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!

Colin’s “2015 NFL – Wildcard Weekend” Winners

“I’m back!” Sure, it’s an over-used term in the world of the sports, but after two years, Colin Wynner has emerged from witness protection ready to call 2016 the year of “Wynners.”

What better way to start the comeback than to run the table in the 2016 NFL post-season – “The holy grail” of sports handicapping as no other feat is anywhere near as big of a challenge. Why is it so daunting? Well it’s simple – this is the playoffs for the books as well, and, just the NFL teams, they have to win to advance. And by advance, I mean stay gainfully employed. Post-February, it’s a long, lonely period for the books and even more so if they’re trying to make up a massive post-season loss.

The books sharp lines are tough enough but then throw in the following: line moves, every half point can be interpreted as somebody who “knows” something making a move. Of course, it could also be a small, strategic play to get the line moving with a bigger play looming. I find it is best to ignore the movement in the altogether; information overload as each game features week-long, non-stop discussion; we, as humans, are shaped by our recent history, we place value on patterns, attempting to fit each playoff team into former playoff team mold. This team reminds of me of that team and that team did this. . . ; and, finally, luck! Luck seems to find its way to Las Vegas Blvd more often than not. Leggo!

Some wildcard weekend notes (since 2002):

  • All four home teams come in as the underdog, that has not happened before
  • The visitor is 23-33 in the wildcard round; 29-24-3 ATS
  • Based on spreads, the expectation would be all four road teams will win. That has not happened since the NFL expanded the wildcard round to four games.
  • Road favorites have gone 8-4 SU; 6-4-2 ATS

Here is a list of my playoff rules.

The back of Colin’s player card:

Note: Lines are courtesy of Westgate Superbook listed at vegasinsider.com

Kansas City (-3, 40) @ Houston

My first instinct was this is the easiest game of the week – Kansas City all day. Then I have to remind myself that the books are not giving away freebies in the playoffs. Or are they? I think you could make a case that if you want all of someone’s money, you let them win a little bit first. That is the way it works in any hustle. Let’s take a golf hustle as an example, if you want to maximize profits, do you show up on the first hole and drill a 350 yard drive down the middle of the fairway, then knock a wedge to two feet for a virtual tap-in birdie or do snap hook a tee shot out of bounds, skull a chip shot across the green and miss a five footer for a snowman? Obviously, it’s the latter, you want the opponent feeling comfortable, maybe get them mentally spending some of their winnings. Then you bring the hammer, taking not only initial amount but also dipping into and draining junior’s college fund. The point is – it might look too easy and just be that way.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the case for the Texans. There is a scenario where JJ Watt simply takes this game over – sWatting balls out of the air for interceptions, forcing punts with bone rattling third down sacks of Smith and tracking plays from the backside putting the Chiefs in uncomfortable down and distance situations. For my purposes, I am going make the assumption that Watt will merely be great and not SuperHuman.

Let’s look at how the Texans finished – 7-2 their last nine, including winning three straight to close the season. That’s a hot team, right? Not so fast, the best win in the group was the 10-6 win on Monday night in Cincinnati. The other six were Titans twice, Jaguars, Colts, Jets and Saints. Not exactly murderers row of opponents.

We know more about them based on their two losses in the stretch – at Buffalo and v. New England. The Pats game stands out to me as their floor. Houton was coming off a loss to the Bills, playing on a Sunday night against the Pats, you would have expected a great effort. Instead, we got an indication of the true identity of the Texans – the 2016 Michigan State Spartans – very mediocre team that happen to play one amazing game and was marginally better than a bunch a crap teams.

Virtually every important metric favors KC in this game, expect this one – yards after catch. Kansas City is one of the top 3 teams in “yards after catch,” they are also one of the bottom four teams in “yards at catch.” Translation – they rely on receivers running after the catch to move the chains. Houston is one of the top defensive teams in limiting “yards after catch.” Translation – they don’t miss tackles and their coverage is tight. Add all this up and it might be significant, including reducing Alex Smith’s margin for error – a slightly off target pass this week might be incomplete or picked. In addition, limiting a receiver to four yards instead of six yards after a three yard pass on 3&8, means a punt and a lost possession.

There is the case for Houston. As Martin Riggs would say, ‘That’s thin, that’s really thin!” I agree with Riggs, no way I am risking perfection on the Texans ability to limit YAC.

Plus, Andy Reid gets a bad playoff rap for losing four straight NFC title games. The truth is his record in the first playoff game is very respectable 7-3. And Alex Smith has been at least above average in his three playoff games despite a 1-2 record. That, and the superior team, is enough for me.

Kansas City 23 Houston 14

Pittsburgh (-3, 45.5) @ Cincinnati

I love all conspiracy theories! Therefore, I loved the one about the Pats intentionally losing to the Jets to knock the Steelers out of the playoffs. And in typical Jets fashion they double crossed the Pats by losing to the Bills, thus giving the Steelers, who were finishing up with the practice a.k.a. playing the Browns, the playoff berth. Ahh, but Belichick had the last laugh in Miami. Instead of coaching, Belichick was clearly calculating win probabilities for NYJ/BUFF and PITT/CLE. Once it became statistically probable that the Steelers would make the playoffs, Billy boy intentionally lost to the Dolphins to avoid playing the Steelers until the AFC title game. Belichick always gets the last laugh!

That is an absurd, completely unbelievable theory. You know why? Because the missing piece here is that for any of this to make sense the Steelers had to lose the Ravens in week 16. Yep, the 2016 Ravens! Or was it the Ravens freshman team? The Ravens, quarterbacked by journey-man Ryan Mallet beat the Steelers in a must-win game for the media anointed, “nobody wants to play them” team.

Speaking of the “nobody wants to play them” team, I know it comes as a surprise but this isn’t the first time the media has anointed a team with the tag. In fact, let’s look at a couple recent:

2014 Steelers – finished by winning 4 straight and 8-2 heading into the playoffs; Result: giving the Ravens 3 points, lost 30-17 at home. Granted they did not have their starting running back, LeVeon Bell.

2013 Eagles – finished 7-1 heading into the playoffs; Result: giving the Saints 2.5 points, lost 26-24 at home.

Given the above, I am good going against the alleged “nobody wants to play them” team.

Final thought – Cincinnati’s roster is superior to the Steelers, outside of quarterback where the Steelers have the advantage. The Bengals simply need AJ McCarron to avoid colossal mistakes and the defense to play like normal. Done and done!

Cincinnati 30 Pittsburgh 21

Seattle (-5.5, 39.5) @ Minnesota

1! As in degree, one degree Fahrenheit, yikes! That is bitter, bitter Antarctica cold! And considering this will be one of the coldest NFL games ever played, it is safe to assume none of these players have played in colder conditions. And believe me, the difference between cold (20s-30s) and bitter cold, is significant.

Captain Obvious would say this bitter cold is not conducive to the passing game. Truly that is obvious but here are some facts that limit the passing game – the ball becomes a frozen slippery rock making it difficult to grip and even more difficult to throw, the offensive line has no desire to pass block, since pass blocking involves absorbing the attack from a group of pissed off Neanderthals, a.k.a. defensive players. Finally, would you want to catch a block of ice heading your way at 40 MPH? Yeah, me neither Well, neither do these diva receivers.

Add all that up and it is difficult to believe this game goes over 39.5. I can actually see both teams mutually agreeing to not run any hurry-up offense at all. “Keep the clocking moving” could be the NFL films name when replayed years from now.

If that is the case, then smart money is to take the points, figuring the Vikings merely need to muster 17 points to cover the number. I generally would agree with that logic. But . . .

I was all set to take the Vikings until I looked through their previous meeting. The Vikings first 4 possessions featured two drive ending sacks, a measly three offensive 1st downs and a single deep pass, which was picked off. By the time the Vikings got the ball for their 5th possession they were down 21-0. Now if you’re holding a Vikings ticket in that situation and someone offers you 10 cents on the dollar, tell you are not jumping on that.

My point – the Vikes are not going to have any more success establishing the run with AP or mixing in short passes in this game than they did a month ago. They need to stretch the field early. And in a game with these conditions and after watching Teddy’s flutter ball in balmy Lambaeu last week, I have zero confidence that the Vikings can stretch the field or have any success in the passing game. I am thinking the Seahawks feel the same way and will bait Teddy ballgame into firing flutter-balls deep early and often.

While the temp is going to have an impact on the Seahawks offense as well, I think overall the Seahawks find a way pound the rock and execute the short passing game. Plus, we all know at a critical point in the game, Wilson make a big play with his legs.

Before the official pick – let’s throw in the following – (a.) The Vikings might be happy with the division title. The “Inside the NFL” post-game speech by Zimmer was focused on how ballsy of an effort it was to beat the champs. The division champs. It was almost an afterthought when Zim mentioned, “There is a bigger prize.” That was not met with a hearty, collective “Yeah!” but rather a more subdued, scattering of “uh huh.” Almost as if they are resigned to their fate; (b.) Remember in Tim Green’s book “The Dark Side of the Game” where he stated on the way home from a loss, “we” saluted the “win.” You see the NFL is so physically grueling that these players look at a loss like a win, because they get to go home and heal. Now don’t get me wrong, no one goes into the playoffs to lose games, but let’s say the Seahawks grind out a 17-0 lead mid-way through the third quarter, I say the chances the Vikings pack it in and get ready for next season are pretty good; and (c.) I hate laying points, but these playoff games can become a snowball rolling downhill in a nanosecond. 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. Anyone interested in a Vikings ticket for 20 cents on the dollar?

Seattle 23 Minnesota 10

Green Bay @ Washington (PK, 46)

Check out season numbers for the following two quarterbacks, which one of these is in the playoffs:

Pretty obvious, right? Right, neither of these guys is the playoffs because these two quarterbacks are not real. Those are split season numbers for two current NFL quarterbacks – quarterback A is Matthew Rodgers, while the quarterback B is Aaron Stafford. You see what I did there!

My theory goes like this, on the flight back from the London beating, Matthew Stafford, who was fed up with his current situation, sold his soul to the devil to switch places with Aaron Rodgers. Given Matty’s bye week, the devil assured him the next time the Packers took the field it would be his soul playing QB for the Pack. Now let’s look at the four splits that made up those two quarterbacks:

Is there any other explanation than mine? Poor Matty, here he is thinking he is going to pull off some Johnny Favorite move by stealing Rodgers identity, but what ends up happening is he finds himself in worse shape than ever. Let that be a lesson to you, young pup, next time you want to trade the bone in your mouth for the “bigger” one in the water’s reflection.

The important part of this is that Rodgers is playing like Matty Stafford. Even worse, when you look at the efficiency – 5.89! That is full blown “Checkdown” Sammy Bradford territory. This dude, Rodgers, was once a calm, cold-blooded killer in the pocket, but now has morphed into a skittish version of Jim Everett these last 8 weeks.

Now it is true that Rodgers WR’s are horrible. Ok, but how do you explain the first eight weeks then? Was Randall Cobb more than a poor-man’s Az Hakim at that point? Did Devante Adams develop arthritis in week 9, affecting his ability to catch routine passes? Did James Jones lose a step? The obvious answers are no, hell no and no. Maybe the first few games teams respected these clowns, but this league takes about a nanosecond to figure out opponents weaknesses. The league knew Adams cannot catch and knew that none of these guys could get separation by week four.

No, the problem with the Packers isn’t the receiving core, it’s the quarterback core. Rodgers hasn’t been the same player since the Denver game where he took a royal beating. And that beating was been in the back of his mind ever since. He doesn’t give his receivers a chance to separate because he is looking at the rush, then he starts dancing in the pocket. That is when all hell breaks loose for him.

Now can the Packers win this game? Of course they can, just ask any one of the 400 billion Packers fans. #delusional. However, bunch of clowns also believe they can beat the Cardinals in Arizona in the divisional round. Too bad the Packers will be on the golf course during the divisional round.

Washington 23 Green Bay 17

Good luck to all!

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!