Now that we’ve ditched the riff raff, the NFL season heads into its final stretch as well. It’s been a bit of a weird season, beginning with the lockout and continuing all the way through to last week with Denver and Cincinnati backing their way into the playoffs. The playoffs should be incredibly exciting, however, as the AFC is a complete clusterf*ck and the NFC has two of the most dominant offenses in NFL history lining up to eventually face each other. While the Packers are still the clear favorite to win the whole thing, they’ve faded out of the spotlight a little thanks to their loss at Kansas City and the way the Saints' offense has turned things up. That’s definitely a positive thing for a confident team that knows they can repeat if they put everything together.
Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to who will face the Packers in the Super Bowl. All the AFC teams have glaring faults. The Patriots have no defense to speak of. The Ravens have Joe Flacco leading their offense. (If you’ve watched him play enough, you know this isn’t necessarily a positive thing). The Steelers would be the best team if not for their hobbled QB. (Yes, the Ravens beat them twice this season, but I’d still take Ben over Flacco in a head-to-head PLAYOFF game.) The Texans don’t look like they have enough offensively. The Bengals’ secondary hasn’t been the same in the second half of the season due to injuries. Finally, the Broncos… have God on their side, but I’m not sure even he is enough to get this team to the Super Bowl. But a free-for-all is always fun to watch. It should be a good one.
CINCINNATI +3 over HoustonThese two teams faced off in Week 14 and it came down to a T.J. Yates comeback drive. The win marked the second week in a row that Yates was able to pull a rabbit out of his helmet, so people thought he was good enough to captain Houston's ship. The praise started coming in with people writing into Bill Simmons to call Yates the next Tom Brady. Four weeks later, I think we can safely say that T.J. Yates is no Tom Brady. The Texans haven't been able to do much offensively in the last few weeks, having not scored more than 20 points with Yates behind center. (Last week's total of 22 was due to the one and only Jake Delhomme.) The Bengals' weakness is their secondary and I'm not sure Houston has the ability to exploit that because of Yates. The health of Andre Johnson might improve things slightly, but it's not like the Texans are blowing out the Bengals here. The Bengals have a good chance to win this game and will keep it very close if they don't.
NEW ORLEANS -10.5 over Detroit
The Saints are 8-0 at home and show no signs of letting up, so the only question is how many points do they win by? The Lions have already seen this rodeo once before and failed mightily in a 31-17 defeat. Both offenses have shown improvement since, which is why the over/under is a lofty 59. (This is a ridiculous number. I like the under.) The Saints are one of the few teams who stifled the Lions' offense in recent weeks, so I think they'll be able to do it again. All of which means a wild winning celebration in the Big Easy, which works out great for our bachelor party.
Atlanta +3 over N.Y. GIANTS
I think the Giants should be able to beat the Falcons this week as the Giants’ strength (pass rush and passing offense) goes head to head with the Falcons' weakness. So the Giants should prevail, right? Since all signs point to yes, I'm going in the other direction. Some dumb shit will happen where one of their receivers drops a wide-open touchdown (although I have a man crush on that talented son of a b*tch Victor Cruz) and their pass coverage will run into each other. Sure there's the potential of a reverse jinx, but it’s too hard to get a handle on this Jekyll and Hyde operation.
DENVER +9 over Pittsburgh
Tebow Time is over. His last three games have been an embarrassment to the quarterback position. The Broncos' offense has become way too predictable with early down runs, forcing Tebow to throw on third downs when the defense knows it is coming. The Steelers' blitzing defense will likely give the kid fits because he hasn't seen anything like it all year. This would normally have the makings of a Steelers blowout, except for two things. First, Big Ben's ankle injury is a problem. He's not the same guy when he's immobile. Second, there's a weird dynamic when these playoff teams without a winning record play in the wild card round. The last five in this situation have all covered, with four of them winning outright. (We all remember the Seahawks last year as the most recent example.) I still like the Steelers to win, but 9 is a lot of points when I don't think the Steelers offense will score a lot of points. The under in this game is quite enticing as well.