Of the seven people who read our first round preview last week, at least four of you were probably impressed that we picked three of the four games and nearly got the score exactly right in the now infamous ‘picked up flag’ Dallas-Detroit game.
Now it only gets harder.
For starters, you may have noticed last week relied on quarterback play as the decider when we thought two teams were evenly matched.
Well this week you can’t pick the games based on the tried-and-true formula of ‘who has the best quarterback?’ In each game that fact is an argument. Baltimore at Pats features Joe Flacco and Tom Brady – both of whom have impressive post-season records. Carolina and Seattle features two young signal-callers just as capable of killing you on the ground as in the air. Dallas at Green Bay features a quarterback having their best season, up against the best quarterback in the league – two centrepieces of the MVP debate this season.
The playoffs brings out the best in the best
And finally, Colts at Denver has undoubtedly one of the five best quarterbacks in NFL history – Peyton Manning – up against someone who seems destined to be one of the five best quarterbacks in NFL history – Andrew Luck.
This is the best of the best people. Anyone can win from here – luckily you’ve got us to tell you who.
BALTIMORE AT NEW ENGLAND
In the first four games of the regular season, New England couldn’t block. Then went two and two and looked awful. In the next 10 or so games, New England could block, and they dominated the league. In the last two games of the regular season, they couldn’t block again, and nearly lost to the lowly Jets, and did lose to the lowly Bills (although admittedly resting most of its first team).
For most of the regular season, Baltimore’s success has been determined by whether or not it could rush the passer. Outside of its capacity to get the quarterback, Baltimore’s defence has been horrid. But when they get sacks and pressure, their defence improves dramatically. Last week against Pittsburgh, the Ravens rushed the passer, turning a great offence into a mediocre one.
This happened a lot last week
Let’s keep it simple. Baltimore will score 24 points. If the Pats can block, they will score more than 24 points. If they can’t, they’re done for.
The Pick: New England 31 Baltimore 24.
CAROLINA AT SEATTLE
This game is the easiest of the weekend.
Carolina and Seattle are both defence first teams with good running games. But Carolina is a poor imitation of Seattle.
Seattle has the best defence in the league. Carolina is the 18th best offence in the league – one suspects it’s going to be a long day for Cam Newton. They are 1st in rushing yards allowed, which means Carolina’s primary weapon – running the ball – is likely to be blunted. So Carolina QB Cam Newton is going to have to make a lot of throws. However, Seattle is 3rd in the league in passing yards allowed. So maybe that will be difficult.
Carolina’s defence is 3rd in the league on weighted DVOA. But they’re going against the 4th best offence in the league.
This was a complicated way of saying this game is not going to be close. And that means Richard Sherman is going to be talking smack.
The Pick: Seattle 38 Carolina 14
DALLAS AT GREEN BAY
This game will be fun.
Things we know – Dallas will not be able to stop Green Bay. Their defence is awful, and Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback, with arguably the best receivers in the league.
This is going to happen a lot.
The game here for Dallas is straightforward – get your ground game going, get ahead and keep Aaron Rodgers – and your defence – off the field. The minute they fall behind, it’s going to be up to Romo to keep them in the game. With weapons like Bryant, Witten and Beasley he’s got the ability to put up major points – but he can’t go head-to-head with Rogers and win.
The Pick: Green Bay 31 Dallas 24
INDIANAPOLIS AT DENVER
Last week we told you the Colts have a great quarterback, a good receiver and not much else. This was enough against a Bengals team last week that had none of the above. This week, the Colts go up against a team with a great quarterback, 3 great receivers, an inform running back and a solid-to-good defence.
And so that is Andrew Luck’s problem. Unlike last week, Luck will need to be nearly perfect all game to top Denver. Peyton Manning, who hasn’t been perfect lately, has the luxury of leaning on C.J Anderson for yards and on looking to the Thomas’ to get open. Manning can expect good field position from a defence ranked 2nd in the league in rushing yards allowed, and 9th in passing yards allowed.
Luck? Well Luck can hope TY Hilton can catch a fucking ball or two for him. And apart from that, he’s going to have to do it himself.
The Pick: Denver 27 Indianapolis 21