Last Week, Straight Up: Joe (3-1); Aaron (1-3)
Last Week, vs. Spread: Joe (1-2-1); Aaron (2-2)
New Orleans at Seattle (-7.5)
Aaron: Back in the 1980s, the 'Hawks knew their place. Sure, they looked impressive at times. They even put together a few runs that had fans thinking they were destined for long championship reigns. (For reals, yo. That 12-win 1984 team was REALLY good.) By the early 1990s, however, the 'Hawks were Mirer'd in mediocrity. Eh? Eh?! Chronologically speaking, their path -- and the accompanying narrative -- was almost identical to another Hawk...at least to a certain point.
But, now, most of the sentient life in our solar system believes that the Seahawks are the best team in the league. After a 34-7 nationally-televised shellacking in Seattle back in early December, the Saints surely think the same. Have we all lazily accepted a world where this guy can be trusted with the keys to K.I.T.T.? (I have no other frame of reference when it comes to flashy car metaphors.) Like every episode of Knight Rider, I've built up the drama only to have the car save the day in the last
Boy, I lost control of that metaphor in, like, record time.
Pick: Seattle 20, New Orleans 17
Joe: Everything seems to be going against New Orleans here today, huh? The Saints are super shaky on the road. The Seahawks are nigh on unbeatable at home. The Seattle season of The Real World was better than either New Orleans season of The Real World. Certainly, that 34-7 game didn't give much of an impression that things could have gone either way. And yet, I went with the reverse psychology pick on the Saints last week and it paid off for me. Nothing is more important than Bill Simmons telling you that nobody believes in you.
Pick: New Orleans 27, Seattle 23
Indianapolis at New England (-7)
Aaron: Oh, hey, "NFL team that Aaron DIDN'T pick makes an unbelievable comeback and upends the team that Aaron DID pick"! I missed the usual 18-20 times we'd see each other during the regular season! I still don't quite understand why the Kansas City Chiefs felt the need to reload multiple times while they shot themselves in the foot in their loss to the Colts. For no other reason than it's been a quarter-century since that bit was even funny. Regardless of HOW we got here...we're here. It's "Colts v. Patriots LXXVIII" or some sh*t.
The window for this Patriots team is clearly closing. The myth that QB Tom Brady can turn any anonymous receiver into amazeballs has been permanently punctured. The New England defense -- for years, the most underrated component of those great Patriots teams -- was a veritable revolving door for opposing offenses this season. Colts QB Andrew Luck has the media-created "momentum" storyline (and hundreds of awful surname-inspired puns) on his side, but he's also been wildly inconsistent this season. Are YOU ready to trust a second-year QB on the road against someone other than Andy Reid? Me, neither.
Pick: New England 27, Indianapolis 17
Joe: The reason you know I'm a total New York City sellout is that I will likely be attending a Broadway show during the bulk of this game. The plan is to check the score upon my exit, and if the Colts still have a prayer, I'll shuffle my way down to an insufferable midtown bar and catch the end. Clearly, this is the game I have the most intense rooting interest in, rabid Pats-hater that I am. I would like to think that the Colts are the team they don't want to face. Finally a quarterback who can make them pay for the way they tend to take huge chunks of games off only to pull things out in the end. But the Colts have been just as inconsistent all season, and I feel like this season's New England team has existed to bum me out all season. My heart says Colts, my head says Pats. Split the difference, I guess.
Pick: New England 30, Indianapolis 24
San Francisco (-1.5) at Carolina
Aaron: In a season of REDEMPTION (emphasis: everyone's) for Panthers QB Cam Newton, Carolina is a home underdog?! Against a 49ers team they beat in San Francisco earlier this season?! How many exclamation point/question mark combinations do I have to use to convey my incredulity?! Last week, I'm not sure if I overestimated the Packers or underestimated the 49ers or if the elements in Green Bay conspired to turn the outcome into a coin flip. So...this week's match-up should be clearer...? I have no idea. With my 9-year-old son's piggy bank, would I bet on that Panthers' defense and Cam Newton's continued maturation OR the 49ers Kaepernick-to-Crabtree connection and head coach Jim Harbaugh's super-villain, self-styled genius? I DON'T KNOW. God, this is hard.
Pick: Carolina 17, San Francisco 14
Joe: In a just and perfect world, Colin Kaepernick's show-offy sleevelessness in the frigid temperatures of Green Bay last week would have resulted in a frostbite situation and he wouldn't be able to play in this game. In a different just and perfect world, there would be no one left in Charlotte to attend this game because all the Southerners would have fainted dead away from experiencing the polar vortex this week. I certainly want the Panthers to win, and they're definitely the hot hand when it comes to the NFC. But the hot hand is almost always the team to fall in the playoffs these days, and I'm sure I'll have to put up with awful Jim Harbaugh one more week.
Pick: San Francisco 20, Carolina 17
San Diego at Denver (-9.5)
Aaron: Last Sunday, one of the families from my son's travel ball team hosted a playoff party for the Chargers v. Bengals tilt. As an avowed Charger-hater, I sat in pouty, stony silence for three hours as a room full of bolted-up rubes hooted and hollered with every Cincinnati pratfall. It wasn't all excruciating for me, though. One of the moms lined a muffin pan with bacon, filled the inside with scramby eggs and baked it to a brunch-y perfection. Another family brought homemade lumpia. Seriously, you guys, if you don't know any Filipinos you're missing out.
OK...this game. This might be the most inexplicable spread since last week's Chargers playoff game. I'm telling you...the Chargers are kind of good. I dunno if they'll win outright, but if they're 10-point dogs to anyone right now, Las Vegas is telling you to TAKE their money. I hate the "something to prove" storyline, but has anyone with Peyton Manning's pedigree ever engendered less confidence in a home playoff game? This is not going to end well for any of us. Mostly me.
Pick: San Diego 33, Denver 28
Joe: The point spread does seem a little insane, but does it concern anybody that this Peyton Manning Can't Play In January narrative is being pushed by a Boston-dominated media with a historical axe to grind from the old Pats-Colts days? No one? The Broncos have spent a lot of the second half of this season looking shaky just long enough for people to notice, then turning any number of receivers named "Thomas" loose and pulling away. I don't like how often I'm splitting the difference on these picks, so even though Denver-by-7 seems like the most intelligent pick, I'm betting the Chargers' luck runs out in a big way.