Thursday, January 9, 2014

2014 NFL Divisional Round Picks

Greetings 303 Sports readers! I'm back to make my triumphant return to picking NFL games... just in time for round two of the playoffs. Hey, better late than never.

First, a mini history lesson on why round two is still called the "Divisional Round". The term more clearly made sense after the NFL-AFL merger, when only the three division winners, plus one wild card, from each conference would meet in this, the quarterfinal round. League expansion in 1990 brought in the modern wild card round as we see it today: one and two-seeds would receive a bye, while seeds three through six would meet in round one. We may see an additional wild card team brought into the mix in the coming years; yielding a scenario where only the one-seed will receive a bye. Make sure your 60" plasma can handle back to back triple-header days of playoff action in 2015.

Back in the day (the 90s and early 2000s), the wild card round of the playoffs only served as a one-week distraction while the real teams prepared themselves on a bye week. Since the Steelers improbable Super Bowl XL victory as a six-seed following the 2005 season, playoff seeding and regular season records have served zero prediction to the outcome of playoff match ups. Since that point (eight full seasons), six of eight Super Bowl champions began the playoffs in the wild card round. Two of those champions (2005 Steelers & 2010 Packers) were six-seeds... I'm looking at you, Chargers & Saints). One more fun fact that all Broncos and Seahawks fans will love: six-seeds are 6-2 against one-seeds since 2005. That's not covering the spread. That's winning outright. What it comes down to is this: if you're laying money on favorites, you will lose. Do not parlay (Kieran). Throw some dough on the underdogs.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-8.0)

The narrative: This game is a rematch of a week 13 beat down that the Seahawks put on the Saints on Monday Night Football, 34-7. Seattle, both anecdotally and scientifically, holds the best home field advantage in football since 2002. The Saints, meanwhile, return to the scene where their repeat title run ended after the 2010 season. We remember that game, of course, as the Beast Mode game. Fans of the 7-9 Seahawks created a measurable tremor in nearby seismic monitoring centers during Marshawn Lynch's signature run. Seattle has been poised all season to make a Super Bowl run, while the Saints hope to prove they can continue to win on the road.

The pick: As much as it pains me to say, one of the one-seeds is going down this weekend. And I'll be damned if it's the Broncos... again. It hurts me to say this, but Saints win, 28-24.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-7.0)

The narrative: The Colts are coming off one of the craziest comeback wins you will ever see in a sporting event. Down 38-10 in the 3rd quarter, Andrew Luck and the Colts rallied back to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, 45-44. If momentum exists in sports, they have it. The Patriots, meanwhile, sport an injury-riddled team that somehow has been good for over a decade. Mired in a nine-year Super Bowl drought, Tom Brady has performed poorly in the playoffs of late, contrary to almost anything you read about him. 

The pick: Tom Brady continues his trend of losing to inferior opponents in the playoffs (seriously, why does he get so much credit for being great? He won three Super Bowls early in his career and has been below average since. Why doesn't he get more shit for blowing the 19-0 season!?). Andrew Luck runs for two touchdowns as the Colts prevail 24-18.

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (+1.5)

The narrative: The surprise team of the regular season matches up against the reigning NFC champion 49ers. Cam Newton, possessor of all the tools teams look for in a young quarterback put it together this season, as his coach embraced how to not be a pussy on 4th down. This game is a rematch of an unusually entertaining 10-9 game played between these teams in week 10. On the other side, the 49ers are considered one of the hottest teams in the playoffs; riding a seven-game win streak into this Sunday's matchup. Both teams possess electric young quarterbacks and stout defenses, which should lead to another low scoring struggle.

The pick: Logic is often the most deceiving thing in the NFL. While on paper, this game looks like a defensive struggle, in reality it may be a surprise shootout. The 49ers manage the clock just a little better, get the ball last, and win 37-35

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-9.5)

The narrative: Congratulations Chargers & Broncos fans! Your team has automatically qualified for the final five! As for earning that final spot in the championship round, Broncos fans talk a mean talk, but deep down are scared to death of this Chargers team. Nobody wants to play the team with nothing to lose (see, Baltimore Ravens, 2012), and a guy who throws like a girl while wearing a bolo tie (see, Phil Rivers, 2013). Some Broncos fans I've spoken to are already pointing the finger at this weekend's scapegoat. 

The pick: Nobody will give a crap about the narrative going into this game after the Chargers are crushed by the Broncos, 45-24. That's this week's lock of the week! (But for the love of god, do not parlay this).

In Summary...

Saints +8 over SEAHAWKS
Colts +7 over PATRIOTS
49ers -1 over PANTHERS
BRONCOS -10 over Chargers

And if you're crazy enough to parlay these predictions:

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