Sunday, January 18, 2015

Championship Sunday 2015

Green Bay +8 at Seattle: I understand that the Packers have had their struggles in Seattle recently and that Aaron Rodgers is essentially playing on one leg, but this is still too many points to be laying against the likely MVP. His lack of current mobility and the crowd noise will make like difficult for him against the Seahawks pass rushers, but if they can establish the running game early with Eddie Lacy, they are so good at heavy play action. None of that might matter if they can't tackle Marshawn Lynch, so it is imperative that they play with a lead early and establish a ball-control type offense to limit his rushing attempts. Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, and Casey Heyward are good enough in man coverage that they can play with a safety in the box to stop the run, especially with Seattle's best deep threat, the raw yet speedy second rounder Paul Richardson, suffering a torn ACL last week.

Indianapolis +7 at New England: I'm sticking to my guns and not opposing Andrew Luck with this high of a spread, but I do expect the Patriots to win. There's no one that can cover Rob Gronkowski, and New England has dominated Indy with a power run game in the past. Maybe Jonas Gray will see the light of day after landing in Bill Belichick's doghouse for sleeping through his alarm after his 200 yard primetime performance against these Colts, or maybe LeGarratte Blount will tie the franchise playoff record of 166 yards like these teams' playoff meeting last year. Either way, the Colts' biggest strength on defense is their corners' man coverage, and Tom Brady doesn't need to consistently use his outside receivers to be effective. Besides catching a dime of a TD from Brady, Brandon LaFell's biggest impact was blocking for Amendola's first score, and Julian Edelman's big play was the double pass we've all been waiting for since he came into the league as a college QB. Especially with Indy's offensive line's surprising performance last week, I wouldn't put anything past Luck's heroics and T.Y. Hilton's speed, but this secondary is a tough matchup for them.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

NFL Divisional Round

Baltimore +7 at New England: The main question for me in this game is whether or not the Patriots' perimeter threats can take advantage of the Ravens' corners. Rob Gronkowski is the best weapon in football, but he is likely to draw safety Will Hill, arguably the best member of Baltimore's secondary. New England's running game can keep defenses honest, and their secondary should be able to contain  Joe Flacco, despite his annual playoff transformation. Whoever is healthier between defensive end Chandler Jones and left tackle Eugene Monroe will of course impact Flacco, as well. Justin Forsett's consistent movement in the running game should help keep this game close, though, so I have to take the points in this mini-rivalry despite feeling the Pats will pull it out.

Carolina +12.5 at Seattle: Carolina's chances of winning in Seattle are slim, but they've played the defending champs tough of late. If they can get Jonathan Stewart consistently involved early, they'll have a chance since the running game is the best say to attack the Seahawks defense. The rejuvenation of the Panthers defense thanks to previously unknowns like Bene Benwikere should keep Russell Wilson's squad from running away with it.
Carolina needs to run well to protect Cam from rushers like Cliff Avril in obvious passing downs.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

NFL Wild Card Weekend 2014

Carolina -5.5 versus Arizona: If the line was any higher, it would have have been tempting to take the points based purely on the Cardinals defense keeping the game close. As it stands, you have to go against Ryan Lindley on the road, especially since the red hot Panthers have had a stable offense since Jonathan Stewart got healthy to become the featured back.
Without a running game, Suggs should tee off.

Baltimore +3 at Pittsburgh: The Ravens haven't had any playoff success in their rival's backyard, but now will be their best opportunity with All-Pro runningback Le'Veon Bell injured. Of course, Big Ben threw for six touchdowns against this undermanned Baltimore the last time these teams met (although, the last one was a meaningless 4th down call that exemplified why Todd Haley is such a divisive coordinator). That and the fact that the Ravens' offense hasn't been consistent down the stretch make it a tough call to go with the underdog, but I can't help but think that a one-sided offense can't have continued success against a stout defensive front getting Haloti Ngata aack.

Indianapolis -3.5 versus Cincinnati: So much has changed for both teams since the Colts dominated 27-0 at home in Week 7 that it's almost not worth mentioning. With Ahmad Bradshaw on IR for Indy and Jeremy Hill now the feature back for Cincy, these teams are pretty even, and whenever Andrew Luck isn't facing a clearly superior team, I don't bet against him putting his team in a position to win, especially at home. The fact that the Bengals can now rely on Hill's power running game with Gio Bernard playing a complimentary role, they can control game flow and minimize the chances of Andy Dalton falling apart in prime time again. However, not having their best player, A.J. Green, is likely to prove too crippling a blow. Look for Luck to use his tight ends in the short passing game to mitigate the Bengals pass rush, and T.Y. Hilton's playmaking ability tends to shine in the bright lights.
You've got to go with the far superior quarterback at home.

Detroit +6.5 at Dallas: I'm tempted to pick the Lions to pull the outright upset since the teams have comparable talent, and the Cowboys have been better on the road than at home this year. However, Detroit is 0-17 on the road against winning teams with Matthew Stafford as the starting quarterback, including a crucial loss last week in Green Bay caused them to drop from the #2 seed and a first round bye to their current #6 seed and having to go to Dallas and potentially to Seattle next week. I think the Lions' stout defensive line can slow down the All-Pro rushing attack of DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys' offensive line enough to keep the game close, but Tony Romo is playing better than his embattled #9 counterpart. Detroit does have a better shot of containing Dez Bryant than Dallas does of Calvin Johnson due to their superior defense overall, so if they do stop Murray to prevent the Cowboys from controlling time of possession, they could expose Rob Marinelli's overachieving unit.Thus, I'm taking the points.