Sunday, January 19, 2014

NFL Picks: Championship Round

In  a closely contested battle, Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick will reach the Super Bowl for the second straight season. Photo from
Despite Marques Colston literally throwing away any chance the Saints had to tie last week's game in Seattle, I must thank him for sealing a backdoor cover with his onside kick recovery. Had the Seahawks recovered that kick, the most likely would have at least kicked a field goal to ice the game, and win by a margin of 11 points, rather than 8. So thanks Colston, the entire state of Louisiana may have shunned you, but everyone who jumped on the Saints when the line shot up to 9.5 will love you forever.

I can understand being way off on my Colts pick. I expected them to win, but I was not in any way shocked by the blowout that transpired. They are one of the most inconsistent teams I've ever watched, and nothing would have surprised me by that point. Oh well...

Once again, I correctly forecasted a generally predictable 49ers team. I thought the Panthers would put up a bit more of a fight, but it is what it is.

Yet another thank you goes to Quentin Jammer for his incredible performance, or lack thereof last week against the Chargers. Once Denver's top corner Chris Harris went down with an injury, Jammer came in and got beat by Keenan Allen repeatedly, allowing San Diego to climb back into the game, and cover the spread, just as I thought they would.

And now, for this week. These are probably the best pairing of Championship round games in my lifetime. On the NFC side, the matchup is between the top two teams in football, as expected by me and...pretty much everyone during the preseason. These are two teams that are built much like one another, especially at the quaterback position, with both my boy Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson being big parts of the "New Breed" of quarterbacks. In Denver, we see the epitome of the "Old Guard," with two of the best sow, unathletic, smart, accurate white guys to ever play the game of football. And it may must be the final time that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning face off against one another in the playoffs. It's going to be a fun day of football.

UPSET ALERT next to  games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS.
Patriots (+5) over BRONCOS. More important than the matchup between Brady and Manning is the direct chess match between Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick. Manning will not be able to easily "Omaha" his way into offensive success as he did last week against the Chargers. Belichick will be ready for it, and it will be interesting to see what he does to slow down maybe the best offense in the history of the NFL.

In fsct, that's the only reason why I think that the Patriots have any chance to keep the game close, let alone win. Based on talent alone, it's almost impossible to rationalize a New England victory, especially with the, missing so many key players on defense.

I mentioned him earlier s a joke, but Quentin Jammer will a huge impact on the outcome of today's game. He'll have to step up and cover either Kenbrell Thompkins or Danny Amendola. If he plays poorly again, Tom Brady should have some success on the outside.

But, here's where the game swings in favor of Denver. Yes, the Pats won the first matchips between these two teams earlier this year. But, they had Rob Gronkowski in that game. He opened up the middle of the field for his team, and was the key to their offense. Since he went down, the focus of Tom Brady's offense has become Julian Edelman. Over the past few years, New England's offense has been built on having tight ends and slot receivers to dominate between the numbers. Wthout Gronk, Edelman will be the key today. That will be difficult this time around, because longtime stud cornerback Champ Bailey has been converted to a slot corner, and has been successful. He'll be guarding Edelman all day, so throwing the ball should be tough.

You're probably saying, but what about 1998 Terrelle Davis in disguise, LeGarrette Blount. He'll have a fine day, but he won't be enough to keep up with this Denver offense, who didn't have tight end Julius Thomas the last time these teams played, in Foxboro.

While the Patriots will keep it close, simply because they are the Patriots, this game in Denver's to lose.

Broncos 34, Patriots 31.

49ers (+4) over SEAHAWKS. This is said every time these two teams meet, but it's truer than ever this time around; this is going to be the best game of the season. Because there is much more on the line, the feel is a bit different.

These are the best two teams in the game. But who's better? Before the season, the answer would have been Seattle. I even said that, though it was under the assumption that Percy Harvin would be available for the stretch run of the playoffs. Recently, it has actually been the 49ers who have been playing better.

Now, with two very similar teams, it's going to be difficult to predict an outcome. But, the Niners have one advantage, and that is in the passing game. Michael Crabtree was still hurt when the Seahawks blew out the Niners in Seattle earlier this season. In fact, with him back, San Francisco has the top three receiving options in this game: alongside Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Without Percy Harvin, Seattle lacks the offensive weapons, outside of Marshawn Lynch, that it would take to beat this great defense.

While the Seahawks have the best secondary in football, the offensive balance of Jim Harbaugh's squad will made them hard to defend, and will allow them to sneak out a victory today.

49ers 21, Seahawks 20.

Last Week: 3-1
Playoffs: 5-3
Season: 132-119-5
Overall: 137-122-5

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