Saturday, January 14, 2012

2012 NFL Playoff Pickery -- Divisional Weekend

Last Week

Joe: 3-1 (4-0 vs. spread)
Aaron: 2-2 (2-2 vs. spread)

New Orleans (-3) at San Francisco

Joe: So now I have the added pressure of a 4-0 record against the spread to defend, and this game is just waiting to ruin everything for me, right off the bat. I hate this matchup. New Orleans is clearly the better team, but I still don't fully trust them outdoors on the road (I know this is superstitious hooey, but STILL), and the Niners defense is having one of those seasons where nobody scores against them. Why do I have visions of them grinding this game to a halt? The one silver lining for a Saints victory? Their defense is I think good enough to keep the okay San Fran offense from beating them. But I have zero confidence in this pick (...unless it pans out). New Orleans 24, San Francisco 16

Aaron: Ever since it became evident that the 49ers would secure at least the #2 playoff seed in the NFC (so, like, two or three months ago) I've been excited at the prospect of laying real money against them here. In what I can only assume is an homage to the 20-year anniversary of the release of Tecmo Super Bowl, the Niners have an eight-play offensive playbook for QB Alex Smith. And, hey, it's worked. But, against the game's elite teams, you're going to need more than "I'm going to give it to Gore and everybody block" or "Go long, you guys". I've seen enough stats about the stout San Francisco run defense to convince me this won't be a cakewalk for New Orleans. Conversely, I'd like to introduce you to the Saints passing game. New Orleans 30, San Francisco 28

Denver at New England (-13)

Joe: I will admit that even though I won by taking Denver with the points last week, they won in a manner that I completely didn't expect. Tebow made some pretty sweet looking long throws and the offense pretty much moved down the field at will -- though they struggled scoring from within the 20. And that was against a GOOD defense! As a Patriots-hater, it makes me absolutely giddy to imagine what they might be able to do against New England's sorry defenders. That's not to say that the Pats can't still win in a shootout -- or that Tebow's inaccurate arm could return and doom his team -- but I'm more confident taking the points this week than I was last week. New England 38, Denver 31

Aaron: Patriots fans are said to be as nervous about this game as any ever played during the Belichick/Brady era. Yes, I know it's all part of the hype-driven narrative, but as Joe wrote above -- "Happy learned how to putt!" Tebow learned how to throw. What Tebow hasn't learned, though, is how to win a shootout against a very good offense. During the regular season, the Broncos went into Minnesota and won 35-32 -- against an opponent that started rookie Christian Ponder at quarterback and didn't play All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson who missed the game due to injury. The Patriots have a slightly more accomplished QB and their best player won't be on the sidelines. (Their best player is also their quarterback, but you know what I'm driving at.) New England 40, Denver 21

Houston at Baltimore (-7)

Joe: Houston looked very impressive in beating Cincinnati last week, and if they were the ones playing New England this week, I'd be gleefully picking an upset. Even now, the combination of Arian Foster and a vastly improved defense (can we all agree now that Wade Phillips is a brilliant defensive coordinator who should never be allowed to head coach again?) poses a very real threat to the Ravens. But ultimately, I think the Ravens D will force TJ Yates into the one or two mistakes that will be their downfall. But I like this one well enough to take the points. Baltimore 23, Houston 17

Aaron: Impressive? I guess I was less enamored with Houston beating the #6 seed at home by three touchdowns since they used the tried-and-true Arian Foster formula (step 1: give him the ball). "Impressive" will be if they can do it against a Ravens defense that held Foster to 49 yards rushing when these two teams met back in mid-October. Texans QB TJ Yates has completed 20 passes in a game just once in his six starts and his coaching staff kept the play-calling extremely conservative. That seems to play right into the hands of a Ravens team that unleashes several nationally-televised -- albeit unwatchable -- 17-9 final scores on an unsuspecting public each year. Baltimore 17, Houston 9

NY Giants at Green Bay (-9)

Joe: Oh, Giants fans. That was a great victory last week. You should be proud of your team. And if they can manage to retain Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz next year, you've got a lot to be optimistic about. But I hope you weren't listening to sports talk this week, with all its smoke-blowing about the game earlier this year and how the Giants have the best chance to beat the Packers. This won't end well for you, and it's best that you know it. Green Bay 45, NY Giants 20

Aaron: The Giants' innate ability to play up or down to the level of their competition is absolutely fascinating to me. This is a team that lost twice to the Redskins and dropped two home games against the mediocre Seahawks and Eagles. What's it mean here? Well, I think the Giants won't be run off the field. They're built to go blow for blow with the Packers on offense and even though Green Bay is a more formidable scoring machine, I think New York's defensive front will be the proverbial equalizer. Think I squeezed enough tired sports clich├ęs in there? Here's one more: on a game-winning field goal in overtime...NY Giants 30, Green Bay 27

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