2018 NFL Playoff Picks – Divisional Round Edition

After blazing through one of the easiest, sweat-free covers to start off the 2018 post-season, Colin was dreaming of hoisting the mythical “11-0!” trophy . . . THUD! What was that? Well, the THUD was the hamstring of SeaBass, better known as “fat turd kicker.” With no kicker, the Seahawks were in 4-down territory and “go for two” mode the entire second half; a 4th&4 touchdown and two two-pointers later I get notched by a half point. That felt a lot like drawing aces against a five, splitting, drawing another ace, splitting again and drawing yet another ace; when all is said and done, I sit with 4x my original bet, A-8 (19), A-7 (18) and two A-10 against a five. Of course, you know the story, dealer turns over a six, draws a 10 to 21. Loss, loss, push and push. Still dazed and confused on Sunday, I was flat for both games and my performance on the field showing as me and my “first-time playoff QB starter” buddies combined for ZERO wins!

I have documented playoff rules that I follow religiously and what did I do? I broke rule #1 – “Never back a shaky quarterback in the playoffs, especially on the road!” I may have to amend this rule add another corollary, “always bet against a first-time starter in playoffs.” Funny thing, it makes perfect sense, or at least it did after the first three possessions in the Ravens/Chargers game, that quarterbacks making their first start in the playoffs struggle mightily. It got me thinking back to one of my favorite “what-ifs” in all of sports – what if the tuck rule is ruled a fumble? Remember that through three quarters, Tommy Terrific played more like Tommy the Tool, leading the Pats to a whopping 3 points and a mere 176 yards passing in a home playoff game. What if the Raiders win that game? Is TB12 more like Peyton Manning? I maintain it is possible that a loss there hurts both Brady and Belichick, despite what we know 17 years later. Also, remember this is long before the city of Boston signed their “new millennium” deal with the Devil. The “chowds” were part of a sad sack of fans with a massive inferiority complex; these are fans stating “wait until next year” after an opening day Red Sox loss. Think about this – would Belichick and Brady been around for the 2003 season if they blew a home playoff game in 2001 and then missed the playoffs the following year?

The point is this – it’s hard to win in the playoffs and, yeah, it does get in the heads of a quarterback or a coach. Think about how much different Marvin Lewis’ career would have been had Kimo von Oelhoffen not taken out Carson Palmer’s knee on the second play of the game? The Bengals might win the Super Bowl that year! Instead, Marvin leaves Cincinnati without a playoff win. That was in Palmer’s head as well. In 2015, he played his worst two games as a Cardinals player in the playoffs.

The thing is with these first-time starting quarters (and coaches for that matter) is they need things to go right for them, they need an early lead. Lamar Jackson was at a disadvantage having played the Chargers three weeks before (side note: I am so scarred by the Norv Turner/Mike McCoy Chargers, that I completely over-looked the fact they have a coach who cares about more than one phase of the game). You tell immediately the moment was way too big for Lamar, but still had the Ravens jumped out to an early lead he probably would have leveled off and been fine. Again, it did not help that he had the toughest first round matchup and a team familiar with the Ravens offense.

For Trubisky, he put his team in position to win so it’s hard to put a large portion of the blame on him but he didn’t play well in the first half and he was a victim of a coach who mid-way through the first was probably wondering why the hell he didn’t tank week 17 and play the Vikings, as opposed to deal with Nick “the jump ball magician” Foles. All that said, if that first Eagles possession goes two-yard rush, incomplete pass and Khalil Mack sack on third down, the Bears probably win by two touchdowns.

Oh well, what do you do? You try to get better and find winners. On to the divisional round, but first let’s look at the futures:

I lost my #2(Ravens), #3(Bears), #9 (Seahawks) and #12 (Texans). I nailed the Texans as the “2008 Dolphins” as non-competitive and Deshaun Watson was exactly what you would expect out of a first-timer. The Seahawks also was a call as they masqueraded as the 2012 Colts, a team that came on strong but was one and done. Ravens and Bears? Well, I was a lot closer for the Ravens (2001 Pats) save the “tuck rule.” I blew it on the Bears, Nagy and company just were not ready.

This week’s ranking of the remaining playoff teams, with Super Bowl odds (beginning of playoffs and current). For fun I dug around and found a historical team each 2018 NFL playoff most closely resembled.

Full disclosure – I am still holding a Saints (20-1) and a Texans (25-1) Super Bowl future. I think I will let the Texans future ride – no hedge.

1.New Orleans Saints (+225, +240)

 

Historical Team: 2009 New Orleans Saints. Oh, the disrespect, they go from +225 t0 +240 because they have to face off with donkey dick Nick Foles. Goodness, this Eagles team is annoying. As I stated last week right here, “I remember that 2009 season, nobody gave them a chance to win the Super Bowl, despite being the #1 seed in the NFC. Everyone was in love the Cardinals . . .” Final Score – Saints 45 Cardinals 14

2.Kansas City Chiefs (+475, +500)

Historical Team: 2001 St. Louis Rams. I was very tempting to move them down as this first-time starter has me second guessing myself worse than Chrissy Moltisanti.

3.Los Angeles Chargers (+600, +1100)

Historical Team: 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers. Based on the win against the Ravens, I changed their historical team from the 2014 Bengals to the 2005 Steelers. They might get on one of those runs where they play well enough and Vince McMahon, er, Paul Tagliabue, will honor Phillip Rivers career with a Super Bowl, just like he did with Jerome Bettis. Keep in mind, Tags was getting ready to retire, so he was showing Goodell how to stage the outcome of playoff games. Man, did Goodell take it to the next level!

4.Los Angeles Rams (+600, +500)

Historical Team: 2001 Chicago Bears. I still don’t trust Goff, but the path just got infinitely easier with the DD-Nick and the Eagles pulling off the upset.

5.New England Patriots (+600, +600)

Historical Team: 1992 Buffalo Bills. Just like last week, I think we all agree “just fking go away already.”

6.Indianapolis Colts (+2800)

Historical Team: 1994 Green Bay Packers. I certainly can see them winning in Kansas City but this run in going to come to an abrupt end with a Lombardi – this year! Look out next year.

7.Dallas Cowboys (+3000, +2050)

Historical Team: 2015 Minnesota Vikings. Here is something I find hilarious – the Cowboys are one of the final eight teams in the NFL and are currently 20.5-1 to win Super Bowl. The 4-8 Nebraska Cornhuskers are 25-1 to win the CFP title next year. I will let you decide where the value lies. I said it last week – “Dak simply cannot do enough to make a deep playoff run.”

8.Philadelphia Eagles (+3500, +1600)

Historical Team: 2000 St. Louis Rams. The Eagles are still the 2000 Rams, Az Hakim still fumbled that punt, the Eagles just got lucky and recovered it (blocked FG). Now go get your ass beating in Nawlins, get back to booing Santa and throwing batteries at opponents.

Geaux Saints!

 

Some Divisional Round weekend notes (since 2002):

  • All four home teams are favored by 4 or more points, last time that happened was 2014, home teams went 3-1 SU but just 1-3 ATS
  • Saturday divisional games – home teams 28-6 SU, 20-14 ATS and the over is 23-11; the Patriots have had 8 of those games – 8-0 SU, 5-3 ATS and over is 7-1
  • Sunday divisional games – home teams just 18-16 SU, 10-23-1 ATS and the over is 14-20; the Pats are 2-1/2-1/2-1 on Sunday’s at home
  • Home teams have swept the four games but never finished 4-0 ATS
  • All four games have gone over the total twice but never under the total
  • The “pick the winner” system in the playoffs breaks down as 16 times a SU winner has failed to cover; wildcard round just 4 times has the SU winner failed to cover or push the spread

My playoff rules (you know the ones I didn’t bother following last week) can be read them here.

The back of Colin’s player card:

 

Note: Lines are courtesy of 5dimes.eu

Colts @ Chiefs (-5.5, 57)

Hmm, let’s see we have a quarterback making his first playoff start and a coach who is well known for playoff failure. Uh, ok, count me in!

There is this theory about dome team failure when going on the road playing a non-dome team due to the dome team being “soft.” The numbers do back that up to some extent – in 28 instances, dome teams 7-21 SU, 10-18 ATS and 10-18 to the Over. Compare that with instances of non-dome road teams – 115 instances, 50-65 SU, 66-45-4 ATS, 58-56-1 to the Over. As a potential Colts backer this had me curious – like am I on the wrong side – until I looked over the 28 instances. The Texans appeared 3 times, at Ravens and twice at Patriots, average line was Texans +11. Maybe not as much being soft as just simply not as good. The Cardinals also appeared three times, once with Ryan Lindley starting a playoff and the other with Palmer/Arians playoff duo. The Falcons/Saints combine for nine appearances, with a combined record of 2-7, I guess Matty Ice and Breezy might be a little soft. But the meat on the bone of this “theory” is the Colts, nine times they have played outdoors in the playoffs since 2002 but have been favored in just one game compiling a 3-6 record. Then it donned on me where this theory started, I am sure this is some moron “chowd” fan who based this entire theory on the 2003/2004 games between the Manning-led Colts and the tough as nails, Brady-led Patriots. Those two games earned Manning the reputation as a playoff choker and the Colts as soft because they play in a dome.

Fair enough, though I witnessed the Colts on the road at night in a must-win game in an open-air stadium open a can of whoop-ass on the Titans. Just saying not sure “soft” is how I would describe this Colts team. Yeah, so “chowd” take dumbass theory and stick down Southie where the sun don’t shine.

That weak sauce theory is not enough to overcome the first-time QB and “shaky” coach. Just picture that stadium if the Colts receive the opening kickoff, go 10 plays and go up 7-0, that stadium and sideline will be TIGHT!

Chiefs 34 Colts 31

 

Prop Bets:

 

  • Marlon Mack Over 74.5 Rushing Yards (-114)
  • Longest Completion by Patrick Mahomes Over 44.5 (-110)
  • Longest Reception by Tyreek Hill Over 32.5 (-110)
  • Chester Rogers Over 29.5 Receiving Yards (-114)

Cowboys @ Rams (-7, 49.5)

 

Here is the deal with the Rams – it all comes down to Goff as I have no doubt the Rams defense will be ready to play as will the offensive line and the skill positions. The Rams are the better team on all levels except at linebacker, but that doesn’t matter if Goff looks like he did the last five weeks of this season and in the playoff game last year – against Falcons, the defense forced two punts out of the box, but Goff could not capitalize on great field position, then Pharaoh Cooper happened. Next thing you know 10-0 Falcons and Goff had the “Peyton Manning face.” Unfortunately, I have zero confidence in Goff, meaning I am willing pay to see him prove me wrong.

Rams 24 Cowboys 20

 

Prop Bets:

 

  • Todd Gurley Over 38.5 Receiving Yards (+100)
  • Todd Gurley Under 87.5 Rushing Yards (-114)
  • Michael Gallup scores a TD (+200)
  • Gerald Everett scores a TD (+380)
  • Gerald Everett over 2.5 receptions (-135)
  • Gerald Everett over 25.5 receiving yards (-115)

Chargers @ Patriots (-4, 47.5)

BREAKING NEWS: Rob Gronkowski told the world today that playoff Brady is “hyper focused, because he knows if you lose you go home!” I am sure the ESPN cannot wait to pair him with Jason Witten next year for Monday nights.

Did you get that – “next year?” Yep, everyone wave bye-bye to Gronk, this is his last NFL game! In fact, anyone remember the 1998-99 Chicago Bulls? The Bulls finished off the Jazz for their second three-peat in eight years that season, then everyone left in the off-season – Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and Jackson. That’s the Pats except without the title and the affectionate hugs for each other. Belichick, Brady, Gronk all gone next year. Thank you, Chargers, you have done America a major service. We should give them a Purple Heart or something.

Chargers 23 Patriots 17

Prop Bets:

 

  • James White Over 44.5 Receiving Yards (+120)
  • Sony Michel Over 66.5 Rushing Yards (-110)
  • Rob Gronkowski Under 49.5 Receiving Yards (-130)

Eagles @ Saints (-8, 51.5)

Remember last year when everyone in America was waiting for Nick Foles to have that clunker you knew was coming? Me too, well it did happen but Matty Ice’s red zone woes and the WWE decision to ignore the pass interference when Jaylen Mills pushed Julio Jones to the ground, then tried to hump him while he was down – yeah, nothing to see here – just deciding a game is all. This miracle ride is O V E R and it ends with an ugly beating in the Superdome. Look thanks Eagles for beating the Pats, for that reason, the 2017 team will have special spot in the hearts of most Americans but now you are in over your heads, and the inevitable blowout loss is coming.

I have noticed a lot of people like the Eagles this week, the most common reason – “the Eagles have revenge on their minds in the re-match!” Oh Lord, of course, a city like Philly has been brought up to think all re-matches of a previous one-sided match will fall their way. Look Eagles fans, I hate to break it to you but if the Rocky movies remotely resembled reality, Clubber Lang would have beaten Rocko worse in the second fight. In fact, if we sat two operators using CompuBox to track the first fight between Lang and Balboa and the second as well, I think you be surprised that Rocky took twice the beating in the re-match but he didn’t go down and at least he “wasn’t breathing heavy. . .”

But I was curious about these re-matches and maybe a couple of these Eagles backers were onto something. I ran two queries – both queries had criteria of previous matchup in the same season, non-division game and at the same site; the first query was where the home team won by 21 or more points, or in layman’s terms – a curb stomp; and the second query the home team won by double digits, or in layman’s terms – a good swift ass kicking. The results for the first query, 9-0 SU/4-5 ATS but an average margin of victory of 10.6 points (that’ll do). The second query presented an opportunity on Eagles – 16-4 SU/7-12-1 ATS, average margin of victory just 6.8 points. Hmm, I needed a third query, a scenario where the previous matchup was a 40+ point win. The third query results are 1-0/1-0 with a margin of victory of . . .

Saints 41 Eagles 20 (21!)

Prop Bets:

 

  • Drew Brees Most Passing Yards in Divisional Round (+500)
  • Ted Ginn Jr Over 49.5 Receiving Yards (+115)
  • Golden Tate Over 39.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
  • Saints -14.5 (+200)

Good luck to all!

 

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2018 NFL Playoff Picks – Wildcard Weekend Edition

Here we go NFL playoff time – and for the second consecutive year, Colin’s lifelong favorite team, the Los Angeles Rams, are in the post-season. The Rams goal and Colin’s goal are the same – run the table in the 2018 NFL post-season. Now if I am setting odds on who can run the table, I make Colin a slight favorite to go 11-0 over the Rams going 3-0. Oh man, you are thinking, Colin has lost his mind. Going 3-0 at true coin flip odds is a 12.5% chance of the Rams winning out and rough .05% chance of Colin going 11-0. And we know the Rams will be favored in at least one (divisional), and probably two (Super Bowl) of their games, giving them a bigger advantage. What you don’t know is that I received a visit from an old, crotchety 90 year Colin last week and he bestowed upon me “The Sports Almanac 2000-2030.” With that in hand, I am looking to begin a “Biff Tannen” run through the playoffs.

Let’s start it off with my ranking of the playoff teams, with current Super Bowl odds. For fun I dug around and found a historical team each 2018 NFL playoff most closely resembled. Full disclosure – I am holding a Saints (20-1) and a Texans (25-1) Super Bowl future.

1.New Orleans Saints (+225)

Historical Team: 2009 New Orleans Saints. This all about the lack of respect they are receiving heading into the playoffs – and not the eerie voodoo magic that the 2018 Saints and 2009 Saints both finished 13-3 and lost to the same exact teams (Bucs, Panthers and Cowboys). I remember that 2009 season, nobody gave them a chance to win the Super Bowl, despite being the #1 seed in the NFC. Everyone was in love the Cardinals and the Vikings that year. Sure, after dispatching the Cardinals and retiring Kurt Warner, they needed more voodoo magic to beat the Vikings and then needed “Hank Baskett” to happen to win the Super Bowl, but they got it done. They will be an incredibly tough out again and remember in current the “WWE” version of the NFL, everything is scripted – Brees v. Brady with Brees getting his second sounds like a winner.

2.Baltimore Ravens (+1600)

Historical Team: 2001 New England Patriots. Remember the 2001 Rams or the “greatest show on turf;” remember the 2001 Raiders, a team that set a bunch of offensive records. Probably not much, right? Because the Pats rode a terrific defense, great running game and moderately efficient passing game to a Super Bowl title. Sounds like the 2018 Ravens to me. Their toughest game will be this week with the Chargers. Get by that and we might see Lamar Jackson hoisting the MVP trophy after throwing for a Brady-esque 132 yards. After the week 16 game against the Chargers, I texted a friend, “Shh, I think this Ravens team is going to win the Super Bowl.” The “shh” part was hoping no one else would draw that same conclusion and the odds would remain in the +4000 range.

3.Chicago Bears (+1000)

Historical Team: 2003 Carolina Panthers. The 2003 Panthers team blew out an over-matched NFC East wild-card team (check), exposed a fraudulent Rams team in the Ed Dome (check) and completely shut down the Eagles in the NFC title game. Look there is no question the Bears can get to the NFC title game, but there it gets dicey, not sure they can beat the Saints in New Orleans. But I will say they have personnel to pull it off and they are a very dangerous team.

4.Kansas City Chiefs (+475)

Historical Team: 2001 St. Louis Rams. As good as this Chiefs offense is, don’t you feel like this team is going to fall a little short? Just like that 2001 Rams team. And just like that 2001 Rams, the Chiefs have a coach who doesn’t give two craps about anything but offense and that includes clock management, defense, special teams, game management, etc. That is going to get you beat in the playoffs, despite having superior talent. Furthermore, Mahomes has looked human at the end of close games, save for the answered prayer pass to Tyreek Hill against the Ravens, I go into playoffs with zero confidence he can lead a 4th quarter game winning drive. As it normally does, the NFL down to matchups, if the Chiefs get the Colts/Pats/Rams, they could win the Super Bowl. But if they end up with the Ravens in the divisional round, it’s one and done for them.

5.New England Patriots (+600)

Historical Team: 1992 Buffalo Bills. Besides the obvious “just fking go away already” parallels, that 1992 Bills team caught every break on their way to another royal ass beating in the Super Bowl. At what point does the NFL intervene and re-align the divisions so the Pats have some competition? I mean the AFC East is like the old BIG 8 after Oklahoma got hit with probation, Nebraska and the seven dwarfs. And what do we have? An inferior team that very well could have two home games to get to the Super Bowl. To be honest, when I was evaluating the playoff teams for a hedging opportunity, I threw the Pats out as a team to consider. Just like I did the 1992 Bills. I think this Pats team is done. Mark it down – your read it here first – Pats will not win the AFC East next year!

6.Los Angeles Rams (+600)

Historical Team: 2001 Chicago Bears. I am sure you don’t remember that 2001 Bears, in fact nobody does because despite posting a 13-3 regular season record, no one took them seriously. Sure enough the 2001 Bears were one and done with a 14 point loss in the divisional round. Again, the Rams are my team and while I admit I am a pessimistic fan, this team has some serious problems, most notably at QB. After watching Jared Goff mis-fire for the last month, I have returned to my pre-season feeling that the Rams “missed a spot” when putting together the talent laden, high priced roster and that spot was at quarterback. Prove me wrong – JaGoff! I also threw the Rams out of hedging, as I strongly believe they are one and done.

7.Los Angeles Chargers (+600)

Historical Team: 2014 Cincinnati Bengals. The 2014 Bengals were 8-3-1 heading into December, holding a 1.5 game lead over the Steelers, they preceded to lose twice to the Steelers, thus fumbling away the division and putting them into a horrible wild-card weekend matchup with the Colts. Buh-bye. I strongly considered adding a Chargers future, but the matchup with the Ravens is so grossly bad that I cannot see them getting out of wildcard weekend.

8.Dallas Cowboys (+3000)

Historical Team: 2015 Minnesota Vikings. I personally think the Cowboys can win this weekend, unlike the 2015 Vikings, but the parallels between the teams are striking. Play great defense and play a bunch of close games. When those close games break their way, they get win a division, but no one really takes them seriously as evidence by the 30-1 odds. Dak simply cannot do enough to make a deep playoff run.

9.Seattle Seahawks (+3000)

Historical Team: 2012 Indianapolis Colts. Much like the 2012 Colts, the Seahawks got off to a rough start (4-5) and had a division rival run away with the division early, relegating the Hawks to playing for a wild-card. They will be a tough out, but like the 2012 Colts team, no way they win three road games and then beat the AFC team in the Super Bowl – too many flaws, including the fatal flaw of being a terrible road team.

10.Indianapolis Colts (+2800)

Historical Team: 1994 Green Bay Packers. There is a lot to like about this Colts going forward – Luck is back, very good coach and a young fast, super aggressive defense

11.Philadelphia Eagles (+3500)

Historical Team: 2000 St. Louis Rams. Let’s be honest this Eagles got lucky to be in the playoffs, just like that 2000 Rams team. And just like that Rams team, the mediots are pumping the Eagles like a true threat to run the table. Well, let’s remember what to that 2000 Rams team. They got owned for three quarters by the upstart Saints team lead by second year quarterback Aaron Brooks and an above average defense. If not for a future HOFer playing quarterback, there is no doubt they would have lost that game by three touchdowns. But Kurt Warner lead the Rams back to within three and the sad-sack Rams defense forced a punt late in the 4th quarter. Here we go, the Rams are heading to New York to play a horribly, over-rated Giants team. Of course, it was at that point that “Az Hakim” happened, who fumbled the punt and the game away. Ironically, the Eagles were the benefactors of another Rams fumbled punt in their week 15 matchup. As a Rams fan, I would to see the Eagles in the NFC championship, that tells you how much I think of them.

12.Houston Texans (+2800)

Historical Team: 2008 Miami Dolphins. I could have picked either of those fraudulent Dolphins division champs (2000, 2008). There was no bigger fan of Dolphins those years than the Ravens, likewise the is no bigger fan of the Texans this year than the Colts. And if the Texans were able to beat the Colts, the Pats will be not only giddy, but relieved to get essentially another bye week in the divisional round. Zero chance.

Geaux Saints!

Some wildcard weekend notes:

  • This year marks the third straight year that all four home teams (higher seeds) are favored. The home teams are 6-2 SU and 4-4 ATS.
  • Since 2013, home teams are just 10-10 SU and 8-10-2 ATS.
  • Since 2002, home teams giving less than 3 points are just 2-6 SU and a dreadful 0-7-1 ATS. Cowboys, Texans and Ravens fall into that category this weekend.
  • Since 2002, home teams are 36-28 SU and 29-32-3 ATS

I compiled a list of playoffs rules that I use as a guide for making my “holy grail” run to 11-0, you can read them here.

The back of Colin’s player card:

Note: Lines are courtesy of 5dimes.eu

Colts @ Texans (-1.5, 48.5)

This seems like the easiest game of the week – Indianapolis all day. My main concerns are 1. Luck throwing a ridiculous interception that turns momentum to the Texans; and 2. The fact the world seems to be on the Texans, and the only thing worse than being on the side of the public is being on the side of the public underdog.

I cannot do much about #2 above, the heart wants what the heart wants. As for #1, I witnessed a horrible Luck turnover, which was returned for 6 and put the Titans right back in the game. They still throttled the Titans.

Colts 31 Texans 27

Seahawks @ Cowboys (-2.5, 43.5)

Here we have mirror image teams. What is the difference? For starters, the Cowboys are at home. Their defensive front seven should eat all day against a very mediocre Seattle offensive line and they will be able to move the ball on the ground themselves. Biggest concern is Russell Wilson doing, well, Russell Wilson things. Yeah, that could be the difference, and I am giving up the coaching matchup as well, but I will gamble the Cowboys linebackers are fast enough to keep Russ contained.

Cowboys 24 Seahawks 16

Chargers @ Ravens (-3, 41.5)

I really like this Chargers team and I feel like if these two teams were on opposite sides of the bracket, they very well could meet in the Super Bowl. But unfortunately for the Chargers the draw this terrible matchup against the Ravens. The Ravens will have success running the ball and will harass Phillip all day. While I think this game will be close, I can easily see it getting out of -hand in favor of the Ravens.

Ravens 23 Chargers 13

Eagles @ Bears (-6.5, 41.5)

Props to HBO for re-running the entire series of the Sopranos over the next week. I plan to record all episodes and plow through them over the next month (get ready for a barrage of Pauly Walnuts comments). I remember the last episode of the Sopranos like it was yesterday – fade to black it was gone, forever – the next day I was moderately depressed about not having the show in my life. It’s been long enough where many of the episodes will seem brand new, so it’s like I get to watch the most amazing show ever as though I have never seen it before. That is awesome!

You know what else has been missing, albeit for only a year, and will great to have back – pessimistic Eagles fans, bitching and moaning about their team. It’s like hitting a daily double next week – Sopranos and miserable Eagles fans all back in the same week.

Bears 27 Eagles 10

Good luck to all!

2018 Week 16 NFL Predictions – Fantasy Football Super Bowl Edition

Sweet, we have finally reached the best week of the year – Fantasy Football Super Bowl week. It’s the only fantasy week of the year where work slows down enough that “stealing” company time to manage fantasy is not needed. For me personally this week represented the week I could exhale with the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to play the Grinch, or the anti-Santa by pulling presents Christmas Eve to return because I knew I was about to come into some extra cash. Those presents stayed put! Good luck to all those playing this week.

Here are my official week 16 NFL picks to lay the foundation for my fantasy picks. Week 14 was exemplary (11-5); Week 15 not so much (7-9).

SuperContest

Plays (5 best plays of the week):

Ravens (+4) at Chargers – I love living in age where people’s attention span is equivalent to the time it takes to complete a “regular” bowel movement. For example, this week the Chargers are darlings of the NFL, now every “expert” is labeling them the as the “team to beat.” Not sure I get the love? I mean sure they have mounted two amazing comebacks over good teams in the last three weeks – both in primetime, which always adds to the “recency bias.” But if we dig deeper on those three games, we find the Steelers had them down 16 at half, in third quarter the Chargers were benefactors of a tipped pass touchdown and a punt return touchdown with two uncalled clips (Oh man, NFL refs have had a bad year). BOOM, tie game. Granted they took care of business to close out a win but still they were bad enough to be down double digits and needed some breaks to get back in the game. The middle game was a “mail in” spot against the Bengals, which the Chargers did. The Chiefs game was filled with good fortune as well, including the PI in the end zone on 4th down and the non-OPI in the end zone on the touchdown. Given that – four points seems like gift and I will back a rookie on the road in a must-win game for the Ravens. Pick: Ravens +4

Falcons (-3) at Panthers – Hmm, I’ve been asking myself this question – does laying points on the road with this Falcons seems a good idea? No, no it’s not. But here is deal the Panthers are on a short week after seeing their playoff hopes dashed on Monday night by the Saints. Furthermore, the Panthers defense sold out to win that game, not sure they show up this week. I mean what is the difference between 6-10 and 8-8 for a team that was 6-2. The Falcons will show up in this spot in attempt to gain some momentum heading into 2019 as well as fool their fans into thinking 2019 will be the year. In terms of fantasy, I would be very concerned about Christian McCaffery this week, thinking they might limit his work. Plus, without one-armed Newton checking down to him every play, his receptions will suffer. Holding my nose . . . Pick: Falcons -3.5

Broncos (-3) at Raiders – The Donks were eliminated with that “crap the bed” effort against the Browns. Teams that are eliminated from the playoffs in week 15 and go on the road to face a division opponent in week 16 are like 2-95 against the spread. That’s probably not true, but you get the point. Pick: Raiders +3

Rams (-14) at Cardinals – The books have clearly not paid attention over the last three weeks. What is there to like about this Rams team right now? Answer: Absolutely nothing! They have two players right now – Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley. Take those two players away and this team is the “same old sorry ass Rams of the 90s or aughts or 10s!” (Good Lord this is a horrible franchise.)  The Rams offensive line is horrible, meaning teams with a pulse of a pass rush can put pressure with four guys. The Cardinal can rush the passer a bit. On defense, the Rams linebacking core might be the worst set of linebackers in NFL history. All you need to do is block the front four and Corey Littleton will run himself out of every play. David Johnson will eat and eat a ton this week. Picture the faces of Rams fans at halftime when the Cardinals are leading by 7 (think deer in the headlights). Pick: Cardinals +14

Bengals (+9.5) at Browns – Can you imagine waking from a 16 week nap and seeing the Browns -9.5 over the Bengals? Would you even bother asking what happened this season to lead to that spread before running the book, while trampling over other bettors to get down on this game? Nope, I wouldn’t have asked and I would run over my 99 year grandma to get down on the Bengals (not really). Pick: Bengals +9.5

The rest:

Chiefs (-2.5) at Seahawks – No doubt Patrick Mahomes will feast on that soft-ass Seattle secondary, but keep in mind a couple things about this game. First, the Seahawks can run the ball and control the clock, the Chiefs cannot stop the run. That will shorten this game and keep the Chiefs offensive possession to a minimum; and second, the NFL always sends their most incompetent refs to Seattle for primetime games, thus giving the that buffoon Goodell full control over the out-come. Everyone remembers 2013 Royal Rumble in Phoenix, right? Look I don’t care how dominate CM Punk was in that match, The Rock was getting the WWE title that night. The only difference between the NFL and WWE is the players think the NFL is real. Pick: Seahawks +2.5

Redskins (+10.5) at Titans – Wouldn’t this be so Titans to blow this game and miss the playoffs. Tell me I am wrong Titans fan! At the very best for the Titans, they win by a touchdown in a game they are clearly caught looking ahead to the massive week 17 matchup with the Colts. Pick: Redskins +10.5

Bills (+13.5) at Patriots – Have you heard the news – Tom Brady is done, the Pats dynasty is over . . . Pick: Patriots -13.5

Jaguars (+4) at Dolphins – The Dolphins can still win the division! Beat the Jags and the Bills in Buffalo and then they just need the Pats to lose to the Bills and Jets in Foxboro. So, let’s picture the scene in Miami – 1PM – 20K in the stands, all riled up to motivate the Phins to the playoffs; 1:30PM Scorecard reads Pats 21 Bills 0, 20K fans exit stadium because “this is south Florida, we have options on how we spend our Sundays.” Dolphins exit playoff talk 2.5 hours later. Pick: Jaguars +4

Buccaneers (+7.5) at Cowboys – This Bucs team is feisty, and the Cowboys really cannot be trusted to cover more than a touchdown. The best part of handicapping the NFL is the multiple buy low opportunities . . . Pick: Cowboys -7.5

Giants (+9.5) at Colts – Remember the comment about “buy low” opportunities in this league? Yeah, there are also multiple “sell high” opps . . . Pick: Giants +9.5

Bears (+4) at 49ers – As a life-long Rams fan, I love what this 49ers team is doing right now. They are the vintage Joe Bugel Cardinals (for those old school Cardinals fans) or the more modern version of the Norv Turner Chargers. Once eliminated they play their best football, leaving their fans excited about next year, but also convincing the front office keep the core of the roster intact. “If only we had Jimmy G for the entire year!” They are like the fantasy guy who goes off in the playoffs after finishing 1-11 and keeps coming back donating money. Pick: 49ers +4

Vikings (-6) at Lions – Here is the classic “let’s give our fans some hope for next year, while destroying a hated rival’s season game.” Look Matt Patricia, despite being less likeable version of Belichick, has produced a couple huge home wins this year – New England and Green Bay – maybe he can get another one. And is unlikeable at Matty P is, he is infinitely more tolerable than Mike Zimmer, the red-ass who looks like he never laughs and goes 150% in a game of Corn Hole. Though you have to give Zim some credit as it appears he made the right call in firing of OC John Defilippo. Either that or it was a flat as hell Dolphins team coming off their biggest win of the season. Yeah, probably the latter. Pick: Lions +6

Packers (-3) at Jets – I need the Jets to win out to PUSH an over 6 wins play. Can I get there? Not likely, but the first part seemed like at least a coin-flip shot, until that selfish prick Rodgers decided he would play. I am guessing his decision was mostly based on the weather forecast that called for mild temps with little to no wind. Good conditions Mr. All about me to put up season-stat padding numbers. Pick: Packers -3

The coin flips:

Texans (+1.5) at Eagles – I have no idea how this game will play out. On one hand you have a Texans team loaded with talent but under coached and extremely lucky to have 10 wins. On the other hand you have an Eagles team left on the side of the road for dead but somehow resurrected themselves for one game and is now considered a “Super Bowl” contender with Nick Foles back at the helm. Let’s pump the brakes for a minute, the win last week was less about the Eagles and more about that shitshow the Rams put on the field, which was an embarrassment to football at any level. Ok, so the Texans, fighting for the division, are the obvious pick here, right? No, if there is a team in the 2018 NFL that would blow a seemingly insurmountable division lead, it’s the Texans. I could on and on and back and forth with angles for this, but it literally is a coin flip game. Heads, Texans, tails, Eagles . . . Pick: Texans +1.5

Steelers (+5.5) at Saints – The Steelers will be in full desperation mode here if the Ravens find a way to win in LA (not out of the question). Couple that with the Saints on a short week, with the #1 seed all but locked and this game will be tight. Plus in case you haven’t been watching the Saints offense has looked about as bad as the Rams the last three weeks. The big difference is the Saints have several playmakers on defense, the Rams have one. Pick: Steelers +5.5

SFL Super Bowl Pick:

Ragin Asian (-7.5) vs. Weekend Warriors

We’re going with an old school break it down, position by position:

QB:

Mahomes (WW) v. Mayfield (RA) – As mentioned above, I believe Mahomes will feast on the Seahawks secondary giving him a clear advantage in this matchup. As we all know every team in the NFL has talent and the margin between winning and losing is razor thin, therefore, I think the Bengals will be motivated after Mayfield’s antics in the Browns blowout win in Cincinnati earlier in the year, plus they must feel a little slighted about the line. WW is going to need to lay the hammer down in this matchup, creating an advantage that will be hard to overcome. To do that, Mahomes will need 35+ and Mayfield will need a poor. Unfortunately, I do not see that happening and I am going to call this matchup close as I think the Seahawks will own time of possession and keep Mahomes off the field. Pick: Weekend Warriors 29.0-17.5

RB:

Mixon, Henry, C. Thompson (WW) v. Barkley, Chubb, Cook, Ingram (RA) – If RA is going to take home the championship belt, this is where the game will be won. All four RA backs will post solid numbers, RA will need one of them to be spectacular; Barkley is the most likely as home run hitter amongst this group; plus I expect a slight letdown from the Colts defense; the Vikings have a renewed commitment to the run that gives Cook a shot to go all “Derrick Henry” this week. Speaking of Derrick Henry, him and Mixon have all the makings of a massive flop this week as both have tough run d matchups. Plus, considering 50% of the career fantasy points Henry has scored have in the last two weeks, a regression to the mean is in order. Of course, Henry might just be on one of those runs, Lord knows he has fresh legs. Thompson is an interesting start here (based on the lineup I would submit), as he is likely to get more involved in a game where the Skins figure to be playing from behind. Any way you toss match-up, it’s a lop-sided number for RA. Pick: Ragin Asian 78.0-33.5

WR:

K. Allen, Hopkins, R. Anderson, Crowder (WW) v. C. Davis, Landry, Smith-Schuster (RA) – RA starting the “poo-poo” platter of WR that doesn’t scare anyone this week. On the flipside, there are big concerns for WW as to Keenan Allen’s health, and even if he plays he has a tough matchup against the exceptional Ravens corners; WW really needs Hopkins to go off, which actually might happen as he has an already weak Eagles secondary but a spot where I can see the Eagles defense to be flat. Anderson has a good matchup and no worrisome weather. The question is can WW make up for the difference in the running backs. The answer – not enough. Pick: Weekend Warriors 60.0-35.5

TE:

Engram (WW) v. Brate (RA) – I am not a fan of Brate this week against the Cowboys, terrible matchup for him and he is coming off a career game – see “Regression to the Mean” Wikipedia page. Engram has an equally bad matchup against the Colts. You know what – who cares, this game will not be decided by the tight ends. Pick: Push 2.5-2.5

K:

Tucker (WW) v. Gostkowski (RA) – Tucker has better kicking conditions, plus he will probably be “geeked up” playing in a soccer stadium, another who cares matchup. Pick: Weekend Warriors 10.1-8.7

Final prediction: Too much firepower for Asian this week and he hoists the trophy for the first time – 142.2 to 135.1

Colin’s Picks:

If you remember this from week 14: Colin’s Picks: 1 unit on The GSW Rule (+575) and .5 unit on Weekend Warriors (+1500). I am sitting on +6.5 units if the Weekend Warriors win the title this week. I put the Ragin’ Asian money line at about -300, as much I as want to let it ride, I can lock in profit and I am pretty confident this an uphill battle for WW. Therefore, I will play 6 units on RA at -300, locking in a measly .5 unit for profit either way. A win is win!

And despite my 7.1 prediction that would lead one to believe WW is the play, I will take Ragin Asian and lay the 7.5, too many questions for WW and too much explosive ability for RA – Pick: Ragin Asian -7.5

Props to Ragin Asian for winning the 2018 SFL Title*

*won title after the Master of FF retired

SFL 3rd place pick:

Freshman 15 vs. Sidewinders (-13.8)

Any time you have a third-place game the normal question is motivation – who is motivated to play a meaningless game? Well, this I can tell you this third place game carries a prize for the victor and a huge can of “jackshit nothing” for the loser. On paper this game is not close – F15 (Newton, L. Miller, J. Gordon all likely out) has very little to be excited about this week, while Sidewinders is loaded with “something to prove” players (Gurley, Watson, Thielen). Not. Going. To. Be. Close. Pick: Sidewinders -13.8

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and best of luck this week!

2018 Week 14 NFL Predictions – Fantasy Football Playoffs Quarterfinals Edition

Greetings, Fantasy Footballers! Colin Wynner here to add some levity to the most stressful time of the year. And no, it’s not the stress form the holidays, it’s from the fantasy playoffs! Yes, that is a fact, right now those involved in fantasy playoffs are not worried about what gift to get their significant other but rather are spending inordinate amounts of time pondering the following questions: can Patrick Mahomes keep up his amazing season?; will Saquon Barkley hit the rookie wall?; and what is the weather forecast for Green Bay and how will that affect Julio Jones and Devante Adams this week?

After hanging up my draft charts for good at the end of the 2017 season, I have been asked at least a dozen times if I missed fantasy football. My response has been a resounding “NO” or maybe a “Hell, NO!” Of course, I have no idea how I will pay my mortgage in January without the influx of fantasy winnings, but still I have not missed the fantasy football or regretted retirement.

Given that, when the commish asked me to put together a fantasy playoff prediction column, I jumped at the chance. See for me, I am feeling as much stress as your typical Coloradoan after visiting the local dispensary; this would be fun. Yet, I had to ask myself how much I really knew about the 2018 fantasy season. Sure I am still watching and engaged in football, but I doubted if I knew detailed stats about any player, other than what is publicized in the media (for example, Mahomes TD passes). For my prep, I challenged myself to the top 20 at each “key” position – QB, RB, WR and TE – and compare that to actual results. Here are my predictions for QB/RB lists:

QB and RB are by far these two easiest positions to “guess” players in the top. Look there are only 32 starting quarterbacks to start with and, as stated above, I still have a vested interest in the NFL. Meaning I know who I have backed on the road and been burnt (looking at you Darnold), who manages games, who has been injured and who is lighting it up. Pretty much the same story for running backs, teams with a primary RB are well known to me and likely in the top 20 due to activity.

Not surprising the numbers look good! I only missed six players and had five bad calls (all in RB, S. Barkley, J. White, M. Ingram, L. Miller and L. McCoy), the worst of which was the omission of S. Barkley. I guess I completely forgot about him, just like the Heisman voters did in 2017. #StillBitter

The biggest surprise to me was just how much L. McCoy has sucked this year. Imagine having McCoy and L. Bell as your first two picks! Did you imagine that? Ok, now clean up the puke!

Here are my WR/TE lists:

Oh boy! Name recognition can only get you so far. Some good calls, like A. Thielen, but these positions featured far more bad to bad AF calls – K. Stills, Fitz, A. Miller, L. Wilson, C. Clay and D. Walker. I think I got confused on B-List comedy actors when I slotted Luke Wilson into the 19th position. I completely forgot that Delanie Walker was out for the season, which shocking considering I lost a few clams when Mike Vrabel decided to give the ball, on a dive play no less, to the now TE for the Titans, Luke Stocker. The game turned on that play and the subsequent refusal to tackle Lamar Miller on a 98-yard TD run. Lamar Miller out ran the entire Titans defense – let that sink in! Oh, and that explains my Lamar Miller top 10 pick above as well.

And what is a NJOKU? If you asked me who Mark Andrews was last week, I would have told you that famous surgeon, who performs the ACL reconstruction for athletes.

Overall, however, I think that exercise made my point rather well, I really have no clue who is performing well fantasy-wise this season as my lists were mainly composed of name recognition, media hype and recency bias.

Ok, with that aside onto the predictions. Here is the criteria I am using to make these fantasy predictions:

  • Matchup – the single biggest factor in fantasy football is the matchup.
  • Team situation – is the team fighting for something? If not, coaches are more likely to pack it in and hand off to a third team RB, than to risk an injury to a multi-year contracted star.
  • Player – both situation and performance to-date. Look we have all seen it – sometimes these guys lay an egg regardless of the matchup. I think back to Adrian Peterson’s rookie season in 2007, raise your hand if AP killed your 2007 fantasy season in week 14 (me):
    • Week 13: 15-116-2; 1-10-0 25.1 FP
    • Week 14: 14-3-0; 0-0-0 .3 FP
    • Week 15: 20-78-2; 1-17-0 22.0 FP
  • My gut – served me well over the course of 25+ FF seasons, sometimes you just feel a guy is due for a stinker or ready to go off.

Before I get to my official predictions, a few disclaimers:

  1. This is for entertainment purposes, so enjoy, don’t take it personal. Fantasy football is like an Apple Pie from Costco, it’s exceptional, so good that most people grab a slice, what is left, if you’re lucky, is a small piece. That small piece is your skill when it comes to fantasy success; the large portion of the pie is random luck that decides most fantasy seasons.
  2. I am using the “dance with the one who brought ya” approach to lineups. By the way, that is great advice to follow, the last thing you want to do is bench your season-long starting quarterback for journeyman like Ryan Mallet in a playoff game. Don’t over-think it, except for . . .
  3. Weather. Bad weather should give an owner serious concern. It’s hard to predict weather tomorrow, let alone three weeks from now, but we all know the bad weather spots. And bad weather affects teams with disappointing teams more than teams fighting for something. Makes sense, right? How eager would you be to get hit in sub-freezing temps with 20 MPH winds just to go from three wins to four?

With that out of the way, let’s get down to business and start with the futures market, the odds to hoist the “Colin Wynner” trophy (isn’t that what leagues do – name the trophy after a retired legend?):

  • Desperados (+175) – That is a big plus that A. Luck got his stinker out of the way in week 13, also, he has three dome games for playoffs; A. Jones and E. Sanders have terrific match-ups the entire playoff season. B. Cooks and S. Diggs have a tough match-ups in week 14, but each has very favorable matchups in weeks 15/16. {Editor’s Note: Horrible news on Sanders, but next man up, Devin Funchess! Odds went from +150 to +175; The Boys to +225 from +250}
  • The Boys (+225) – Top seed but losing Conner is a big loss, and if that turns into a multi-game absence it will be tough to overcome. That said, this team goes as goes A. Kamara and M. Thomas. The matchups are favorable for both, starting with a revenge spot in Tampa this weekend. After that, a tougher matchup awaits in Carolina, but lookout in the Super Bowl if they survive the next weeks as the Saints boys might light up the fantasy scoreboard for 60+ points.
  • The GSW Rule (+575) – Pulling J. Samuels out of the dumpster may prove to be the key move of the playoff season. How the Steelers use him remains to be seen especially considering the comments by Tomlin about “using a committee approach.” Look Tomlin is an amazing leader, which in the NFL gets you 2-3 wins you shouldn’t get, but in terms of game day coaching and game management he makes Marvin Lewis look like Belichick. I am not buying for a second that there will be a committee, Samuels will get most of the touches. How effective he is remains to be seen? GSW did draw the toughest match-up in the first round, meaning their playoff run might be short lived.
  • Sidewinders (+650) – T. Gurley, who almost single-handedly won fantasy owners the title last year, will be the key. Will the Rams limit his activity? Although the Rams are fighting for home field advantage, I am not sure coach McVay cares, he didn’t last year. That could be a concern beyond this weekend, that they limit Gurley’s touches to preserve him for the playoffs. I am not a huge fan of the match-up this week in Chicago, but the thing about Gurley is the receptions, he might get shut down on the ground, but catch 8-100-1. If the Snakes prevail in week 14 they are very dangerous moving forward.
  • Ragin Asian (+1200) – The “fighting Saquon’s” are the ultimate “meh” team in this playoff season. Not much to get excited about in the lineup but any given week this roster could rise up with a 170 and end someone’s season. Though, I doubt they can do that three straight weeks
  • Weekend Warriors (+1500) – The cliché’s for this team are endless – “just give us a chance” and “everyone counted us out but they don’t know the heart of the 19 guys in this locker room” and “survive and advance.” The formula for success is simple – P. Mahomes, K. Allen and D. Hopkins need to put up 75+ points each week, that should get them to 145 or so and make them an extremely tough out.
  • Runnin Rebels (+1800) – After a devastating 2017 Super Bowl loss, RR’s motto was “unfinished business.” They have a chance but the week 14 matchups for his stars are not good – Zeke v,. Eagles and Ertz v. Cowboys. Gronk is a mess but maybe he will step up for the playoffs. Maybe RR can get the league to pass an emergency rule change awarding 10 fantasy points for every brace a player wears during the game – if that happened, Gronk (elbow, knee, ankle and neck) would post a 50+ on his own.
  • Freshman 15 (+3000) – Le’Veon Bell, Le’Veon “effing” Bell! Unless Newton and Kelce have a 2017 Gurley-esque playoff run this season will end without a title and likely without a playoff win. There are enough wildcards at WR to make things interesting and maybe Lamar Miller will break off another 98-yard TD run, but that seems very unlikely to happen three straight weeks.

Colin’s Picks: 1 unit on The GSW Rule and .5 unit on Weekend Warriors

Before I get to the week 14 fantasy matchups here are my NFL picks for the week, which is what I largely used for fantasy projections.

SuperContest Plays (five best plays of the week):

Colts at Texans (-4.5) – this Texans team is living a lie, while the Colts have played much better than expected this season, yeah they laid an egg in J-Ville last week but this is the NFL it happens. I expect max effort from the Colts and again this Texans is highly over-valued right now. Should be an “over” game, so all fantasy players should perform close to expectations. Pick: Colts +4.5

Falcons at Packers (-5.5) – Stick with me here – Aaron Rodgers seems like a dreadful person; I mean his family is estranged, former teammates struggle to find anything good to say about him and his longtime coach, McCarthy, did not have the affection for him that one would think he would. If add that up the sum comes out that he is a self-absorbed prick. Well, I guess all QB (and most WR’s) fall into that category, so let’s say A-Rod is a self-absorbed prick on steroids. Anyway, I think Mr. State Farm has been playing QB to get McCarthy fired, because he didn’t like “Big Mike.” Now that Mikey is gone, expect the best game of the season from the puppet master – “See, it was always McCarthy’s fault!” Oh and it’s going to be 27 degrees on Sunday, that is too cold for a team that wished the season ended last week. Pick: Packers -5.5

Saints (-8) at Bucs– I will take some grief for this pick as this might be the biggest “square” play of the week. And yeah, it is true I hate laying points in the NFL (home tams catching more than a TD are a modest 100-92 since 2002), but I love revenge spots especially when it involves a guy walking around with a perpetual chip on his shoulder, Brees, and a coach, Payton, who loves running up the score to hide his own insecurities. Remember that modest 100-92 mentioned above, change it to a revenge spot (previous meeting was a win) and home teams are a “foreclosure on the horizon” 19-25. Make it 19-26! Pick: Saints -8

Eagles at Cowboys (-3.5) – I hate this Eagles team, I mean really hate them but, in terms of the Cowboys hype, let’s not pull Vince and Jules move here, and as Winston Wolf put it, “start sucking each other’s *(%^#” quite yet on this Cowboys team. There a ton of reasons to fade this Cowboys team – the offense essentially is either hand to Zeke or throw an out to Amari and hope the tackling is the equivalent of a 4th grade pick-up game; the Boys are emotionally spent after four monster wins in a row, Eagles, Falcons, Skins and Saints; did you know the Cowboys are now everyone’s sleeper pick for the Super Bowl?; and finally, it’s still Jason Garrett roaming the sideline for the Cowboys. The defense is legit but I expect a little let down from them, which might be a good thing for Eagles receivers and Carson Wentz. Pick: Eagles +3.5

Rams (-3) at Bears – The best gift I can receive this holiday season would be the Bears at home in the playoffs favored by a 3.5 or more. Oh man, hello early retirement! That said, this is a tough spot for the Rams – who locked up the division last week and are ripe for a letdown. Weather should not be too bad but I expect the Bears to treat this like their Super Bowl, you know because they know what everyone knows – they have ZERO shot at the Super Bowl this year. Quick tip for Bears fans – make sure you get either the NFC North Champs or the NFC Wildcard Winner t-shirt, don’t hold out for something better. Pick: Bears +3

Still like but these games did not quite make the cut:

Ravens at Chiefs (-6.5) – This is the SPOY! Sucker Play Of the Year! As everyone knows with commercialization of fantasy football, information is available to highest degree we have ever witnessed in history. What that means is the books are forced get creative to churn profits, sure they loot on the 10-team $20 parlays that never win, but that doesn’t get the Sportsbook director his giant bonus. So, what do you make of a -6.5 line, that has crossed over a key number of 7? Doesn’t that create an illusion that “sharp” money is moving the line to -6.5. That illusion is then turned into public betting action because everyone wants to be considered a “sharp.” It’s the ultimate mind game. Chiefs roll – the idea that this Ravens defense is good enough to keep it close is a fallacy. Pick: Chiefs -6.5

Jags at Titans (-4.0) – Think about the Jags season, opened 3-1, essentially anointed as the AFC champs, seven games later they are 3-8 and done. Life comes at you fast when Blake Bortles is your quarterback. And they fit the mold of “out of contention” teams in the last quarter of the season – play tough at home against a division opponent. The other games – road and non-division are mailed in. Oh, and I did mention I hate the Titans and their moron coach. I guess the NFL thinks anyone who touched the cape of Belichick can coach. Still this is a great spot for the Titans. – Titans -4.0

Patriots (-7.5) at Dolphins – See the Bears, this is the Super Bowl for a team with ZERO shot, that team being the Patriots, just making sure you were paying attention. The Dolphins seem to be stuck in perpetual mediocrity, like the movie Groundhog Day, they are just good enough to not get a high draft but not good enough to win something. Beware of K. Drake this week, had one of his biggest games last year against the Pats. – Dolphins +7.5

The “WTF are they doing giving points to anyone?” games:

Jets at Bills (-3.5) & Giants (-3.5) at Redskins – Have to take the points in both games here. I really don’t care if Gary Sanchez (the Yankees strikeout machine catcher) is playing quarterback for the Skins, Eli Manning giving points on the road is free money. Jets +3.5; Redskins +3.5

Lions (-2.5) at Cardinals – Yep, two things I love doing backing Matty Stafford as a road favorite and getting stomped in the balls. Cardinals +2.5

Games I wouldn’t bet with your money (hey wait, I still have a fair amount of “your” money!):

Panthers (-2) at Browns – This Browns team is frisky, well at least they were until last week when they laid an egg in Houston. I guess that is what you get with a rookie QB, inconsistent play. I bet Mayfield is longing for the quarterback friendly Sooner offense and the soft AF Big 12 defenses! Quick tip from Colin – if you want to make some money in 2019 – find out the starting quarterback for the Sooners next season and pound his Heisman futures. That is a virtual lock as Heisman voters are a collection of “Shallow Hal’s,” caring more about physical appearance than substance. As long as the BIG12 plays defense like they have for the last 10 years, the quarterback of the best team in the BIG12 put up numbers that will make Heisman voters drool, even if those numbers have a terrible personality, are selfish and have a steaming case of herpes. Good luck with that. #StillBitterTour2018 Wait, what game was I picking prior to the rant – oh yeah, the Panthers have big problems. Browns +2

Broncos (-5.5) at 49ers – Yuck, Case Keenum on the road giving 5.5. Did you know – Nick Mullens threw for 414 against the Seahawks last week. Yes, he did. 49ers +5.5, to keep it close.

Vikings at Seahawks (-3) – Did you see some guy named Mullet threw for 414 last week v. the Seahawks? Yes, I did. Have you seen this Vikings defense struggle on the road? Yes, I have. High scoring affair here, but Vikings +3 walk off with an outright win.

The NFL double digit dog system (Home Teams >= 10 points since 2002 = 41-35; Road teams >= 10 points since 2002 = 191-218).

Bengals at Chargers (-14) & Steelers (-11) at Raiders – Raiders +11 will keep it close; Bengals (Chargers -14) will not.

Ok, on to what you came here for – the “experts” picks on the fantasy games for week 14, a.k.a. Playoff Round #1:

Week 14 Matchups:

The Boys (-7.8) vs. Weekend Warriors

WW has a punchers chance here but the pressure is all on Mahomes, Allen and Hopkins to go off, the rest of the cast will have a difficult time keeping up with the depth of The Boys. The Chiefs have a supposed tough matchup against the Ravens, though I have seen Cam Newton shred the Ravens defense in the past five weeks. And while the Ravens have played better on defense since that game, their opponents have been the Bengals, Raiders and Falcons. Not exactly murderers row of offenses. I know you are thinking, “wait, the Falcons offense is pretty good.” My response to you would be to read the Atlanta newspaper, rumor has it that Matty Ice’s wife suspected him of cheating on her and wanted him out of out their house but she couldn’t stop him from getting in, so she called the police, who politely gave her the answer, “Ma’am, put an end zone in front of the door.” This number is light at 7.8 but I am taking the points here . . .
Pick: Weekend Warriors +7.8

Deperados (-15.1) vs. Freshman 15

My only concern for Desperados is the WR’s four road matchups, in four outdoor venues, with three of the four in potential bad weather. I really don’t like Cooks this week for a variety of reasons but mainly Jared Goff looks like he spent the bye week pumping iron and the ball felt so much lighter that he overthrew Cooks multiple times. Well, either that he didn’t adjust for the altitude in Detroit.

I hate laying points, absolutely hate it but sometimes you must do it. . .
Pick: Desperados -15.1

Ragin Asian (-3.2) vs. Runnin Rebels

This is the one game this week where I will not be surprised to see a 30+ point margin. Problem is I don’t have a clue which side will win. Maybe I will “please” (opposite of a teaser, where you give 6 points, RA -9.2 and Runnin Rebels -2.8 at 6-1 for two teams) both sides of this and leave an open spot to give me a 3-1 shot down the road. Hmm, if only I could bet on these games.

This is a “gun to my head” pick, and I love those, so gun to my head, I will take the Asian minus the points, simply more explosiveness on that side of the fantasy ledger.

Pick: Ragin Asian -3.2

Sidewinders (-3.1) vs. The GSW Rule

This should be the best game of the weekend, culminating on Monday with a battle of QB v. WR on the same team – Cousins v. Thielen. You can pencil Thielen in for 9 catches, 100 yards, a TD and a couple comments for Peter Carroll. Cousins will need to find TDs to two other receivers to pull out the win. He will, give me the points and a half unit on the underdog money line . . .

Pick: The GSW Rule +3.1 and The GSW Rule +145 money line (.5 unit)

Good luck to all this week – enjoy!

2015 NFL – Super Bowl L Prediction

“After another ‘sister kisser’ (2-2, 4-4 on the playoff season) last week, Colin makes this guarantee – either 2-0 or 0-2 this week!” – Colin Wynner, 1/22/2016

VICTORY! Colin delivered on his promise, of course, it was the 0-2 version of the guarantee but nonetheless I provided everyone a guaranteed winner in the NFC title game.

Ugh, 4-6 so far in the playoffs is an ugly end to an ugly season. The fact is 4-6 feels about right as I haven’t had a good feel this post-season. I committed the handicapping sin of allowing personal bias to seep into my decision making. My hatred of this garbage 2015 Packers team cost me twice and my, largely media fueled, love of the Cardinals cost me another time.

Oh, Cardinals, thou art suck thy sweatiest of goat testicles! I think that is a Shakespeare, though I could be wrong.

Now I don’t want to turn this Super Bowl prediction column into a 3500 word, running rant on the Cardinals performance in Charlotte, but I need to get a few things that have gnawed at me for a couple of weeks:

  • Sometimes you have to lose to win. Carson Palmer handed me two losses this post-season that will never happened again. Next playoff start by Carson Palmer will be an automatic, “play against.” If only I would have figured this out prior to this season, I would have had two retirement scores. Trust me, I will be rooting for “regular season” Palmer to lead the Cardinals back to the post-season next year. #CantWait
  • I have never liked Bruce Arians, probably because early in his tenure as Cardinals coach he made a comment similar to “everyone looks great in shorts and t-shirts. But when you put the pads on they disappear because they’re not football players.” It was an unnecessary slam on soccer, as Arians might be the only NFL coach who is insecure about Futbol. However, it’s that bold, brash, “no balls, no blue chips” attitude that I had come around and thought would serve him well in the post-season. Uh, not so much, as he clearly had “deer in the headlights” syndrome in the Packers matchup. I incorrectly thought Arians would be better in Charlotte but three plays in I knew I was dead. You see, mr. “no balls, no blue chips,” mr. “there is one team that is 11-3 and one that is always 8-8” (shot at the Los Angeles Rams), boldly thumped his chest in Carolina proclaiming, “give us the damn ball!” Now one would think the brilliant Arians knew he needed to get an early, therefore, he scripted his best set of plays, with full intent that they would work and the Cardinals would get the early lead. Not so much, as Arians handed off to his rookie running back or “the dancing machine” not once, but twice and then with the Panthers D-line ready to tee off, Palmer threw the first of his several errant passes. Game Ovah! Oh, by the way, fat-head, I have a comment for you, “one team has a Lombardi and one team has never won jack crap, you figure it out.”
  • One more thing on Arians and Palmer – after the Panthers took a knee late in game and surrendered possession, the dynamic duo decided to throw. #Classless. Knowing now that Arians would stoop to such a level, I wish Rivera would have not only went for a touchdown, but would have gone for two and onside kicked.
  • I still cannot decide if Carolina is that good or if the Cardinals didn’t show for the game. I lean to the latter because the Cardinals best defender, Patrick Peterson, was getting torched by Corey Brown. I didn’t know the Cardinals second best defender, Calais Campbell, was playing until he jumped off-sides in the 3rd quarter.

I was about to update my playoff rules column to add a corollary about beware of the great regular quarterbacks who despite being surrounded by exceptional talent have never won anything, when I realized that it was already there and I missed. #dumbass

Colin’s playoff player card:

Super Bowl Props:

Panthers -10.5 (+200) & Broncos -3.5 (+285) – With 1 unit on the Broncos and 1.3 on the Panthers, I get a +167 return provided game does not end Panthers 1-10 or Broncos 1-3.

Under 38.5 (+200) – Have to take a shot on a good old fashioned defensive struggle.

Total Field Goal yardage over 124.5 – Good defenses = stalled drives = field goals; this is almost guaranteed to hit with four field goals, and a decent chance with three 42+.

Total Touchdown yardage under 84.5 – Again good defenses that do not give up big plays. Only real concern here is a defensive or special teams TD.

Player to score first touchdown Under 22.5 – This gives me goal-line threats Newton and CJ Anderson, plus virtually every receiver not named Olsen or Thomas.

Number of different Panthers to have a rushing attempt over 4.5 – Newton, Tolbert and Stewart are locks. One reverse to a WR (4 of the last 5 games) and one carry to Fozzy.

Greg Olsen over 69.5 receiving yards – The Broncos couldn’t stop Gronk in the AFC title game; Olsen will have similar numbers. Someone has to catch the ball for the Panthers

Ted Ginn Jr under 47.5 receiving yards – Risky since Ginn can eclipse this with a single catch but I will take my chances that, if open, Ginn will drop the pass.

Peyton Manning over 21.5 completions – I see the Broncos throwing a lot of short passes, hoping pop one for a big play.

CJ Anderson over 13.5 rushing attempts – I have to figure the Broncos will attempt to control the clock with the running game.

 

Carolina (-5.5, 44) vs. Denver

I wanted to pound the Panthers on the way out of Bank of America stadium, but, as typically happens when you have two weeks to think and re-think, I started to lean towards the Broncos.

It comes down to two things for me – 1. The NFL needs this to be a great Super Bowl. It’s the game that is “50 years in the making.” What better way to make fans forget all the concussion issues and off the field crap than send people to the off-season with a memorable game, wanting more NFL. I don’t believe the NFL is fixed conspiracy theorists, but I do believe somehow, someway things tend to fall the way of the NFL. And there is no doubt in mind that the NFL would love to send Manning out on top, regardless of whether or not he plays great in this game. Call it a lifetime achievement award; and 2. The Panthers have not been challenged this post-season. Yeah, they had to hang on against the Seahawks but they admit they shut down the offense in second half. The Cardinals offered about as much resistance as a bug does to a windshield. None of the Panthers have played a minute of the post-season with the pressure of being behind or even the threat of being behind.

Denver 20 Carolina 16

Good luck!

2015 NFL – Conference Championship Predictions

After another “sister kisser” (2-2, 4-4 on the playoff season) last week, Colin makes this guarantee – either 2-0 or 0-2 this week!

Rehashing the divisional round is futile, I mean why complain about Knile Davis’ cover killing fumble, which cost the Chiefs at least three points. No mathematician here, but if you add three to the Chiefs final score you 23, add the 4.5 they were getting and they cover!

I could bring up the Andy Reid clock mis-management in the 4th quarter last Saturday, where Reid perfectly ran the 4-minute offense. You know the 4-minute offense, where you burn through clock when you are up 14. Problem was the Chiefs were down 14. There was a stat thrown around this week something like, in the history of the world that was the longest drive for a team down two scores. Reid boxed himself into a corner where the Chiefs only option was a successfully onside kick. Reid liked his chances of recovering an onside kick better than he did running a true hurry-up offense, scoring with 3 minutes left and hoping the Patriots don’t get some lucky tipped pass first down. Recovering an onside kick is about a 20% chance. Considering the Pats ran the ball seven times in the game for just 26 yards, you had to give the Chiefs at least a 50% chance of forcing a punt, barring, of course, a mis-fired pass that should be picked but the tip ends up in the arms of a Patriot receiver for a first down.

If I wanted to nitpick, I mention the fact the zebras happen to catch a millisecond “hands to the face” penalty on Frostee Rucker, but missed the bear hug, takedown by Bakhtiari on the Peterson pick-6. Sure it was a penalty, but the point is these clowns in black and white stripes missed the more blatant penalty. But what if they missed the hands to the face and Peterson’s score stood? I would argue that up 14, everything changes for the Cardinals – Palmer calms down, the defense smells blood, Rodgers packs it in and the Cardinals win by 30.

Yeah, I really need to move on, but for the record, I should be 8-0 right now. #badbeats #delusional

Speaking of 8-0, how about the teasers last week going 8-0! Yep, every side and every total was within 6 points of the closing number on each side. Which means every person playing a teaser card in Vegas last weekend, won! That explains the long lines to cash tickets in Vegas last weekend!

Here is my playoff rules column.

New England (-3, 44) @ Denver

Brady v. Manning XVII! As expected this matchup has been over-played ad nauseam in the media this week. Way over-played as neither Brady nor Manning is even close to playing as well as they did during the peak of the career. Yeah, Patriots fans I know you think Brady is on some kind of crazy Benjamin Button “reverse the effects of aging” trip but, I hate to break it to you, he’s not. He is fading, just not quite as bad as Manning. In fact, at this point in their careers, these two former QB titans can be compared to the career paths of two titans of the big screen, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro.

When you look at Pacino’s early career – Scarface, The Godfather I/II and Serpico – could you have imagine he would have turned into the 21st century version of Pacino. What would Tony Montana think of Willy Bank? I will tell you, ask Montana about Bank and his reply would be “that guy is soft.” Those four 70’s classics could be the Mount Rushmore of the Pacino’s career.

To be fair, Pacino continued “dropping dimes” well into the 90s with Carilto’s Way and Heat. Though I would say Heat was Pacino’s peak and ironically that was one of the three times Pacino crossed paths. Though an adequate performance, DeNiro carried him in that movie. In hindsight, could see the signs that Pacino was headed south in that movie. All of a sudden, he was like a bad actor with turrets. Mailing in roles to mask his diminishing skills but occasionally just screaming at someone on screen as if to shock the audience into thinking he was a brilliant actor. To make matters worse, he wasn’t playing second fiddle to guys like Johnny Depp (Donnie Brasco), and, gulp, Keanu Reeves (Devil’s Advocate). At this point he was full blown “creepy” Al Pacino. “Creepy” Pacino produced very little, relying on his reputation, this all culminated in the “scarred for life” role as himself in Adam Sandler’s movie, Jack and Jill. Tony Montana would kill that Al Pacino for fun, but for a green card he would “carve him up, real nice.” Atrocious.

Atrocious! That perfectly describes the play of 2015 Peyton Manning, his stats tell the story of a man hanging on too long (more interceptions than TDs and a well below average 5.0 YPA). But it’s more than stats, you can see it in his play – his throws come out fluttering more than a Tim Wakefield knuckle ball and the “Jim Everett” fall down without being touched move last week. I will give him one thing – dude can still read defenses and most times get the Broncos in the right play. Now that is great if you are playing Madden in “coach” mode, with a quarterback rated 97 or better. But that sucks if you have to execute in “All-Pro” mode.

Think about Manning’s two best plays against the Steelers – the first one featured the “Manning/Everett” play for a 34 yard completion. You know the one where he gave up causing the defense to stop playing, but since he was not touched and the NFL makes up rules as they go, he was able to get up and throw to a wide-open receiver. The other play was a nice throw to Bennie Fowler, who broke 3 tackles en route to a 31 yard game. But you got the sense like Manning has maybe one of those plays in him for – a game! Take those two plays out and Manning’s YPA would be a Ryan Leafian, 4.48.

In terms of DeNiro, I am in no way suggesting he is in the same boat a Pacino, in fact, he is still putting out decent stuff. But the thing is, he’s living off his name, taking advantage of the “new” world, the social media/internet world where the attention span of most people is a nanosecond. The point is, the world has changed so much that DeNiro can get by with diminishing skills because, unlike Pacino, he has the capacity to adapt.

And that’s Brady, adapting the new NFL, the NFL that is petrified of physical play, especially any defense on quarterback violence. No quarterback takes more advantage of the “new” rules than Brady, as every time he gets hit, he whines about a flag, he knows the more he pressures the refs, the more likely it will be that they will throw a flag. Did I mention that on every incompletion Brady whines about pass interference? Brady skills are diminishing but he has adapted to the “new” NFL by going to a short passing game, whining about any contact on receivers, whining about any contact on him and basically manipulating the refs through fear.

I love DeNiro, so I admit watching Jimmy Conway turn into Jack Burns is tough, but it’s still effective and works for him. Brady’s “Jimmy Conway” is this tough guy head-butting his O-lineman during games, but his “Burns” is this little girl crying for flags after every play. Tough to watch, but in the new NFL it’s effective. Well played, Brady, well played

That’s a long drawn out, relative thin comparison of two actors to two quarterbacks to get out the point that Brady is little, ah, female dog.

For the Broncos it’s hard to back them, unless, of course, 2006 Manning shows up, which is not going to happen unless Manning hops in Doc Browns DeLorean. Manning version 2015 is shaky at best and backing him, even at home, would violate one of my tried and true playoff rules of “never back a shaky quarterback in the playoffs.”

I am not going to tell you the Broncos cannot win this game but it’s going to be tough. I mean think about the game against Steelers last week, the Donks were taken to the wire by a team with their top two running backs out, half of Big Ben and no Antonio Brown. Furthermore, the game does not get to the wire without that Fitz Toussaint fumble. Without that, the Broncos are watching this week from home.

But there is a way the can Broncos win – early in the game their defense needs to rough-up Brady. Yep, take the 15 yards, preferably on a first down in Pats territory. It has to be worth it, like right up under chin or pin his arms to his sides and launch his right shoulder in the ground. That hit is going to cost 15 yards, but unlike college, there is no ejection for a vicious hit. Unless, of course, the NFL makes up an ejection rule on the fly (don’t rule that out).

Without that hit, that Pats offense will be the Pats, using short passes to control the game and finding this giant ox for big gains down the seams. And their defense is more than adequate to limit the Broncos.

The pick comes down to – will we see that hit? I say no! I question, in the new NFL, whether a player has it in them to win at all costs. The new NFL is competitive, no doubt, but it’s not player v. player or team v. team, now it’s the players v. NFL. It’s everybody against Satan aka, Roger Goodell. Where is Vontaze Burfict when you need him?

New England 23 Denver 14

Arizona @ Carolina (-3, 47.5)

Wow, this is one tough game. There are solid arguments on both sides. In cases like this I find it is best to go to the coin – “heads = home, tails = visitor.”

The case for the Cardinals:

– The Cardinals were dominated at the line of scrimmage by the Packers on both sides of the ball. While that is alarming, most of that is motivation, desire and passion. The Packers were motivated by their poor week 16 performance and they brought it last week. The Cardinals did not match their intensity. But like the Packers last week, I am guessing the Cardinals interior line will be motivated by their pants crapping performance this past week. And they will need to be because the Panthers interior lines are an entirely different animal.

– Carson Palmer cannot be worse than he was against the Packers, right? He threw two picks, but should have had five. Palmer definitely had the “deer in the headlights” look to him. I guess that is somewhat understandable, considering he came into that game with ZERO playoff wins. Now that he has a playoff win under his belt, you have to figure he settles down. Here is what I know for a fact – I will be within 10 rows of the Cardinals bench on Sunday, if I catch an errant Palmer pass – I am leaving because I will know how the game will end.

– Arians has to be better. Like Palmer he had a bit of the deer in the headlights look to him as well. I give him a pass last week as that was his first real playoff game, with a real starting quarterback. I bet he reacts better as a road underdog this week.

– The pressure is definitely on the Panthers and, more importantly, off the Cardinals. The pressure was so intense last week for the Cardinals, that with the exception of Larry Fitzgerald, everyone was sitting around waiting for someone else to make a play. Fortunately for them Fitz stepped up, and throw in a healthy dose of eff-U Wisconsin luck and viola, the Cardinals were a winner. In terms of the Panthers, they felt ZERO pressure last week. Before Cam Newton threw his first pass they were up 14-0. I am not NFL savant, but I am guessing it is easier to play free and loose with a 14-0 than it is down 7.

– I like the match-up of the Cardinals receivers against the Panthers secondary. Outside of Josh Norman, who likely takes Floyd out of the game, the Panthers have Robert McClain, Cortland Finnegan and 900 year-old Roman Harper attempting to cover Fitz and the lightening quick tandem of John Brown and JJ Nelson. Advantage Cardinals

The case for the Panthers:

– The Panthers interior line is a significant advantage for them. With or without the motivation, the Panthers are better in this area. The Panthers pressured Wilson last week with their front four, if that happens this week it mitigates the Cardinals advantage against their secondary. In addition, a couple early hits on Palmer’s and we might see the return the Carson Palmer face from last week.

– Home field advantage. The Panthers have won 11 straight at home. While the weather looks to be reasonable, it’s not the comfy confines of UOP stadium. Any weather variation adding wind or precipitation heavily favors the Panthers as the team with more effective running game.

– I do not know that the Cardinals have anyone that can cover Greg Olsen. That is a big advantage for the Panthers is the Cardinals have to double Olsen as it will take someone off Newton, thus freeing up him on the read option.

– I love this Deone Bucannon but I wonder if a 211 pound middle linebacker can hold up to the Panthers physical running game. Bucannon certainly plays bigger than 211, but still physics are physics. And that is ideal game-plan for the Panthers – gashing the middle of the Cardinals defense with the run, burning clock, opening up Newton on play action passes and, most importantly, keeping the Cardinals offense off the field.

– Turnovers. The Panthers are +22 on the season. +22! Even though turnovers are incredibly random, the 2015 Panthers have lost the turnover battle in just three out of 17 games this season. There might be more to it than just random luck. And considering the Cardinals likely will throw more and Palmer’s lack of mobility, you can totally see a back-breaking sack-strip-fumble at some point in this game.

There you have – this game is a literally toss-up. So, again I am going to flip a coin – “head = home, tails = visitor.” Wait, the coin never flipped . . .

Arizona 31 Carolina 27

Good luck this weekend!


2015 NFL – Divisional Round Predictions

Like the Cubs, Colin’s lifelong dream of an 11-0 playoff run will have to “wait until next year.” Yep, that dream ended on the frozen FieldTurf in Minneapolis on a sunny, but artic Sunday afternoon! Despite that, I still have a lot of play for, most notable a career best 9-2 record is still on the table.

What went wrong last week? Well, sadly, I had the Vikings written down all week but at the last minute I flip-flopped to the Seahawks because, “Given the weather and the Seahawks defense, I would hate to have the Vikings and watch the Seahawks go up 14-0 early in the 2nd quarter.”

I never gave much thought to the scenario of “2014 NFC title game Russell Wilson shows up.” Russ was garbage for the entire Vikings game, with the exception of that “bad snap, sure to be a drive killer, Russell is in trouble, Lockett is wide open, Lockett might score . . .” broken, fluke play. Somehow that, AP’s killer fumble and a missed 27 yard field goal was good enough for the win but certainly nowhere near the cover.

What really sucks is I feel like I called the game right, in terms of the Vikings, as I knew they would attempt, and fail, to run AP. They would play defense, hoping to get the game to the 4th within a score, where they could take the reins off of Bridgewater and play football. I nailed the analysis, I just failed to execute.

But let’s say the Seahawks blocked that 27 yarder and returned it for one of the worst beats in the history of sport investing, the Redskins were waiting to ambush the dream. That was my #epcifail last week. But call me crazy but I think that if Desean Jackson extends the ball over the goal-line the Redskins win that game. Indulge me for a minute, but let’s assume D-Jax does what every other NFL player would do in that situation, extend the ball across the goal-line – that makes it 9-0, add the touchdown to Reed early in the 2nd quarter (and don’t miss the extra point) and that makes it 16-0. I think that game is over. The Packers looked lifeless, Rodgers was in full “2015 happy feet” mode. McCarthy was staring at the play sheet like it was a menu, praying that Eddie Lacy didn’t eat every last piece of bacon in the place, so he could add fried swine to his triple mushroom burger. Even the defense looked to the Tim Green mentality of “if we lose, we also win. . .” In other words, the Packers would have packed it in.

Instead, the D-Jax play was so egregiously offensive and dis-respectful top Packers that it woke them from their coma and the rest is history.

Now that is a quite a stretch to rationalize that loss. A better effort would be to kick myself for recognizing the flawed Texans with their inflated public perception based on defeating three worthless division opponents, but failing to recognize the exact same inflated public perception, for the exact same reasons, on the Redskins. It is called consistency, Colin, look it up!

Anyway on to the divisional round, where I dug up the following nuggets (since 2002):

  • The four home teams have swept their opponents twice but that has not happened since 2004, with the other time in 2002.
  • Home teams are 12-4 straight up in the last four years, more about this later.
  • Interestingly, the playoff rule of “pick the winner” doesn’t seem to apply in the divisional round as the home team 34-18 straight up, but are just 21-31 against the spread. I did not look it up, but I would guess you would have a hard time finding any 52 game stretch in an NFL regular season where you see a 13 game difference between SU and ATS.
  • There has not been a season where the home teams went 4-0 and just one year where home teams went 1-3.
  • Teams coming off a wildcard round road win are 16-8 ATS in divisional round

Given those facts, I would expect one road team to win outright, with the other three losing but at least one covers the spread in defeat.

Here is my playoff rules column.

Kansas City @ New England (-5, 43)

Look at the Patriots last six games – 2-4, with the wins over the Texans and Titans. Based on that, the media is right, this Pats team is vulnerable. Not so fast, this rough patch coincided with multiple key injuries and while losses to the Eagles, Jets and Dolphins do not reflect well on the Pats, you have to keep in mind a couple of things – 1. The Pats were in full control of the division, therefore, were never in a “must-win” situation; and 2. Two of the losses were in overtime, one was the Eagles game where the Eagles scored three TDs on defense/special teams and the other was week 17 loss to the Dolphins where the Pats essentially waved the white flag, simply trying to survive the game without additionally injuries. The main point here is that the way the Pats finished is only relevant in that it likely motivates them to prove the “haters” wrong. A good comparison would be to think about the backlash the Alabama program received after the Ole Miss loss this season – Saban’s done, Bama is done, blah, blah, blah. How did that end up for them? Exactly!

Now, with the above, I am sure you are expecting my prediction to be a Pats blowout. Not so fast, my friends. No so fast because the Chiefs are no joke, in fact, the brilliant analytic minds at Football Outsiders give the Chiefs a 52% chance of advancing this weekend. That’s a 52% chance of winning this game outright. And if the Chiefs win outright, they cover this spread 100% of the time!

My biggest problem with backing the Chiefs this week is that I feel their distinct advantage will be neutralized by the Pats getting their Smurf WRs back. With Amendola and Edelman back, Brady will have effective, quick release, short throws in his arsenal. That likely mitigates most of the Chiefs big advantage – their DLine v. the Pats OLine.

Of course, a short, controlled passing game, even if effective, will shorten the game. Thus, Colin’s best play in this game in under 43. And if we have a tight, low scoring game, it’s always best to take the points.

I will admit that there is going to be a point in this game where the Pats will run a trick play – the result of that play will determine not only the cover, but likely the outright winner. I am putting a lot of faith in Andy Reid and DC Bob Sutton; faith that they will be prepared and that the Chiefs will execute based on that preparation. I mean come on, if I know a trick play is coming, guys whose million dollar jobs are dependent on knowing a trick play is coming, have to know, right? Right!

New England 20 Kansas City 17

Green Bay @ Arizona (-7.5, 49.5)

Have you heard, the word, about the . . . Pack? That’s right the Pack is back. Oh, the media! They’re so bored that they have to attempt to invent story lines. The “Pack is back” is one hilarious attempt! How about these media quotes from the past week, “Now that the Packers are scoring points again . . .” and “Aaron Rodgers looks like that A-Rod of old . . .” Look at what one game against mediocre (yes, I know I picked the Skins) competition will do for public perception. First off, A-Rod did look like the A-Rod of old, if by old you mean the last 9 weeks of the 2015 NFL season. Let’s look at those A-Rodian 1st quarter numbers – 1-7 for 11 yards. And how about this MVP type number for the game – 5.83 YPA. That number was good enough for second place in this game, only roughly 40% off the number Kirk Cousins posted in the same game. No, my friends, the Pack is certainly not back.

If A-Rod repeats his “I got my mojo back” performance from wildcard weekend, the Cardinals will win this game by 31. I will admit, though, that Rodgers has perfected the “5-yard penalty offense.” The Packers might really have something here, with Rodgers being so adept at drawing teams offside and getting a snap off after sniffing out the lazy, lard-ass defensive linemen who cannot get off the field, its five yards here and five yards there. We could also call this offense the “death by paper cut” offense or “five free yards at a time” offense. Whatever term you come up with, it is pathetic to see a former great offense lowering themselves to such pathetic gimmicks.

I will admit my initial lean was Green Bay +7.5. But that was solely based on value; three weeks ago the line was Arizona by 4/4.5, meaning the opening number offered 3 points of value. But the more I thought about it, the more I figured the public perception would over-react to the Packers wildcard weekend win, meaning that 7.5 would look juicy to not only the clueless Packers fans but the casual, recreational sports investor as well. The value might still be there, but no way am I playing the Packers in this game, especially considering the Cardinals will be in the Packers backfield the entire game. Rodgers will look like he is the last man standing in a dodge ball game, facing five opponents surrounding him from every side, locked and loaded with a ball. Happy feet much!

Arizona 37 Green Bay 20

Seattle @ Carolina (-2, 44)

I am going to puke if I hear one more “expert” claim that the fluke, luckbox win last week will, “propel the Seahawks” back to the Super Bowl. Let’s look are some facts, starting with the fact that the Seahawks have needed acts of God in two of their last three playoff games to survive. You could make it three of their last three, had they not crapped themselves on the goal-line in the Super Bowl. But the reality is this team has been on the right side of – an onside kick fumbled away by the opposition, a hail-mary two point conversion, a broken play that should have been a 20 yard loss but somehow turned into a 45 yard gain, a fortuitous fumble and a missed 27 yard field goal. The odds of all those things happening for one team have to be close to PowerBall lottery odds (~50-1 against on each).

Ok, the counter to that point would be the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl on a play with heavy odds against what happened, happening. But let’s remember the Seahawks scored 14 points in the first half by virtue of a few broken plays and a couple amazing catches. They might not have been in position to win that game without those plays. Furthermore, those plays mask the fact that Seahawks have been garbage in the first half in three straight three playoff games, leaving the Super Bowl as the outlier.

Enough on the 1st half offensive challenges of the Seahawks, let’s move on to the other media creation this week. After listening to five hours of sports talk radio in the past day, the prevailing feeling in the media is that it is somehow worse for a team to get a bye, that there is too much pressure on these home teams with a bye and that is breaks the momentum for these successful teams. Those sentiments certainly do not reconcile with the 12-4 SU record by home teams over the last four years. For grins, let’s look at those four home losers:

2014 – Broncos (-8.5) lost to the Colts. Not sure home pressure played a part in this game, this is more the beginning of the realization that Peyton Manning was close to being done.

2013 – Panthers (+1.5) lost to the 49ers. Again not pressure, the 49ers were clearly a better team than the Panthers and a point reflected by the spread in the game.

2012 – Broncos (-9) lose to the Ravens. Here is a pressure induced loss and the exact recipe for the upset win by a road team. The Ravens took an early lead with a pick-6, the Broncos could never separate from them and it ultimately led to a loss. Of course, the Ravens needed the following: a miracle 70 yard TD in the last minute to tie the game, a poor decision by John Fox to take a knee with two timeouts and 35 seconds left in the game and a second overtime to seal the deal. But sure the longer this game was close, the more pressure Denver felt and ultimately they caved.

2011 – Packers (-7.5) lose to the Giants. Uh oh, here we have a 15-1 team losing at home. I am sure as this game played out, pressure did mount but realistically this was just not the Packers day.

In summary, those four games yield possibly two games where the pressure of having a bye and being the heavy favorite might have played a part in the loss. Still, I simply am not buying the pressure gets to these team with byes.

What I will buy is that pressure plays a part when there are a few early plays that go against the home, favored teams. Let’s say Seattle gets an early defensive/special team touchdown or takes an early two possession lead, then the pressure certainly can get to the Panthers. Then maybe Ted Ginn drops yet another touchdown, I can see the life draining from the crowd and the pressure mounting on Cam. In that case I tear up my ticket and call it bad luck!

However, I firmly believe we will see a half or three quarters from Russell Wilson similar to the 2014 NFC title game or last week against the Vikings. That should give the Panthers plenty of time to settle into this game.

Carolina 23 Seattle 17

Pittsburgh @ Denver (-7.5, 39.5)

I will use the following parable to describe this game:

Picking the winner in this game is like the person who goes mining for gold. When the person arrives at the location to look for the precious metal, they find a man claiming to have found all the gold. That’s bad news for the person, but the good news is the man is willing to sell the gold he has found. And he is selling the gold at a bargain price. The only problem is the gold is half buried in the ground, but, upon inspection, the exposed half is certainly gold, and with the price being right, the person makes the purchase. The seller quickly and discreetly pry’s the gold from the ground, wraps in cloth, bags and hands to the buyer, who heads on his merry way.

However, when the person gets home and unwraps the gold they find they have purchased a gold painted turd. The top half certainly looks like pure gold, but the bottom half is definitely a turd!

Later the disciples of Colin Wynner asked him to explain the parable, which he did:

The man selling the gold is like the media, telling you outlandish stories like the Steelers have no chance because Big Ben cannot throw the ball more than 10 yards and the rest from his benching has actually re-built Peyton Manning’s noodle arm.

The person who buys the gold is like the public, looking at only half of the situation, specifically the Steelers missing weapons. They are failing to look at the other side of the gold, the turd side, where you have Peyton Manning and an anemic Broncos offense.

The moral of the parable – don’t get stuck with a painted gold turd!

Denver 20 Pittsburgh 16

Now, my sons, go in peace, and make money off all National Football League games!