Championship Game Picks

Ahh, Championship Sunday. One of the greatest days of the year. The last true football Sunday of the season. Where legacies are forged. Where heroes are crowned and goats poop their pants under the bright lights. And, more often than not, the Patriots prevail. But I’m getting ahead of myself. After a near perfect week last week, proving to the skeptics that the wildcard round’s poor showing was, in fact, intentional, we’re back to .500 in the Brian’s Den. After we go 2-0 this week, assuring a winning record for the playoffs, the I’ll be able to flex my precognitive muscles in the Super Bowl. I would encourage the public to be on the right side of history.

Before we get to the picks, I want to give a shoutout to the moronic and incompetent Knicks owner James Dolan, CEO of the worst cable company ever created. I thought the worst part about being cursed with Optimum Cable would be the social stigma that comes with admitting to relying on such a second-class company, but I was wrong. In my area, Optimum no longer carries CBS. CBS! The first channel ever created. It’s basic cable. It’s pretty much free to have. Everyone in America has CBS. But Optimum is too cheap to pay the affiliates what they want. It’s stupefying. So now I have to watch the AFC Championship Game on my laptop. It’s embarrassing. I’ve never felt so poor and destitute. Hey James, I’m glad you run the worst franchise in sports. Have fun hanging out with Carmelo you kazoo-playing scumbag! Rant over.

Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)

When I started thinking about this game, I only knew one thing for sure: I was betting the over. This game is gonna be a shootout. No one’s stopping anybody. Last one with the ball wins. Right? Well, I’m not so sure. In the media’s rush to see who can gush lovingly over Aaron Rodgers more in an effort to fill the fatherly void in his life and make everyone move on from Tom Brady (full post coming Monday. If the Pats win.), everyone has forgotten that the Falcons are one of the greatest offenses of all time. The Packers defense is so, so, so, so, so, so, so bad. They’re as bad as you can get against the run and the pass. The Falcons are as good as you can get running and throwing. This is a total mismatch when the Falcons have the ball. The Green Bay offense is 100% Rodgers at this point. What if he’s not perfect? It’s happened before. Did all those first round exits and underwhelming postseason losses suddenly not happen just because he made some crazy throws? Listen, I’m not gonna sit here and say he’s gonna have a bad game. He’s going to dominate. But the Falcons defense is pretty fast and can kind of rush the passer sometimes. They can do what the Cowboys did in the second half of last week’s game. All they need is one or two stops the entire game! If the Rodgers is off schedule early, this could get ugly.

PICK: Atlanta -4.5

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots (-6.5)

We all know where my heart lies, but what about my head? Spoiler alert: the same place. People are scrambling to sell that the Steelers can win and take down the big, bad Patriots. Sure they can win. This isn’t a Globe Trotters game. It’s not scripted. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to. This Pats defense is trash! Their stats are totally inflated due to the fact that they played almost exclusively crappy QBs, which they had complete control of, by the way. LeVeon Bell will rush for 400 yards while adding another 250 receiving yards! It’ll be over by half! Brady’s done! You know how many times the Pats have allowed a 100 yard rusher in a playoff game in the Brady-Belichick era? 4. In 32 games! Once every 8 games a running back has a big game against the Pats in the playoffs. Odds are that’s once every 3 seasons. They aren’t going to be caught off guard here. They know how to take away the opponent’s best weapon, and I’m pretty sure Bell qualifies. Ben Roethlisberger is been horrible in the playoffs. Outplayed by both Matt Moore and Alex Smith. And he’s garbage on the road. He’s on the road this game. The so-called greatest and most talented offense ever constructed couldn’t score a touchdown last week. They’re Facebook living locker room speeches. Everyone has the flu. It’s pure chaos in Pittsburgh. Plus, you may not have heard this, but Tom Brady owns the Steelers. 19 touchdowns and no interceptions against Mike Tomlin. The Patriots offense was better than this would-be juggernaut in every offensive category! I’m not super confident that the Pats cover. After all, Big Ben thinks the backdoor is always open and is a master of garbage time tds against the Pats. But, I would be stunned, dumbfounded if the Pats lost. Patriots vs. Falcons, book it.

PICK: Patriots -6.5

New England Patriots vs Houston Texans

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Divisional Round Picks

We’re back with some more fearless, peerless predictions. If you were paying attention last week, you’ll notice that we didn’t do so hot. Fret not, dear reader, because it was only a test. A way to weed out the truly devoted from the fair-weather fans. Now that I’m confident only the most loyal of readers remain, I’m willing to give my true, infallible picks. Some great matchups this week, and my beloved Patriots take the field in an important scrimmage against Foxborough High School. Let’s get to the games.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)

The first of four rematches sees the Seahawks travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons. The Seahawks won the previous game thanks to a predictably missed pass interference against Richard Sherman. While it would be easy to say that since the Seahawks are on the road they won’t get the benefit of literally every single call during every game played since 2012, but the reasons they lose go deeper than that. For starters, Atlanta’s offense is insane. Top five in passing and rushing yards per game. Number one in scoring. Number one in offensive DVOA. This is quietly one of the greatest offenses ever facing a defense that, while very good, is missing its best player. Opponent passer rating has gone up and they only have one interception since Earl Thomas went down. Seattle’s ugly destruction of the hapless Lions made them look far better than they really are. The Seahawks offense isn’t very good. Granted, the Falcons defense is very bad, but not bad enough to sink them in this matchup. Seattle just doesn’t have enough weapons to keep up. Everyone loves to say Matt Ryan can never get it done, forgetting he was once on the goal line with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Atlanta is going to score, and, as the home team, is going to get the benefit of the whistle. I can’t wait for Richard Sherman’s post game anti-official rant. Come at me 12s!

Pick: Atlanta -4.5

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Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots (-16)

Will the Brocket Ship return to orbit or will Terry Bradshaw collect a nice royalty check as Failure to Launch airs for three hours on Saturday night? I think we all know where this is going. I will say this, though. I usually prepare myself for the doomsday scenarios. The unthinkable Patriots losses against inferior opponents. Those thoughts haven’t even begun festering in my mind. If Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo both die on the field, everyone on the Pats D blows their knees out, and Goodell takes out the lead official and becomes the ref WWE-style and the Texans win, this would be the most embarrassing loss of my lifetime. Worse than losing to Rex Ryan. Worse than the Bruins blowing a 3-0 lead to the Flyers. Worse than the Red Sox completely no-showing last year against the Indians. Nothing could top losing to this JV squad. On a lighter note, without the Redskins in the playoffs, my streak of consecutive football posts mentioning the god of quarterbacks Colt Brennan was finally snapped. I was hoping the Raiders would give me a reason to bring him up again, but, alas, they lost. The only connection I could find is that he played for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League in 2011. The Patriots almost moved to Hartford once. This game is going to be such a blowout I wouldn’t be surprised if Nantz and Simms start talking about this eerie coincidence in the fourth quarter.

Pick: Pats -16

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Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys (-4.5)

I have two schools of thought about this game. The first is that there’s a real possibility the Cowboys repeat the beating they put on the Packers in week five. This Cowboys team is perfectly built to beat the Packers. The Packers’ small front seven can get swallowed in the wake of the righteous wave of fury cast down upon us by the immortal beings known as the Cowboys Offensive Line from their Holy Seat on High, the ball control offense keeps Aaron Rodgers off the field, and though the Cowboys have a vulnerable defense, they actually intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass in week 5, a true accomplishment. On the other hand, I don’t really want to be on the other side of Aaron Rodgers. Benefitting from my fairly obvious jinx attempt last week, he slayed the dragon that haunts my nightmares, and, for that, I am eternally grateful. He’s the most naturally talented quarterback I’ve ever seen and he couldn’t be hotter. 19 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last eight games. That’s insane. I don’t think the Cowboys relatively weak defense will really be able to contain him, even with Jordy Nelson, the NFL’s leader in touchdown catches, sitting out. This could be a weird shootout, with the Cowboys driving down methodically and scoring after 7 or 8 minutes with the ball, then the Packers responding instantly, lather, rinse, repeat. This won’t be a defensive game, and I think it goes down to the final drive. With apologies to fellow UConn Husky Byron Jones, (random tangent: My senior year I took a one credit basketball class because I had so much free time. You just showed up and played hoops. Byron Jones was in the class and he wasn’t allowed to play with everyone else, either by his own volition or administrative decree. He would just go to a basket no one was using and dunk for an hour. It was breathtaking.) Packers at least cover.

Pick: Packers +4.5

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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5)

This is an interesting game and a rematch of a Steelers blowout win. I expect a different game this time around. For starters, the Steelers aren’t going to go up 22-0 right away this time. I know they just destroyed the Dolphins, but, if you read last week, you know that I predicted that they’d wipe out the hapless Dolphins easily. The Chiefs lead the NFL in takeaways, and Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 88 interceptions in his 93 career road games, including 17 in his last 14. That adds up to bad news for the Steelers passing game, despite the fact that the Chiefs run defense is putrid. Everyone always love to trash Alex Smith, but if he just keeps feeding Travis Kelce and breakout star Tyreek Hill they should be able to move the ball effectively against an average Steelers defense. Every little thing matters, and the Chiefs special teams unit is probably the best in the league, lead, of course, by Hill. And if you still weren’t convinced, this game was just moved to 8:20 pm. Night games in Arrowhead usually end badly for opposing teams, as the best fans in the league (suck it 12s) cause havoc. Chiefs roll.

Pick: Chiefs -1.5

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This Chargers move feels like the biggest rush job of all time

So last night the Chargers announced that they’re moving to Los Angeles. Dean Spanos, the Chargers chairman, has been threatening to move for fifteen years like a jumper on the windowsill. No one thought he’d do it. No matter how many times the good people of San Diego voted against public funding for a new stadium, no matter how many new stadiums around the league made Qualcomm look like trash, no one thought he’d do it. Well, they finally did it, and they seem totally unprepared. First, they unveiled this new logo:

No offense to whoever spent 10 minutes in photoshop whipping this up, but that logo stinks. It’s so generic. The old Chargers logo is so great and distinctive. Why change it? At the very least, why change it to that? Then news comes out today that they’re going to play in the 30,000 seat StubHub Center until the Rams’ new stadium is finished. They couldn’t even get the Colosseum or Rose Bowl. They get a little rinky dink stadium that they probably aren’t going to sell out because no one in Los Angeles cares about the Chargers. The Raiders are still more popular, and it’s been 20 years since they played there. It’s like the Chargers were just as surprised by the move as everyone else and they’ve been scrambling to put everything together. Supposedly they haven’t even talked to the Rams about sharing a stadium yet! It’s just a puzzling situation all around. I mean, it doesn’t effect me either way, but it just seems like a strange way to do the move. As long as they don’t ditch the powder blues.

Picks for Wild Card Weekend

This weekend is one of the best times of the year. It’s a new year. It’s almost my birthday. And the NFL Playoffs have officially arrived. The pizza and wings taste better. The beer is more refreshing. And your bank account will be full if you follow my advice betting this weekend’s games. Normally, I’d be throwing out some advanced stats and research to wow you with my football knowledge. Luckily for me, these games are all slam dunks, so I don’t need to this week. The latent prognosticating powers that fill the Brian’s Den won’t need to be summoned just yet. Or will they? On to the games

Oakland Raiders vs Houston Texans (-4.5)

Dear God, why? What the Atlanta Hawks are to NBATV playoff games, the Texans are to the afternoon wildcard Saturday kickoff. Make no bones about it. This will be the worst game of all time. Connor Cook vs. Brock Osweiler. A clash of titans. I’d say it’s the worst quarterback matchup in playoff history but it’s an insult to quarterbacking to call Brock a quarterback. I’ll say this loud and clear: the Texans STINK. S.T.I.N.K. They’re horrible. The fact that they went 7-1 at home is a minor miracle. Everything in this game favors the Raiders. Raiders can’t stop the pass. Well, the Texans have the worst passing game since the 1930s. Raiders are good against the run. Texans can’t really run it, either. Texans can’t rush the passer without J.J. Watt. Raiders have the best offensive line in the league (yeah, I said it. I know it’s sacrilege to imply the mighty Cowboys don’t have the best group of five people ever assembled in the history of Western Civilization, but someone has to do it). Raiders will score, at most, 17 points. That’s 16 more than it will take to win this abomination of a game.

PICK: Raiders +4.5

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Detroit Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks (-8)

The Lions predictably blew it at the end of the regular season, so now instead of a home game and possible first round bye, they get to travel to Seattle for a night game where they have to deal with all the “12s”. (Side note: If you identify yourself as a “12” I hope you die a painful death. They’re so annoying and have such a persecution complex (Hey, aren’t you a Patriots fan? Yes, but we’re not talking about me). They’re more a fan of being a fan than the actual team, who the majority of the “12s” probably didn’t know existed before 2010. They’re always the people who throw out the word classy, even though it’s such a lame, wet blanket argument and their beloved coach is a confirmed 9/11 truther. And these stupid noise competitions they have with other stadiums are just so vomit inducing. Hey, 12s, you know 90% of stadium noise is artificial right? God, I hate them. Go sip your artisanal IPA and tell me about how no one respects Bobby Wagner you loser. But I digress.) Despite the Seahawks penchant for randomly blowing seemingly easy games, this game is pretty simple to predict. Matt Stafford hasn’t been the same since his finger injury and this Seahawks team will eat him alive.

PICK: Seahawks -8

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Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (-10.5)

It’s easy to point to the game back in week 6 and say that it won’t go the same way now that Matt Moore is quarterback instead of the immortal Ryan Tannehill. But people keep forgetting that Ryan Tannehill sucks. Matt Moore has done okay as the fill-in starter, and this Dolphins team is just as hot as the perennially dangerous Steelers. Most likely due to their rich history and standings as two of the three most popular teams in the NFL, the Steelers and Packers are always talked about like one win makes them terrifying. The Steelers could be 0-15 but win their last game and people would be like “Watch out, here come the Steelers! Don’t let Big Ben and the boys get hot!” The Packers get the same treatment, and neither team has done much of anything since they met in Super Bowl XLV. The Steelers have so many crazy playmakers on offense, but their defense isn’t good and they never win big games. Jay Ajayi completely shredded this team earlier, and the Steelers haven’t exactly become the 2000 Ravens since. I’m not sure if the Steelers even win. They sure aren’t covering.

PICK: Dolphins +10.5

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New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers (-4.5)

The easiest game on the board. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers couldn’t be hotter, going against a Giants team that finished the season decently, but hardly hot. 15 touchdown passes during this 6-game winning streak. The defense is playing less bad, which is all you need against this sputtering Giants offense. Eli couldn’t look worse. The game is in hallowed Lambeau Field, where opposing teams never win playoff games. Except when they do. Which, lately, is all the time. This is the most perfect Giants playoff scenario of all time. Giants are winning this game. If you don’t think they are, you don’t pay attention and I hate you for adding to the Giants mythos. If you think this is a ploy to try and jinx them, you’re wrong. My mush powers have nothing on the Giants playoff juju.

PICK: Giants +4.5

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