Ugh, Cardinals!

Ugh, Cardinals!

In case you were buried under a rock and missed the news, the Arizona Cardinals drafted Kyler Murray with the #1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Cardinals twitter account quickly changed their nickname to “#KardsGotKyler” as though they just drafted transcendent player who would guarantee the Cardinals an annual trip to the playoffs.

The reality, this move is like playing your life savings on the lottery. Sure, you might win the big prize, but that doesn’t make the move any less stupid. Kyler Murray might become the GOAT, leading the Cardinals to six of the next ten Super Bowls, just like I might win the lottery with everything I own on it. Again, that would not make the decision to draft Murray smart, just lucky.

To call this move stupid is an understatement, this is colossally stupid, this is “set a franchise back five years” stupid! Why? Well, let’s dissect the move in greater detail.

  • It seems obvious that the Cardinals had Murray graded way higher than any other NFL team. There is zero evidence to suggest otherwise. The Cardinals entire strategy was to make it seem like Murray was the pick, then maybe wasn’t the pick, they held out as though they didn’t know what they were going to do until the very last minute. Literally, they took the entire 10 minutes to make the choice, while the rest of the NFL sat back and laughed. From what has been reported, no team had any interest in moving up to get Murray. I am thinking the Cardinals could have gotten Murray with the 5th pick at the very worst and probably could have got him in the teens.
  • The above doesn’t matter if the Cardinals did not have a significant investment at the quarterback position already, as well as holes all over the roster, you take the quarterback that your head coach “has” to have to be successful. But the reality is the Cardinals do have a significant investment, not only in cash but draft equity, at quarterback. And the roster is not full of holes, it is one giant hole!
  • The comparison to the Rams and Jared Goff applies here. Goff under a head coach with little offensive imagination, struggled mightily. Rams hire boy wonder McVay and he turns a mediocre Goff into a Super Bowl loser; still Goff has two playoff wins which is more than Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes and Marcus Mariota. This seems like a fair comp, Cardinals have rookie Rosen thrown into the fire with a defensive minded head coach and, an offensive coordinator who has fired mid-season; not exactly setting the kid up for success. He clearly struggled, but, in my opinion, he was better than Goff as a rookie. Keep in mind that Rams roster was overall better than the Cardinals last year as well. The Cardinals, protecting their investment in Rosen, hire a quarterback guru in Kingsbury. The seemed like a perfect plan. Kliffy gets two years to get the most out of Rosen, while the Cardinals rebuild the roster. At that point the Cardinals know what they have in Rosen, and if the final assessment is, he is not “the guy” then they move on to another Oklahoma quarterback who won the Heisman because the BIG 12 plays less than zero defense. If you think about two years from now – Trevor Lawrence, a true franchise, transcendent player will be in the draft. The point – the Cardinals have no idea what they have in Rosen, you cannot give up on a player until you know what he is!
  • Raise your hand if you trust Kyler Murray’s dad. Hmm, no hands raised . . . Raise your hand if you think it is curious to choose a sport with a life expectancy of three years versus a sport you could play 20 years. Hmm, all hands raised . . . Look Kyler’s “life-long love” of football is reason 25,000,001 that he decided to give the money back to the A’s and pursue a football career. He netted 11 million on this deal out of the box and 17 million over the next three years. Fast forward three years – uncle Kliff will be looking for a new job, Kyler will be heading back to the A’s and Rosen will have at least three playoff wins under his belt – book it! Sure, that is the worst-case scenario but that is significantly more likely than Kyler winning three playoff games in that period.

The above does nothing to address the limitations Murray has on the field.

The size problem. Murray fan boy – “Look at Russell Wilson.” Realistically, Wilson is at least an inch taller than Murray, has bigger hands (that is a big deal in the NFL, ball is slicker and tougher to grip) and had played professional baseball, which undoubtedly matured him. In my mind, Russell seems like a better leader and more mature than Murray, also a big deal in the NFL. And Russell was a third-round pick who was drafted on an already Super Bowl roster. How long will the Cardinals give Murray before they give up on him? I mean they just kicked a slightly used #10 pick to the curb after a year.

The “BIG12” problem. Murray fan boy – “Look at Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes.” I say look at the Alabama game – 31-10 when Bama essentially got bored, allowing Murray to pile up stats, giving the illusion that the game was close. When the game in the balance, Murray looked pedestrian against a defense that is much closer to the one he will face in the NFL. As to the comps, Mayfield has a significantly better roster, plays in a place where winning six games is considered a huge success and played with virtually no expectations last year. Let’s see what happens this year with a mountain of expectations as the newly anointed team to beat in the AFC North.

It is hard to argue with the success Mahomes has had and if Murray turns out to be Patrick Mahomes, I supposed the Cardinals will proclaim the move a success. My argument against the Mahomes comp would be Mahomes sat a full year, under a proven quarterback guru, plays behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and had a surplus of weapons the Cardinals can only fantasize about. In addition, while mobile, Mahomes is more of a pocket passer who uses his legs to create time and space. Murray is the opposite, uses his legs to create plays. Good luck with that in the NFL, where everyone is as fast.

At the end of the day, it’s not Murray’s his fault, props to him and his family for getting what he got. And props to his pops if the master plan to get 17 million more up front, hope for success in the NFL that will garner him a huge quarterback contract, but if that doesn’t happen, he returns to MLB. That is genius!

No, the fault here is clearly on the Cardinals, specifically Michael Bidwell. I have read a lot of vitriol aimed at Steve Keim over the last 24 hours, please people, this poor guy is nothing more than Bidwell’s puppet and ultimate fall guy. This move to draft Murray was not about the product on the field but rather filling seats and filling them with millennials as was the decision to hire Kingsbury in the first place. It makes a lot of sense, millennials don’t really care about results, hell, they forget who won an hour after the game. No, they want to part of the experience, they want to follow like-minded people. Exit old curmudgeon, defensive coach, enter young, fresh-minded, fireworks guy with a cool haircut and dope threads.

There was a time where NFL players referred to the Cardinals as the “arm pit” of the NFL. It seems like that is the Bidwell’s comfort zone because they are certainly doing all they can to return to that dubious moniker. No one will want to play here, but millennials will eat up the experience. Fill seats, right, Mike?

If you are golfer, you understand the value of a mulligan. A chance to redo a poor shot is invaluable in golf, which is why very few, if any are ever allotted. This feels a lot like Steve Keim and Michael Bidwell used a mulligan to erase a 180-yard shot that landed on the green a mere 15-feet from the pin, in hopes they can hit a shot inside 10-feet. Problem they cannot putt so either way it doesn’t matter!

Stayed tuned for next year’s draft, when the Cardinals, drafting first again, pull the trigger on . . . Heisman winner, Oklahoma quarterback, Jalen Hurts! They still can’t putt, but maybe one of these days they will knock it in from 180 out and maybe I will hit the lotto.

2018 NFL Playoff Picks – Conference Championship Edition

0-8!

Oh and eight!

0 and $%#^@&^ 8!

So, how did your divisional weekend end up? I will admit it takes some serious skill to go all “Golden Sombrero” back to back days. And to make matters worse, I lost this prop bet, “Divisional Weekend wins by Colin Wynner vs. Total Hits in the World Series by Manny Machado.” I thought that was a lock after Machado mustered just four hits (by the way, enjoy South Side of Chicago, Manny)!

There is some good news – I won a prop bet last week, in fact I won four props bets! Unfortunately, that was out of 18 total prop bets. So, for those non-mathematician’s that was 4-14 or 4-22 on the weekend. BTW, if my “man” asks about me, please don’t tell him where I am.

Enduring a weekend of suck like that had Colin on the brink of posting one final tweet – “Goodbye cruel world . . . ”

“. . .of handicapping.”

But the sun came up on Monday, and on Tuesday and by Wednesday I had enough excuses in my quiver that I was making a case that I should have been 8-0. Well, maybe not 8-0 but I had at least rationalized the losses to keep me from the ledge.

Well, what exactly went wrong? The following were the main stories that dominated my thinking and formed my opinions, and ultimately led to my picks last week:

  1. “Prove it to me” and “I will pay to see it” – Mahomes and Goff. After being burnt by first time QB’s the week before, I needed these two quarterbacks to prove they were ready for the pressure. Both guys absolutely proved they can handle the moment, albeit with a lot of help from teammates, the refs and the other team. Oh and I did in fact pay to see it!
  2. “The Pats are done” – I am sticking to this, they are done and this version is seriously flawed. They did absolutely nothing different than what I expected – short passes and a lot of running. The problem was the Chargers scheme to stop the Pats was a joke, as if Belichick sent Anthony Lynn a recommended game for beat the Pats and Lynn implemented every bit of it. You know like a Jedi-mind trick.
  3. “This miracle run by the Eagles was over and over in a big way” – A huge part of that thinking was the wear and tear they endured over the last six “all-in” weeks would leave them emotional spent and hit them hard in Nawlins. The fact is it did, but the Saints were incapable of putting them away (missed field goal, touchdown called back for bogus holding and three lousy Brees throws that should have been touchdowns). Think about this – if Brees hits a wide open Ted Ginn Jr on the first play, does that game end closer to 41-20 or 20-14? Exactly.

Obviously, the above made me feel better that I was the victim of two teams not showing up, some bad luck, plenty of bad calls, both refs and coaches (PI on 4 and 3 in LA; McVay going for the touchdown on 4th from 1, up 8?!?). However, you don’t post a big, fat zero without some serious flawed logic that includes overlooking some obvious things:

  1. Winning back-to-back playoff games on the road is tough (teams off a road win, back on road now just 15-37 since 2002). The reality is I only picked one (Chargers) of the three teams in that situation last week to win. I completely ignored the sacred playoff rule of “pick the winner.”
  2. Speaking of the “pick the winner” rule. I got too caught up in the disparity of the divisional round SU results versus ATS results. Since 2002, 16 out of 64 divisional games the SU winner did not cover the spread, meaning 75% of the time the winner covers the spread. I picked both the Chiefs and Rams to win but not cover based on that notion. In hindsight, one of those I would have either outrighted the underdog or picked the favorite to cover – if I could climb in Doc Brown’s Delorean so I could tell my last week self one thing, it would be “pick the winner, fool!”
  3. I committed the “Cardinal Sin” of handicapping – I let my personal feelings sway my picks. I wanted the Pats to lose, I want them to be done, I am sick of them, I am sick of the AFC East and it’s utter incompetence at every level – players, coaches and management – for 18 years now; likewise, the 2018 Eagles are a trash team with a couple of really unlikable players (Michael Bennett), no way I wanted this miracle run to continue; and as a man of faith, I like Nick Foles and what he stands for, but I was done with the “Nick Foles” magic show. I built a case based on those feelings and ignored glaring facts that would have refuted my feelings, and no, I have never worked for the Ada, Oklahoma prosecutor’s office!

Conference Championship Team Rankings – things are tight, really tight, I mean the WWE has gotten exactly what they wanted, any of the remaining teams could win this thing. As a twist, I turn back the clock to look at what could have been for the historical team for each of the remaining teams.

1.New Orleans Saints (+225, +240, +195)

Historical Team: 2009 New Orleans Saints. Remember the 2009 Saints needed Favre be the “oh no” version of Brett Favre to pull that game out. Also, in 2018 the Saints would have had to scored a touchdown in overtime to end it or the Vikings would have gotten a chance.

2.Kansas City Chiefs (+475, +500, +260)

Historical Team: 2001 St. Louis Rams. You know if you put the 2001 Rams in 2018, they beat the Patriots silly. Can you imagine the number of penalties on Ty Law and Otis Smith would have incurred in that game? Even if Tom Brady “fanboy” Clete Blakeman was the ref.

3.Los Angeles Rams (+600, +500, +400)

Historical Team: 2001 Chicago Bears. Given the win over the Cowboys, I think their historical team is closer to the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But for fun let’s imagine the 2001 Bears beat the Eagles to advance to the play the Rams. Thinking the Rams win that game against the regular Bears 31-10, against mini-Bears with regular size Ditka coaching 49-7 and 91-0 against mini-Bears, with no Ditka. #SuperFans

4.New England Patriots (+600, +600, +375)

Historical Team: 1993 Buffalo Bills. The most interesting thing about the future odds this week is the significant drop for the AFC teams. Like suddenly, the AFC teams are better because the Chiefs and Pats beat two teams that didn’t get off the bus! For the 1993 Bills, let’s imagine Scot Norwide makes that field goal against the Giants, or maybe Levy doesn’t play for a 47-yard field giving the 1990 Bills the win. Does that spark four straight Super Bowl wins? Doubtful, but they might have pulled off 2-2 and beat the Cowboys in 1993.

Geaux Saints! Emotional Hedge week!

Conference championship round notes (since 2002):

  • Home teams have won the last 10 conference title games, 8-2 ATS; Overall home teams are 26-10 and 20-15-1 ATS. (Chiefs and Saints)
  • Home teams winning but failing to cover in the divisional round are 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS; 1-6 to the Over (Saints)
  • The Pats have been an underdog in the conference title game just twice, 0-2 ATS

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

The back of Colin’s player card:

Note: Lines are courtesy of 5dimes.eu

Patriots @ Chiefs (-3 -115, 55.5)

Girl (Tomi), don’t go away mad, just, for the love of God, go away.” – Motley Crue (1989)

Oh boy, you’re thinking, here we go again . . . Colin’s letting his personal feelings get in the way of the “right” pick! Not so fast, keep reading.

Did you know – the last time Tomi Brady won on the road in the playoffs, most of the Pats roster was in school – high school, a handful in junior high. The year was 2006, the opponent was the Colts, the score at one point was 21-3 in favor of the Pats, final score was 38-34 Colts. Can you believe the GOAT, Tomi Brady, choked that game away? Or the greatest coach in the history of the world, blew an 18-point lead to Peyton Manning of all quarterbacks?

The thing is that 2006 Pats team was seriously flawed, a team that was forced to play a WR at DB, a team with zero deep threats, a team that won the divisional round against the Chargers by sitting back and letting the Chargers, well be the Chargers. Sound familiar? Compare that to this year, serious flawed team with no deep threats and beat the Chargers in the divisional round by the Chargers being the Chargers, ill-prepared to play football on the biggest stage.

Given that, this Pats team is beatable, the question is – how do you go about beating them Pats? Well, it starts with defense, and hey, I am no defensive coordinator but scheming to the beat pats doesn’t seem like rocket science. Here are three simple things I would do:

  1. Hit Tomi early, even if you have to take a 15-yard penalty. Dirty? Yeah, no doubt that is cheap and dirty, but isn’t that what is missing from this kumbaya, soft-ass league right now? Chiefs defender, ask yourself this question, “Do you want to win the Super Bowl?” Or you would rather hope to get Tomi’s signed “game used” jock after he dispatches you? For reference on how to treat a quarterback in this scenario, re-watch the 2009 NFC Title game between Saints and Vikings, where the Saints, albeit being the “bountygate” game, repeatedly hit Favre and it had an impact on him. And if that had an impact on a tough guy like Favre, imagine the impact on the soft, Ugg wearing, underwear model, Tomi. Think about the first passing play of this game and Brady gets nailed, he won’t be comfortable the rest of the game. Can the Chiefs get to him? Well they rank 7th in adjusted sack rate, which is very comparably to the Steelers, who gave the Tomi fits in the final month of the season. Uh, so YES they can.
  2. For the love of God, you do not sit back in a zone, attempting to take away the one thing the Pats cannot do – throw the ball deep. The good news is the Chargers provided the blue-print for what NOT to do against the pats. It’s physical man coverage with creative blitzing or DIE against the Pats. Sure, Edelman is hyper quick off the line and may beat man coverage initially, so maybe you bracket him and take your chances with Phillip Dorsett or Chris Hogan. Even if Edelman is able to shake loose, if the Chiefs accomplish point #1, the ball is likely to come out too quick or fall at Edelman’s feet because Tomi will be rattled.
  3. Punish the receivers on these short passes. I think this was the Chargers game plan as well, but like the Chargers do, they failed to execute. This all about energy and effort, something the Chargers lacked from the opening kickoff, I have to believe the Chiefs will bring max effort.

Now can the Chiefs do these three things? Yes, I believe they not only can but will. And, yes, I thought the same about the Chargers, however, here are the differences:

  1. Chiefs are not road weary;
  2. The Chiefs have NFL plus-level linebackers;
  3. As mentioned several times the Chiefs will not sit back in a zone and let Tomi dink and dump them to death;
  4. It seems like everyone made a huge deal about the Chargers D-Line based on their play against the Ravens – that had more to do with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens ineffectiveness. The reality is the Chargers D-line is average, the Chiefs D-line is above average; the Chargers linebackers would struggle to earn starting spots at Ala . . ., uh, I mean Clemson, the Chiefs linebackers are much better. The Chargers do have an advantage in the secondary, of course, they negated any advantage by sitting in a zone.

All that said, I still expect the Pats to put up points, therefore, the Chiefs offense will have play more like their first half against the Colts. Oh, there is some good news, the Chiefs have the number #1 offense in the NFL.

I have no doubt Billy B will have a plan but that plans breaks down when Mahomes gets out of the pocket. What happens then? Mahomes will make plays, big plays. The Pats area better against statuesque quarterbacks, and not the Greek God statue, but rather the inability to move statue.

Look both of these games this weekend are tight, they obviously could go either way, in fact the best play of the weekend might be to play the +500 on the prop that the game is decided by exactly three points.

But, I am tasked with making a pick, and at the end of the day, Jim Nantz will ask Andy Reid what the difference was this year, Reid will respond, “It was just our time, Jim, just our time.”

One final thing that is incredibly annoying – the Pats playing the “nobody respects us” card. That is unbelievably weak. I appreciate the three other teams in the final four have not resulted to such tactics to create motivation for themselves, honestly Pats act like you have been there before, because you have. This week, Julian Edelman told America to “bet against us.” Done.

Chiefs 35 Patriots 31

Prop Bets:

Game is decided by exactly 3 points (+500)

Sony Michel over 75.5 Rushing Yards (-110)

James White over 5.5 Receptions (-110)
Julian Edelman over 6.5 Receptions (-120)
Patrick Mahomes over 13.5 Rushing Yards (-125)
Longest Completion by Patrick Mahomes Over 44.5 (-120)
Longest Reception by Tyreek Hill Over 37.5 (-120)
Sammy Watkins over 58.5 Receiving Yards (-110)


Rams @ Saints (-3 -120, 56.5)


“The shapes up to be the best game of the weekend.” – Captain Obvious

Let’s walk through how Colin sees this game playing out:

  1. Though the Saints have an advantage in special teams, much of it is due to FG/XP but keep in mind the Rams were without Zuerlein for a fair portion of the season. Both teams do have excellent ST coaches, therefore, I would not rule out a special team play factoring in the outcome of the game. In a tight game like this, a blocked punt or big return can flip the outcome. Therein lies the unpredictability of football – if you can find a “blocked kick” prop, play it. Should be a pretty decent chunk of change.
  2. Much like last week, the Rams game plan will to run the ball a ton and use play-action to setup big plays down the field. The loss of DT Sheldon Rankins for the Saints should not be discounted as he is a run stuffer and pocket mover, the Rams will have an easier time with the interior line of the Saints. That should allow the Rams to control the clock, take the crowd out of the game and wear the Saints down – at least that would be my plan.
  3. The Rams defense is hard to gauge as they played much better last week than the regular season numbers would have indicated they would. Of course, that was Dak Prescott and not Drew Brees. Still, it seems like Suh was saving himself for the playoffs, even Corey Littleton showed up and the secondary was solid as Talib makes a big difference in what they want to do. It even seemed like Wade Phillips was alive last week, which is also good news for the Rams.
  4. If I am a Saints fan, I am a little concerned about Brees’ arm and that something might be wrong. He missed three deep balls last week, that should have been touchdowns; he got by last week, but he won’t this week with a better overall opponent. Granted some of that might be time off and working out the rust, but I am more inclined to believe his arm is dead. Not good news for the Saints.
  5. The good news for the Saints is they have Taysom Hill, who looks like he wakes in the morning and immediate head butts a brick wall. Hill hit Kamara with a perfectly thrown rope on a post route for a touchdown last week on a trick play that I am guessing Payton was hoping he wouldn’t have to use until the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, it was called back by a ridiculous holding call, but I have to say, as a Rams fan, I hope Wade Phillips saw that on film as I am sure there is a variations of that play that will be in the game plan. FWIW, that would have been a touchdown against the Rams had Payton been able to hold onto it for this week.

It would be a major disappointment if game was not highly entertaining, but not “NFL 2018” entertaining, where no one is stopped but rather this should be an old school game, every possession is precious with players playing at a high, high level.

I honestly do not see the shootout we witnessed in the regular season, given that, I would make the under the play of choice. Again, I can see this ending on an exact 3-point victory

Here is the deal, every Super Bowl winning team, save the 1972 Dolphins, has had a loss at some point in the season, some of those losses have looked ugly, so ugly that if you just watched that game you might wonder how that team could ever hoist the Lombardi. The Rams had a couple of those games down the stretch, and, for me, as noted a pessimistic fan, I felt like they had no chance of advancing in the playoffs. Last week they showed me they were a lot closer to the team early in the year than the team in December. The Rams had one goal this year – win the Super Bowl or the season would be a bitter disappointment. It is not stretch to think this team saved it’s best for playoffs. And their best this week should be good enough win their fourth NFC title.

Rams 27 Saints 24 (Rams +3.5 -125)

Prop Bets:

Game is decided by exactly 3 points (+500)
Alvin Kamara Over 40.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
CJ Anderson Over 45.5 Rushing Yards (-110)
Gerald Everett scores a TD (+380)
Gerald Everett Over 2.5 receptions (Even)
Gerald Everett Over 23.5 receiving yards (-115)
Mark Ingram Under 42.5 Rushing Yards (-115)
Taysom Hill scores a TD (+333)

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!

 

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!


NFL 2012 – Week 20, “Conference Championship” Edition

I love being on the opposite end of a two point game where I am laying 2.5 points, it really warms my heart.

Here is the back of the Colin Wynner, Handicapper player card update with 2012 stats:
Career Playoff Record (1995-2012): 105-85-5
Wildcard Round: 40-31-1
Divisional Round: 38-32-2
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.

Baltimore @ New England (-8.0)

Interesting Sub-Plot: The possibility of God intervening on behalf of the Ravens. As Ray Lewis himself told the freezing, “get me the eff out of here” Solomon Wilcots after the Ravens victory over the Broncos, “No weapon forged against you shall prosper. . .” {hugs Peyton Manning}, “No weapon, no weapon, God is amazing and when believe in Him, man believes in possible, God believes in the impossible. . .” I guess, loosely translated, that means that no one thought it was possible for the Ravens to win in Denver and God showed them!

All kidding aside, there might be something to this divine intervention theory. Think about what had to happen for the Ravens to escape with a victory – a. the oldest defense in the NFL playing on short rest and approaching close to a combined 200 plays in two weeks, yet somehow made several key stops in overtime; b. how many times to do see a defensive back with deep responsibility take such a poor route to the ball and then mis-time his jump? Never or rarely. It’s almost as if the ball changed paths at the last second and Rahim Moore got a slight push in the back as he leaped, hmmm; (c.) the fire-able move by John Fox to take a knee with 31 seconds and two timeouts left, as if his mind was suddenly frozen, hmmm; and (d.) the pick by Manning, where the entire left side of the field was vacated, yet P-dog choose to run into the defensive penetration and then throw a pass that in comparison to a throw by an 8-years girl, would have made the girl’s pass look like it was fired by Tom Brady.

Is God on Ray Lewis’ side? Maybe. But I think the better question would be – Is God against the opponent of Ray Lewis? Right, remember “no weapon forged against you will prevail . . .” Maybe God punished the citizens of the Colorado by having their beloved Broncos lose, for their egregious decision to legalize marijuana. And we know that those radical New Englanders have passed many of laws that might not have in alignment with the Big Man upstairs. Advantage Rayvens!

Teenage girl logic: I love the way people from Boston talk. So, in my best Boston accent, here is how I see this game playing out – “Look, ya bastaards, it’s going to be a real pissah for ya come the marnang, when you wake up with banger to find out ya beloved Paats got tha wicked shit kicked out of ’em.”

Trending: The Patriots are 13-5 ATS in their last 18 games when playing a team after losing the previous matchup.

The Ravens will cover if: Their defense has enough left in the tank to play a full four quarters. This is the first time since 1991 that a team will play a game after facing 87 or more plays on consecutive weeks.

The Patriots will cover if: They show up, right, I mean this is the greatest team in the history of the world, with the greatest quarterback on Earth and coached by the best coach, field general since the inception of time. They just need to make it to the field on time.

Colin Wynner, Handicapper! Calls the winner:  We were two plays away from an exhilarating, infinitely more enjoyable conference championship Sunday. Come on, admit it, Manning v. Brady, Broncos v. Patriots was “can’t miss” football. Throw in the intrigue of the Seahawks v. 49ers III and it was a “honey, I don’t think I am going to make it to the kids soccer game” kind of day. Thanks to the divine intervention play and the Seahawks celebrating a little early we now are facing possibly the worst conference championship Sunday since 2005. That year featured the Steelers v. Broncos, a game that had all the excitement of a Lance Armstrong interview, and the Seahawks v. Panthers, a game where the Panthers ran out gas, and were promptly run out of the Qwest field.

I can see this game being a lot like that 2005 Seahawks/Panthers tilt. The 2012 Ravens are a mirror image of those 2005 Panthers in a bunch of ways. Both faltered down the stretch, thus limping into the playoffs, yet both got hot by winning a couple of playoff games, including a huge road upset in the divisional round. If you remember, Steve Smith was un-coverable for those first two playoff games, amassing 4 touchdowns and 22 receptions for 306 yards. While the Ravens have not had a Steve Smith, they have had a receiver step up in each game, against the Colts Anquan Boldin put the team on his shoulders, while Torrey Smith was virtually un-coverable by the ghost of Champ Bailey last weekend.

What’s it all mean? Well, that 2005 Panthers literally ran out of gas against the Seahawks, a rested, focused bunch. The Patriots are in a similar situation as they barely broke a sweat last week in dispatching the over-matched, over-rated, under-achieving Texans.

And guess what? The world is on the Ravens, forcing the odds-makers top drop the line to from 9.5 to 8; that movement is laughable as a drop from 9.5 to 8 is statistically unlikely to factor into the outcome of this game, as just two of out 264 games played in 2012 season ended on a nine point margin. An eight point margin has a slightly higher probability of hitting with 11 games such games ending there. Still, there is less than a 1% chance that getting 9.5 is going to be the difference between cashing or not and just over a 4% chance that an investors will avoid the dreaded push. No that movement is all to get into psyche of the sports investor. I’ve mentioned it before that while all sports investors primary motivation is to win, a secondary motivation is to be on the “sharp” side. This movement reeks of “sharps” hammering the Ravens and the investor doing whatever they can, including but limited to the following blood doping, HGH, testosterone, to get to the top of the “sharp” mountain. And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the so-called “sharps” are pumping the Ravens early and often in hopes to get a better number to lay on the Patriots. Unless, of course, you believe and trust everything that comes out of a “sharp.”

With the world on the Ravens, let’s look at the case for the Pats – 1. the aforementioned 174 plays by the Baltimore defense over the last two weeks, that could equate to almost three regular season games. In addition, a high percentage of those plays are high leverage. Oh and have I mentioned that the Ravens defense is one of the oldest in the NFL?; 2. Everyone points to last year’s game as the reason the Ravens will be close, with a chance to pull off the upset in this game. Remember thought that the Ravens had a bye last year and won a home game before traveling to Foxboro. In fact, the last time the Ravens were in this situation was in 2008, they were beaten soundly by the Steelers, a game where the Ravens defense four years younger.; 3. The Pats up tempo offense is tough to stop, and Brady is awesome, but the Pats key to rolling in this game is dynamic duo of Verren and Ridley . Those guys play every play like they are competing for more playing time, and can’t you see Belichick telling each of them, “Well, we will just have to see how things play out today” in terms of their playing time. By kickoff each guy is like a rabid dog; and 4. Flacco is now at “elite” status because Boldin took over the Colts game and he completed three hail-mary passes against the Broncos. Uh, ok. In my book, still shaky, on the road, remember my rules. . .

New England 34 Baltimore 23

San Francisco (-4.0) @ Atlanta

Interesting Sub-Plot: What will Mike Smith do next? Dude looks, and acts, like he is in way over his head. Let’s totally forget about the pathetic, “playing not lose” play-calling late in that game and strictly focus of three egregiously bad decisions. First off, why did Smith choose to kick the extra point not once, but twice with very little time remaining the third quarter? The Seahawks jumped offside twice, which means the Falcons could have tried a two point attempt from the half yard line. I guess Smith adheres to the old adage,”Don’t go for two, until the 4th quarter.” Goodness that type of thinking is so Musbergerian.

The second flub by Mr. Smith was then he decides to burn his final timeout with 13 seconds left, which in and of itself would have been fine if the Falcons were not going to attempt a field goal on the next play, therefore, why leave 13 seconds on the clock? So the Seahawks can run a couple of plays? Great thinking there Mensa boy. The most humorous part of this was the way Smith sprinted down the sideline to get the timeout, he even breathed a sigh of relief, like “whew, I got there, I got the timeout.”

Finally, the onside/squib kick that gave the Seahawks the ball at their own 46 yard line with enough time for two plays. Too bad the Seahawks lost their kicker, Steven Hauschka to a strained calf a week earlier, because he has the leg to connect from well beyond 55. This might not have been Smith’s fault but really isn’t every play ultimately the coach’s responsibility.

Teenage girl logic: San Francisco seems like a cool city, it’s in California, so it has to be somewhat cool, right? Whereas, Atlanta seems really boring to me. Where is Atlanta? In Georgia? Where is Georgia? Is that even in America? I learned about Georgia in world geography class and I think it’s in Eurasia or something. Why on earth would they play this game in Eurasia? That’s just stupid. Anyway, I picked the 49ers to win the Super Bowl before the playoffs began, so duh, this is an easy win for them!

Trending: The team winning the high scoring divisional round game is 1-12-1 ATS in the conference championship game.

The 49ers will cover if: They don’t dig a deep hole like the Seahawks did a week ago. The 49ers are a team built to play from ahead or at least within a score of their opponent. And even though they have been very explosive under Kaepernick, they are not good catch-up team on either side of the ball.

The Falcons will cover if: They get out to a fast start, get the crowd involved and then keep their foot on the pedal. Despite the comeback last week, this team’s psyche is still fragile as is their fans, believe me the first sign of trouble for them and the Georgia Dome will be as silent as Manti Te’o has been this week amid rumors that he concocted a fake girl friend.


Colin Wynner, Handicapper! Calls the winner: The “sharps” are selling the idea that this is just too much “value” to pass on the Falcons. Ok, but you know what else is an extremely good value? The three week old bread rack at your local supermarket. That’s great value for a loaf of bread, in fact, practically free, but good luck choking it down without slathering on the butter mask the moldy, stale taste. But once you’ve used an excess of butter, the value is sucked out. Again this might be another case of the “sharps” either attempting a very tempting middle -3 on SF and +4.5 on Atlanta.

I so agree that the public is over-valuing the 49ers. It’s not all that close either, case in point the Falcons closed last week as 2.5 point favorites, after opening around a point to a point in a half favorites. If we use the low end opening number for a comparison of the Falcons and Seahawks, we would get the Seahawks graded two points better than Atlanta. After the Seahawks took the lead last Sunday, a bookmaker posted their NFC Championship game line at the 49ers -4 over Seattle. Meaning the 49ers grade out a roughly a point better than the ‘Hawks and three points better than Atlanta. That should put this line at a “pick.” Granted, the margin of error in this example is significant, but not four points worth. So, yes, there is great value on the Falcons.

But you go ahead and back the Falcons. And then sit back watching the following – 1. Mike Smith looking constipated. Believe me is hard enough to coach in the NFL playoffs when you’re regular; 2. Matty Ice being Matty Ice. He completed two desperation passes when the Seahawks essentially were thinking about the big celebration they were about to have in the locker room. Sorry, that game was only close because he and Smithy-poo got tight late. So, yeah, he hasn’t proved anything to me yet.; and 3. 70,000 fans thinking, and waiting for, something to go wrong. Let’s face this Atlanta bunch is somewhat apathetic to begin with, but put them through the Braves repeated playoff failures, the Michael Vick fiasco, the Petrino fiasco, the 2008 playoffs (game turned on a Michael Turner fumble that was returned for a touchdown), the 2010 playoffs (the Packers obliterated them with a lasting memory the Tramon Williams pick-6 off a Matty Ice, back footed, weak out pass) and the 2011 playoffs (where they failed a zillion times on fourth and one and were rung up by the Giants) and this group is more uptight, fidgety and pessimistic than Jesse Pinkman. Tell me you couldn’t show up at the Georgia Dome Sunday afternoon to successfully study for the MCAT test if the 49ers take the opening possession for a touchdown, followed by a Falcons three and out that includes a short armed, bounced ball to a wide open receiver by Ryan, then tack on three more points on an another 49ers scoring drive and then top it off with a tipped pass that is picked and returned for six points. 17-0 49ers, Falcons fans will be finding their “happy place.”

San Francisco 27 Atlanta 20
I just threw on my “Joe Public” sweater vest, yup, I am a square! Good luck this weekend!

NFL 2012 – Divisional Playoff Predictions, “Sunday” Edition

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)
Good luck!


NFL 2012 – Divisional Playoff Predictions, “Saturday” Edition

The Colin Wynner express was rolling toward the 11-0 holy land when out of the blue it was sent caroming into the desert roughage by what I will call the “Joe Webb experience.” And to think, I actually made this comment regarding Webb, “I still love the Vikings with Webb, their game plan doesn’t change with him – play defense and get the ball to Peterson, but now they add the element of the zone read two hours before kickoff.” We all know how that worked out. Maybe Christian Ponder is worth three points.

The “Joe Webb experience” gave me a strong desire to hurl myself off a 700 story building into a pit of fire (the pit of fire is the fallback, just in case the 700 story plunge doesn’t do the trick). But I resisted and rebounded Sunday with a perfect 2-0 record. But the primary reason I refrained, was so I can bring you the 2012 NFL playoffs divisional round winners.

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.


Baltimore @ Denver (-9.5)

Interesting Sub-Plot: Peyton Manning playoff stats in this situation are quite interesting. First, his career record with the temperature below 35 degrees is 0-3, with losses to the Jets and Patriots twice. Game time temperature in Denver – 18 degrees! In fact, at 18 degrees this will be the coldest playoff game Manning has ever started. Of course, many a Denver fan will point out two facts – 1. Manning has never lost a home playoff game where the temperature was below 35 degrees; and 2. Manning played exceptional in two cold weather home games late in the year. Fair enough, Donkey fan, but I will point out that Manning has never won a home playoff game in those frigid conditions and that the final two games of the season were against Cleveland and Kansas City, good luck with that logic. And for the record, the temp was 51 and 35 for those games so – EAAAHHHHH, sorry wrong answer!

Secondly, Manning is just 1-3 in the playoffs when coming off a bye. Guess what? The Broncos had a bye last week. And lastly, it appears that Manning will don a glove on his throwing hand to mitigate the cold weather. Hmmm, very interesting, I guess there will be no glove lost in this game.

Teenage girl logic: I love Colorado, it’s a great place to visit and a better place to live. Yeah, I’ve only been there once but I can tell it’s a perfect place with perfect people. Go Broncos!

Trending: Teams that covered a regular season matchup by 10 or more points are just 4-9 ATS in the playoff matchup.

The Ravens will cover if: Anquan Boldin takes this game over like he did last week against the Colts. “Q” might be at the beginning of a 2008 Fitzgeraldian run through the 2012 playoffs.

The Broncos will cover if: They don’t let the Ravens hang around. The Ravens are a “keep it close, steal it at the end” team. The Donks absolutely cannot let the Ravens jump out to any sort of lead in this game. just ask the Titans about that (2000 and 2008). On the flip side, if the Broncos put up two quick touchdowns, the Ravens are done!

Colin Wynner, Handicapper! Calls the winner: The was a day where you could drop a double digit number in the divisional playoff round and sip on Courvoisier while watching a 44-3 blowout. That doesn’t happen in the current NFL, well unless the team double digit dog is quarterbacked by Tim Tebow coming off a incredibly emotional Wildcard round win (see how I did that). The history of what I will call the “NFL – parity edition” tells us to take the points in these situations. Sure we are roughly 10 years into this edition, but the days of the of #1/#2 seeds laying the hammer in the divisional round is long gone.

So you’ve got that and the following: 1. It’s likely that the week off truncated the momentum for a Broncos team riding an 11 game winning streak; 2. The glove! The glove gives us litany of literary play on words, like the promiscuous young lady telling her boyfriend, “No glove, no love!” Or my personal favorite from the Naked Gun 45: Nordberg found innocent of murder, “if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit!” Well, here is one for this game, “with glove on hand for support, the Broncos shit their shorts!”; 3. The Ravens are in much better shape for the rematch, from the offensive line to the defense; 4. The emotion of Ray Lewis and the corresponding influence on the rest of the Ravens; it can’t hurt, but, I agree, the angle itself is weak, since it was obvious Ray left it on the field last week. Still if the Ravens keep it close, Ray-Ray might make a huge play somewhere late in this game that has a major impact on the outcome or at least the spread; 5. The Broncos have to be looking ahead to the showdown with the Patriots, right? and 6. It bears mentioning again – it’s too many points.

And, yes, I know this is the blueprint for playoff disaster by going against probably the single biggest playoff rule, “never back a shaky quarterback in the playoffs, especially on the road”, in the history of the playoffs or rules. Furthermore, there is a better than average that after this week, I will be bitching about not follow my own rules, along with updating the “rules” with this new one called the “never bet against NFL” rule. Yeah, it’s probably only me and like four other guys who know that the NFL would love to see a Brady and Manning matchup up for the AFC championship, in primetime no less. Eff-it all, give me the Ravens and the points

Denver 26 Baltimore 21 (3 Stars out of 5 possible)

Green Bay @ San Francisco (-3.0)

Interesting Sub-Plot: The fact that this is the “all-in” moment for Jim Harbuagh with his decision to hand the starting QB job to Colin Kaepernick. In week one, former starting quarterback, Alex Smith played about as well as one could play in leading the 49ers to a victory in Lambeau. If the 49ers lose this game with Kaepernick playing a key role in the loss, will that become the second strike against Harbuagh? What’s the first strike, you ask? Harbaugh’s charmingly self – yeah, he is so obstinate and generally unlikable that I believe he will start every job with 0-1 count, a little bit like it seems Carl Crawford does every at-bat.

Teenage girl logic: I had no idea that those gaudy “cheesehead” things were so popular, but apparently in addition to the normal “cheesehead” you can get a cheese sombrero, a cheese fireman’s hat, a cheese tie, a cheese cowboy hat, etc. etc. Yikes, with all that crazy cheesehead crap donning the rather large humans in Packer-land , a home game in Green Bay must rival a tattoo convention and most nights on Bourbon street for biggest “freak show” ever. And my goodness, they have cheese earrings as well. How tacky! But I see can totally see this girl named Sarah wearing them. Uh, she is such a slut! I can imagine that guys would be all like, “Oh, Sarah how cute, you have cheesehead earrings.” ARGH, I can’t stand her, she is so ugly and the only reason guys like her is because she is a total whore! ARGH! Oh wait, this is where I am supposed to make a pick, right? OK, OK, enough about sluts, I think the 49ers are going to win the Super Bowl, so DUH, they are going to win this game!

Trending: Home playoffs teams favored by 3 or less points are just 7-13 ATS since 2002.

The Packers will cover if: If, “the most worthless piece of shit in the world” (as a fantasy buddy of mine calls him) a.k.a. Jermichael Finley, shows up ready to be the difference. Look it seems almost impossible for Finley to be a non-factor given that he is 6-4, 240, runs a 4.4 40, posesses amazing balance and athletic giftedness but somehow he does. Yup, most games Finley is invisible. And when not invisible he can be found dropping key third down passes or pointing first down when coming up a half yard short or tweeting “YOTTO.” YOTTO (“Year Of The TakeOver”), is an acronym coined by Finley after his breakout year. Interestingly, I coined the YAYWIGFAL to describe his play the year after his YOTTO year (“Year After YOTTO When I Got Fat And Lazy”). He can be difference in this game for the Packers, if 1. he shows up ready to play; and 2. Rodgers and McCarthy have enough trust left in him.

The 49ers will cover if: Colin Kaepernick plays less like Colin Wynner and more like Colin Kaepernick. I’m not going to lie with me at quarterback in this game, the number is probably close to Packers -7.5, so Kaepernick is worth close to 11 points more than me, but the junior Colin has the potential to lay an egg here, or in other words – there is massive pressure on this kid. So far he has handled the pressure in every spot, but this is the biggest, brightest stage of his career, and one where the 49ers are expected to win.

Colin Wynner, Handicapper! Calls the winner: This is tough, really tough, man! On one hand you have the “Lindsay Lohan doing porn” inevitable factors, like Rodgers is going to be harassed all day long by that 49er defense line and David Akers will miss a bushel of field goals, while Billy Cundiff sticks pins in an Akers voo-doo doll. Those are the gimmies, but that’s not going to get me the much sought after W. I firmly believe to have a winning week this week, I need this game. Sure when I interviewed before the game, I will tell the world, “they all count the same in the standings.” But this game, this game is a game I need, a game I want badly.

Therefore, I have to dig deeper for this one. Truth be told I loved the Packers from the start of the week. But that’s three parts of “the public would be all over 49ers” (thus giving me the playoff rule “it’s never a bad idea to be on the same side as the house”) and one part “revenge for week one.” The revenge card is an over-played, never truly works like you think it will.  Plus, from my rudimentary “bet metrics” the money appears to be fairly well divided, therefore, we can totally throw out the “it’s never a bad idea to side with the house” rule.

Desperate situations call for desperate measures, so I went go to the biggest 49er fan I know “Da Carz”, who has always had an unrealistic view of his team. So, I asked him how nervous he was on a scale of 1=already booked my flights to New Orleans to 10=I am wearing Depends just to be safe. His response, “I am about a five. I believe in my team, but Aaron Rodgers is the wildcard. If they did not have a good quarterback, I would not be worried.” Hmm, a five, huh? Thanks for nothing!

Despite his middling response, he gave me exactly what I needed. Here is the deal – last year in a similar spot “Da Carz” told me that the 49ers were about to visit “Lock” city against the Saints, so reading his comments this year, he’s not a five, he’s a 9.9999, meaning he’s probably played the game out in his mind which caused him to shart himself.

So here we go, I jumping off the building here holding my balls and screaming “Geronimo” (wait, is that insensitive?). I think Kaepernick is shaky, at least shaky enough that if the Packers put up the first points of this game the pressure will go from, in terms of the aforementioned Lohan, “if this B-Movie, and my over-acting, work for me, I might be able to claw my way back into fringe blockbuster movies, plus I will be able to continue pay rent, always a bonus” to “only one option left – hard-core porn. And rent is now a 50/50 prop each month.” I also am not buying that Justin Smith is back to anywhere near 100%, something the Packers will figure out on the first series and make adjustments to aid their one liability in this game, the offensive line.

Bottom line – the Packers have been there, done that in hostile road playoff game environments. The 49ers needed five turnovers and two miracle drives from their backup quarterback to pull off a win against a “good quarterback” last year. All cheese, all the time!

Green Bay 24 San Francisco 20 (2 Stars)

Coming up – the Sunday divisional round picks!

Good luck this weekend!


NFL 2012 – Playoff Predictions, “Wildcard Weekend” Edition

Despite a losing record, Colin somehow managed to sneak into the playoffs and is ready for a “Giants-esque” type of run. The Giants of 2007/2011, not the Giants of 2012.  The goal is always the same – 11-0!  Let’s be honest though, an 11-0 romp through the playoffs would be less about my knowledge and almost entirely a function luck.  Look at this week’s lines, they’re tight, offering very little value on any team this weekend.  In situations like that, one should pass, but since I pick every game, every week here, I don’t know the meaning of pass.  But to help reflect my overall feelings about a game, I will give my confidence on each game; I will use the a  “tout trick” and give you a “stars” scale, like “my 100* Game of the Universe”, except I will keep it to 1 to 5 stars, with 5 stars representing a solid play and one star meaning John Anthony just flipped a coin to determine the winner.

Bottom line – I can’t get to 11-0, without a 4-0 start.  Let’s get it started with WILDCARD WEEKEND!

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

Career Playoff Record (1995-2011): 100-82-5
Wildcard Round: 37-30-1
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.

Cincinnati @ Houston (-4.5)

Public Perception: Houston is limping into the playoffs by losing three of their last four games, including the dismantling at the hands of the Patriots four weeks.  Plus, the Texans let the #1 overall seed out of their grasp and are now forced to play Wildcard Weekend.

The Bengals, meanwhile, made playoffs with strong 7-1 2nd half of the season.  It’s a no brainer, right?  The Bengals will march into Houston and lay down the smack.

Teenage girl logic:  OMG, have you seen a Bengal shred a Zebra for their dinner.  Savages, which makes me think the Bengals will shred the Texans the same way.  But what is with the women Bengal having to do all the hunting for the man?  That makes me sick to think about that poor lady having to go on a murdering spree just to keep her family fed, while that deadbeat lays around doing nothing.  No way I can back a team named for such a chauvinistic species.

Trending: Playoff teams playing at home with a losing streak of more than two are 7-3 ATS since 2002.

If the gang from Scooby-Doo captured the 2012 Bengals and unmasked them, they would be: The 1995 Detroit Lions, who finished 7-0 to make the playoffs and were unceremoniously bounced by the Eagles in Philadelphia.

If the gang from Scooby-Doo captured the 2012 Texans and unmasked them, they would be: The 2006 Indianapolis Colts, who limped to the finish line after a 10-1 start had Colts fans talking about home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  The Colts found themselves in the same position as the Texans, having to play on Wildcard weekend.  The Colts survived the injury riddled Chiefs which catapulted them to the Super Bowl title, albeit probably the weakest champ in the history of the NFL.

The Bengals will cover if: They play smart football.  Look after watching this team the last month, they are a dumb team, led by a shaky head coach who seems to lack the ability to reel these guys in.  Whether it’s a bad turnover, a stupid, meaningless penalty or the butchering of clock, the Bengals cannot afford to make mistakes if they have designs on delivery Marvin Lewis a playoff victory.

The Texans will cover if: They show up with the past month in the past.  Or simply if the 10-1 Texans teams shows up.  They need a big play early to get the crowd fully engaged;  the longer they keep the Bengals in the game, the more likely the crowd will begin to expect “bad things” to happen.

Colin Wynner, calls the winner: Here is what I wrote about the Texans prior to the playoff matchup with the Bengals in 2011:

“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.”

Evoking the “remember history” playoff rule,  I pretty much feel the same way this season.  The late season swoon is more a product of circumstance of the schedule as opposed to exposing this team as a fraud.  The Patriots loss was acceptable, though I will admit the manner in which they lost was really, really bad.  Still that’s what the Pats do, pile it on and embarrass teams.  The Vikings loss came a week after clinching the division, when the Vikings were in full on desperation mode.  The Colts loss in week 17 was Colts coach Chuck Pagano’s first game back from cancer treatment, I think the Colts were slightly motivated. Yeah, they lost three of four but it is fairly easy to see that those were somewhat “acceptable” loses.  Now they “clean the slate” and start over.

Flipping to the Bengals, who exactly did they beat in their 7-1 stretch?  Their best win was probably over the Steelers in Pittsburgh, a game where the Steelers handed the Bengals a pick-6 along with a bad decision to go for the win with less than a minute left in game, rather than head to overtime.  The rest of the wins – Giants (who didn’t beat them this year), Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Eagles and Ravens (week 17, when the Ravens rested their starters).  Not exactly running through the heart of the 1927 Yankees lineup, more like the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks.

Bottom line – if this game were played a month ago, the Texans would be 7 point favorites, 2.5 points is too much of an adjustment considering the facts detailed above.  Houston 27 Cincinnati 17 (3 Stars)

Minnesota @ Green Bay (-7.5)


Public Perception: This will be third meeting in six weeks between these NFC North division rivals, and despite the almost weekly universal public backing of the Packers, it appears as though the Vikings are getting the majority of the early public action.  It might be as simple as the public has fallen in love with Adrian Peterson and the 7.5 feels like stealing money.

Teenage girl logic: When I was a little girl the Packers played in the Super Bowl and my parents drug me to this party where there was a ton of food but nothing good to eat.  Anyway, the highlight of my day was this Packer fan who brought his cheesehead with him to support the Packers.  My parents asked him if I could play with it and when he handed it to me, I was mesmerized by it.  It was very bright orangish/yellowish  color, I tried to pull off a piece because I was hungry.  Hey, I was a toddler, it’s what I did – eat and destroy things !  Well, it created quite a stir with this jack-off Packer fan who went nuts and ripped it out of my hands.  And he scolded me to boot.  Well guess what, Mr. Packer CheeseHead Freak, now I have the power and your beloved team is going to lose this week to my favorite player, Adrian Peterson.  #Packers = #EpicFail

Trending: Playoff teams playing at home laying 7.5 points are just 1-3 ATS since 2003.  Home teams in the third meeting of the season are just 5-9 ATS since 2001.

If the gang from Scooby-Doo captured the 2012 Vikings and unmasked them, they would be: The 2002 NY Giants.  Both teams were left for dead after falling to 6-6 in week 12, both won out to make the playoffs, both were shaky at quarterback (Kerry Collins), both rely heavily on their running game (Tiki Barber), neither had a premier receiver (Amani Toomer) and both lost a key offensive cog in the middle of the year (Ike Hilliard/Percy Harvin).  The 2002 Giants out-played the 49ers in the Wildcard game that year, but botched a snap on the game winning field goal attempt that cost them game.  This was despite the fact that an eligible receiver was literally tackled when releasing on the “FIRE” play.  I think the refs were confused because the eligible receiver had a number like 68 or something, therefore they thought – 1. He was ineligible; 2. he would have caught maybe one out of a hundred passes in practice, so it really did not matter; and 3. the defender was merely playing the ball.  Either way I expect the Vikings to play this game extremely close.

If the gang from Scooby-Doo captured the 2012 Packers and unmasked them, they would be: The 2006 New England Patriots.  The ’06 Pats were maybe the worst Pats team in the Belichick/Brady era, but they came within a Troy Brown dropped pass of playing in the Super Bowl against an over-matched Bears team.  This Packers team is the worst since Aaron Rodgers first season as the starting quarterback.  The defense is average at best, the offense had no real threat of the running game, the receivers are banged up and somewhat ineffective and the offensive line is a liability.  Yet, if they get hot, they could wind up in the Super Bowl.

The Packers will cover if: They render Christian Ponder completely ineffective.  We know the Packers will score some points; we also know that Peterson will get his share of yards, but if Ponder plays like he did in the Vikings first visit to Lambeau, the Packers are easy ATS winners.

The Vikings will cover if: Christian Ponder plays like he did in the season finale against the Packers.

Colin Wynner, calls the winner: I like the Vikings to possibly steal this game.  And yeah, I realize that picking the Vikings violates the “never back a shaky quarterback on the road” rule.  However, let’s be honest, for this game the rule can easily be modified to “never back a shaky quarterback on the road unless over half of the offensive plays involve handing off to Adrian Peterson.”  Plus, it’s a night game, it’s Green Bay, it’s at night – any inclement weather will be an advantage for the team that has Adrian Peterson.

Bottom line – I think the Vikings can win this game (“Don’t pick the dog unless you think they can win”), but I feel very confident that if they don’t they will be within the number.  Green Bay 27 Minnesota 21 (3 Stars)

Indianapolis @ Baltimore (-7.5)

Public Perception: The Ravens certainly haven’t won bettors over this season, in fact most likely the public jumped off them right about the time they hammered the Giants, I know I did (%^$&).  Regardless, my general feeling is that the public (a). loves Andrew Luck , Chuck Pagano and this Colts Cinderella story; and (b). believes seven points is too many for the Ravens to lay against virtually anyone.

Teenage girl logic: The Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck, looks a little bit like a descendent of sasquatch, but it’s kind of hot!  His jaw line seems a little too large to be completely human and the neck beard is downright creepy.  Nevertheless, I would totally go out on a date with him.  And I totally see him winning this game.

Trending: Small sample size be damned, but the Colts are 0-2 ATS this season when facing a winning team on the road.

If the gang from Scooby-Doo captured the 2012 Colts and unmasked them, they would be: The 2011 Cincinnati Bengals.  The Bengals came from nowhere last season to make the playoffs with a rookie quarterback and young group of receivers.  They were the media darling upset pick last year during wildcard weekend, yet they shrunk in the  bright  lights of the playoffs.  That’s the 2012 Colts story.

If the gang from Scooby-Doo captured the 2012 Ravens and unmasked them, they would be: The 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers.  I am not going as far as suggesting that the Ravens will run the table and win the Super Bowl, but a guy like Ray Lewis retiring can spark some serious emotion; enough emotion that when coupled with a break or two that can carry a team to the title.  Think back to that Steelers team with the beloved, spiritual leader, Jerome Bettis set to retire, they went on an amazing run that featured huge breaks. They would not have been beaten by the Bengals, if Kimo doesn’t launch himself into Carson Palmer’s knee. They caught two huge breaks against the Colts the following week when Nick Harper ran into the Ben Roethlisberger tackle and then that idiot kicker missed a relative easy field goal at the end of the game.  You just never know we might see the Ravens, probably the worst team of the Ravens during the Harbaugh era, in the Super Bowl.

The Colts will cover if: They jump out to an early lead.  The Colts are built to play from ahead, and though they have had several amazing comebacks this season, most of those came against mentally weak teams like the Lions, Dolphins and Titans.  When the Colts stepped up the competition on the road, they were over-matched and out of the game early.  That cannot happen against the Ravens.

The Ravens will cover if: They utilize their best offensive player, Ray Rice.  For whatever reason the Ravens were hell bent the season on allowing Joe Flacco to throw the ball all over the place, even when it was apparent he was off his game or when the game situation dictated doing otherwise.  This team is built to pick their spots to throw..  Run to setup the pass, play defense and feed off the crowd.  Easy cover if they keep it simple.

Colin Wynner, calls the winner: I don’t believe the Colts can win this game outright, therefore, I would have to ignore the “don’t back an underdog unless you believe they can win the game outright” rule to play and hope that they keep it close or get a backdoor cover at the end of the game.  No thanks!

Bottom line – The Ravens get a huge emotional lift from the return of Ray Lewis, not to mention the emotion they will have knowing this is Lewis’ final season and possibly his final game at home, therefore, there is no way they want him to go out a loser with a disappointing loss at home.  Plus, when the Colts have ventured out against playoff caliber competition, they have been destroyed this season.  Finally, Andrew Luck has been un-impressive over the final month of the season, completing under 50% of pass attempts.  Baltimore 31 Indianapolis 10 (4 Stars)

Seattle (-3.0) @ Washington

Public Perception: The public appears to be slightly favoring the Redskins, which makes sense based on them being a home team underdog.  The public will over-value that fact without giving any thought to the matchup of the two teams.

Teenage girl logic: Wait a second, isn’t Seattle in Washington, how can they be playing Washington?  Does Washington have two teams, one in Seattle and one somewhere else in Washington?  Maybe one is a college team?  If so, then I think they will win because a pro team can beat a college team any day.

Trending: Road favorites in the wildcard round of the playoffs are 5-4-1 ATS.  Not sure that adds a lot of value, other than to dismiss the notion that home underdogs are some golden play.

If the gang from Scooby-Doo captured the 2012 Seahawks and unmasked them, they would be: The 2008 Baltimore Ravens.  The 2008 went on the road as a wildcard team, beating back-to-back division champs on their way to the AFC championship game.  The similarities between the two teams – rookie quarterback, stifling defense, a pounding running game and above average special teams.  Though I can see this Seattle team finishing the season by hoisting the Lombardi.

If the gang from Scooby-Doo captured the 2012 Redskins and unmasked them, they would be: The 2000 Philadelphia Eagles.  Remember nobody gave the Eagles any chance to beat the favored Tampa Bay Buccaneers in that 2000 wildcard game.  It certainly would not shock me if the Redskins won this game.

The Seahawks will cover if: Russell Wilson doesn’t revert to early season Russell Wilson.  As good as Wilson has been, he is still a rookie making a playoff start on the road in a hostile environment  that will likely be ratcheted up ten notches due to the drought of home playoff games for the Redskins.  Trust me, this place will be rocking given the Redskins fans are football crazed with 10 years pent-up frustration and it’s the late Sunday game.  Not that there is ever much productivity in Washington, but don’t expect any on Monday.  The Seahawks need to reduce that crowd to on the verge of passed out drunks early in that game or it’s going to be a long day for them.

The Redskins will cover if: Robert Griffin III is running less like Peter Griffin and  more like the RG III we have grown to love this season.  It was apparent last week that RG III’s leg  was hurting, even though he was able to out-run most of the defenders even with that defective limb.  If he is back close to mid-season, “take off from 76 yards” RG III, he is capable of putting this Redskins team on his back, neutralizing that Seahawks defense and leading the Redskins to an upset.

Colin Wynner, calls the winner: The Seahawks have been the best team in the NFL over the last month.  In terms of “true” power point differential, this is the biggest mis-match of the weekend at 6 points differential (subtracting out the 3 points for home field on the home favorites and adding three to Seattle).

Bottom line – RG III scares me to death, but Seattle isn’t going to let Alfred Morris run for two bills against them, therefore, the game will be on Griffin’s shoulders and I simply don’t see that knee improving that much this week.  Again, he is still faster than most of the NFL, but with the discomfort in the leg, he isn’t as willing to take off running, which enhances Seattle’s dominate defensive advantage. Seattle 23 Washington 14 (2 Stars)

Good luck and enjoy the playoffs!