Friday, January 9, 2015

Clown Without Pity's 2015 Divisional Round Playoffs

Although I didn’t publish my predictions for the Wild Card Round, I will admit I didn’t do so well with my picks: a deflating 2-2. The two losses? I picked Pittsburgh and—get ready to laugh at my pisspoor predicting skills (or lack thereof): Cincinnati. I was smitten with making Pittsburgh my 2014-2015 Dark Horse to Make It To The Super Bowl but why did I ever pick Andy Dalton to win on the road in Indianapolis? And why are you reading this post?

I mention this futility because this week I’m going conservative. No bold upset picks from me! Sure, a road team is bound to pull off an upset, but numbers don’t lie and I will be more cautious about picking against recent playoff trends.

Onward we go:  

Baltimore at New England
Fun fact I heard last week while the game was underway, but the Baltimore Ravens are now 7-0 in their playoff openers under John Harbaugh. That’s pretty fucking impressive. Winning in the playoffs is no easy task. Just ask Marvin Lewis. So what’s today’s fun fact concerning this game?: Bill Belichick’s Patriot teams are 8-1 in Divisional Round games after earning a first-round bye. That’s pretty fucking impressive, too.

Too many things have to go right for Baltimore to pull off this upset even though Harbaugh’s Ravens are 2-1 in New England during the playoffs. Their front-seven has to have a penultimate dominant game to win; their pass rush—2nd best this season—has to throw Brady off his rhythm. It could happen, but I think New England has more ways to win this game. Whatever sport it is, it’s safer to pick those teams to win. Plus, unlike previous Patriot teams that lost at home against a Harbaugh-led Raven squad, these Patriots have the best defense since their Super-Bowl-winning days. I’m taking New England.  

Indianapolis at Denver
Two top-shelf QBs with nearly identical numbers in the regular season. Denver has a statistically-stout defense—aaaaaand Indy’s rushing attack strikes about as much fear as a fucking Smurf, meaning Denver will likely be able to tee off and send their pass rushers, which includes DeMarcus Ware, after Luck most of the game. That can be ugly.

Only thing that gives me pause about this game is that Denver’s special teams suck (according to DVOA rankings) and the Colts field the 9th best unit. Remember the sage words of Jimmy “I Got Barry Switzer a Fucking Ring!” Johnson: you gotta win in at least two facets of the game.

Still, I’m taking Denver at home.  

Carolina at Seattle
This is kind of a cute game; the regular season 7-8-1 Panthers travel to the Emerald City to play against the previous NFL franchise to send a team with a losing record to the playoffs. As has been noted, these two teams have had close recent contests. My boy, Bill Barnwell at Grantland wrote a good write-up about some unusual tendencies that have sprouted between Riverboat Ron’s teams and Carroll’s Seahawks. I can see this one being like the Seahawks final regular season matchup against the Rams: a close game through the first half before getting their shit together and pulling comfortably away at some point in the second half. This would be a top-15 NFL playoff shocker if the Panthers can pull it off, but I don’t see that happening. The NFC title will run through CenturyLink Field for a second straight year.  

Dallas at Green Bay
What a game: Tony Romo returning to his home state to try to pull off the biggest win of his life.  Two big-time offenses.  This game can be dandy.

As well coached as they are, I just don’t see Big D’s D holding Rodgers and his offense from lighting up the scoreboard in Lambeau Field. But, as we well know, Dom Capers hasn’t led a fearsome defense since their last title in 2010—and that Cowboys offense can sizzle hotter than a dozen eggs on the pavement during a scorching Texas summer. Last week I was most unsure about the AFC games; this week, I feel like Baltimore and Dallas have the best shot at pulling off an upset. After all, maybe Rodgers has been sticking it to Olivia Munn a la doggy off the edge of the bed a bit too much, and, in the process, mayhaps not allowing his tender calf to properly heal? (And what straight man could blame him?) But I still think the Pack is winning this game.

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