You know, Bill, there’s one thing I learned in all my years. Sometimes you just gotta say, “What the f**k…”
- Joel Goodson, Risky Business
Sunday I completed a personally remarkable WildCard weekend.
My first half and full game spread picks completed the weekend a remarkable 7 of 8 – so impressive that my days of just giving you this type of knowledge for free is about its end. I mean Harvard ain’t free – am I right?
Of course when I become a Tout I will have to start using ALL CAPS a lot more often and will have to smother the lawyer living in my gut that says to not use words like GUARANTEE. However, with the amount of dip I have eaten in the last couple of weeks, even if I don’t smother him he will be dead of heart disease before the Super Bowl.
Naturally my one loss came at the hands at my boys in blue, when they dared to take a lead into halftime against the Steelers. The Broncos dominated – then gave away – then shocked the world in beating a vastly overrated Steeler team on Sunday afternoon. Was it really an upset? The Steelers were decimated by injuries – no Mendenhall or Pouncey, Big Ben down to only one good rapin’ leg – and a defense that is starting to look more like all reputation, no substance. Without Ryan Clark and his defensive Team MVP cell structure, the Steelers pass defense was almost Vikings-esque and that isn’t good.
SIDEBAR: Personal note to Troy Polamalu: I mean, seriously? You make Pro Bowls, you get shampoo commercials, and the never-ending affection of football writers and then you become the personal punching bag of Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas? That’s an embarrassment. The only safety play I have ever seen more pathetic than your play on Sunday was when Dan Orlovsky ran out the back of the end zone. You should cut off all of your hair as penance. Or retire. Whatever.
But I’m not here to talk about the past. Let’s move on. To the Divisional Playoffs. I am riding an incredible picking streak. The Broncos are playing a full 2 weeks after anyone expected them to. At this point, we are all playing with house money, so in the immortal words of Joel Goodson I just say:
What the f**k.
New Orleans @ San Francisco
First Half: New Orleans (-3)
Full Game: New Orleans (-3.5)
One team is the NFL’s own Air Show – an on-going series of aerial acrobatics by a group of interchangeable parts.
The other team is the earth-moving machine that the guys in Ocean’s Thirteen used to dig underneath the casino – slow, methodical, barely making noise yet constantly moving forward and seemingly unstoppable as it slowly crushes all in front of it.
Can the Saints’ aerial bombardment “shock and awe” the Niners into submission? Will the Niners stout, quick defense disrupt the Saints show and turn into one of those European Air Show disasters?
Playing the Niners presents 2 major challenges to the Saints – first the Niners defenders aren’t like the Lions. They are built for speed. Aldon Smith. Navarro Bowman. Patrick Willis. They all have speed.
Secondly, as the old saying that I just made up goes: you can take the team out of the dome, but you can’t take the dome out of the team. Even with the forecasted pleasant bay area weather, the Saints will face strange winds, thick, plush grass and cool, heavy air. None of those are things they see in the SuperDome – except maybe the heavy air caused by 75,000 fans stuffed with gumbo and boudin.
Between the Saints being a step slow and the speed of the Niners defense, I think the machine will be slightly off – like when your computer is running yet another Microsoft update in the background and every. Thing. It. Does. Goes. Very. Slowly.
On the other side of the ball, the Niners can minimize the risk associated with the phrase ‘starting playoff quarterback Alex Smith’ by pounding the ball. The Saints aren’t built on defense for a pounding ground game. As Alabama proved last weekend in their National Semifinal defeat of Oklahoma State, a dominant defense grounding a high flying offense and a meticulous power offense that limits mistakes can win.
What’s that?…College doesn’t have a playoff?… So we have no idea if Alabama could shut down OSU’s offense?…I don’t understand…The country’s 2nd most popular sport can’t identify a definitive champion? …HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?
Anyway – back to a sport that crowns a true champion. The Saints may move the ball in the first half and score a touchdown or two before the Niners adjust and throw a wrench in the machine so take the Saints and give the points in the first half.
In the second half, like a horror movie murderer that never runs but always catches the running teen girl in the tight fitting tank top, the Niners slowly ground down the Saints defense and clog their offense. The Niners not only cover the full game spread but win out-right.
Denver @ New England
First Half: New England (-7)
Full Game: New England (-13.5)
The Broncos are on a crusade.
Oh, yes – there is the “Drive to the Super Bowl” and whatnot but that isn’t what this team is about. The whole ‘glories on Earth’ thing is beneath them. They aren’t after trophies.
They are after souls.
At the end of the 1997-1998 season, the Broncos entered the playoffs as a wildcard and embarked on the ‘Revenge’ Tour as each week featured a team that they felt they owed. The Jaguars (wildcard) had beaten them in the previous year’s playoffs. The Chiefs (divisional) and Steelers (AFC championship) had beaten the Broncos during the regular season and the Packers (Super Bowl) were defending champs.
The 1997 Broncos were a Quentin Tarantino character without even realizing it.
This year’s Bronco team isn’t out to revenge past defeats. Rather they have taken on their leader’s persona and are out to vanquish evil doers. The Broncos aren’t beating football teams, they’re cleansing a game’s morals. One Commandment at a time.
Last week, was the defeat of a rapist.
Next comes a cheat and philanderer.
And then, were the Broncos to defeat the Patriots and face the Ravens (favored over the Texans), they would face thieves (that stole a team from the people of Cleveland) and a murderer (<cough>Ray Lewis<cough>).
In three short weeks, the Broncos can cleanse these playoffs of the sinners.
They can exorcise the demons. This house will be clear.
But can good truly triumph over evil again? The odds are long. But they were also long against a Jewish carpenter once, and raise your hand if you just got home from worshipping Jupiter and Juno.
The Broncos have 2 things going for them (beyond the existential power of the Heavens). First Tebow requires poor secondary play to throw the ball well – he needs receivers with some space thanks to less than Brady-esque confidence and accuracy (see: Steelers and Vikings games). Thankfully, the Patriots have a pass defense as bad as anyone in the NFL.
Secondly, while the Patriots did dominate the Broncos a few weeks ago, they dominated because of Broncos mistakes. Three awful turnovers before half turned a lead into a deficit – and these Broncos are as likely to stage a large comeback as they are to make it rain at The Gold Club.
History has also shown that while the Patriots may be consistently strong, their Achilles heel has been playoff re-matches at home (last year vs. Jets and 2 years ago vs. Ravens).
I am tempted to say take the Patriots in the first half, but I think at best, they get a push with the 7 point spread.
It is just too many points. Take the Broncos for the first half and full game and feel the warmth and strength that comes with being on the side of the just.