The 2011 NFL Picks
The Playoffs ~ Week One


Week One

Pittsburgh (8½) at Denver – Ok, look, there is no reason to take Denver here. None at all. Tebow hasn’t been effective at all this season. His success has essentially been a result of delivering one or two scoring drives, late in games where the defense had limited to opposition to low scores. In other words… the Broncos didn’t win so much as they survived.

I believe there is some value in that. Get late enough in a game with the score close, and the Broncos don’t think they can win… they believe they will win. That’s big.

We have a battered though decent offense coming from the Steelers, as well as a battered defense that should still be strong enough to contain the Broncos. No place for miracles or late heroics here.


Not so fast.

The trouble? Well, everyone likes Pittsburgh. I mean not a sole gives Denver a chance. And that always seems to spell trouble.

Pittsburgh has gone on the road eight times this year, and five times they couldn’t put more than 13 points on the board. Three of their losses were road games. In other words… I don’t think it’s hard to believe this game will be close and low-scoring.

On top of that, the injury report is adding up. Whether or not Roethlisberger is playing up his injury into more than it is… it has been a factor in his play. And, the Steelers are without several starters.

So don’t listen to me. After all, there’s no reason to pick Denver. Don’t bet on my words. But I’m chasing perfection, and to do that I have to predict this upset. Because I believe it’s happening.

Tebow is a winner. His team believes in him. And frankly, while the hype bothers me, I actually like the guy and respect the way he approaches the game.

Against the spread: Denver
To win: Denver

Cincinnati at Houston (3½) – Here’s my problem… I think the Texans are happy to be here.

That could be the case for the Bengals as well.

But with Houston sending out its twenty-first-string quarterback this week, I wonder if they might be lacking a fire to win it all. In fact, they not only come into this game on three losses… consider…

(1) Those losses came when, at 10-3 for the year, they still had a good shot at a top seed and a playoff bye week.

(2) Those losses were to: Carolina, Indianapolis, and Tennessee. Hardly an imposing part of the schedule.

(3) They haven’t been able to score since back when Matt Schaub was still playing.

Yeah… I’m skeptical. I don’t believe this is the same Houston team that started the season strong and looked solid. And they come in to this game playing poor football.

Against the spread: Cincinnati
To win: Cincinnati

Atlanta at New York (Giants) (3) – Which New York teams shows up? The one that needed to win, and then demolished the Jets and Cowboys? Or the one that could really use the win and then looked horrendous against the Redskins? Worth asking.

The Falcons have gone 3-1 in the past four games, and the loss was at New Orleans. The three victories were awesome demonstrations, where they scored a total of 117 points. Where it gets difficult is that Atlanta doesn’t seem to travel that well. 4-4 on the road… and not nearly as impressive.

Thing is… that’s nothing new. Matt Ryan has always been better at home… good enough to consistently get winning records from Atlanta.

This is going to be the best game of the weekend. Best played… closest final score (I think 27-24 is about right)… and just fantastic to watch. I kicked this one around longer than any other selection.

Against the spread: Atlanta
To win: Atlanta

Detroit at New Orleans (10½) – The spread isn’t a mistake. My first thought when considering this game involved the term cannon fodder. The Saints are pursuing bigger goals… are highly motivated… and the Lions are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now sure… Detroit has some weapons and a lot of talent and could put up a decent fight. But there are too many questions. And in a playoff game in New Orleans, with the crowd going nuts, and the Saints looking to end things quickly so they can prepare for the 49ers, I think playoff jitters are a major concern here.

I can already imagine a late-game picture of Stafford, with the announcers telling us how valiantly he played in his first postseason game, and how he’s young enough to make it the first appearance of many, but it just didn’t end the way he would have liked.

Against the spread: New Orleans
To win: New Orleans

Week Two

At New England – I have Cincinnati traveling to New England for this game, which so far seems to be an amazingly never mentioned contest. Not even discussed as a longshot of possibilities. But let’s put some things into perspective…


And just for kicks…


Now… what those numbers mean.

Those are scores that represent the ends of the last four playoff runs of the New England Patriots. You may notice, since all were losses, that in the first three the top score was 21-points for the Pats… and that’s a big part of my question. See, if they are only going to score 21 in any playoff game, then you can expect that game to be a loss. Because realistically, of the eleven other playoff teams, only Denver or Cincinnati could hold New England to 21 and still lose.

More to the point… and the reason we go back three scores… is this…

The last three playoff games have all been losses for New England, and in each of them the offense has sputtered and struggled. In the last two, they were starting the playoffs and at home. (28-21 is New York last year… 33-14 is Baltimore two years ago… 17-14 is the Super Bowl against New York four years ago. They didn’t make the playoffs three years ago, even with a good record of 11-5, which was the season Brady got hurt.)

I included a fourth game, a 38-34 road loss to Indianapolis, because it represents a gigantic fold from the defense. You might recall New England led that game 21-3, and was still up 21-6 at halftime. Many will argue the defense hasn’t been the same since the loss to the Colts. (I’m tempted to agree.)

So the end result here is easy.

If the Patriots offense scores 28-31 points or more, they should be fine in AFC contests. More than that and they could win it all.

If the Patriots defense isn’t asked to offer a complete shutdown performance, they should be fine in AFC contests.

The trick is… there is reason for concern. Because in the past two seasons… at home in opening games… the offense has struggled. And in two of the four losses (Baltimore and Indianapolis), the defense hasn’t even contributed.

Regardless… take New England to start off these playoffs correctly.

Selection: New England

At Baltimore – If my predictions holds true, the Broncos will be visiting the lovely city of Baltimore. If Cincy wins, regardless of the Broncos losing, it will be the Steelers visiting Baltimore. If expectations according to the real world hold, and my predictions are awful, it will be the Texans.

Regardless… whatever of three possibilities plays out… the Ravens will win.

Selection: Baltimore

At Green Bay – The trick here is that there are six decent or better teams in the NFC. Green Bay, San Francisco and New Orleans lead the field, but I think several people could at least defend the idea of Detroit, New York or Atlanta winning a second game.

The problem is, that second tier of teams represents the only group that can play Green Bay. The 49ers host a game this week… and the Saints can only move ahead through San Francisco. And honestly, good or not, those other three teams are not as strong.

Take the Packers in this one.

Selection: Green Bay

At San Francisco – As much as I admire what the 49ers did this year… I thought maybe they could win a weak division, but I never expected them to keep the gas pedal down and head right into a number two seed… I still have my doubts.

Enter New Orleans.

I believe that after losing to Seattle in the playoffs last year… after getting topped by the Packers in the opening week this year… and after putting up a great record that still forced them to play in week one of the playoffs… after hearing the talk about their quarterback being close but not the MVP… the Saints are driven and focused. I don’t think they just want to win. I think they want to trample over every opponent on their way through the playoffs.

In this game, I see two possibilities. First, the Saints in a demolition. Second, Alex Smith being given a chance to make some plays that could keep the 49ers in the game, but just not being good enough to pull it off.

Mind you… I want to see Smith do well. I think he gets an unfair amount of criticism for a team that has had awful moments as a complete team in recent years. But New Orleans will win this game.

Selection: New Orleans

Week Three

At New England – Everything I said about New England stills holds true. Keep the score down… limit Brady’s opportunities… pressure the New England defense… it can add up to a victory.

But I wonder if the Ravens defense will be fresh enough and healthy enough to keep up with the no huddle runs the Patriots are certain to unleash on them. Plus, the road has been a weakness for them this year. That top seed mattered. And if New England escapes the problems of an opening game, the home field will be a huge advantage.

Selection: New England

At Green Bay – In a rematch of opening weekend, we get treated to an all-out barnburner in in the NFC Championship game.

And this time, the Saints win.

Selection: New Orleans

Super Bowl

New Orleans versus New England – Ok… this contest is weeks away, and while possible, definitely seems a bit unlikely.

Seriously… I’m very skittish about taking the Patriots to get here considering what recent playoff efforts have shown from them.

We’ll analyze it more deeply if it actually happens. But for now, I’ll take New Orleans and an MVP award in the game for Brees.

Selection: New Orleans

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at