The 2011 NFL Picks
The Playoffs ~ Week Two


Amazing… go 2-2 and I’m not really kicking myself.

Oh sure… I suppose after the way the Giants finished out the season, I could have gone with them over the Falcons. Probably should have been more willing to take them at home. Plus, now there is definitely some consideration to be given to Atlanta and how trustworthy this team is in the playoffs.

And picking the Bungals wasn’t exactly wise… after all, did you see the game? Top defense at home against a club that made the playoffs on the final week.

But did I ever nail the Pittsburgh game!

So overall, with my final four still alive, I’m feeling pretty good entering week two, even if that ever elusive perfect record is shot to hell.

By the way… only San Francisco and New Orleans aren’t lining up for a second meeting this year. Yup… three games are playoff repeats of regular season meetings. Green Bay, New England, and Baltimore all won the previous contests. Only Denver and New England play in a different location. New England and Baltimore won the first games easily.

Denver at New England (13½) – I have only one question…

Is Tom Brady playing?

Now, chances are you think I’m being funny. But I’m not. And there’s a bit more to the question.

Brady hasn’t played well early in several games this year. In fact, over the last three weeks of the regular season the Patriots have looked awful in the early parts of games. They trailed Denver 13-7 after the first quarter, trailed Miami 17-0 at halftime, and trailed Buffalo 21-0 early and 21-14 at halftime.

And you really don’t think much about it. Why? Because the Patriots beat Buffalo 49-21. If you didn’t see the game, and only got the final score, it probably never even entered your thoughts that the Patriots scored 49 unanswered points and at one time were getting spanked.

And now we get Denver visiting New England in the playoffs.

Does Denver have a chance?


And that chance starts with Tom Brady not showing up… which, early in recent contests, he hasn’t.

Now do you see what I mean?

The Broncos did ok early in the game against the Patriots about a month ago. But… (1) that was a home game… (2) they couldn’t hold the early lead… (3) once the Patriots got rolling, they did whatever they wanted.

So, if… and let’s really stress the if… Denver gets out to a lead of 10 or 14 or 21 points, then they might have an opportunity to win this game. It would happen more or less in exactly the same fashion as last week. Big early lead… don’t turn the ball over… shorten the game by running the ball and limiting opportunities for New England… hold on late.

I don’t see it happening though.

We’ve watched in recent weeks as New England’s defense has locked down opponents in the second half of games. And the offense has proven absolutely no lead is safe.

Plus… and this is more opinion than anything I can prove… I think New England understands how they have struggled in the playoffs in recent years, and also early in games in recent weeks. So, I do believe they would love nothing more than to get out to a solid lead and never have to worry in this contest.

My expectations are that New England gets out in front and never looks back. History suggests that their legendary coach-quarterback combination tends to destroy teams when they meet in a second game. But… I ask again, because nerves are there for me in this one… is Tom Brady going to play?

Against the spread: New England
Without spread: New England
The beginning to end selection (have Cincinnati at New England): New England

New Orleans (3½) at San Francisco – For me, the reality is that I don’t have a good feel for any of the remaining games. For instance… after what the Giants did last week, and how they’ve looked the last three, I’m quite tempted to not overlook their swagger heading off to play Green Bay. And then Houston is moving on to Baltimore, looking very much like a quality team that could go deeper into the postseason.

More on those games in a moment.

For now… the Saints and the 49ers.

I can’t overcome a feeling that the 49ers are a bit over their heads right now. While I personally like Alex Smith… and I’m thrilled he’s been given a chance to start with a solid system and team around him… right off the bat I’d place four quarterbacks ahead of him in these playoffs (Brady, Rodgers, Brees and Manning).

And now I keep hearing people talking about how New Orleans isn’t the same playing outside. (They aren’t… but this is California folks, not Buffalo.) And then about how San Francisco has this awesome defense. (Again… very true… but the absolute specialty is stopping the run. And, when we think of the Drew Brees aerial assault tour, we think of how a defense might stop the running game. Right?)

Ok… fine… let’s at least glance at the surface of the statistical lake…

New Orleans at home… 41 points per game. That includes walloping Indianapolis, Atlanta and Carolina. It also includes destroying New York (Giants). New Orleans on the road… 27 points per game and all three of their losses.

Ok then.

That is quite a difference.

Their road schedule was significantly weaker than their home schedule. (Packers and Falcons on the road… Giants, Lions, Texans, and Falcons at home.) So just from a basic look, there might be something to think about.

Tossing it over to San Francisco… at home they score 28, while on the road they score 19 per game. On defense, or as a team, they give up 10 points at home and 18 points on the road.

Hmm… impressive.

Looks like this is going to be a really close game.

The thing is… if you look over the San Francisco scoring, you’ll see a lot of funny things. For instance, a 16-6 loss against Baltimore. Or a 20-3 win over Pittsburgh. In short… lots of field goals.

In New Orleans games, the Saints put the ball in the end zone.

So what we have here is simple. The stats say this could be a close game, and the 49ers defense is not likely to get blown out at home.

But it is the playoffs. And if we are willing to believe that Brees can lead at least four scoring drives and put 24 points on the board, minimum… then what we need to decide is whether or not Alex Smith gets the ball into the end zone… or only into field goal range.

Against the spread: New Orleans
Without spread: New Orleans
The beginning to end selection (have New Orleans at San Francisco): New Orleans

New York (Giants) at Green Bay (8½) – Things are really quiet in Green Bay… and in New York people are comparing this year to the Super Bowl march that ended the quest for perfection. And to be honest, after watching what happened to Atlanta, I can understand the comparisons.

But let’s look at the facts. The Giants stunned the Patriots late. Other than that game, they played three playoff teams. In a sort of wonderful scheduling quirk… those were the top three NFC Seeds, and also the other three remaining NFC teams… the 49ers, Saints, and Packers. They lost all three games. Two were good games… they do not want to go back to New Orleans.

During the season they went on two long winning streaks… well, not really long… streaks of three games. Last week was their third in a row. They went 4-3 on the road (I just can’t call the Jets contest a road game).

We can go on… and we can debate this for a long time. The Giants beating the Packers would not be as strange as any of the last four playoff losses by the Patriots, including the past two seasons at home after a bye week. The Giants are a good team, with a solid coach and a very good quarterback.

But for me I think this game is going to have a score closer than the actual contest, with the Packers prevailing.

Against the spread: New York
Without spread: Green Bay
The beginning to end selection (have Atlanta at Green Bay): Green Bay

Houston at Baltimore (7½) – I am so incredibly tempted to pick the upset here. After last week, I think Houston deserves some credit.

But let’s be honest…

Baltimore didn’t lose at home this year. That included defeating the following playoff teams: Pittsburgh (35-7), Houston (29-14), Cincinnati (31-24), and San Francisco (16-6). Average score at home against playoff teams during the regular season: a 28-13 victory.

Baltimore went 6-0 against playoff teams this season.

That 29-14 victory over Houston included some worthwhile notes: Baltimore won by 15 despite turning the ball over twice (Houston didn’t turn it over at all), and Baltimore had more passing yardage and more rushing yardage (in fact, Ray Rice used 23 carries to easily outgain Arian Foster and Ben Tate combined).

Andre Johnson didn’t play in the first game… which, of course, matters. Matt Schaub won’t play in this game… which, of course, also matters.

In the overview I told you Baltimore will go far as long as they remember Ray Rice is on their time. Evidence suggests that in this game, at home, they will let Rice carry them to a victory.

Against the spread: Baltimore
Without spread: Baltimore
The beginning to end selection (have Denver at Baltimore): Baltimore

Records to date:

With spread – 2-2
Without spread – 2-2
Beginning to end – 2-2

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