NFL Divisional Round Picks

Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning

It’s the supposed best week of the playoffs. Four games over two days with the 1-seeds in play. Either the hated (at least hated on this site) Patriots or the scummy Ravens will lose, either Tony Romo or Aaron Rodgers will go home and either Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck’s season will be over. And, oh yeah, the Panthers’ season is over because they are going to get run out of Seattle.

I ended the regular season two games over .500, needing to go just 5-6 in the playoffs to finish over .500. After last week’s 1-3 disaster thanks to believing in Ryan Lindley on the road, the untrustworthy Steelers and a Bengals team led by Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis playing without A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham on the road, I’m making things interesting when they don’t need to be. I deserved to go 1-3 with choices like that.

This week will be different because it has to be. There is too much on the line when it comes to my picks and My Super Bowl XLIX Dilemma and an eventual champion.

(Home team in caps)

Baltimore +7 over NEW ENGLAND
The Ravens’ wins this season have come against Pittsburgh (2), Cleveland (2), Carolina, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Tennessee, New Orleans, Miami and Jacksonville. Their losses have come against Cincinnati (2), Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Houston. The Ravens have gone 2-6 against winning teams, and both of their wins came against their rival in the Steelers. They are the 6-seed in the AFC and the only reason they were able to sneak into the playoffs is because half of their schedule this season was played against the AFC South and NFC South. So why does anyone think the Ravens can beat the Patriots or even keep the game close? The real answer is I have no idea, but for me, I have no choice other than to hope the Ravens can keep the game close and to hope that they can win the game outright.

It pains to me to have to root for the Ravens, considering that they’re probably the scummiest organization in all of professional sports (yes, even scummier than the Red Sox), but like I said, I have no choice. The Patriots are two wins from getting back to the Super Bowl and three wins from ending what will be a 10-year drought if they are eliminated this week or next week or lose in three weeks in Super Bowl XLIX. But no matter what happens today, if the Ravens win or the Patriots win, we all lose. Either the Patriots are one step closer to doing something they have failed to do for the last nine seasons, or the Ravens will be that much closer to becoming champions in a season in which all of the karma in the world should be going against them.

SEATTLE -11.5 over Carolina
This should be the 4:30 game on Saturday because people have things to do at that time on Saturday and missing this game and checking later to see the Seahawks won by 30 points is acceptable.

Last week, Jon Gruden seemed amazed every time the Panthers made a mental or physical mistake against the Cardinals. Gruden couldn’t believe that the Panthers could be so bad or so careless with the football in a playoff game. And each time Gruden’s voice hit astonishing levels, I so badly wanted Mike Tirico to interrupt him and remind him that the Panthers are a 7-8-1 team that would have been focused on their draft position rather than a playoff game if they had played in any other division. Five of the other division winners finished with 12 wins (4.5 more wins than the Panthers) and the other two finished with 11 (3.5 more wins than the Panthers).

The Seahawks won 12 games, a year after winning 13 games and three more in the playoffs. They have gone 28-7 over the last two years and after starting 3-3 this season, they are 9-1 over their last 10 and have given up a total of 39 points in the last six (6.5 points per game).

The Seahawks are the best home team and the best team in the NFL and they are going to win the Super Bowl. The Panthers might not score on Saturday night.

GREEN BAY -6 over Dallas
The game of the week played between two teams I hate with one having to move on and play for a trip to Glendale. It’s a nightmare situation like the Red Sox and Angels meeting in the ALDS or the Flyers and Devils meeting in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Cowboys were the 11th-ranked team in My Super Bowl XLIX Dilemma, just ahead of the Patriots. (The only team that could challenge the Patriots for the top spot is the Eagles.) Their season should have ended last Sunday against the Lions before the refs took over the game, screwed the Lions over on the pass interference and then did everything other than carry the ball into the end zone themselves on the Cowboys’ go-ahead (and eventual game-winning) drive.

The Cowboys don’t deserve to still be playing football and the Packers at Lambeau will make sure of that.

DENVER -7.5 over Indianapolis
I used to think if the Broncos could win the 1-seed in the AFC and host the AFC Championship Game then the Patriots wouldn’t have a red carpet to the Super Bowl. But ever since the Broncos were 6-1 and went to Gillette Stadium in Week 9 and left with a 43-21 loss, they haven’t been the same team. Sure, they were 6-2 after their loss to the Patriots and they went 6-2 over the final eight weeks of the season, but something has been off about the Broncos.

Unfortunately, I think the best chance of the Patriots getting eliminated before the Super Bowl is this week against the Ravens and that’s not a very good chance considering the Ravens couldn’t beat a winning team all season not named the Steelers. Neither the Broncos or Colts are going to beat the Patriots on the road, but the Broncos’ chances are better than the Colts’ since their team is one player.

I really, really, really hope the Broncos can find themselves and return to being the team that ran through the AFC playoffs a year ago. Because without that happening, Super Sunday isn’t going to be about gambling, getting drunk and eating 5,000 calories. OK, it’s still going to be about those things, but it’s really going to be about continuing the drought.

Last week: 1-3-0
Season: 128-128-4