Saturday, January 21, 2017

PIGSKIN 2016: Championship Sunday



Divisional Playoff Picks

Friday Line ~ NYDN

National Football Conference
FALCONS -4 1/2 (Packers)

The Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in football.  Amazing is how much pocket time their offensive line creates for Aaron Rogers.  Making matters worse, Rogers' elusiveness is demoralizing. Just ask the Giants and Cowboys.  The Packers success, however, has come at a heavy cost. Physically speaking, this will be the week when all their injuries finally catch up to them.  The Atlanta Falcons offense will demand that Green Bay be firing on all cylinders.  Problem is the Packers are missing parts, and simply can't.  That being said, I still feel the Packers will generate more than 24 points.  It's their defense (and their head coach) that will let them down.  Atlanta's offensive line has done a stellar job as well, and veteran QB Matt Ryan is the real deal.  The Falcons can run the ball with power, and have an arsenal of receivers too numerous to cover effectively.  I fully expect the Falcons to score upwards of 30 points against the Packers defense.  I'm almost prepared to say Coach McCarthy will be left stupefied.  His adjustments will lag far behind Atlanta's speed and progress.  Said another way, this is just a bad match-up.  Plus, you know what they say - the best way to beat Aaron Rogers is to keep him on the sidelines.  The Packers will be playing catch-up all day, and may not get enough possessions to pull out a victory.  Last week, the Cowboys did more to take themselves out of positions to succeed, and made more mental mistakes, than were forced upon them by the Packers.  Can the Packers cover?  Is Rogers dating Olivia Munn?!  This spread leaves the door wide open for another Hail Mary.  And Green Bay just might need it.  But I foresee Matt Ryan dissecting Green Bay's secondary like we all did to that frog in high school biology class. 

Falcons win by 4 1/2.
WIN  44-21 Falcons

American Football Conference
Steelers +6 (PATRIOTS)

Neither team looked overly impressive last week.  Despite New England's 18-point margin of victory over Houston, that was perhaps as sloppy a performance they could have possibly put forward.   They'd be the first to admit it.  Otherwise, the Texans simply had no shot.  I expect Tom Brady to be sharper this week, but that does not mean he'll be any more mobile.  Pittsburgh's defense is on a roll, but if they can't get to Brady without blitzing, they're inviting trouble.  Will the Patriots abuse
Pittsburgh to the tune of 30 points?  Not likely ... more like 27 points.  Here's the flip side: Bill Belichick and his bend-don't-break defense.  The Patriots defense was the league's stingiest this season, but they played a namby-pamby schedule, so take that with a grain of salt.  They will allow the Steelers yardage for sure, but will they limit them to field goals or allow touchdowns?  The Steelers kicked six field goals in cold Kansas City last week and barely managed a two point victory over the Chiefs.  Said another way, no touchdown passes for Big Ben, TD receptions for Antonio Brown, nor any rushing TDs for Le'veon Bell in the red zone.  That plays right into the hands of bend-don't-break.  Belichick will forego sacks for INTs, and Big Ben has been known to throw a few. Moreover, both punters should be put on red alert.  The battle of field position is sure to be huge.  The difference between getting pinned back in your end, or starting drives near mid-field will decide much in this match-up.  I think this will be a game that comes down to the wire.  Six points is just too much of a stretch for me.  I like the Steelers to cover, but the Patriots to win at home.   

Steelers lose within six

Loss?  36-17 Patriots ... after all, I did pick them to win.

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