The Fantasy Geek's NFL Divisional Round Picks

Appropriately, there was plenty of wildness in last week’s wild-card games. Few expected the Ravens and Jets to win on the road so easily. And no one thought the Cardinals and Packers would come so close to combining for triple digits on the scoreboard. What’s in store for the Divisional Round? Well, for one thing, we’re not seeing three rematches from the previous week. But we are seeing some very interesting match ups that are prime for a good ol’-fashioned breakdown. The Fantasy Geek’s Divisional Playoff picks on three…reeeeeeeeeady, BREAK!


WILD CARD RECAP


Such a promising start. Such a sudden demise. The Geek was right on the mark on Saturday with the Jets and Cowboys. Sunday’s Ravens win, however, took me, and the Patriots, completely by surprise. Then I was just few yards away from a win in the Cardinals-Packers game, but Aaron Rodgers couldn’t quite connect with Greg Jennings on a deep ball in overtime. Sigh.

LAST WEEK: 2-2
PLAYOFFS: 2-2
REGULAR SEASON: 134-122
LOCKS OF THE WEEK: 8-4



DIVISIONAL ROUND GAMES (Home team in CAPS)

Now we’re seeing some touchdown-sized spreads. These games should be less of a toss up, but I will guarantee that there won’t be a Colts-Saints Super Bowl, so the upsets are a’comin’.

Cardinals +7 over SAINTS

If you like watching touchdowns (and, really, who doesn’t?), then this is the game for you. They won’t match the pace of the Cards-Pack game last week, but I’d be more scared than the chick in Paranormal Activity if I had to take the under, which is currently at 57.

The Cardinals really shouldn’t have been home dawgs against the Packers. But that’s the way people bet it. Including me. Well, after Neil Rackers pulled one of the most overlooked choke jobs of all time, the Cardinals got a second life. Sometimes those big scares are enough to send a team on a big run. It’s noticeable in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. A top seed fights off an upset, then wakes up and cuts down the nets. Now, I’m not saying the Cardinals are going to win it all. However, proof already exists that they are capable of a deep playoff run. They’ll keep this game competitive…at the very least.

The Saints went 13-0 and then 0-3. Doesn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence. Especially considering two of those games were at home, when the Saints were going all out. The defense scored a league-high 9 touchdowns this season, but they faded late. The ball-hawking defensive backs have cooled off and The Geek thinks their hot start was probably a bit fluky. Losing Charles Grant will only make a weak run defense weaker. The Saints are going to need Warner to have one of his off games to cover this spread. On offense, the Saints are prone to a lot of nagging injuries. You never know when Reggie Bush or Lance Moore is going to limp off the field. Sure, Drew Brees has plenty of other weapons, but he’s going to need everyone to keep up with the Cards. Another reason to be concerned about the Saints: they just signed Deuce McAllister off the street. Was Dalton Hilliard unavailable?!

The Pick: Cardinals 37, Saints 31. That’s right. I said it. The Cardinals are going back to the NFC Championship Game. I think both defenses struggle here, but the Cards get a few lucky breaks along the way to shock New Orleans.


Cowboys +2.5 over VIKINGS

This one’s the game of the week. So much hype. So much talent. So much disappointment in recent years. America’s team travels to the Mall of America to take on media maven Brett Favre and his band of purple people. Cowboys-Vikings has all the makings of a classic.

The Cowboys are rolling. Romo’s not turning the ball over. The 3-headed running back monster is chewing up yardage. And the defense is slamming the door on the opposition. I don’t know why, but I’ve completely fallen in love with Dallas’ draw plays. They mesmerize me. They always seem to work. I can’t remember Felix Jones NOT getting at least 6 yards on a carry. It’ll be hard for Jones, Choice and Barber to duplicate their recent success against the Vikings stout defensive line, but the horned ones can be beaten through the air. I think Romo has a nice match up and should have a big game if he can dodge Jared Allen.

The Vikings are a hard team to gauge. They looked like a top seed for most of the season, then looked like garbage outdoors against the Cardinals and Bears down the stretch. But they recovered with a blowout win at home against the Giants. The G-Men had completely checked out, so are the Vikes really in peak form? As an Adrian Peterson owner in fantasy football, I didn’t get the sense he could take over games like he’s done in the past. I mean, off the top of your head, how many long runs from “All-Day” can you think of? Sure, he plowed over some guys, but the big plays were minimal. The only one I recall was in Week 1 against Cleveland. Point is, the identity of the Vikings has changed. They’re a pass-first team and Peterson can be contained. I think there’s a good chance Favre will try to do a little too much and the Vikings will get pass happy.

The Pick: Cowboys 24, Vikings 21. Jerry “Skeletor” Jones is going to be high-fiving in his luxury box after Shawn Suisham hits the game winning field goal (after missing an earlier attempt, of course.)


COLTS -6 over Ravens

So much for that Week 16 rematch with the Jets. The AFC bracket didn’t quite go as planned and now the Colts get what’s probably a little tougher opponent for them.

The Ravens basically beat the Patriots on the first play of the game last week. The Patriots clearly were not who we thought they were. But how good is this Ravens team? As I mentioned last week, they lost a lot of close games and FootballOutsiders.com, which is run by people who are very smart, actually have the Ravens as their top-ranked team, based on some serious number crunching. Ray Rice and Willis McGahee have been running the crap out of the ball. But Joe Flacco is getting flack for his sophomore slump. Didn’t matter against the Patriots, but he’ll have to have a strong showing against a Colts defense that has quietly had a monster season.

The Colts were bashed for not caring about perfection. Karma could come back to bite them for not trying. Or they’ll come out healthy, rested and ready to destroy the Ravens. I’m leaning toward the latter. These two teams did play earlier in the season in Baltimore, with the Colts sweating out a 17-15 victory. This time, they’re in the dome and that is worth a 6-point swing. I’ve been picking against the Colts in the latter weeks of the season, especially after Jim Caldwell announced the team’s postseason approach. Yet, even in their most recent games, the Colts had a habit of pouncing on their opponents early. I think they’ll do it again, forcing Baltimore to throw the ball more than they want to.

The Pick: Colts 27, Ravens 10. Rust? I don’t think so. The Colts are going to cruise in this one. With all due respect to the Football Outsiders guys, the Ravens aren’t as good as they looked last week.


CHARGERS -7 over Jets

I’ve had the Chargers pegged for the Super Bowl for a while now. I’m not going to let a scrappy, yet one-dimensional Jets team get in my way. And neither will San Diego. I do, however, have a couple of concerns taking the Chargers. 1) The Darrelle Revis factor. He’ll probably shut down Vincent Jackson, so San Diego will have to rely on Gates and Floyd. 2) Mark Sanchez feeling relaxed back in So Cal. 72° and sunny will definitely help the rookie…but he’s still a rookie. For the record, this is the pick I struggled with the most.

The Chargers
are good at running up the score, so a touchdown spread isn’t a stretch. I’ve seen some lines as high as 8 points. Needless to say, 7 makes me feel a lot more comfortable. Speaking of comfort, the Bolts have won comfortably (by 7 points or more) in more than half of their victories. But they’re not playing the Chiefs or Raiders. The Jets will try to keep Philip Rivers off the field with three-and-outs and a run-heavy attack. But I think the Jets are just a little too predictable at this point. That Brad Smith Wildcat play isn’t going to fool anyone in this game. Norv Turner’s no genius, but even he can find ways to stop the Jets vanilla attack.

The Jets are a tough match up for the Chargers when you look at what each team does well and not so well. San Diego loves to pass. The Jets defend the pass well. The Jets aren’t great against the run. But LT isn’t scaring anyone when he runs for 3.3 yards per carry. On the other side of the ball, you can run on the Chargers and the Jets run, run and run some more. So logic says the Jets have a pretty good shot in this one. But if logic always prevailed, the public would actually make money on sports betting. I get the feeling logic will get thrown out the window in this one.

The Pick: Chargers 27, Jets 17. The Chargers passing attack can’t be stopped. Even by Revis. The Jets will be in the game, but they ultimately, they won’t be able to keep up on offense.

Spreads as of 1/14

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