WILD CARD RECORD:
DAN K: 2-1-1
DAN K: 31-28-4
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS +5.5 AT DENVER BRONCOS
ESPO: PA. TRI. OTS. I don’t care that I picked the Colts last week. WHY WOULD I CARE? FUCK YOU! Pats baby! Pats baby! I am all in on this Pats offense. 43 points and Brady didn’t even have to throw a god damn touchdown pass. I’m supposed to be afraid of what now? Peyton Manning and his big bobblehead? 10-4, bitch! Tell me that team did not look eminently beatable last week against the Chargers, I dare you. Pushed to a one score game against a team that backed into the playoffs? Okay. Let me let off the gas for a second here. This is a FAR from perfect Patriots team. The defense still is highly… highly vulnerable, even with the Belichick “beat you with yours” magic. I mean, the fact that Belichick was barely even in the conversation for Coach of the Year is a crime. I know, it’s Belichick, the modern day Lombardi, he doesn’t need any more accolades. But take this season in a vacuum – massive, MASSIVE turnover on offense, injuries to the guys that they were counting on to fill the holes, and then basically the core of the defensive front 7 being shattered… and once again, they pull a bunch of guys off the street and beat you. Nobody wanted LeGarrette Blount in preseason. Nobody. They’ve got guys on defense now that were on other teams’ PRACTICE SQUADS as recently as a couple weeks ago. 12-4 and in the AFC Championship game. I know, their schedule wasn’t too scary and they play in a weak division, but come on. Anywho, both these defenses are missing key players, and weren’t even that formidable before that. This is shootout central, and I’ll go score for score with these fuckers any day of the week. I hope you’re not looking for practical X’s and O’s-type analysis with this writeup, cause you’re not going to get it. It’s stupid. You’ve watched these teams plenty by now. How does Belichick plan on covering four #1 receivers? I don’t fucking know, that’s why I’m writing this from my bohemian San Francisco apartment instead of my office at Gillette Stadium. I mean, he’s not, is probably the easy answer. This offense is going to need to score, score, and score some more, and hopefully a turnover or two seals the deal. I know that I believe in Brady more than Manning, and Belichick more than John Fox. Fuck else do you need? Patriots cover and WIN, BITCH.
THE PICK: PATS +5.5
DAN K: Wow, it feels like the mid-oughts, doesn’t it? Old adversaries Brady and Manning squaring off in what seems like their hundredth playoff game (actually, it’s only their third). Sure, they’re a bit older and Peyton is playing for the Donkos now (I guess Denver’s nickname should be the Dankos now since Colorado just legalized weed) but this is still a matchup between two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. The Pats let Indy stay in the game for a bit last week but quickly lowered the boom by taking advantage of Andrew Luck’s mistakes and putting up a whopping 6 rushing touchdowns, 4 of them from Legarrette Blount alone. Brady hardly had to throw the ball at all because their running game couldn’t be stopped. Luck did throw for 331 yards but the Pats D picked him off 4 times and sacked him twice. The Pats defense is susceptible to the run though, and Donald Brown was having success against them until Indy was down by too much and had to abandon the run completely. My guess is that the Broncos noticed that and will try to run it at them with Knowshon Moreno who managed 82 yards and a TD last week. The Pats secondary has been excellent in recent weeks, with Logan Ryan being good enough to start as a rookie alongside Aqib Talib, who should give Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker all they can handle. The only weak link on the defense is Steve Gregory, who is garbage, so Peyton will likely be looking to go to whoever he’s covering. Of course, Denver has more than two weapons than Thomas and Decker, as Julius Thomas had a breakout year and became one of the best tight ends in the NFL and Wes Welker is still a great receiver, albeit one with questionable hands. Long story short, Manning will do his usual shit of barking random words to try to confuse the defense and they’ll try to establish the run early against NE’s weak spot. On the NE offensive side, Julian Edelman is basically NE’s only reliable wide receiver and since the running game has worked so well in recent weeks, they’ll continue with rotating Blount, Ridley and Vereen so they always have a fresh set of legs. One thing to look at is Denver losing their best cover corner in Chris Harris and having to start the elderly Quentin Jammer alongside the passable Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the even more elderly Champ Bailey – on some of the Rivers’ throws against Denver last week, there’s wasn’t a person within yards of Keenan Allen when he was catching the ball and while they managed to sack Rivers a couple of times, by and large he didn’t have much trouble passing on them. Not to mention, Brady already had one of his best games of the year against them this season, throwing for 3 TDs and zero interceptions. Now, for the pick. I read that NE has lost by more than 4 points only once this season (against Cincy in inclement weather) so we’re suddenly expecting them to lose by more than 5, on a must-win game with Bill Belichick coaching? I wouldn’t put money on that. Plus, we’ve heard thousands of times about how Touchdown Tommy gets motivation from the HATERZ so you’d better be believe he knows what the point spread is in this game. I think the Pats try to use their stable of running backs to stay on the field, keep Manning off the field, and make it a quick game. The Broncos could win this of course, but I think the Pats cover regardless. WICKED PISSAH TOMMEH
THE PICK: PATS +5.5
DICK: Here we go again, amirite? That Manning guy and his Omaha Steaks commercial deal is coming soon, ain’t it? That big grinning mug barking out OMAHA, OMAHA TO YOUR HOME, taking a snap from some guy in a butcher costume, and tossing a T-Bone on a deep slant “across the country” to some suburban-looking schmuck who’s drooling as he makes a diving one-handed catch in his front yard right at the foot of his fictional wife and fired up grill. I can see Papa John already hanging out in Peyton’s driveway holding up a stereo playing Peter Gabriel at full blast then after being unceremoniously ignored by the Human Bobblehead reducing the hours of his entire workforce just to push them onto food stamps. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball is the Greek God of quarterbacks who strides across the football world as if it were made specifically for him. In between GQ cover shoots, selling Rolexes, saying all the right things without sounding like a dweeb, adjusting to no less than six different offensive styles over the years, making nobodies into somebodies, and doing more with less as the league’s salary cap and injuries to key players gut the Patriots on a regular basis. Even sharp gamblers pause before they bet against this guy and with good reason. Brady’s 18-7 in the post season. Only Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman had better win percentages and both of them had epic defenses and the same offensive line year after year. He’s also 10-4 against Manning over their careers. If that’s a rivalry then it’s a pretty lopsided one. I think a good part of it comes from the fact that Manning’s teams rely on him and Brady’s teams learn to rely on themselves. Wherever Manning goes he is the centerpiece. The offense revolves around him in every way: style, execution, and terminology. When Manning went from Indy to Denver the Broncos essentially installed his offense. He’s not just a quarterback, he’s the de facto offensive coordinator, and more or less calls the plays at the line of scrimmage. In the modern NFL, where a coordinator may allow an offensive assistant to call plays while he is working on in-game adjustments with the head coach, that is the equivalent of doing as many as five jobs at once. This isn’t a criticism of Manning, but praise that he is able to handle that much responsibility and process that much information and be as effective as he is. It’s a superhuman effort that puts the responsibility of the entire offense’s success squarely on his shoulders. His work ethic and respect around the league are unparalleled, but when that much is put on one player there are more ways the system can fail. Brady on the other hand seems to be empowered more than he exudes power. Manning was always expected to be The Man, but Brady was barely expected to make it as a backup. Belichick built his offense to accentuate the strengths of the offense as a whole, not just the strengths of Brady. All you have to do is look at how the Patriots evolved over the years from a conservative ball-control offense to a high wire act accentuating the deep ball to using incredibly athletic tight ends in the seams to using a three-man running back system with a bunch of midgets at receiver. Throughout all of this has been one guy adjusting to new schemes that are dreamt up by a committee of coaches with Belichik being the lynchpin. Nothing rigid, never predictable, and always simple in execution. So, what the fuck does that have to do with this Sunday, Dick? WHY ARE YOU RAMBLING AGAIN? Because history matters and this may be the last time these two guys meet each other on the field with this much at stake. With this much on the line and almost a touchdown being laid I like Brady any day of the week. The Pats are more versatile, better equipped to handle in-game adjustments, and are not reliant solely on the decisions Brady makes. Where the Broncos need Manning to be firing on all cylinders all game, the Patriots just feel and seem like they are better equipped to handle the ups and downs of a tough game. Ask yourself who you would see shitting the bed in the fourth quarter if it came down to the last five minutes? For the Broncos to win, Manning has to have the game of his life. For the Patriots to win, Brady and company just have to execute the game plan. Nothing is set and stone and we really don’t know what’s going to happen, but I like Brady more in this one even with 74 percent of the public on the Pats.
THE PICK: PATS +5.5
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS +3.5 AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
ESPO: Alright, I give up. My pockets are barren – I can’t bet against the Niners anymore. It’s clear to me that my heart has clouded all these games, except the Green Bay game, which I was weirdly high on. They’ve got something going on. I just can’t seem to separate my EXTREME distaste for Colin I’m the man I’m the man I’m the man KraperFUCKINGdick from my game capping. But the kid’s got moxie. And this team has swagger. If I was a 49er fan, I’d be so god damn pumped with Anquan (so stronggg) Boldin popping up and getting all Dirty South on every defensive back that put his hands on him. As a Niner non-fan, I found it kind of annoying at the time, but then I was like, that’s what everyone else feels about the Boston Bruins, and I can’t be THAT guy. Now, these guys have looked good… but going into Seattle is a taaaallllll order. Duh. Do you guys know it’s loud?! The thing is, the Niners have been really good on the road, and in noisy buildings too, the early season blowout in Seattle notwithstanding. I think they’ve been well coached to try to minimize the impact of the noise. And this Seattle defense CAN be had… somehow. They’re going to need to do what the Saints couldn’t – run the ball effectively. Luckily, this Niners team is built to do that, and I don’t think Harbaugh is going to be stupid enough to go up to the 12th man without knowing exactly how he wants to attack this defense. And the other thing is, this Seattle offense is no powerhouse. They are effective, for certain, and remind me of a good boxer… pick your spot, and fucking clock him. But, this isn’t going to be a team that’s overwhelming you with offense. And, I’m sure you’ve noticed, but the Niner defense is really good. These Seahawks receivers are nothing to be afraid of. Lynch is a beast, and has traditionally owned the Niners for some reason, but he is what he is – a straight ahead god damn BEAST, but a straight-ahead runner none the less. Russell Wilson is the real X-factor here. While Kaepernick never really makes you feel comfortable with what he’s capable of doing, Wilson just always has this calm iceman thing going on. He forgets bad plays quickly and always seems to step up at the right time. Is this for real, though? Is it a product of the environment he’s in (extremely friendly home field), or the read-option game he thrives in, or is he just that good? Will he throw a mind-numbing pick 6, something I can’t really recall him doing all year? Will his janky receiving corps fail him in epic fashion? I don’t know. I think the Seahawks win this game, actually, but I simply can’t resolve myself with taking their side against the spread. It’s that half point. To me, this game has “Seahawks by a field goal” written all over it. The Niners are just playing at too high a level, and are too amped up. Niners cover, and maybe even win. Sidenote: if the Niners defeat the Pats in the Super Bowl… my life is ovah.
THE PICK: NINERS +3.5
DAN K: Well, this is it. In one of the championship games this Sunday, we get two of the best veteran QBs in the NFL. In this game we get two of the best young QBs in the game playing in arguably the best rivalry going on right now. This is going to be a knock-down-drag-out brawl between two punishing defenses – the Niners with their fearsome pass rush, Aldon Smith fresh off a stint in the ‘hab, and the Seahawks with their hard-hitting, ball-hawking secondary. Time to break this shit down. I’ve been betting against the Niners all playoffs and they’ve proved me wrong both games, managing to win on the road in Green Bay and Carolina. Last week they were the beneficiary of some uneven officiating but they managed to rattle Cam Newton to the point where it didn’t look like he thought he could back in the game. Kaepernick was deadly in the run and passing game, and managed to anger racists all over the country by daring to wear a hat at an “urban” angle in the postgame. Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree catch anything thrown near them, Frank Gore seems to be ageless and Niners offense when it’s in sync can just throttle a team by controlling drives. While Carolina’s defense is good, the Seahawks are the best, only allowing 14.4 points a game and the least passing yards in the NFL. They’re top 10 against the run, though New Orleans was able to find lanes against them last week, and when you figure that Kaepernick has been running with deadly effect this postseason, it goes without saying that he’ll take off a few times against Seattle. They’ll have to get something going in the running game because Seattle’s physical secondary will likely take at least one of SF’s receivers out of the game (even though Marques Colston had a great game, they managed to hold Jimmy Graham to one catch). Kaepernick has only thrown for 371 yards, 1 TD and 4 picks total in both of his games against Seattle this year, so it’s safe to say that they could stymie him again. On the other side, Russell Wilson didn’t have good stats last week but he didn’t really need to – BEAST MODE did all of the work and it’s safe to say they’ll run the wheels off of him again. Russell Wilson SHOULD have Percy Harvin in this game at least – he looked good last week until getting injured and all signs point to him playing again, even though he hasn’t been cleared yet. [Ed. Note: Harvin was ruled out] Wilson is a more polished passer than Kaepernick, but San Francisco’s defense is only a bit less stout than Seattle’s statistically and he still will need to pull out all of the stops in the passing game and use his mobility to buy time to throw. Now, for the pick. Like I’ve said earlier, I’ve been burned by betting against SF the last two weeks, and they appear to be the classic “hot team in the playoffs.” Harbaugh has them fired up and even the refs appear to be scared of him. But I still think Seattle is the right side for a couple of reasons – one is that the sharps are all over Seattle, while 73% of the public is on the Niners. Another is that Seattle is an insane 24-10 against the spread as home favorites since 2007. Finally, I think SF is a big overrated. They barely beat Green Bay and blew out a team with a QB and coach making their first playoff start. Seattle just beat one of the best QBs in the NFL by 8 points and Russell Wilson is a better QB than Kaepernick. Plus, the home advantage Seattle has can’t be overstated. I bet this when the line opened at the beginning of the week because I didn’t think it would go any lower and even after thinking about it I still like Seattle to win. Oh thank you Jebus, because we get to see Richard Sherman in the Super Bowl. Hawks cover.
THE PICK: SEAHAWKS -3.5
DICK: If you’re not excited for this game, you are not a football fan. Two new age quarterbacks who have produced mixed results, elite-level offensive lines, elite running backs, great receiving corps, and two of the best defenses in football. All of this being stirred up in a cauldron of sound and motion that measures on the Richter Scale at the University of Washington. Both teams have beaten the other at home and the rubber match is for the Super Bowl? Wow. So, uh, yeah, I gotta pick a winner. I love everything about both of these teams except for Pete Carroll who is the sort of rah rah guy you might find peddling Scientology in the subway, Jim Harbaugh, who is the version of Jim Schwartz that actually wins games and wears mom pants, and that motherfucker with all the terribly done Jesus tattoos who becomes unstoppable only when all of his weapons are made available to him. Beast Mode versus Gore. It just looks like a monster movie waiting to happen. Look, right now it can be argued that no one is playing better football than the Niners. They eked one out in Green Bay and straight up shut down Carolina in the second half last week. Since they got Crabtree back the passing game has been stretching defenses and prying open defensive fronts. On a neutral field I’d take the Niners as a four-point favorite. With the game in Seattle I am outright shocked that it’s within four points. Seattle’s home field advantage is worth four points alone, not to mention that the Seahawks basically commit pass interference on almost every play and only get called for it once or twice a game. Seattle’s passing game is not the best in the world, but they have the best defense in football and Beast. Also, take into consideration that the Niners will have to win their third straight game on the road against the biggest rival in that hurricane of sound and rain. Yeah, I gotta go Seahawks, baby. However, if the Niners win, they win the Super Bowl.
THE PICK: SEAHAWKS -3.5