Conference Championship Quick Picks (2013-2014)

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AFC Championship: New England Patriots (12-4) at Denver Broncos (13-3)

January 19, 2013 CBS 3:00pm

Pick: Broncos

In the first game of day, we’ll be treated to yet another matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Enjoy this one because we don’t know how many more times we’ll see the two best QBs of our generation on the same field in the playoffs. Their regular season meeting was an absolute classic, with Brady erasing a 24-0 deficit en route to a 34-31 comeback win in OT. Despite jumping out to that early lead, Manning had his worst game of the regular season against these Patriots. It was only the second time all season Peyton was held to under 60% (52.8) completion and the only time he was held to under 200 yards (150). New England made it readily clear that they know how to stop Manning and if they can keep him at bay on Saturday, they will walk away winners once more. However, a couple things are different this time around that may tip the scales in Denver’s favor. Perhaps the biggest difference is the fact that they don’t have to play in Foxborough this time around–where New England is 8-0–and instead play in front of their home fans where they’ve only lost once. In as tightly contested a game as this, you better believe home-field advantage will be a factor. Another big change is going to be the absence of Rob Gronkowski, who shredded Denver for 90 yards on seven receptions and a TD. That’s one big guy Denver doesn’t have to account for anymore. I can find multiple reasons why both teams can win, but Denver will have the slight edge and will capitalize.

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NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers (12-4) at Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

January 19, 2013 FOX 6:30pm

Pick: Seahawks

On the other side of the league, we’ll have the two young guns Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick face off. Two veterans in one game, two up-and-comers in another. You really can’t make this stuff up. Could we ask for anything better? Anyways, for as much attention as these two QBs will get, this game will come down to defense. These bitter rivals boast two of the best defenses in the NFL and will swarm to the ball every chance they get. San Francisco is red-hot right now. Winners of eight straight, the Niners held Aaron Rodgers’ offense to 20 points and Cam Newton’s to 10. However, in both games the SF defense allowed 90+ rushing yards, an aspect of the game that Seattle thrives on. The Seahawks torched New Orleans on the ground for 174 yards and if San Fran allows anywhere close to that number, they are in for a long day. Don’t take it from me, just take a look at the numbers: in Seattle’s 29-3 win in Week 2 over SF, Seattle rushed for 172 yards. In the Week 14 rematch, Seattle only rushed for 86 and lost. It’s pretty simple for San Francisco: stop the run. With the crowd at record volume at CenturyLink Field, Seattle should be able to move the ball just enough to squeak out a close defensive win.

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Sunday Divisional Playoff Quick Picks (2013-2014)

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NFC Divisional: San Francisco 49ers (12-4) at Carolina Panthers (12-4)

January 12, 2013 FOX 1:05pm

Pick: 49ers

You won’t have to wait long on Sunday to see the best matchup of the weekend. At home, with the 2-seed, and a victory over San Francisco already under their belt, Carolina is the underdog by 1 point. Two of the best defenses in football are putting the over/under at 41.5, the lowest of the four divisional games. As the home dog, you better believe Carolina will play with a chip on their shoulder. They boast quality wins over New Orleans, San Francisco, and New England, not to mention the countless other teams they have crushed. So why do I like the Niners? Jim Harbaugh has his troops locked in. The defense has only allowed an average of 16.2 points a game in their past seven games (all wins) and Colin Kaepernick has only thrown two picks (one of them against Seattle’s defense). In Kap’s first nine games this season, he had four 0 passing TD games. He’s thrown a TD pass, and often more than one, in every game since. In five of the seven games he finished with a passer rating over 100. Get the picture? Kaepernick is on a roll and even when he doesn’t have a great game, like last week at Green Bay, the Niners can win. It’ll be a battle for the ages, but watch Kaepernick have a solid game against a defense that harassed him earlier in the season.

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AFC Divisional: San Diego Chargers (9-7) at Denver Broncos (13-3)

January 12, 2013 CBS 4:40pm

Pick: Broncos

San Diego is the biggest underdog of all four games this weekend, but don’t count them out. They’ve already proved they can handle the Broncos at home after a 27-20 victory in Week 15. Just five weeks before, however, Denver topped San Diego on the road 28-20. In both games, San Diego held the ball for over 38 minutes, forced one turnover, and passed for under 200 yards. So what gave San Diego the edge in Week 15? It may have had something to do with the Chargers’ success in the running game on both sides of the ball. In their victory, San Diego held Denver to just 18 rushing yards the entire game, compared to 84 in their defeat. Likewise, San Diego torched Denver on the ground for 177 yards in Week 15 and 131 in Week 10. While Peyton Manning will grab the headlines before and after the game, it will likely be the success of these two ground attacks that determines our winner. As you can see, Denver doesn’t have to out-run San Diego to win, but they do have to put the ball on the ground enough to take some of the pressure off Manning. If San Diego can keep Denver’s running backs at bay while applying pressure to Manning, they can pull off a shocker. I still have to go with the Broncos. Denver has so many offensive weapons that it will be too hard for San Diego to keep up. In one game Eric Decker caught four TD passes, in another Demaryius Thomas caught three, and both Wes Welker and Julius Thomas have had multiple 1+ TD games. Beating Denver once is something, but beating them twice in a row is something else entirely. Peyton Manning won’t let it happen.

Saturday Divisional Playoff Quick Picks (2013-2014)

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NFC Divisional: New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

January 11, 2013 FOX 4:35pm

Pick: Seahawks

It’s tough not to think back to Week 13 when Seattle rolled New Orleans 34-7. Seattle looked like the much better team then and they are still the better team now. If the Saints want to advance, it will have to come from the arm of Drew Brees (as always). Brees was held to a season-low 147 yards in that Week 13 matchup, though he managed to avoid throwing any picks. Even if Brees plays a great game, he’ll need an average run defense to contain the best running game in the NFL (allowed 127 rushing yards against Seattle). Even then, they still need to contain the mobile QB Russell Wilson, who threw for 310 yards against the Saints. Can the Saints win? Of course they can, Seattle is vulnerable like everybody else. Having said that, I have to go with the team that owns the best defense (leads NFL in takeaways), the best running game, and the best home field advantage in the league. It may not be the blowout we saw in Week 13, but Seattle has more than enough talent to advance to the NFC Championship.

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AFC Divisional: Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at New England Patriots (12-4)

January 11, 2013 CBS 8:15pm

Pick: Patriots

Picking against the Colts makes me feel uneasy, especially after watching them storm back against KC. Indianapolis is on a mission. Luckily for New England, they own the best coach in the NFL, Bill Belichick, and one of the best QBs, Tom Brady. These two guys are the main reason why I’m picking New England. They’ve been here before and they know how to handle the big time. Crippled by injuries from the very start, namely the WR corp, New England still found a way to win 12 games and only needs one more to advance to the conference championship. Even when New England lost, it was only by an average of 4.5 points. The bottomline is that New England is really tough to beat. Even without Gronk, Brady will do what he does best to win, spreading the ball around to keep the defense on their toes. I’m taking New England in a late 4th-quarter victory.

Saturday Wildcard Playoff Quick Picks (2013-2014)

It doesn’t get much better than the NFL playoffs. It’s one the most selective systems in sports, allowing the very best 12 teams a chance to extend their season. Even those who deserve to make it can miss out, isn’t that right Arizona? After one weekend, eight remain. One bad game, one injury, or one missed kick can decide the fate of the entire playoffs. There’s no predicting what can happen. Yet we’ll all try.

I usually like to dive in to the postseason with heavy analysis before the games and break down every possible angle but with how busy–and, admittedly, a little bit lazy–I have been, I’m going to make these picks short and sweet. First, the two Saturday games. Sunday to follow sometime soon.

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AFC Wild Card: Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Indianapolis Colts (11-5)

January 4, 2013 NBC 4:35pm

Pick: Colts

I’m very wary of teams going into the playoffs cold. Kansas City has lost their last two and five of their last seven. To be fair, they sat their starters in a Week 17 loss. However, in Week 16, they did not sit their starters and lost at home. To add insult to injury, they lost against Indy, the very team they have to beat to play another game. At home, and having won four of their last five, I like Indy to sneak by the 5-seed Chiefs. Kansas City can absolutely win this game with the proper adjustments, but Indy knows how to take care of the ball (least turnovers in the AFC) and with a just 1-2 TD passes from Andrew Luck, they should be able to neutralize KC’s scary defense.

 

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NFC Wild Card: New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

January 4, 2013 NBC 8:10pm

Pick: Eagles

Boy, do I feel terrible picking against Drew Brees. It feels like I am just asking to get this pick wrong, but I cannot ignore the telling facts: New Orleans has lost their last three road games and when they have won on the road, it has been against non-playoff teams. The short way of putting it: New Orleans is simply not the same team away from the Superdome. Will the fact that this is a playoff game change all that? I guess it could, but football is football. Philly is still going to have a tough time stopping Brees but they will play a little better knowing they have a high-scoring offense and the top rushing game in the league to back them up. It’s hard to imagine Brees losing so soon, but Philly has plenty of weapons too. Expect Nick Foles to rise to the occasion.