NFL 2011 – Wildcard Weekend Picks

It is redemption time for Colin, who can make the 2011 season a rousing success by kicking some serious ass in the playoffs. I guarantee you that no one has done more homework on these playoffs than I have. An 11-0 record is always the gold standard, but there are too many toss-up’s on the card to dream about a perfect post-season. My mark is 8-3, with a “Mendoza line” painted firmly at 6-5. Let’s get is started!

Note: I use the Las Vegas Hilton Lines from vegasinsider.com.

Here is the back of the Colin Wynner, Handicapper player card:

Career Playoff Record (1995-2011): 92-79-5

Wildcard Round: 35-28-1

Divisional Round: 33-29-2

Championship Round: 17-15

Super Bowl: 7-7-2

 

Please note that these picks are made based on several years of experience in handicapping the playoff games, in fact I have developed a list of playoff rules to live by that you can read here.

 

On to the 2011 Wildcard Weekend picks:

 

Cincinnati @ Houston (-4.0) – Initially I loved the Bengals. But that was solely based on the Texans finish to the season; you know the way they lost to the Panthers (somewhat acceptable), Colts (totally unacceptable) and Titans (totally indifferent). But then I thought about the following – a. the Bengals struggled with the hopeless Rams, needed a wide-open receiver to fall down to beat the Cardinals and lost a must-win game at home against the Ravens. And based sheer incompetence of the other teams fighting for a playoff spot the Bengals backed into the playoffs. That’s not exactly a stellar finish to the season; b. The Texans remind me of the 2008 Cardinals, a team that went to the Super Bowl despite losing two of their last three games by a combined 69 points. I am not suggesting the Texans are heading to the Super Bowl, but I do believe they shared a similar indifference after clinching the division and yes, I realize T.J. Yates is not Kurt Warner; and c. the Texans, with T.J. Yates and no Andre Johnson, went to Cincinnati and won late in the season. That has to count for something. Yet, somehow that is being over-looked.

In terms of the playoff rules we can invoke the “never back a shaky quarterback” rule, based in the fact that T.J. Yates has looked like a poor-mans, poor -mans Jim Everett over the past couple of weeks. But I would trump that with the presence of Andre Johnson, who when 100% healthy, as he should be for this game, can turn a Cade McNown into a Josh McCown (sure you’re not feeling great about going to battle with McCown, but trust me, if given the choice you’re happy to have McCown).

I think the more appropriate rule for this game is the “find the ceiling, floor”, which clearly favors the Texans. The Texans, as presently constructed, took down the playoff bound Falcons as their ceiling. While the Bengals ceiling was a come from behind win at home against the Browns. That’s the Browns, as is Cleveland Browns. Uh, that’s not good!

Let’s look at those final six games for each team – the Bengals beat the mighty Rams, Browns and Cardinals and lost to the Steelers, Ravens and, yup, Texans. All of that while fighting for a very competitive wild-card spot. Oh, did I mention they backed into the playoffs?

This is going to be a tight game, but at the end of the day I will kick off the post-season with a win based on the Texans running game and their defense’s ability to pressure Dalton, who oh by the way is a rookie starting his first playoff game on the road.

Pick: Houston -4.0

Detroit @ New Orleans (-10.5) – “Once bitten, twice shy.” Is that the Jeopardy answer to the question, “Name the biggest hit by a very mediocre 80’s band named Great White?” No, it’s the answer to the “The way the ass-clown who picked against the Saints at home at night not once, but twice in the span of four weeks felt?” Yup, the latter is the correct question. And the ass-clown is none other than Colin Wynner, who called two non-winners in those games – Giants and Falcons.

So, you ask, the obvious pick here is the Saints, right? Wrong! If this goes wrong, then I will re-write that classic song and titled it, “Once bitten, twice shy, thrice have your junk cut-off”. So, yeah, there is a lot at stake here.

Reasons I am on the Lions:

  • The hype machine is going crazy for the Saints, who at 5-1 to win the Super Bowl are getting hit harder than Madonna at an NBA All-Star game.
  • Karma is a bitch! Right? Coach Sean Payton ran up the score on teams in the final quarter of the regular season. He put Brees health at risk in meaningless situations to sway MVP voters away from Aaron Rodgers, as well as set a few NFL records but did he anger the NFL gods? I mean, come on man, why was Brees in the game, and throwing no less, last week when, (a.) the Saints were playing for nothing; and (b.) the outcome of game was clearly decided. I don’t have a good answer for that and Payton apparently doesn’t either but ask the 2007 Patriots about “stuff” coming around. At least the Patriots played that way the entire season, not just at the end like the Saints. And we know how that season ended for the Pats. And we know how the next season began for them. And we know they haven’t a playoff game since. Therefore, welcome to NFL hell Saints. You might win this game, but I am confident that you will not win another Super Bowl for at least 10 years after Sean Payton has been fired. OK, so this was more of a rant than a reason one team will cover or not, but point here is, Payton no longer needs to pad the stats of Drew Brees meaningless situations because the MVP vote is based on the regular season. Therefore, look for the Saints to milk the clock when the situation dictates.
  • They Lions and the Saints played in week 13, on a Sunday night in New Orleans. Yeah, the Saints covered the spread but barely. In fact, I had the Saints and I immediately showered after the game because I felt dirty after the cover. And that was without defensive starters Suh, Delmas and Houston. That means a couple things – 1. No game tape on those players for the Saints against the Lions; and 2. Fresher legs for 30% of the Lions defense.
  • If any team can pull out the “nobody believes in us” card it’s the Lions. They essentially got into the playoffs because the Raiders couldn’t cover this guy named Calvin Johnson in the last few seconds of the game. Then with the mantra “we want the number 5 seed, so we can face the NFC East champ”, they lost to the next quarterback of the Washington Redskins, Matt Flynn (oh, you know it’s true ‘Skins fan, Synder is already drawing up 5/40).

In my opinion, Schwartz wanted to avoid a divisional round game with Harbaugh, thus he decided to throw that game against the Packers last week.

One other tidbit – the Superdome is hosting the BCS title game on Monday, so while it will still be tough, I have a feeling the preparation for that game will throw off the place just enough to bearable for the Lions.

Bottom line – the Lions need a “2009 Big 12 Championship game effort” from Ndamukong Suh to have a chance to win. My money is on that!

Pick: Detroit +10.5

Pittsburgh (-8.0) @ Denver – I received a call from the biggest Raider fan I know, my buddy Rango, who told me, “I have a lock for you next week.” Of course as an international man of wagering he piqued my interest so responded, “Oh yeah, what is it?” “The Steelers!” F%*&, I thought to myself, that’s just a bitter Raider fan hating on the Donkeys, I love the Broncos at home plus the points.

Then I started thinking about the game and how I would feel if the Broncos fall behind 14-0 early. My intial reaction was that if that happened I most likely would be updating the “never back a shaky quarterback” section of the playoff by adding Tim Tebow to the triumvirate of Krodell, Rex and Tavaris.

At the end of the day, I am trumping the “beware of injuries” rule (the Steelers are decimated) with the “pick the winner” (I don’t think Denver can win the game) and the “research history” rules. The history dictates that based on my so-called better plays (Houston, Detroit and NY Giants) that the Steelers will win and cover the spread. You know because there isn’t going to be four favorites or four home teams win this weekend, so Pittsburgh fits the puzzle.

Plus, let’s be honest not even the Bengals backed into the playoffs more than the Broncos. And the Steelers have a defense that will remove one thing from an opposing offense, so let’s assume that DC Dick LeBaeu is somewhat intelligent and he decides to take away the run from the Broncos, what can the Broncos do to move the ball? The answer is nothing. The Chiefs shut them down for goodness sake. And that was in a must-win game. Sure this is a must-win game as well, but my gut tells me the Broncos are just happy to be here.

Look if the Steelers score a touchdown in the first quarter and on the point after they muff the PAT, forcing Holder, the holder to scramble and somehow he finds a receiver open in the end zone for a successful two point conversion that makes the score 8-0 Pittsburgh. Don’t you feel like the worst you can do is push? Me too.

Let’s address the major issues affecting the Steelers – 1. Mendenhall being out – yeah, Mendy has a burst that Isaac Redman doesn’t possess, but the Steelers are not a running team anyway. And the reality is Redman was close to replacing Mendenhall during the regular season, so how bad can he be?; 2. Roethlisberger’s injury. He allegedly he suffered a setback in last week’s meaningless game – nice work Tomlin! No doubt this is a concern, but Denver’s defense doesn’t scare anyone, so I believe Roethlisberger can be at least as effective as he needs to be. Remember 17 points is probably enough to cover this number; and 3. Maurkice Pouncey limited or out. This is by far the biggest concern for the Steelers. Without Pouncey the Steelers will be forced to move Guard Doug Legursky to Center and backup Chris Kemoeatu to Guard, uh that is a lose-lose for Steelers, but that might put the Broncos in more blitzing packages, which will expose an over-matched secondary that is thin with the loss of Brian Dawkins. And oh yeah, losing Dawk is huge for the inexperienced Broncos defense. Not enough is being made of that.

Any way you slice it, the Steelers have the advantage in this game, and therefore the only question is whether they can cover the spread. I am willing to gamble that the Steelers will score at least 17, which will be plenty to put this game well out of reach for the Broncos.

Pick: Pittsburgh -8.0

Atlanta @ NY Giants (-3.0) – A lot of the “experts” are picking the Falcons to upset the Giants and I have to agree with the majority of those reasons – 1. Matt Ryan and the Falcons WR have an advantage over the Giants secondary; 2. The Falcons run defense will shut down the Giants running game; 3. The Falcons run offense can be effective against the Giants; 4. The weather will be mild, nullifying a potential huge advantage for the Giants against a dome team; 5. Eli Manning and the Giants suck at home; 6.The New Meadowlands is neither loud nor intimidating to opponents; 7. The Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning led Giants haven’t scored a playoff touchdown at home. Sure it’s a small sample size of two games, but still read this again – the Giants have never scored a touchdown at home in the playoffs with Eli Manning as their quarterback – Yikes!; and 8. Matt Ryan wins the nickname battle over Eli Manning – “Matty Ice” vs. “Eli”.

Fair enough, I will admit that the above had me wavering on this pick.

 

But then I looked at the rule, “Coaching is magnified in the playoffs” which immediately had me thinking about the mis-match in coaching – Coughlin v. Mike Smith. And an, oh by the way, Mike Smith has never won a playoff game as a head coach, nor has Matty Ice as the Falcons quarterback. Believe me, if something goes wrong for the Falcons early, doubt will creep into their heads.

 

We can also look at “Never back a shaky quarterback, especially on the road” rule, because I am not sold on Matty Ice. Look, I can almost guarantee that for the first 15 plays for the Falcons offense, they will look unstoppable but shortly after the scripted plays have been consumed, the offense will bog down, causing their fans to wonder how the 2011 Rams got into the Falcons uniforms for a playoff game. You see, Matty struggles with making in-game adjustments.

 

Furthermore I think the Giants own the patent on the “us against the world” card, which they broke out after that disaster against the Redskins in week 15.

 

Looking at the “ceiling/floor” rule for the Giants yields a massive egg against the Redskins in week 15, as well as the ass whipping the Saints laid on them in week 10, of course that was the start of the “Brees for MVP” campaign. I admit the floor for the Giants is like nuclear shelter low. However, the ceiling for them is not quite penthouse high, but maybe the floor below George and Weezie, with the loss to the Packers or the domination of the Cowboys in week 17 being consider the Giants finest moments over the last six weeks. If the team that showed up for those games, shows up for this game, the G-Men will beat the Falcons soundly.

 

As for the Falcons, they won four of their last six games, but the teams they beat combined to win 18 games this season. In fairness to them they pounded two of those teams (Bucs and Jags). They struggled slightly with Vikings and Panthers. Therefore, the ceiling for the Falcons is nowhere near the Giants. In fact, I don’t think we have a good idea if this team is complete garbage or capable of winning on the road in the playoffs.

 

The floor for the Falcons is comparable to the Giants – a blowout loss to the Saints at the end of the “Brees for MVP” campaign coupled with a very bad loss on the road to T.J. Yates and the Houston Texans. Really, that’s a game they need to win, but they couldn’t make enough plays to get it. Their ferocious run defense was gashed by Arian Foster. All that with a third string quarterback starting his first game. That’s their floor, pretty much on the same level as the Giants!

 

Bottom line – I am playing the Giants solely because I think their defensive line will be the best unit on the field Sunday. I am banking on that unit holding their own against Michael Turner, but that they will harass Ryan repeatedly, forcing him into game-changing mistakes.

 

Pick: NY Giants -3.0

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