Welcome to round 2 of the Post-season Playoff Edition!
As good as these match-ups are at face value, they might have been even better if key players weren’t likely to miss them due to injury. Still, it’s got to be the best playoffs match-ups in several years. Let’s jump right into it.
2015/16 Playoff Teams remaining: Patriots, Panthers, Broncos, Cardinals, Chiefs, Steelers, Seahawks, and Packers.
SATURDAY’S DIVISIONAL ROUND:
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The Line: Patriots -5
The Game: Saturday, January 16, 2016 – 1:35PM, PT on CBS – Forecast: 36-41f, Mostly Cloudy/Winds 10m, possible pre-game rain.
The Skinny: I’ve had pretty good luck with the ol’ bet-Belichick-with-two-weeks-to-prepare theory. Honestly, this week it’s hard to stick with it so this prediction is ‘on the fly’ as I type, and I initially recommend focusing on the chips’n dip more than the line come game day.
The Kansas City Chiefs have extended their winning streak to 11 games, this is true. During this streak, only two teams have managed point totals exceeding the teens (Oakland managed 20-only 17 in the second match-up, and Buffalo 22). But also, during that time the level of competition has mostly been third-tier and despite that very impressive victory over the Texans a week ago, the Chiefs being a championship-level team is still in question with me, and especially with an injured Jeremy Maclin. Both team’s defenses are very capable of pressuring the quarterback while the other side of the ball gives up too many sacks, but the Patriots can now play up a bit as opposed to respecting the Chiefs’ long ball. KC’s ability to win this game lies in their ability to sustain drives because Tom Brady is more likely to succeed late when players are near exhaustion. Several key injuries and their unknown-at-the-moment status make this a blind grab at straws, but assuming Julian Edelman returns and the Gronk and Maclin does not, the Patriots will definitely have to include the short passes out of the backfield to James “Sweet Feet” White in their game plan. However, if the Chiefs’ Justin Houston and Tamba Hali aren’t available (the two did not practice Thursday and are a game-time decision), veteran Steven Jackson could be the key factor, too…A difficult read, this one, but I’ll go with the hot hand. Chiefs Win, 23-20
GREEN BAY PACKERS @ ARIZONA CARDINALS
The Line: Cardinals -7
The Game: Saturday, January 16, 2016 – 5:15PM, PT on NBC – Forecast: In Dome
The Skinny: A few short weeks ago, the Cardinals whooped the Packers pretty bad (38-8) and I’d pick them again in a heartbeat if everything is now as it was then. However, the loss of Tyrann Mathieu is huge and makes this a closer contest in itself. Additionally, the Packers’ O-line was pretty banged up (and unprepared) in that last game and they are adamant in their preparation this week while getting key players back from injuries. Will this help them? Sure, but perhaps not enough.
The Cards, unlike the Redskins, are a dangerous threat over the top of the Packer defense with at least three players faster than DeSean Jackson on offense. This only adds to the danger of running back David Johnson, who is a dual-threat by ground or air. In Arizona, the Cardinals figure to have a major edge…and the truth still remains that with or without a healthy offensive line, the Packers have allowed 47 sacks to the Cards’ 27. With two weeks to prepare and a better overall team, 2-time Coach of the Year recipient Bruce Arians is the safer, more logical bet. Expect a competitive game this time around, but… Cardinals Win, 33-24
SUNDAY’S DIVISIONAL ROUND:
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS
The Line: Panthers -2
The Game: Sunday, January 17, 2016 – 10:05AM, PT on FOX – Forecast: 41-45f, Partly Cloudy/Winds 3m
The Skinny: Tyson-Holyfield we have here. In fact, one may be inclined to bet against the winner of this game in the next round. Definitely two teams that are capable of reaching (and winning) the Super Bowl, this is a must-see match-up in which the under may be the best choice to lay coins down.
To refresh your memory, the Seahawks and Panthers met in week 6 which might have been the tail-end of the Seahawks’ slow start (Panthers won 27-23). Both teams have improved since, and that makes this a tough read. But when you look closer, the Seahawks have played better competition, especially on the defensive side, belonging to the NFC West. Truth be told, Russell Wilson and company have struggled with top notch defenses, and the Panthers have only played one; the Seahawks. Both offenses are capable of exploding for big points, but the difference is potential MVP winner Cam Newton. The man just flat-out makes things happen with his size, strength and cunning. It’s like someone super-sized Wilson.
So the breakdown for me comes in the form of the surrounding casts. Carolina’s Josh Norman will mostly handle Doug Baldwin. Seattle’s Richard Sherman is capable of limiting anyone receiver the Panthers have (Ted Ginn, returning from injury, leads the team with over 30 more targets than anyone not named Greg Olsen). The Panthers will have the edge on the ground and in rushing the passer, while the Seahawks’ secondary as a whole holds more aces (Newton thew two INTs to 1 TD last meeting). As much as one could make a case for the potent Seahawks, one glaring difference comes to light; they already lost versus the Panthers with TE Jimmy Graham (who had a monster day then), Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls. Now they play Carolina without these three. Panthers Win, 23-20
PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ DENVER BRONCOS
The Line: Broncos -7 (SOME VEGAS SOURCES) OR NO LINE (OFF THE BOARD DUE TO PERSONNEL UNCERTAINTY)
The Game: Sunday, January 17, 2016 – 1:35PM, PT on CBS – Forecast: 40f at Kick-off to dip up to 20f during game, Clear/Winds 5-12m
The Skinny: This may be the most disappointing game of the post-season if Pittsburgh’s DeAngelo Williams, Antonio Brown, and Ben Roethlisberger cannot go. Williams is said to be the biggest longshot but the easiest of the three to replace. If Big Ben can’t go throw all chances of an upset out the window. However, if the Steelers are only out one all-pro receiver things could still be interesting, especially since the oddsmakers are practically writing off the Steelers already. Does anyone remember the Steelers beat the Broncos less than a month ago?
Despite the idiotic comment by Adam Jones that Antonio Brown could fake such a such as being knocked out after viewing (and reviewing) the limp manner in the way he fell, Antonio’s chances of playing are slim in my opinion, so look for Markus Wheaton to step in take up some slack. That said, the unsung hero could possibly be Darrius Heyward-Bey sneaking in somewhat under the radar. Martavis Bryant, as talented as he is, is not Antonio Brown and not as prolific finding seams so Ben will take less chances. This means he is likely to look elsewhere quicker facing Denver’s pass rush and Heyward-Bey benefits.
Peyton Manning is set to start this game and if healthy enough this means efficiency up the field all day long. The key phrase here is ‘if healthy’ because he will be hit and pressured, possibly sacked more than once. Denver is actually ahead of Pittsburgh in sacks allowed and this is my main component from a handicapping standpoint. The Broncos will need to run the ball successfully to offset the rush, and Demaryius Thomas will need to have a big day 10 yards at a time.
Denver’s D is considered to have the edge here, and rightfully so, but to you, Mr. Betting Mann, I caution: Be aware that Pittsburgh has not given up more than 20 points [in the last 3 games]since beating Denver 34-27. I don’t see this game as a blowout either way. Take the points if 5 or higher (and the “under” if 47 or above) when all is said and done. Personally, I’m betting Pittsburgh continues to do what it does, which is overcome the odds…that is, IF Roethlisberger can play. Steelers Win, 23-20
Injury Update: Antonio Brown has been ruled out this weekend.
Last week’s Wild Card record vs. the spread: W3 – L1
Good luck in the post-season. Thanks, and good luck, Mr. Betting Mann!