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NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

Regular Season: 127-121-8
Last Week: 2-1-1
Total: 129-122-9

Regular Season: 123-125-8
Last Week: 1-2-1
Total: 124-127-9

New Orleans @ Seattle (-8)

Ryan: Within the next couple years, the NFL is probably going to going to expand the playoffs two teams in each conference. There’ll be some squabbling, and then it will happen, and then we’ll watch the games anyways, and the NFL owners will pocket the money that is the lifeblood of their veins (and existence, really). 34 of the 35 highest rated fall telecasts were NFL games, so they and you and everyone else knows deep down that no amount of complaining will actually stop us from tuning in.

So if the future format had been the case this year, Pittsburgh and Baltimore would’ve gotten in in the AFC and Arizona and Chicago would’ve made it in the NFC. The Seahawks would have been hosting the Bears last weekend in a game that they would have, in all likelihood, won. Provided they didn’t sustain any crucial injuries — and that’s obviously a big if — the game probably would’ve been more helpful for their preparations against the Saints than a whole week off.

Occasionally, no. 8 seeds — who are decently likely to limp into the postseason at 7-9 — will knock off regular season conference champs and that will be pretty irksome, but there’s nothing that’s really too harmful about having your team’s meaningful seasons (i.e. when they aren’t completely eliminated from contention) extended, but the folks who rage on about the erosion of the regular season’s legitimacy will also have a strong point.

The Saints could win this game outright, or they could get completely blown out. PROFOUND. I’m taking the points. Saints cover.

Asif: You really think I’m going to take the Saints, in Seattle, on the three year anniversary of BEAST MODE? Yeah, no. Seattle covers.

Indianapolis @ New England (-7.5)

Ryan: So I missed a bulk of the Colts’ gritty comeback last Saturday, but saw the culmination of it. Basically, my sister and I arrived in Green Bay right as the Chiefs went up by 28. Still needing to pick up some warmth supplies, we walked to K-Mart — in hindsight, we should’ve driven the five blocks to save time — to get gloves and blankets, brought them back to the hotel, then headed to the Stadium View bar to catch the end of the first game and all of the second.

Therefore, I’m still not really attuned to how the whole thing happened. I mean, I can imagine what surgical laser throwing Andrew Luck looked like because we’ve seen several of these onslaughts-from-behind before from him. While it’s great that you still feel like you can win when you’re down a bunch of scores with him, it would feel even better if the team didn’t constantly find themselves in that position.

It’s miraculous that New England went 12-4 this season. You might as well write 11+ wins down in permanent ink. The only two times they finished with less than that total since 2002 were 2005 and 2009 when they went 10-6 and still won their division. They won 11 games in 2008 with Matt Cassel and 12 this year without Aaron Hernandez, Gronk, Sebastian Volmer, Jerod Mayo, and Vince Wilfork. It’s just incredible.

What’s scariest about their characteristically successful season this year is that they really didn’t have the look for much of it. They squeezed out narrow victories against Houston, Denver, and Cleveland and dropped ones against Carolina and Miami during the second half. However, they really kicked into gear for Weeks 16 and 17 when they demolished the Ravens and Bills to secure their bye. 

This is another game where there’s almost a complete spectrum of possibilities. No one could possibly know what’s gonna happen so I’m taking the points again. Indy covers.

Asif: After last week, you’d have to put a gun to my head to make me pick the Colts. It took an unheard of spate of injuries from the Chiefs for the Colts to pull of a win at home, and honestly, if KC had even one real running back the Colts don’t win that game. Unfortunately for Indy, the Pats seem to have sustained all their injuries before the game, which means they’ll probably have figured out a way to play with them. Sadly, that means the Colts probably don’t have a chance here. However, the Pats haven’t been exactly blowing teams out of the water, so this will probably be a close game. Pats win, Colts cover.

San Francisco (-1) @ Carolina

Ryan: Oddly enough, the Packers’ loss that week didn’t really sting that badly. It was pretty apparent that they were a worse overall team, but they probably would’ve won the game if only they’d enjoyed the luck of having the ball last in it. Sure, there are specific events that you can point to — Hyde’s near-interception, Jones’ drops, [whomever's] poor lane discipline every time Kaepernick sauntered left for dozens of yards untouched — but the fight of the team was apparent and substantial and life is just more shitty if you feel shame when you lose in those circumstances.

The Ric Flair NFL bigamy controversy this week was one of the dumber and more predictable — I called it last Sunday morning — stories of ever. His agency said that the Nature Boy received death threats for it, which is a little harsh and can’t possibly be true/serious/real. Anyways, let’s just watch him yell at Dusty Rhodes at some point in the 80′s and forget this whole thing ever happened:

Both these teams are great, I again have no clue what’s gonna happen, and can’t wait to watch this game on Sunday. 49ers cover.

Asif: I’m going to use this space to rant about the Baseball Hall of Fame. I will, however, spare you my now-annual rant about Jeff Bagwell – except to note that there’s just as much evidence linking Bagwell to PEDs as there was with recent elect Frank Thomas (none) and Bagwell was a demonstrably superior player, yet Bagwell is not in the Hall of Fame. Do with that what you will. The truth is that the Baseball Hall of Fame isn’t really that important.

In fact, it’s just a small part of the larger museum of baseball that is Cooperstown. Ultimately, it’s only as significant as we want it to be, and the Hall of Fame voters seem intent on making it as useless as the Basketball Hall of Fame (which believe me is completely uninspiring). I’m sure the dinosaur members of the BBWAA think they’re doing the right thing, and preserving the Hall’s sanctity, how else do you explain their unnecessarily harsh punishment of Dan LeBatard for giving his ballot to Deadspin. Somehow the Deadspin ballot, which actually made sense, is a much worse offense than voting for Armando Benitez.

The whole LeBatard fiasco exposed exactly what’s wrong with the BBWAA. It’s a group of sanctimonious pricks who enjoy picking apart the actions of others but are entirely loath to turn the microscopes on themselves. Much like almost every other group of pricks ever in history, they’ve managed to destroy a good thing that we had going. What they fail to realize is that we the plebes, without our fancy baseball reporter jobs, are capable of separating a person’s professional accomplishments from their personal failings.

We know that Barry Bonds is not a nice man, but we also know that he was an amazing player. It’s impossible to separate the steroids from his accomplishments, not just because they may have given him an unfair advantage, but also because we don’t know who else was using them (how many of the 762 pitches that Bonds hit over the fence were powered by PEDs?) or what their ultimate effect was on his game. The BBWAA has decided that the solution to this dilemma is to ignore it, as if keeping Bonds and Roger Clemens out of the Hall will make us all forget they existed, or keep future players from using PEDs.

Those of us who think realize that this is stupid. A real solution would be to let known steroid users into the Hall, perhaps with an exhibit that explains the Steroid Era in all its context (smaller parks, juiced ball), the effects of steroids, and what caused steroid use in baseball to grow (hint: it really all comes back to the selfish wants of you and I). That’s the kind of honest conversation that we should be having about steroids, but it’s also not one that let’s sportswriters do the kind of soapbox moralizing they so dearly love.

As for this game, I was completely wrong about Green Bay, and will be reverting to picking the 49ers in all situations. Niners cover.

San Diego @ Denver (-9.5)

Ryan: I wish I could muster any outrage about the Baseball Hall of Fame, but I just can’t. I understand its stupid that a group of holier-than-thou sportswriters has sorta taken the whole thing hostage, and you need to look no further than the lack of logic that the enemies of Deadspin and Dan LeBatard used in counter to understand that the rebels were on the right side of history. But, it’s just not that important to me and I hate watching this stuff hijack my Twitter timeline every year when we should be talking about the NFL playoffs.

I wrote up some of the background on Philip Rivers and his doofy bolo tie over at Extra Mustard, but here’s what it looked like when illustrated by Pixar animator Bobby Rubio:

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 1.05.16 PM

It’s looking like it’ll be a decent weather day in Denver on Sunday, so this isn’t the type of situation where I’d automatically pick against Peyton Manning in the cold. And even if it were, I’m not sure that I’d allow that to supersede all this coin flip luck I’ve been having with the wildly unpredictable Chargers. So it goes. Heads is San Diego, Tails is Denver … Chargers cover.

Asif: I honestly did not think the Chargers were going to win last week. Unfortunately for them, Peyton Manning and the Broncos aren’t likely to turn the ball over 10,000 times like the Bengals. Still, I could see Denver starting slowly as they knock off the rust from a week off. Chargers cover.

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