Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015 Conference Title Picks

Patriots -3 at Broncos

New England re-emerged out of their bye week looking like the defending Super Bowl champions that they are, and Tom Brady was able to compensate for his banged up offensive line by getting the ball out quick with Julian Edelman back healthy. Chris Harris Jr., Denver's best corner who will follow Edelman and Danny Amendola to the slot, sounds pretty hampered by his nagging shoulder injury, so "Minitron" could be the difference maker in this one with all of the attention on Rob Gronkowski. On the other side, I know this is being billed as Brady-Manning 17, but Peyton just isn't the same player anymore. It's hard to see him challenging New England's corners, and the Patriots' defensive front could dominate the line of scrimmage, affecting the running game. Also working against them is that they keep feeding less efficient Ronnie Hillman, who only has 578 yards on 157 carries (3.68 average) since their Week 7 bye compared to C.J. Anderson's 100 caries for 612 yards (6.12 average), per Rotoworld's Evan Silva. Add in Manning's struggles in cold weather, and I feel comfortable taking the favored Patriots despite their history in Denver (Champ Bailey fumbled!).
Jabaal Sheard and Chandler Jones lead arguably the best pass rush NE's had against Manning.
Panthers -3 versus Cardinals
The former DPOY impacts the game in multiple areas.

I've loved this Cardinals team all year, but it still seems like the 16-1 Panthers aren't getting enough respect in Vegas. Yes, they let up in the second half last week, but that's because they could afford to after that 31-0 butt-kicking they laid to open the game. Their corner depth behind Josh Norman will be challenged against Carson Palmer's high powered offense, especially with postseason monster Larry Fitzgerald in the slot, but Luke Kuechly is incredible in coverage and could take David Johnson out of the game. Arizona's corner depth behind Patrick Peterson could be an issue for them, as well, since Tyrann Mathieu played more snaps in the nickel than at safety before tearing his ACL again, but they're facing an even less imposing receiver group than last week. I'm not sure they can stop Carolina's running game, though, and Cam Newton has just been playing terrific ball. I'm taking the home team and likely MVP.

Last week: 3-0-1
2015 Season Total: 134-117-13

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2015 NFL Divisional Round Picks

Patriots -4.5 versus Chiefs

The best weekend in football starts with arguably its best game as the defending Super Bowl champs host the team that has won 11 in a row, and there's plenty of injury mystery on both sides. The most concrete news appears to be that Julian Edelman is going to return from his broken foot, which is huge since he is arguably just as important to New England's offense as Rob Gronkowski, who is questionable himself. Kanas City's fearsome pass rush going against the Patriots' shaky offensive line is cause for concern, but laying the points with the better quarterback and coach is the right call, especially at home after a bye week.
I'm not anticipating Jamie Collins and this defense allowing many points.
Packers +7 at Cardinals

I've gone back and forth on this one before deciding that the points are just too much. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers finally looked like themselves again over the last 3 quarters last week when it counted, and I just can't completely count out a player of his caliber on this stage, especially with their defense matching up decently enough to continue to stay in the game. Arizona did completely destroy Green Bay in this matchup 3 weeks ago, though, and they have been the better team all year. Throwing the Cardinals in a teaser is probably the best course of action, but I'm not laying this many points straight up.
Rodgers led a furious comeback to force OT last time these teams met in the playoffs.

Panthers -1.5 versus Seahawks

The opening line of -3 seemed low already, and now this line is even more surprising after Seattle was lucky to escape last week. That near-loss doesn't mean they aren't still a dangerous team, but how many times does Carolina have to keep proving doubters wrong? I don't necessarily think the Panthers are as talented as you'd expect out of a 15-1 team, but they should take care of business here at home after a bye week against an underdog playing their third straight road game. Getting Jonathan Stewart back healthy helps, and Greg Olsen already exploited the Seahawks' weakness against tight ends in the comeback win in Week 6.
Cam Newton made his MVP case against this defense once already.
Broncos -7 versus Steelers

The movement on this line makes more sense given Antonio Brown's concussion, and it is almost too high for me to take it. However, Denver almost won in Pittsburgh a month ago before Brown went nuclear on their normally shutdown defense, and now Ben Roethlisberger is limited by an injury to his throwing shoulder. With DeAngelo Williams also out, the Broncos should get back to their stingy ways at home, which will highlight all of their defensive studs, a lot of whom are set to be free agents. The timing was curious, but they locked down one of their stout defensive ends, Derek Wolfe, to a fair contract yesterday, likely meaning that Malik Jackson is set for a payday elsewhere since a lot of money still needs to be set aside for linebackers Von Miller, Danny Trevathan, and Brandon Marshall. And that's before we even get into the last year of Peyton Manning's deal compared to Brock Osweiler's impending free agency, as well, which will likely be impacted by these playoffs. For now, I believe Manning can do enough against this unimposing secondary to get by.
Just because you've seen it all week doesn't mean that Demaryius Thomas owning the Steelers isn't true.
Last week: 4-0
2015 Season Total: 131-117-12

Saturday, January 9, 2016

2015 NFL Wild Card Picks

Chiefs -3 at Texans

Houston may have home field, but Kansas City has the more complete team. They've overcome the lost of their Pro Bowl runningback better than the Texans did theirs, and Alex Smith takes care of the ball much better than Brian Hoyer. Perhaps most importantly, the Chiefs are getting Justin Houston back healthy to bolster their fearsome pass rush while Houston lost their stud left tackle, Duane Brown. I feel pretty good about Kansas City getting their first playoff win since 1994...which was also in Houston.
Rookie Marcus Peters got his first career pick off of Hoyer in Week 1, but DeAndre Hopkins beat him for 2 TDs.
Bengals +3 versus Steelers

Pittsburgh has a dangerous team with their prolific offense and opportunistic defense that is stout against the run, but I like the home 'dog with the points here. I'm not sure backup quarterback A.J. McCarron can take advantage of the Steelers' secondary, but he does have the confidence to give his numerous playmakers a shot. DeAngelo Williams getting hurt when he was so close to a remarkable 1,000 yard season was a shame, and his absence is what sealed this pick for me.
Tyler Eifert was knocked out early in the last game but provides a huge threat when healthy.

Vikings +5.5 versus Seahawks

It was a shocking 38-7 drubbing in Minnesota just a month ago, but I like the points here, as well. When Mike Zimmer's defense is at full strength like they are now, though, they are a force to be reckoned with, and I don't think they'll let things get out of hand this time. Marshawn Lynch's return being delayed again will force the red hot Russell Wilson to have to put the team on his back yet again in adverse conditions. The prospect of Seattle's imposing defensive front taking away Adrian Peterson is daunting, but he is the type of 'back that can beat an 8 man box if you keep feeding him.
The Vikings D has playmakers at each level, with Anthony Barr perhaps the best.
Packers +1 at Redskins

This was the hardest game to figure out because Washington has played so well at home, especially Kirk Cousins, but it's just so hard to trust them. Green Bay's offense inspires no confidence, either, but this is a secondary that could actually allow their receivers to get separation. Even in an off year, I think you have to go with the superior quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers defense has been pretty steady all year, to boot.
Green Bay has talented safeties to try and take away Washington's top threat, Jordan Reed.
Last week: 5-10-1
2015 Season Total: 127-117-12

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 NFL Week 17 Picks

NYJ -2.5 @ Buf
TB +10.5 @ Car
NE -10 @ Mia
Bal +9.5 @ Cin
NO +5.5 @ Atl
Jac +6.5 @ Hou
Pit -10.5 @ Cle
Oak +7 @ KC
Ten +6 @ Ind
Dal -4 vs Was
Chi PK vs Det
Phi +3.5 @ NYG
Den -9 vs SD
StL -3 @ SF
Ari -6.5 vs Sea
GB -3 vs Min