It’s been a rough year of picks for the Schnoz, I’m not gonna lie.
We’ll take a look back at where I went right and wrong another day, but for now let’s press on.
Which two of these QBs will lose this weekend? Read on…
ARIZONA at CAROLINA (-6.5)
Thought #1 – I believe Bruce Arians > Ron Rivera to the point where I don’t think it’s possible for the Panthers to win this game by more than a touchdown. There, I said it.
Thought #2 – More on Bruce Arians…I believe he’s so smart that in the regular season he wanted to see what he had with Lindley. But now that it’s the playoffs and he knows what he’s dealing with? I think he adjusts the game plan accordingly.
Thought #3 – I thought long and hard about taking the Panthers here for one reason: Kelvin Benjamin. Couldn’t you see this being a huge “breakout on a national stage” game for him? 11 catches for 173 yards and 2 TD?
WHERE I LANDED: If I’m putting money on this game, I’m putting it on the team who figured out how to win 11 games this season and is still getting almost a touchdown with the spread. I have no faith in Ryan Lindley, but I don’t think Bruce Arians does either, and I trust him to game plan accordingly and keep this close.
THE PICK: Carolina 20, Arizona 16
BALTIMORE at PITTSBURGH (-3.0)
Thought #1 – By Football Outsiders’ weighted DVOA metric, the Ravens defense is playing the 13th best defense in the league right now. The Steelers’ defense? 27th. If you’re gonna make a case for the Ravens, that’s it right there.
Thought #2 – In place of the injured Le’veon Bell the Steelers will be trotting out Josh Harris, Dri Archer, and Ben Tate. But…do you know how much this spread moved when it was announced that Bell would miss this game? 0.0 points. That’s right, it didn’t. Interesting.
Thought #3 – I’m kind of secretly a weather nerd…I love looking at forecasts and reading about the science behind it, even if 95% of it is over my head. And when it comes to forecasts, I don’t pull up weather.com’s 10-day outlook; I like watching local news broadcasts to get the real hour-by-hour story.
So what’s the real story for the bad weather everyone is talking about for tonight’s Ravens-Steelers game? It’s going to rain all day, but by game time the heaviest rain will be done and there will just be lingering showers.
So all that talk about the weather neutralizing Pittsburgh’s passing game might not be true at all.
WHERE I LANDED: I don’t see the Steelers losing this game for two reasons: 1) Big Ben has been here so many times before, and 2) they have an amazing triumvirate of big play WRs in Brown-Bryant-Wheaton that can strike at any time.
THE PICK: Pittsburgh 33, Baltimore 24
CINCINNATI at INDIANAPOLIS (-4.0)
Thought #1 – Yes, I know how bad Andy Dalton has been in the playoffs. He has been atrocious. 1 TD, 6 INTs, 57% completion percentage, and three straight beatings in Round 1 to teams that lost their next playoff game.
Thought #2 – Yes, I know how good Andrew Luck is, but remember this: through Week 10 Andrew Luck was a legitimate MVP candidate. Since Thanksgiving? He hasn’t even been in the conversation. What has changed? Keep reading…
Thought #3 – I am firmly entrenched in the camp of people who believe there were two Indianapolis Colts teams this year. The team with Ahmad Bradshaw (6-4 through Week 11) and the team without Ahmad Bradshaw (5-1 to finish the season).
Only don’t let those records fool you. All 5 of those late wins came against non-playoff teams: the Browns, Redskins, Titans, Jaguars, and Texans. Except for the Texans, that is a who’s who of terrible teams. (And the Texans lost Ryan Fitzpatrick early in the 2nd quarter of that game and had to play Tom Savage the rest of the way. And the final score was only 17-10!)
Here’s the point: every great running play I saw from the Colts through Week 11 was Ahmad Bradshaw. Every one. Richardson is abysmal. Herron is decent, but this team cannot run the ball effectively, and the Bengals know it.
WHERE I LANDED: I like to go against conventional wisdom with at least one of my Round 1 picks every year. It just seems way too easy to grab Andrew Luck at home against Andy Dalton, doesn’t it?
I’m banking on this equation and I’m taking the points:
(Dalton + Hill + Bernard) > (Luck + Richardson + Herron)
THE PICK: Cincinnati 23, Indy 20
DETROIT at DALLAS (-7.0)
Thought #1 – You can make a case that the Cowboys haven’t really played against a good defense in two months (you’d have to go back to Nov. 2, a home loss to the Cardinals.) Detroit is #1 against the run and #8 against the pass, per Football Outsiders.
Thought #2 – The Lions were 8-1 on artificial turf this year.
Thought #3 – You’ve likely seen this stat already this week, but Matthew Stafford if 0-16 lifetime on the road against teams with a winning record. Yikes. Even Andy Dalton is cringing at that stat.
WHERE I LANDED: This feels like it’s either a Cowboys blowout win or a close game Detroit ekes out. I’m a Cowboys fan who has been picking against them all year, despite the fact that they keep winning. I’m not gonna stop now. Go Cowboys.
THE PICK: Detroit 24, Dallas 21
Leave your predictions in the comments if you dare.
Enjoy the games everyone!