throwing right into the belly of the beast, how many idioms can I work into this sentence, TAKE THE DAGGER OUT OF THEIR HANDS AND DRIVE IT INTO THEIR STOMACH!! On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks offense has been kinda cruise-controlling it. Lotsa field goals, wait for a mistake, punch in a TD or two, and call it a day. The Saints really have been relatively stingy on defense – the 34 points allowed to Seattle was actually the most allowed all season, and one of those was a defensive TD. So, I dunno. I’m not sure if the Saints can actually get it done, but I think they can keep it within a TD. ROAD DOGE SAINTS. wow. so brees
THE PICK: SAINTS +8
DICK: Gusty winds, rain, and cold are the ingredients needed to slow down the Saints. It helps if you have a beefy defensive backfield that can force Brees into making mistakes or throwing the ball away on every third pass play. It also helps if you have the elements helping you out by forcing the Saints to focus on the run game. Did we mention the weather? We did? Good, because it’s worth mentioning over and over again because it messes with the Saints’ offense. That means you should be all over the Saints, right? Wrong. Yes, the Saints finally broke their “bad weather” spell last week in Philly when they put the beat down on the Eagles on a calm, cold evening, but what matters more is that the Saints are more focused on that thorough ass kicking they got in Seattle back in early December. You remember that one, right? The one that supposedly put a nail in their coffin and destined them to a Wild Card butt fucking in a cold weather stadium? Let’s just get this out there: The Saints are a touchdown-plus dog on the road to a heavily favored team that is hyped to go to the Super Bowl, so I am guessing that the public is on the Seahawks, right? Wait, let me look this up. (Quick search through the Series of Tubes) Well, well, well, the public is on the Saints at 62 percent. Maybe John Q Public Fuckface isn’t so stupid after all. Actually, he is, but in this case he’s taking the Saints because they are a public team getting more than a touchdown, not because they are taking into account Sean Payton’s ability to adjust his game plans to counter Seattle’s obvious strengths, or the fact that good teams generally do better the second time around against an opponent that whipped their ass earlier in the season. Also, the Seahawks lost their first game at home in almost two years to the Cardinals a couple weeks back, so it’s not like people are looking at the Emerald City and thinking it’s impossible to win there anymore. Every time I look at this inflated spread I feel like there is a strong possibility of taking back a little bit of what I lost to the book. I also feel like the Saints are being vastly undervalued thanks to a game that occurred a month ago. Also, another little nugget to consider: Since 2004, playoff dogs (road or at home) +4 or more are 41-27 ATS. Now take into account that the Saints are a quality team capable of making adjustments, not some random shitball that barely made it to .500 to squeeze into the playoffs and is going up against a stacked deck. Hall of Fame quality Super Bowl winning quarterback with one of the best coaches in football on the sidelines going into a road playoff game with everything seemingly going against them? Yes, I like it when you give me 7.5 or more points on that side.
THE PICK: SAINTS +8
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS +7.5 AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
THE PICK: PATRIOTS -7.5
ESPO: Ohhh man. What. A. Game. I tells ya what, I am not looking forward to facing Andrew The Jolly Magic Giant Luck. Frankly, I am terrified. This kid just has it. I mean, come on. Did you watch that game?! Yeah, the Chiefs lost like half of their team, but holy fuck, that was some legendary stuff. The Brown fumble that Luck was laser-focused on, picked up and charged into the endzone? Magic. Giant. MAGIC GIANT. And he’s such a god damn goof! I am having nightmares about what they’re going to be able to do with this depleted Patriot defense. Vince Wilfork. Jerod Mayo. Brandon Spikes. Tommy Kelly. Nope. This Patriots front 7 is a smoking crater. It also means that Dont’a Hightower has to slide from strongside to weakside linebacker which is… not ideal. Aqib Talib hasn’t been quite the same since he dinged up his hip several weeks ago. I hope he iced up, son, this bye week. Who knows what his level is going to be. He’s going to need to be as close to 100% as possible, because TY Hilton has been taking the top off defenses for a while now, none as brutally as he did to Kansas City. I’m sure Belichick will be coaching these guys up to watch for that now, at least. His defensive gameplan is basically always to take away the best offensive threat. So watch for Trent Richardson to have a big target on his back! AHAHAHAHAH! No. Segue though – what’s the best way to shake the BUST tag in your first ever playoff game? Oh, it’s not fumble on your first and only carry? Lawllll. Anywho. TY Hilton is basically their only big threat. Fleener’s okay, but he’s more of a move-the-chains guy. And Brown… I mean, the Pats run defense is so bad that the only way they’re really going to contain him is to bring a safety down into the box, so he’s going to get his 80-100 yards. Luck is a machine on 3rd down. He is so good at moving around in and out of the pocket. It’s crazy. He’s not blazing fast like Kaeperdick or a bowling ball like Killa Cam, but every time he gets out of the pocket it just always seems to go right. I don’t know. Magic. On the Patriots offense, the picture is not quite so grim. No Gronk blows, but Hoomanwananunwaunwnwui is filling in a’ight. Vereen is looking good in his non-murdery Aaron Hernandez role. And LeGarrette hit-the-motherfucking BLOUNT!!!! What a beast. 334 all purpose yards in that game over Buffalo! 334! I expect lots of running and play action from this Pats offense, against a Colts D that has been pretty unimposing. I mean, Alex Smith just looked like Tom Brady carving up this defense, so I think it’s pretty safe to assume that Tom Brady can also look like Tom Brady carving up this defense. It’s not the Patriots moving the ball that I worry about – it’s preventing the Colts from doing the same, and winning the turnover battle. So, uh, obviously I’m not betting against my own team. In fact, I might not bet at all, because there’s nothing more annoying than not being able to totally enjoy a playoff victory because your team didn’t cover the spread. I’ll be going to the Bruins/Sharks game that night in sunny San Jose, so what I might actually do is parlay the two moneylines together, because fuck you go Boston. BAHSTAN STRAHNG BABY!! FUCK YA! Dis is our fucking ceeety. But, yeah… because I have to make a pick, I think it’s only wise to take the points here. The Patriots defense is just too banged up, and the Colts have the maaaagic. Road doge. wow. such nervous.
THE PICK: COLTS +7.5
DICK: The Patriots should be concerned. The Colts are resourceful and knock the cromag with a slight case of gigantism under center all you want, but he has a knack for finding a way to win. He’s far and away their best player and as long as he is standing upright in a game that counts, the Colts have a chance. The problem with the Colts is that once you get past Luck they are not all that good. The only people who will howl about that sentiment are people who only watch their own teams (I am looking at you Niners, Seahawks, and Broncos fans) and wanna cluck their tongues and talk about how the Colts put on a clinic against their team or exposed some weakness that wasn’t there before. Bullshit, you don’t judge a team based on three wins when that same team got its ass handed to it at home by a club that was missing its starting quarterback. You know, like the Rams. Let’s get something straight, Chuck Pagano is a damn fine coach, Donald Brown is better than Trent Richardson because he doesn’t need 20 caries to get going, and even though the Colts won one of the best games of football in history last week, they still spotted the Chiefs – the fucking CHIEFS – 28 points before roaring back thanks in part to Andrew Luck being really good and, you guessed it, some wonderful Andy Reid play calling and clock management. Don’t count on that sort of luck this week, but I think you can count on it being close. The Patriots defense is at best flawed, but I’ll get to them later. Their offense still runs through Brady and if you hadn’t noticed, he and Belichick found themselves a nifty little running game over the last four weeks of the regular season. We’re talking 4.9 yards per carry and 148 YPG as a team over that stretch. The Colts have the seventh worst rushing defense in football and gave up 2,002 yards over the regular season. The Patriots can fuck with the Colts in three different ways: Start pounding away at that weak ass front seven, spread the defense with some intermediate passes and a deep ball or two, then go to play action around 30 percent of the time and keep Pagano and his guys guessing while Brady starts picking them apart. As for the Colts, the only way they fall out of this game is if Luck has one of his worst games, but considering how resourceful and versatile he is (holy shit, his runs are sublime for a white guy), the odds are against that happening. I absolutely hate fading Brady at home, but I think Luck has the hot hand and the Patriots defense is suspect at best when you look at their run defense in particular. They suck. As in 4.5 YPC and 134.1 YPG making them the third worst rushing defense in football. If I were a 12-year old, I’d be all over the Patriots. As someone looking at the spread, I’m taking the team that’s being handed seven points in a game that promises to have very little defense.
THE PICK: COLTS +7.5
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS -1 AT CAROLINA PANTHERS
THE PICK: PANTHERS +1
ESPO: For some reason, I was so super confident in the Niners last week. It was weird – it was an immediate “Niners roll” feeling. Weird because I usually like to root against them, or am otherwise down on them. This week is a little different. I think they CAN win this game. I just don’t know if they will. I know that sounds kind of trite. Obviously any of these teams CAN win their games. But all week I’ve been hearing, “This is a winnable game! This is a winnable game! This is a winnable game! Last time, no Crabtree!” ffffff okay. The Niners have more skill on the offensive side of the ball, this is true. The Panthers have Cam, Olsen, some running backs, and a supposedly “57%” Steve Smith. Side note – does that seem a little smokescreeny to anyone else? Steve Smith’s all, “Huh, earlier I was 71% now I’m 57%, fuck you wanna do about it?” Let me emphasize: Steve Smith is insane. Like, fucking psycho. The only thing he loves more than rearranging people’s faces is fucking beating them at football games. It seems totally out of his character to just be like “Yeah, I’m feeling pretty shitty. Hopefully they don’t come after me too hard.” And Ron Rivera was saying similarly suspicious things. Like… too specific. I bet he’s fine. Anyway. Yeah. Carolina offense is spotty. Niner defense is solid up and down. We been over this. Here’s the thing. The Niners didn’t really look that convincing against Green Bay, to me. I know, it was Rodgers at home. And he had some Rodgersy plays, specifically that one where he used some serious fucking sorcery to escape 2 pass rushers who seemingly HAD him and hit Randal Cobb on 4th down. But in reality, it was closer than it had any right to be. And what was the difference in the game? Kap’s legs. 98 yards rushing. A couple drives would’ve clearly stalled if he didn’t break those yards off. Thing is… I don’t think he’s going to be able to do that against a vastly superior Carolina front 7. Green Bay’s front is slow. Clay Matthews didn’t play – name a linebacker on that squad. Go ahead! Do it! AJ Hawk doesn’t count – he sucks and you only remember him because he sounds like he was in GI Joe and was trying to form some weird WWE Nordic tag team vibe with Matthews before he cut his hair and you realized he was your regular old ugly white guy. Yeah, Carolina. They’ve got studs all over that front, including probably the best linebacker in football, Luke Kuechly. There’s no way Kap is running as freely against this unit. I’m just thinking… they scored 23 points on a bad Green Bay defense. How many will they score on these guys? If Carolina can answer back is a big question mark as well, but I just can’t shake the feeling that they get it done somehow. Big turnover, special teams play, something. It won’t surprise me at all if the Niners walk away victorious, but I think Carolina takes it.
THE PICK: PANTHERS +1
DICK: Unlike last week, this game doesn’t give me hives. It’ not because the Panthers already beat the Niners on their home turf, but because fuck the Niners. Also because 75 percent of the public, or something ridiculous like that, is taking the Niners on the road for the second week in a row. Listen, it’s not that the Niners are particularly overrated. You could argue they are the second best team on paper after the Seahawks, but there is this weird feeling that Kaepernick is due for a shit game and the Panthers are poised to help him on his way to one. What’s odd is that they are so similar in their styles of play. Both teams rely on tough defenses, have strong running games, and have young, mobile, strong-armed quarterbacks. The biggest difference is that the Niners have a better group of receivers, specifically Michael Crabtree, who could make even Jim Druckenmiller look like a Pro Bowler. Look, it’s not so much that Kaepernick is simply a douche bag, it’s that for the Niners to get the Super Bowl they presumably have to play on the road for three straight weeks (unless they win and the Saints pull off the upset) and after getting past Green Bay by the skin of their ass they didn’t give me much confidence in them. You’re now going to go ahead and make the Panthers a home dog or an even pick? Gee, I think I’ll put my money on Cam Newton and one of the best defensive head coaches in football. At least I won’t have to hold my nose and root for a raving lunatic and a guy who started denying that his quite responsible birth mother existed right around the time his adoptive parents started instilling the word of God into him. Oh, and I notice no one gives him shit for his tattoos, but Cam Newton had to deal with an owner who … Oh, never mind. It’s a dead horse. GO PANTHERS!
THE PICK: PANTHERS +1
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS +9.5 AT DENVER BRONCOS
DAN K: Yee haw! Bolo-tie wearing future Republican Senator and co-sponsor of the Mandatory Prayer Act 0f 2030 Philip Rivers goes up against the seemingly unstoppable (I mean, except when the Chargers beat them before) Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in an no-holds-barred, winner-takes-all, AFC West showdown. We’ve all heard about Manning’s great year ad nauseum, but as we all know, Manning used to be known for having great regular seasons and then choking in the playoffs. He pretty much beat that rap and won a Super Bowl, and it wasn’t his fault that the DB made a terrible, terrible mistake against the Ravens last year, but a playoff record is a playoff record. Meanwhile, the Chargers snuck into the playoffs but have been a sneaky good team this year. Seriously, they haven’t lost a game by more than 10 points, Philip Rivers is having a career year, Ryan Mathews hasn’t gotten injured, etc. I wasn’t surprised at all that they beat the overrated Bengals last week. In any case, the Broncos will be much more of a challenge, at least their offense will be, with an arsenal of guys like Welker, Decker, Demaryius and Julius Thomas, Moreno on the ground, the list goes on. However, the Chargers did manage to keep Manning (relatively) in check the last time they played, so there’s some precedent to think that you shouldn’t automatically expect them to be blown out. On the other side, Denver’s defense is not good and will be even worse now that Von Miller has been placed on IR. Plus, Rivers has been getting great protection all year so he should be able to pass on Denver at will. I think it’s more likely that the Chargers will try to keep Manning off the field with runs from Mathews and Ronnie Brown, as well as short passes to Danny Woodhead. That isn’t to say that Rivers can’t sling it with Manning, but I think they’ll go another route. It’s probably a bad sign that I’m so sure about picking the Chargers but they really looked like a complete team in the Cincy win and I can actually see them making it to the Super Bowl this year. I still think Denver will likely win, but not in a blowout. SD covers.
THE PICK: CHARGERS +9.5
ESPO: Of all the unlikely things that happened last weekend, the Chargers DECISIVELY beating the Bengals was pretty low on the list for me. I really didn’t see that coming, even though I had acknowledged Dalton was ginger Eli, I just didn’t think this game would go this way. The Chargers are that team, aren’t they? The one that sneaks into the playoffs, everyone counts them out, and then they go out and win the whole thing? God. It’s a script we’ve read a hundred times before. Now Philip Rivers, the only quarterback to ever beat Peyton Manning in Denver, heads back there to do it a second time. Can this really happen? To Denver? Riversface in their barn, again? After a record setting year for Peyton? Crazy offense in every game? Fuck if I know. I don’t know anything anymore!! My world has been flipped turned upside down. I can’t even decide who’s winning this game, let alone capping a point spread. I guess I think either San Diego gets blown out of the city, or wins on the field. There won’t be a close loss SD loss here. I really think a lot of that Denver loss was due to the Thursday night-ish of it. They got beat up in the trenches in that game. Chargers ran a lot and forced the Denver defense to get into a heavyweight battle. This is basically the opposite of that scenario – Denver is totally rested. San Diego’s defense played well in Cincinnati, but Dalton was erratic and Jay Gruden called a horrible game. Does anyone think that Peyton and the Denver coaching staff will go down the same way? Naww. I just talked myself out of this game. I was kinda thinking San Diego wins all week until I started writing this. Now I’m like… San Diego’s pass defense was getting shredded like fresh mozz in New Hay-Hay CT all year. Denver has a roster of 4 healthy STUD receivers. Let’s not overthink this shit, eh? I was gonna go road doge, wow, got so apprehensive, so home favorite it is. I also enjoy that I’d be fading the public on that side. 60% on SD currently. I guess if I followed that logic I should also be on Seattle and New England, who are also getting less of the public action. But… oh well.
THE PICK: BRONCOS -9.5
DICK: I see a mirror image of the Saints and Seahawks game. The Chargers came into Denver as a 10-point dog, won, and yet, a few weeks later are basically still that same 10-point dog. Conventional wisdom is that the Broncos will slice through the Chargers defense, but again, we were all saying that about the Bengals and their superior everything, but Phillip Rivers. Look, bottom line is that Manning is going to get his, but the Broncos’ defense is a fucking sieve. Von Miller is out and unless the Chargers revert completely back to the days of Norv Turner, they can keep the game close until about midway through the fourth quarter when Manning will ice the game with his fourth touchdown pass of the day. This is another one where I just can’t bring myself to go and take a home favorite at almost 10 points with a possible hook on game day. It just doesn’t make any sense. Especially since the Broncos have not been especially reliable on defense. They tackle like grandmothers, blow coverage left and right, and had their best showing against teams like the Chiefs. I love the value on this one because the Chargers are enough of a wild card to pull off a massive upset because Rivers has been red hot all year. In a vacuum I might pass, but since I am degenerate piece of shit, I am taking the points and hoping that we get another great weekend of football.
THE PICK: CHARGERS +9.5