Welcome back! Hopefully, some of you took our advice last week in furtherance of your casual gambling addictions. I was 3-1 against the spread (and 3-1 straight-up) while Joe was 2-2. But, he did post a wonderful cinematic piece on his blog this week, easily making up the one-game difference. Then, again, he also picked Ryan Lindley on the road last week which wipes out every good thing Joe's done or said so far this century.
Baltimore at New England (-7)
Joe: We're well familiar with my feelings about the New England Patriots by now. I'm every bit as irrational, spiteful, and petty on the subject of the Patriots as Cam is about his beloved San Diego Chargers. I'm also well aware of how my fervent desire to see the Patriots upended can sometimes lead me to being more optimistic about their opponents than I should be. It's true that Baltimore has had New England's number in the playoffs in the past. More realistic: the Ravens last beat a playoff team in September; six of their ten wins came against the AFC South, the Titans and the Jaguars; and two more against the Cleveland Browns. There's no way I'm this lucky. Patriots 38, Ravens 10
Aaron: Handsome Joe Reid and his overt reverse jinx, ladies and gentlemen! He also dances for nickels! And, what's all this noise about me and my "irrational...spiteful" pettiness towards the San Diego Chargers? Moments after the Chargers 2014 season came to a GLORIOUSLY inglorious end, I tweeted out heartfelt sympathies on behalf of me and my 10-year-old son.
Hey @chargers! Happy Holidays from the whole damn Cam Fam! #boltdown pic.twitter.com/cWFCKCz0w9
— Aaron Cameron (@ThatBootlegGuy) December 28, 2014
ANYways...these random Joe Flacco factoids (Flac-toids?), you guys. 166 consecutive pass attempts in the playoffs without an interception! His postseason record is 7-2 since 2010! In his last five playoff games, Flacco and the Ravens have defeated Andrew Luck(!), Peyton Manning(!!), Tom Brady(!!!), Colin Kaepernick(?) and Ben Roethlisberger (hell, I don't know..."ampersand", maybe?). As for the Patriots, it's pretty lazy to turn every piece of their playoff analysis into "Brady-to-Gronkowski", but it's early, I've only had one cup of coffee and I don't feel like looking up the names of anyone else on their offensive roster. Patriots 21, Ravens 16
Carolina at Seattle (-11)
Joe: Fine. Wonderful. The Panthers have climbed their way up to 8-8-1, though they'll have to reach the Super Bowl if they want to end their season with a winning record. Clearly, with the Seahawks' home-field advantage, the gravy train stops here. The question, though, is that point spread. Aside from their two recent games against the Cardinals (which we can set aside as highly compromised), the Seahawks only beat a team by 11 or more points four times all season. The Panthers played them to a rather ugly 13-9 decision in October. Splitting the difference is probably foolish at this stage, but hell, I've got some ground to make up for being the idiot that bet on Ryan Lindley to win outright. Seahawks 27, Panthers 17
Aaron: Damn it. Joe pretty much encapsulated all of my concerns with this point spread. If Seattle gets out to an early blowout lead, aren't they likely to take their foot off the gas pedal? Cam Newton is one of the more fascinating players of this era. He's criticized for silly things like body language and his press conference attire -- and I mean THOUSANDS of words have been written about this nonsense -- but, is rarely praised for things like, y'know, taking downfield hits from safeties while scrambling for a first down with broken bones in his back. The Panthers field two septuagenarian running backs, none of you could name their starting wide receivers and I'm supposed to believe that Cam Newton is the problem? Child, please. Seahawks 24, Panthers 14
Dallas at Green Bay (-6.5)
Joe: The wind on Sunday is going to make it feel like 3 degrees on Sunday. Maybe those kinds of cryo conditions will keep Aaron Rodgers intact (though remember that doesn't always work out). After last week's national outrage over the Cowboys winning after a botched defensive-holding no-call (like Jim Caldwell wouldn't have found a way to screw up regardless), I'm kind of rooting for the Cowboys. Particularly if Jerry Jones can keep goading right-wing politicians into alienating their voters every week. Could be a fun gimmick! Too bad the Cowboys don't have the defense to pull it off. Packers 24, Cowboys 7
Aaron: The conspiracy theory exercise is SO silly. This idea that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell -- whose incompetence at, y'know, COVER-UPS, came to light during the Ray Rice fiasco -- could mastermind a confidence game involving entire officiating crews, television networks and the mummified remains of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones...I mean, who thinks this is plausible?! WHO?! This is another interesting spread in that it opened before news of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and his (partially?) torn calf muscle broke. I'm not subscribing to the current narrative that the Packers are a team of mediocre pieces held together by Rodgers' moxie, but the cold conditions can't be conducive to an elite athlete with a leg injury. That said, until Cowboys QB Tony Romo wins a second round playoff game on the road, I ain't picking him to win a second round playoff game on the road. Packers 20, Cowboys 17
Indianapolis at Denver (-7)
Joe: We're getting another Manning/Brady AFC Championship Game. We just are. Now let's all work on getting Andrew Luck an actual football team to back him up for next year. Broncos 35, Colts 21
Aaron: Not so fast, Joe! Have you forgotten who's the quarterback for the Broncos? It's Peyton Manning. You might remember him from such disappointing January playoff performances as a home loss to the hapless Chargers in 2008, a road loss to the hapless Chargers in 2009, a home loss to MARK SANCHEZ in 2011 and a home loss to Joe Flacco (remember? we covered this...) in 2013. Manning's arm strength never really returned after his umpteenth neck surgery and he looks even more noodle-armed than ever before. The Colts aren't a very good team, but Andrew Luck IS a very good quarterback who, at this stage of his career, is better than the orange-clad, aging QB who's obviously on the descent from his previous Rocky Mountain high standards. Feel free to use that on Monday's First Take, @RealSkipBayless. Colts 24, Broncos 23