One of my goals when I started this blog was to learn. I have enough pride and dignity that I’m not going to write like an un-researched, opinionated blowhard unless outside forces intervene. So when I decided to write Pick ‘n’ Roll about the NFL, I knew I was going to have to learn about the NFL. My friend Greg volunteered to help, but that ended up turning into a brilliantly written piece of its own. Luckily, I’m a quick study on most things, so I’m now confident I can give my take on the NFL without sounding like an ass.
I keep hearing the Divisional Round touted as “the best weekend of the year” for NFL fans, and I can see why. Four games in two days and never more than one on at a time means you can see everything (unless you’ll spend half of it covering college basketball, like I’ll be doing.) With any luck, each game should make for some compelling TV (or a compelling reason to spend gobs of money on tickets, if that’s your jam.) This will be a direct contrast to the wild card games, of which only about one and a half was particularly interesting.
So without further delay, I present my picks for divisional weekend. Please note that my score predictions are pretty much wild guesses, and I’m fully prepared to eat crow on each and every one of them. However, I sincerely think my win/lose calls will hold up. I’m prepared to be mocked for this at a later date.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
There are a lot of factors to consider here for both teams that could make this game interesting. Forced to contend with the cold, a week off and a healthy Ray Lewis roaming the backfield, Peyton Manning may have a challenge on his hands. But the Ravens were colder at the end of the season than it will be at Mile High on Saturday, and Flacco is extremely hit-or-miss. I can’t see him hitting this week against Indy’s pass rush, but Manning might not either. I’m predicting a fairly low scoring affair. BRONCOS 24-17
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Aaron Rogers and Co. can make yards through the air, no doubt about it, but on the ground? Not so much, especially not facing an efficient Frisco run defense. The Niners, on the other hand will likely put the ball on the ground and into the hands of Frank Gore, seeing as he is beastly and there is still skittishness about trusting the game to Colin Kaepernick. A lot of this one will be riding on him, but also on Rogers. In a battle between the two, Rogers is obviously the more talented one, but also has the bigger set of obstacles to overcome (playing on the road, the Niners’ pass D, and the Pack’s utter lack of a rushing game which makes success entirely dependent on him). Even as the NFL becomes more “pass first, pass later,” a ground game is still important (I think). San Fran has one of those, so I think they win it. SAN FRANCISCO 28-20
Atlanta Falcons v. Seattle Seahawks
The Falcons have one thing going for them in this battle of the birds: Matt Ryan. Ryan is a great passer who has been somewhat underappreciated up until this season. Unfortunately, though, the Falcon’s first eight victories were against team that had yet to round into form (Washington, Denver) or were complete busters from the start (everyone else, with the possible exception of Carolina). The Seahawks, on the other hand, are red hot, and likely continue to be against Atlanta’s defense, which is about as porous as the crappy field that Seattle won on last week. Ryan will get his yards, but Seattle will get the scores and the win. SEATTLE 42-28
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
Looking at his career stats, Matt Schaub is a much better QB than I gave him credit for. Of course, my experience with him consists entirely of last weekend, where he looked less than outstanding. And, as most of the AFC knows by now, “less than outstanding” doesn’t cut it in Foxboro in January. There’s a better than good chance here that Schaub and Houston are about to get taken for a ride, and the -9 spread is pretty darn generous to Patriots fans and those who like making money. Schaub may be talented, but Tom Brady is Tom Brady, and that alone may be enough to send New England to another conference championship. At any rate, this has the feel of a shootout in the making. NEW ENGLAND 49-31