of all… congratulations to Mike. 256 games played and he finished
by selecting more than half of them right, and clearing the pack
by 2 games. Here are our final standings…
Mike Jr 110-120-10
at the Backpack, we approach the playoffs in two ways… beginning
to end, and against the spread. Plus, since we pick beginning
to end without the spread, we also toss in a third set of picks,
looking at each game every week without the spread as well.
going to try and give a basic, straight ahead look at the games
this here. Perhaps a few wiseass comments… but the reality is
that out of the 11 games that will lead us to a Super Bowl champion,
right now only four of the games have two teams playing in them
that we know by name. Barely more than half… six… have home teams
that we know for certain. So I think we need to try and be a bit
fair with the observations.
York (Jets) at Indianapolis
~ In what may be an amazing concept, I believe that in the first
week every road team might be “favored” by the majority of people
in an honest vote. Meaning if you asked a thousand… a million…
sports fans if New York or Indianapolis, Green Bay or Philadelphia,
is the better team, more than half would tell you New York and
Green Bay. I don’t think we need to ask about New Orleans, and
think the same overall argument holds true for Baltimore. (Yes…
it would be close for New York and perhaps Green Bay… but I actually
would agree. Road teams are better.) But this is the playoffs.
And, as an example, there is only one path for New York to make
it to the Super Bowl. On the road. A brutal road indeed. For while
you may respond that Green Bay has the same obstacle… consider
this… Indianapolis, New England, Pittsburgh/Baltimore/Kansas City.
That’s what the Jets face. Win here… they face the Patriots. Win
then… they face whatever team remains. (Kansas City would be back
at home if they faced the Jets.) For the Colts, this might be
the best possible situation for an opener. Sure… this isn’t the
powerful Indianapolis people remember. But they are dangerous.
They will score. And I do believe there are some questions about
New York. See… the Ravens would be a hideous opening opponent
for them… with a tough defense and a balanced offense. But the
Jets create an interesting scenario where… well… you tell me something.
The Jets went 2-3 once December arrived. Does that scream “worthy
of swagger and bravado” to you? Because they have been taking
and puffing out their chests. Are they really the better team
here? Or is their circus wagon and sideshow just louder? I could
be proven wrong, but I think the self-anointed emperor has no
clothes and the pressure of the playoffs will hit them harder.
Time will tell.
Terry: New York
Mike Jr: New York
Gus: New York
at Kansas City
~ I’d like to tell you the Chiefs have a shot… and at home, maybe
they do. But the reality is, I see this game as eerily similar
to last year’s playoff game between Baltimore and New England.
(And, as those of you that pay attention know, from their quarterback
to their coaches and front office, Kansas City is a minor league
New England right now.) The Chiefs really don’t seem prepared
to be playing high-stakes games with the rough and tough big boys
of the AFC. I like that they’re balanced and don’t turn the ball
over. If they get ahead, the Ravens could be in deep trouble.
But I think you have to go with the odds here. If you think Baltimore
is the better team… and at 12-4 with some strong games on their
record, you probably do… the history leans toward a potential
blowout. In early November, the Broncos swept the city of Denver
with the Chiefs. San Diego did the same in December. (Oh… but
those were on the road. Well…) In the last game of the year, with
“avoid the Patriots in round two” on the table, Oakland came in
to Kansas City and destroyed the Chiefs. That’s 3 losses
by… stay with me… by 20 or more in their last 8 games.
And every one of the teams that beat them in those particular
contests is home right now. The big boys are playing. If Baltimore
doesn’t win… New England should. I think Baltimore will.
Terry: Kansas City
Mike Jr: Baltimore
Molly: Kansas City
Gus: Kansas City
Orleans at Seattle
~ What do you want me to say? Seriously. There’s nothing for this
one. No insight. Really not worth discussing. Kansas City is tough
to defend since they will struggle mightily on the road… but at
least they don’t turn the ball over, have a quarterback that I
think you could argue has played under pressure and delivered,
and they have a defense. That said… Seattle is the only team out
of the 12 that has absolutely no chance of making it to Dallas.
None. Zero. (Sorry Terry… zip.)
Bob: New Orleans
Mike: New Orleans
Mike Jr: New Orleans
Molly: New Orleans
Bay at Philadelphia
~ Take Seattle out of the debate. Only Indianapolis has given
up more points than Philadelphia in the playoffs. And the difference
is 50 to 100 points (or more). The Packers are not that far away
from giving up 10 points less per game than the Eagles. (It’s
377 to 240… difference of 137… that’s just under 9 per contest.)
The Eagles lost their last two games, scoring 14 and 13 points.
They defeated New York (Giants) with a miracle 8 minutes that
said more about the dismal Giants than anything else… plus they
looked brutal before those 8 minutes. Long story short… you could
honestly say the Eagles are riding that Washington win and perception.
The reality is, they are not one of the elite NFC teams. Green
Bay trounced those same New York Giants and were never challenged.
They looked good on the road against New England, with their starting
quarterback on the bench. And while it wasn’t pretty, they defeated
Chicago on the road to make the playoffs. Yup… they could pull
a stinker. Could happen. Happened against Detroit. But overall,
they’ve been competitive week after week, won the games they should
have won, and generally get into that 30-point-scored range. And
against a team that gives up points… yeah… that matters.
Bob: Green Bay
Mike: Green Bay
Mike Jr: Philadelphia
Molly: Green Bay
Gus: Green Bay
~ Here are the three biggest things about the Patriots for me
to pass along to you… they win at home, especially over the past
ten years in the playoffs… they win after getting an extra week
off, especially over the past ten years in the playoffs… and this
year they have been beyond brilliant at getting turnovers on defense
and protecting the ball on offense. Basic stuff… but regardless
of who they play… their opponent will have played last week and
has to travel. I haven’t even begun to talk about the high-scoring
offense and efficiency in the past two months plus. Haven’t mentioned
health and balance and enthusiasm of a hungry, young team led
by some of the best veterans around. This first game is going
to be just about an impossible task for any visiting club. We
saw when the perfect season had an imperfect ending that it isn’t
impossible to defeat them. We saw last year (without a bye week
and with injuries to key players) that they can lose at home in
the playoffs. Nothing is guaranteed. Still… about as solid a pick
as possible for a playoff game this year not involving Seattle.
Bob: New England (has Baltimore at New England)
Terry: New England (has New York at New England)
Mike: New England (has Baltimore at New England)
Mike Jr: New England (has New York at New England)
Molly: New England (has Kansas City at new England)
Gus: New England (has New York at New England)
~ There are some that will tell you the Pittsburgh roster is the
best in football. I wouldn’t say that. But some will. And those
people have an interesting argument that they can support. Only
one team other than New England has a quarterback with multiple
Super Bowl victories. And that quarterback, Roethlisberger, plays
on a team with a strong defense. So when judging 50-plus players
and good-when-it-counts veterans… yeah, Pittsburgh has a case.
But let’s keep something in mind… this is not the destroy-all-visitors
Pittsburgh team we saw a few years ago. Last year some slip ups
in games they should have won cost them a playoff spot. This year…
5-3 at home. And… those three losses were all to AFC playoff teams.
(Baltimore, New England and New York.) Now… they did win in week
one over Atlanta… so give them credit. And… a win is a win in
the NFL, I suppose. But… 1-3 against playoff teams. The other
4 victories? Cleveland, Cincinnati, Oakland and Carolina. I would
be very careful about planning AFC Championship Game parties to
celebrate the Steelers playing that day. Now… that said… the Steelers
could face Indianapolis, Kansas City or Baltimore. The only team
I like them over is the Chiefs… because they don’t travel well.
Bob: Indianapolis (has Indianapolis at Pittsburgh)
Terry: Pittsburgh (has Kansas City at Pittsburgh)
Mike: Pittsburgh (has Indianapolis at Pittsburgh)
Mike Jr: Pittsburgh (has Baltimore at Pittsburgh)
Molly: Pittsburgh (has Indianapolis at Pittsburgh)
Gus: Pittsburgh (has Kansas City at Pittsburgh)
You have to like the Falcons here. I don’t… but that’s because
I see a rematch coming down the road at them and believe either
Green Bay or New Orleans are the toughest tests Atlanta could
face. Put the Seahawks in the picture and you have to figure the
Saints or Packers are coming to town. But they have a balanced
team that defends their home field quite well, and they don’t
make stupid mistakes. The Falcons win when they should… but against
quality teams they don’t win on the road, and don’t win convincingly.
They beat Baltimore and Green Bay at home… beat New Orleans on
the road… three nice wins. Pittsburgh beat them on the road and
New Orleans beat them at home. Look at it this way. remember when
New England clubbed New York and Pittsburgh? And you know how
they have defeated Baltimore and Indianapolis? Atlanta hasn’t
looked that steady and consistent. Very, very good team. Easy
to like. Headed in the right direction. I wouldn’t bet the farm
on them this year. For this week’s game, really only a visit from
Seattle would be an easy pick.
Bob: Green Bay (has Green Bay at Atlanta)
Terry: Seattle (has Seattle at Atlanta)
Mike: Green Bay (has Green Bay at Atlanta)
Mike Jr: New Orleans (has New Orleans at Atlanta)
Molly: Atlanta (has Green Bay at Atlanta)
Gus: Atlanta (has Green Bay at Atlanta)
~ And here we have an even tougher time, because the Bears are
simply unpredictable. Their defense is very good, but Atlanta’s
has been just as good, and Green Bay’s perhaps better. Their offense
has been… well… we’re talking about Jay Cutler here, and all three
possible opponents for this game have scored more than Chicago
for the year by a comfortable margin (over 3 points per game).
And here’s something to consider… the past three homes games involved
playoff teams (Philadelphia, New England, New York). Every one
of the three scored at least 26… and in those games they scored
a total of 96 points. Even Seattle won their game in Chicago.
The Bears do not dominate… they keep it close and look to be ahead
when the clock runs out. And that is not a good formula when the
team on the way to visit you could be Philadelphia (which would
be coming off an emotional win that could right their ship) or
Bob: New Orleans (has New Orleans at Chicago)
Terry: Philadelphia (has Philadelphia at Chicago)
Mike: New Orleans (has New Orleans at Chicago)
Mike Jr: Chicago (has Philadelphia at Chicago)
Molly: Chicago (has New Orleans at Chicago)
Gus: Chicago (has Seattle at Chicago)
I have this game as Indianapolis traveling to New England. As
of right now, all six of our picks are putting the game in New
England. And as I said… while upsets are always possible (you
play the games for a reason)… putting the game in New England
is probably for the best. The reality is simple… Kansas City likely
won’t win on the road. Most people will probably place Pittsburgh
or Baltimore as the opponent. Whatever team plays New England,
it will be a rematch… and New England usually wins the second
game played in any season. (Not always… but usually.)
Bob: New England (has Indianapolis at New England)
Terry: New England (has Pittsburgh at New England)
Mike: New England (has Pittsburgh at New England)
Mike Jr: New England (has Pittsburgh at New England)
Molly: New England (has Pittsburgh at New England)
Gus: New England (has Pittsburgh at New England)
This should be a crazy game. In fact, Mike and I have two wild
card teams playing each other. Only Molly and Gus have either
of the top two seeds advancing. Wild stuff. If Atlanta has to
play Green bay and New Orleans in consecutive weeks, I think they’re
in trouble. Otherwise… if they play… I think they look good in
this game. They’ll have a playoff victory behind them, and won’t
have faced a brutal offense. Chicago has to hope for a home game.
They will not win in Atlanta. Philly needs two wins to play in
this game… and their late season record would say that isn’t happening.
Bob: New Orleans (has Green Bay at New Orleans)
Terry: Seattle (has Seattle at Philadelphia)
Mike: Green Bay (has Green Bay at New Orleans)
Mike Jr: Chicago (has New Orleans at Chicago)
Molly: Chicago (has Chicago at Atlanta)
Gus: Atlanta (has Chicago at Atlanta)
~ On a neutral field, New England is the best team in football.
Remember I said people want to make the case Pittsburgh is? Yeah…
New England leveled the Steelers in Pittsburgh. New England is
the best team in football. To stop them, someone is going to have
to play a perfect game. Remember… two years ago it took not only
an brilliant defensive effort, but two miracle moments on offense
to stop a perfect season. I think we’re likely to see Green Bay
or New Orleans here. Perhaps Atlanta. So it could be exciting.
But the Patriots are the favorites for many good reasons.
Bob: New England (has New Orleans against New England)
Terry: New England (has Seattle against New England)
Mike: New England (has Green Bay against New England)
Mike Jr: New England (has Chicago against New England)
Molly: Chicago (has Chicago against New England)
Gus: New England (has Atlanta against New England)