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!