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!