I knew I was in trouble in that Packers/49ers game when I ran into one of my kids soccer teammates dad who is a huge Packers fan. Dude was decked out in high end Packers gear and when asked, “How are you feeling about tonight?” His reply, “Totally confident! Kaepernick is very beatable and it’s his first real test.” Uh, how that turn out for you?
So I suck at calling primetime playoff games. Good thing neither of these games are in primetime. On to the Sunday picks.
Here is the back of the Colin Wynner, Handicapper player card update with 2012 stats:
Career Playoff Record (1995-2012): 103-83-5
Wildcard Round: 40-31-1
Divisional Round: 36-30-2
Championship Round: 19-15
Super Bowl: 8-7-2
Playoff Best: 7-3-1 (2001)
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.
Note: I use the Las Vegas Hilton Lines from vegasinsider.com
Seattle @ Atlanta (-2.5)
Interesting Sub-Plot: Matty “Ice” Ryan with his 0-3 playoff record facing a team with a monster defense. Guess what Super Bowl winning quarterback was once 0-3 in his playoff career? Yup, you got it, Saturday’s playoff goat, Peyton Manning! Ok, so maybe it’s not the best comparison when attempting to build up Ryan, but still Manning has won a Super Bowl, Matty has a chance this year. Slim, slim chance but nonetheless a chance.
Teenage girl logic: Seahawks are like a evolutionary freak, a sea creature that can fly. That’s weird. While the Falcons are a normal bird in the sense that they fly and live in the normal atmosphere not underwater. The Seahawks are creepers, I hate creepers that stare at you and your privates – oooohhhh, gross, go Falcons!
Trending: 1. Home playoffs teams favored by 3 or less points are just 8-13* ATS since 2002 (updated as of 1/12/2013); and 2. The Seahawks are 4-11 ATS since 2002 after a game where they covered the spread by a touchdown after trailing at the end of the first quarter; just 1-4 ATS in the Pete Carroll era.
The Seahawks will cover if: They can weather the Falcons crowd and storm early in the game. Believe me, it won’t take much to take this Atlanta crowd out of the game, in fact at the first sign of trouble the Georgia Dome will sound like a library.
The Falcons will cover if: The Falcons defense can keep Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch in check. It would be easy to put this game on Matty Ice, but the Falcons defense is really the key here, they have to be able to get off the field on third downs.
Colin Wynner, Handicapper! Calls the winner: Here is an interesting fact about falcons – they are able to fly at heights well above their prey but when ready to pursue they go into an amazing dive. Hmmm, interesting that the falcon and the Falcons seem to be the same. Both are able to fly high above their prey (regular season), but when they are ready to pursue (the Lombardi) they go into an amazing dive. Very interesting!
Up until this week, I fully expected them to take a dive again, in fact, I stated more than a few times that “I couldn’t wait to bet against this team in the playoffs,” but for this week, this one game, this specific moment in time I believe the Falcons will find a way to win this game. I cannot deny that on paper the Seahawks are a significantly better team, that they present matchup problems for the Falcons, in a league all about matchups and have a significant special teams advantage.
But here is my logic on the Falcons – 1. It feels like the spot for them and if they have any pride at all, they have to be ready to explode after hearing about how they cannot win a playoff game, they are the weakest 13 win team since their 2010 team and that the Seahawks are that much better than them; 2. On the flip side, it feels like the spot for the Seahawks to be a little flat, they have had an amazing run of domination mixed in with highly emotional performances. At some point doesn’t that have to catch up with a team and they lay a stinker?; and 3. It’s a 10AM PDT kickoff for the Seahawks on back-to-back east coast trips. Uh, that’s not good.
Bottom line – The best bet in this game is the Falcons -0.5 in the first quarter. Really that first quarter is going to tell us all we need to know about this game, if the Falcons don’t jump the Seahawks early, get a lead and get the crowd fully engaged, then they will allow ghosts of playoff past to creep into the building. If that happens, we can hang a nice “0-4” on Matty Ice’s resume. Not. Going. To. Happen. Not. Today. Not. This. Time.
Atlanta 31 Seattle 14 (4 Stars)
Houston @ New England (-9.5)
Interesting Sub-Plot: If you happen to be born into a Patriots family and by default you are a Patriots fan but your year of birth was, let’s say, 2002 or later, you most likely have known nothing but football heartache. I mean unless at the age of one you were some child prodigy who was banging out musical compositions that would make Mozart look like he was playing on a PlaySkool mini-piano, then you have no recollection of the Pats winning their last Super Bowl in 2004. Actually, it’s quite the contrary for those poor souls, who have a yearly ritual of asking pops, while sobbing profusely, “when dad, when will the Patriots finally win a Super Bowl?”
Teenage girl logic: I really despise the Texans because I hate Cowboys and I hate people who have that ridiculous “Don’t mess with Texas” bumper sticker. What does that even mean – “Don’t mess with Texas?” You can’t mess with a state anyway. That is so stupid. Screw the “don’t mess with the Texans,” the Patriots are going to mess with you big time!
Trending: Teams that covered a regular season matchup by 10 or more points are just 4-10* ATS in the playoff matchup (updated as of 1/12/2013).
The Texans will cover if: Matt Schaub can avoid the back breaking mistakes that he seems so adept at making. Think about how the game looks last week if Schaub doesn’t keep the Bengals around with that horrible pick-6 or if he can find a way to convert in the red zone. Blowout city, right? And let’s flash back to the 1st Patriots game when the Texans were driving, down at the time just 7-0, and Schaub is baited into a horrible end zone interception. Five plays after that pick, game ovah!
The Patriots will cover if: They don’t miss kickoff! Right, I mean this is team has really, really shown the world that not only can they put up big numbers but they can play great defense as well. Well, with the exception of that total statistical anomaly in the San Francisco game, where the 49ers hung 41 on them. But that doesn’t count when evaluating this juggernaut. Their mere presence should be enough to cover this spread.
Colin Wynner, Handicapper! Calls the winner: There is a great temptation on my part to bang the Pats given that we have already seen the “major divisional round” upset with the Ravens taking out the Broncos. But let’s try to make a case for the Texans – 1. The Patriots were probably looking ahead to the matchup with the Broncos, but now with Denver soiling themselves, they will be fully focused on — New Orleans and a rematch with the 49ers. Yup, I think they’re looking ahead and preparing themselves for another painful Super Bowl loss; 2. Think about the playoff games the Patriots have played in since the game that I say officially ended their run (2006 Colts game where they blew the 21-3 lead). Since that point, the Pats are just 4-4, with only the 2011 game against Broncos game being a dominate performance and honestly who didn’t see that coming. They have either struggled mightily or been beaten in the other seven games. This Texans team is not 2011 Broncos; and 3. This is eerily similar to the 2010 season. In each season, we had the late season Monday night Patriots ass whipping, that was followed by the whipped team playing the rest of the season in a funk and both the 2010 Jets and 2012 Texans rallied to win ugly playoff games. Sure we have heard from the Pats that they remember that game and are taking the Texans seriously, but are they? Come on, the Pats didn’t have the amazing Gronkowski for that game and still laid down the smack on Bum’s Son’s defense.
Yeah, that’s too thin to put hard earned money on. Plus, the biggest difference between the 2010 Jets and the 2012 Texans is the secondary, that was a strength of the Jets while the Texans are quite mediocre in the back seven. The Jets could matchup with the Patriots on the outside, the Texans cannot, meaning there will be an intense amount of pressure on the Texans D-Line to disrupt Brady up the middle. Too much pressure for them to live up to.
Bottom line – Believe me I have 10,125 reasons to back the Texans in this game, but smart money is sticking with my most important playoff rule – “Don’t back a shaky quarterback, especially on the road.” Matt Schaub is about as shaky as you get.
New England 34 Houston 17 (4 Stars)