Remember those commercials where the NFL flashes back to the preseason and fans brag to their friends about their sports knowledge, making their overconfident predictions about the upcoming season?? My picks the last two weeks were kind of like that.
Okay, so last week I told you not to bet on my picks. But what I really should have told you, was not to bet on my AFC picks. Bet on my NFC picks!! I know the NFC! Rumor has it, ESPN considered picking up the phone and hiring me as an NFC picks specialist after this weekend.
(Keep in mind I probably just jinxed myself - So go with my AFC picks this time around).
This week I'm gonna stick to my gut, a.k.a., what I'm leaning towards. Because if we analyze last weekend's picks, I said, "The Jets have every reason to believe they will win this game. And regardless of the lines, they are the odds on favorite to do so. And just because I can't stand them so much, they will likely win this game. Everything is in their favor. They're probably the better team" aaaand, "I'm leaning towards the Ravens", right before I proceeded to pick the other teams and lose. Translation: Go with the teams you think are gonna win Talbot! So I think I'm gonna give that a try. Unless, of course, I'm leaning towards the Jets. Because I pretty much refuse to pick them.
Onto the picks...
Arizona @ New Orleans:
I kind of want to come back to this. All last week and up until now, I have been boldly predicting that the Cardinals were going to win the Super Bowl. But let's review a few things about their game last week against the Packers:
1. There were 1,024 total yards
2. 13 TDs were scored between the two teams
3. 96 total points were scored
4. Rackers can't come through in the clutch
(In fact, judging by the lack of confidence on Rackers' face as he was warming up to come through in a clutch situation, I'd say Rackers would be the second to last athlete I would ask to come through for me in the clutch. Last would of course be Minnesota Twins closer, Joe Nathan. I've never seen a pitcher look more nervous than he was when facing A-Rod in the bottom of the 9th of the ALDS this year. Usually, I expect A-Rod to fail, but there was almost no doubt in my mind he would hit a game-tying home run in that situation. Nathan was shaking. A-Rod must have been laughing inside).
5. The Cardinals literally showed zero ability to stop the Packers offense that game. I don't know how they won on a defensive play, but that doesn't take away from the fact that they had no answer for Green Bay.
In summary, Arizona didn't look like a Super Bowl champ last weekend. But then again, let's review the positives:
1. Kurt Warner through more TDs (5) than incompletions (4)
(By the way: 29/33 379 yards & 5 TDs -- not a perfect passer rating. But: 8/10 173 yards & 2 TDs -- is a perfect passer rating. Go figure. Sounds like a good statistic).
2. Warner was sacked once and never turned the ball over against the #2 defense in the NFL
3. The Cardinals ran the ball well
4. They scored 51 points in 57 plays -- that's efficiency!! And...
5. Warner has 31 TDs in 12 career playoff games.
(Marino had 32 in 18 games -- Might Warner be the best QB in playoff history?? Wasn't he in the CFL for most of his prime athletic years?? Why doesn't any of this make sense??)
Picking the Saints to lose is a pretty chic pick it seems, since they've dropped their last three games, heading into the postseason. But let's not forget, this is the same team that dominated the Giants and Patriots on national television. Oh wait, I forgot that's not impressive anymore. Suisham gave the Saints a win against the Redskins. No one should need to be given a win against the Redskins. The Saints were dominated by the Cowboys. No one should give Jerry Jones the satisfaction of ending a team's perfect season. The Saints blew a 17-point lead to the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers had like 3 wins this year. Remind me again why I considered picking the Saints?? And yet I still feel like I should pick the Saints. Their offense is so explosive. They've had two weeks to come up with unstoppable plays. As the Cardinals showed us, they won't be stopping the Saints offense. Folks, that 96-point record might not be safe or even last a week. This is a real conundrum. The Saints haven't proven they can beat anyone special, the Cardinals are my pick to win the Super Bowl, and yet I'm still having so much trouble picking the Cardinals. My mind is telling me to lean towards the Saints by a score of 41-20. But I'm gonna go against everything I said in the opening two paragraphs of this article and take the Cards anyway. I feel like their defense will play with something to prove. That won't get them very far against the Saints offense, but I think it'll slow them up just enough to give the Cards the edge. Maybe. For all the gamblers out there, go with the Saints.
Cardinals 41 - Saints 37
(The 41 will not be because of 2 Rackers FGs, rather a missed extra point by mister un-clutch)
I don't blame you if you've stopped reading at this point, because that was the longest pick in the history of picks made by people other than Bill Simmons. But I promise you these next three will be shorter.
Baltimore @ Indianapolis:
The battle of the Colts of old and the Colts of new is the only thing holding the AFC playoff picture together (with the Jets still being alive in the other game). Only problem is: Colts-Ravens games usually turn out close to as boring as any Jets game. Earlier this season the Colts toughed out a 17-15 victory over the Ravens. In 2007, the last time these two teams met in the playoffs, the Colts won 15-6 in a game that featured no FGs. In this matchup, the Colts usually win, and touchdowns are few and far between. Everything football fans aren't looking for in a game, is right here. I predict the Ravens will run the ball at least 50 times, pass maybe 10 times. I also think we'll see that the regular season-Colts were a little overrated again, as the playoff-Colts fall short of their goal, and prove, once again, that resting your players may prevent late-season injuries, but it doesn't win Super Bowls. Then Colts fans can look back on this season and remember 3 things:
1. Their team completely gave up on a perfect 16-0 season, something every team strives for.
2. They let the Jets into the playoffs (It might not hurt them, but it certainly hurts me and the NFL ratings this quarter).
3. They didn't even win the Super Bowl, keeping the streak of resting your players and not winning the Super Bowl alive.
(They didn't rest Peyton the year they won it. There's a fun fact)
Ravens 18 - Colts 13
Dallas @ Minnesota:
Why do these games have to be so hard to pick? This playoffs is so wide-open its unreal. Which is why when its all said and done the Jets will probably be Super Bowl champs, somehow, someway. I sure hope not. I already vowed to retire from watching football if they did (And now there's written proof I actually said that). But anyways, everyone is picking Dallas to win this one. Most are picking Dallas to win the Super Bowl. With the exception of me (Cardinals) and Rex Ryan (Jets). Minnesota is pretty damn good though. Their offense is explosive and their defense is pretty good too. It's a very balanced team. Unfortunately for them, Dallas might be just as explosive and just as strong on defense. This is gonna have to be my toss-up game of the week. And since there are no reports that Romo went to Mexico before this week's game or that he's dating anyone at this time, I'm gonna have to go with Dallas in this one. That's right. I'm not taking Dallas because I think they're better or because I think they matchup well against Minnesota, but because Tony Romo didn't go to Mexico this week.
Cowboys 31 - Vikings 24
New York Jets @ San Diego:
I could probably wrap this pick up in one sentence, but I will give the Jets credit where credit is do. The Jets defense is the best in the NFL. Their run game...is not; regardless of statistics. But it's still very good. Brian Schottenheimer called a great game offensively for them against Cincinnati. It was an offensive plan that could work really well throughout the playoffs, if run mistake-free. Early on in the season on my radio show, I compared the Jets defense to the Giants' of 2007-08. The Giants slowly transitioned into Spagnuolo's defensive plan, but by the end of the season, it was scary how good they were. I thought the same would happen for the Jets transition with Ryan. But the Jets started out clicking on all cylinders, and haven't skipped a beat all year. With this to be said, Mark Sanchez is still a rookie quarterback. A quarterback a team has no real confidence in right now. You just can't bring in a kick returner/wide receiver on 3rd-and-long, because you're afraid your QB will turn it over, and still expect to win the Super Bowl. There needs to be balance at both ends. The defense is there. The offense is not. And although defense wins championships, this year, with defenses across the NFL slumping and offenses sifting through the record books, I don't think that will be the case. San Diego's offense is really, really good. Arguably better than the Colts, in my opinion. In fact, if the Jets were playing the Colts, I might take the Jets. I think the Chargers is a tougher match for them. Revis is the best corner in football. But Vincent Jackson is no easy task to matchup against. He's more physical than Revis. Not like Chad, Reggie, or Steve. I think Jackson actually has the upper hand. Then there's Gates, who's almost unguardable. And if that's not enough, there's Sproles and Ladanian. I'm willing to admit the fact that the Jets are a pretty damn good football team. But they ran into the favorite to win the Super Bowl. This game is win-win for me. I'm obviously not a big fan of the Jets, but you know what, I can't stand Phillip Rivers even more. At least, after this game, one of them will be out of the playoff picture. Unfortunately for Jets fans, although I think their team is well-deserving of respect, I think their Cinderella story has come to an end.
Excuse me, Coach Mora. Do you think we could talk about the playoffs?
Coach Mora: What's that?
I said, do you think we could talk about the playoffs?
Coach Mora: Plaaaayoffs?? Don't talk about plaaaayoffs!! You kidding me???
Uh, no coach, I'm completely serious. I wanna talk about the playoffs.
Coach Mora: Plaaaayoffs?? I just hope we can win a game.
Well, with all do respect, I think I'm gonna talk about the playoffs anyways.
So here goes.
I can honestly say, I've never been less confident about picking a weekend of football games. Three of the four matchups are repeats of last weekend's competitions and every single one of them was a blowout! You'd think that would make picking easier. But, in my opinion, it makes it ten times harder. The Eagles weren't supposed to lose 24-0 to the Cowboys. They were favored to win. The Packers-Cardinals matchup had the chance to be a dandy, but the Packers tried and the Cardinals didn't. The Packers won 33-7 and the Cardinals gave us no insight into the playoff matchup. And lastly, and very sadly, for a Giants fan/Jets root-against-er, the Jets toasted the Bengals 37-0. Not only are the Jets now, this is realllllly tough to say, in the playoffs, they have built up confidence and a legitimate shot to advance to the seconddddd round. It can only mean one thing: there's a legitimate chance I could sleep through two playoff games this year. Only the Jets could do this to such a true sports fan. I just can't bare to see the Jets run with Thomas Jones on first and second down. Then on third down, a passing situation, bring in their wide receiver/kick returner to run again! Sanchez was 8-16 for 63 yards last week. And the Jets won 37-0!!! 63 yards and no touchdowns from your quarterback, and you win 37-0 nothing!!! 37-0!!!! Could an NFL team be less exciting??? Now that its playoff time, will the Jets even let Sanchez throw??? I don't think I would either. Sorry for digressing, but as you can see, I'm a pretty passionate anti-Jets fan. But back to the article.
The last matchup features a Patriots team that ya gotta figure could have one more run in them before the fall of the great dynasty, versus a Ravens team that I can't quite figure out. They seem really good. They should be really good. But they're not that good. I dubbed them my favorite to win the AFC earlier this year, and without a win versus JaMarcus Russell last week, they wouldn't have even made the playoffs come year-end.
I think what I'm trying to say is...
Don't bet on my picks. I won't even be making any trips to Atlantic City to bet on my own picks (That is partly, because I opened a bank account in AC two weeks ago. A bank account that keeps all the money I brought, and puts it towards the casino's quarterly earnings). But if I was kidnapped and dropped off in a casino in AC, and naturally couldn't resist the urge to throw my money away, here are the bets I would make.
New York Jets @ Cincinnati:
Before this season started, I watched Hard Knocks. I became a Bengals fan watching that show. The Bengals instantly catapulted themselves ahead of the New Orleans Saints, as my second favorite team in professional football. And if the Giants keep it up, they'll be #1 soon. I never gave up on the Bengals, picking them to beat the likes of the Ravens, Steelers, and other good teams they came across. And they beat them all. But half-way through the season, when they became pretty much a lock to win the division, the Bengals slipped, and slipped, and slipped. And then they lost 37-0 to the Jets. Now the Bengals look like a pretender, ready to take an immediate exit from the playoffs in front of their home crowd. They're playing the same Jets team that embarrassed them last week. Chad Ochocinco is facing off against the same guy that's the reason Chad might be Chad Revis in the coming weeks. Carson Palmer is taking on the #1 defense in the NFL that will blitz him to death next week. All with the memories of his first playoff pass being the end of his season and possibly potential brilliant career a few years ago in his head. The Jets have every reason to believe they will win this game. And regardless of the lines, they are the odds on favorite to do so. And just because I can't stand them so much, they will likely win this game. Everything is in their favor. They're probably the better team. But damnit I watched this YouTube clip before I made this pick! Watch the first minute and 18 seconds and tell me you wouldn't take the Bengals too. You just can't do it.
Jets 16 - Bengals 27
Philadelphia @ Dallas:
Last time Tony Romo and the Cowboys played a Saturday night playoff game, this happened. Quite possibly my favorite non-Giant playoff moment looking back on it. Saturday, Romo returns to Saturday night playoff football with a chance to redeem himself, against my other least favorite divisional foe, the Eagles. Believe it or not, I actually picked the Cowboys to win both matchups this year (I have no proof of this, but ya just gotta believe me. It's weird, I was saying they were gonna get killed in Week 17 all year and I changed my mind last minute for some reason). I'm starting to half-believe the Cowboys are the balanced and complete team I feared they would be for so long. And with no clear-cut favorite to win the Super Bowl standing in their way, it pains me to think the Cowboys could actually win the Super Bowl. But then again, so could the Eagles. I thought they were gonna win it last year, and somehow the Cardinals came out of nowhere to take them down. Now I didn't see the whole game last week, but I feel like the Eagles didn't give the Cowboys their best shot. I mean they seem overmatched, but in the NFC East, anything can happen. I mean the Giants won a game 44-12 in an NFC East matchup, and they might be the worst team in the NFL. This game will have me changing my mind everyday after I write this article, but I think, the Cowboys are gonna win. I love the Eagles in late-season/playoff games, but I don't know. I think the starting center is a bigger loss than people realize, I think they rely on Desean Jackson big-plays too much (which they were inches away from getting last week, and could very well get this week), I think they don't utilize the solid running backs they have enough, and I don't think their punter can hit the low-hanging, 90-yard scoreboard enough times in a row to cause the Cowboys to forfeit late in the game.
Eagles 24 - Cowboys 27
Baltimore @ New England:
Michael Clayton handed the Patriots a win versus the Ravens earlier this year. With the Ravens driving, on a 4th-and-short inside the redzone, Clayton let a sure first-down bounce off his wide-open chest in the closing minutes of the game. The Patriots left, thanking their lucky stars, while the Ravens kicked themselves into a 3-game losing streak. My early season AFC favorite, fell apart. But they rallied to make the playoffs, and find themselves with a chance to avenge their early season loss in a game that really matters. On the other side, there's the Patriots. Let's face it. They've been really shaky this year. And Brady has looked a little off. Just enough, to keep him human. The Pats defense is pretty bad. The Ravens defense has been so much better in the past. Wes Welker is done for the season, and stunt Wes Welker (Julian Edelman) has some big shoes to fill. Ed Reed's health is in question. Brady is one of the best playoff quarterbacks of all-time. Flacco hasn't done anything statistically in his short playoff career. The Patriots can hardly run. The Ravens have two elite running backs. This game couldn't really be more of a toss-up. And while I'm leaning towards the Ravens, its just really hard to pick against this Pats team that has been a dynasty for much of the decade. I don't know, I just don't think the Ravens are there right now. If Rice was around when their defense was unstoppable I'd be right behind them, but I don't think the defense is there right now. I'm taking the Patriots.
Ravens 16 - Patriots 24
Green Bay @ Arizona:
This is the most difficult pick of the week for me. I'm a huge believer in both these teams and I really like both these teams. It's like picking between America and apple pie. I can't stop thinking about the Cardinals' improbable run last year. But I also can't stop thinking about how rare it is for that to happen two years in a row. And then there's the injuries to Anquan Boldin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Those are HUGE question marks. And look how the Packers responded to the shelacking they took from the Vikings. They improved their offensive line, reduced the sacks on Rodgers, and enhanced their running game. On the defensive side, they've never looked better. Even after they lost Aaron Kampmen and Al Harris for the season. I'm telling you, this team could be a Super Bowl contender. They would beat the Vikings in a rematch. I wanna see that rematch. But if there's one thing the Cardinals showed me last year, and again against the Vikings this year, its that they come to play in big games. And when they come to play, boy can they be good. The Super Bowl was inches away from being theirs last year. If Cromartie is healthy, there's not too many teams that can handle this young defense. On offense, Beanie Wells, is a nice addition, Fitzgerald is capable of anything, and Warner loves to play in Super Bowls. For the Packers, Rodgers is something else. Far better for the Packers than Favre right now. But I don't think its his time, just yet. Deep down I kind of hope it is. Because I would love to see him put the beat down on Favre. But I don't know. The Cardinals have a knack for looking terrible before they look amazing. And they looked pretty damn terrible last week. I guess its their version of the calm before the storm.
Packers 27 - Cardinals 34
Ps. I took all four home teams. That will never happen.