Handicapping NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

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SEASON SUMMARY, BY THE NUMBERS

Season: 3 Picks: 30-16-2 Upset Special: 9-7 Bears Pick: 6-8-1

Playoffs: 2-2

Last Week in Review: Playoffs are tough.  As the teams are in playoff mode, so are the oddsmakers because there aren’t as many games and they can be squarely focused on that little number we know and love called the spread.  When you sit back and think about what transpired over the course of the season, last week’s results aren’t that shocking, regardless of the ebbs and flows.  New Orleans was not the same team that won the Superbowl last year.  Their Defense was not as opportunistic and they did not have the same balanced attack.  Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory were both hurt and Reggie Bush, although coming out of college was the “bow down before him” next greatest, is not an every down, between the tackles running back necessary for this time of year. 

The Colts have been hurting all year long.  Bob Sanders is a vital component of that Defense and Manning hasn’t had all of his weapons at his disposal.  The Baltimore Ravens have a much better offense, at least on paper, than they have had in the past.  With Flacco, Rice, and their receiving corps, they should and did put up a lot of points against the Chiefs.  Obviously, it is hard to predict so many turnovers, but I guess inexperienced playoff Offense and a great Defense can have that effect.

Lastly, the Packers victory was the easiest to see coming in my eyes.  The Eagles peaked in their Giants Victory, but again, I truly believe were exposed by the Bears.  The Bears layed the blueprint for containing Vick, and once he was slowed by injury, the Packers could come in for the win.  I’ve heard the Eagles talked about over and over for the last month and it is funny how no national media ever reference that Eagle-Bear game, yet I truly believe it was a pivotal point in both teams’ seasons.

Well, regardless of only using some of the aforementioned material in making my choices last week, I ended up losing some juice and going 2-2.  My most regrettable pick was Kansas City, and I even referenced being uncomfortable with the pick since I picked Baltimore to go to the Superbowl.  I let the Arrowhead Factor really sway my decision in that one.  My most disappointing pick was the Colts because I really feel that Manning has a special power to will his team to win, especially at home.  Could you imagine what the Colts would be like without Manning?  They’d have a worse record than the Seahawks (ouch).  Despite my new disdain for the Seahawks because of fan chest-thumping (See comments in DeCons 12 Reasons Bears Win  Post), the Seahawks helped my picks last week by upsetting the Saints.  The Packers were the big call of the week and covered and won their game down to the wire.  The games (except Baltimore/KC) did live up to the hype and made for an exciting weekend of football.  This weekend should be even better, on to the Divisional Round:

Baltimore +3 vs Pittsburgh – These are always great games.  I like both of these teams because they are who the Bears would be if they were in the AFC.  The last 5 times these teams played each other with Roethlisberger at the helm (Ravens won 17-14 in Week 4 while Roethlisberger was in therapy with Woods), Baltimore is 0-5, but only by a combined score of 22 points. This is a great game to take the points because: Baltimore can win the game and if they lose the game, it is very likely to be by a low score.  This game will be determined by turnovers and Baltimore knows how to get them obviously.   The question is whether or not my man, Polamalu, will get more.  Due to the closeness of these games, take the points.

Packers +1.5 vs Falcons – Packers are good, but not world-beaters, so I understand why this game has the Falcons favored.  The Falcons are well-rounded, rested, and playing at home.  I even like the Falcons ground-game better than the Packers, obviously.  There is just something in my gut telling me that the stars are aligning for the Bears/Packers showdown.  The Packers are peaking, and I don’t like to say that knowing that next week they likely will be playing the Bears.  The Bears know how to beat ‘em though and I’m not so sure the Falcons do.

Jets +9 vs New England – Everyone has in their head the beatdowns that New England has been giving to everyone, especially the last schlacking they gave to the Jets.  New England is very good and can put up a lot of points fast.  However, when two teams are division opponents, those lopsided victories are more the exception than the rule.  This one will be closer than people expect, with New England winning at home, but I’ll take the points.

Three upset picks, Bart?  Does that mean?  No, of course not….

Bears -10 vs Seattle -You may have already seen my prediction in staff post, but for your reinforcing pleasure:  Bears 34-16.  The Bears are not going to take this game lightly, a la new Orleans.  The Offense will be balanced, the Defense will be lights out- bend don’t break, Hester is going to give great field position, Jay is going to silence critics,  Forte is going to have another stellar performance, Gould will be solid, and the Bears will aggravate everyone with another weird timeout.  But altogether, it will lead to the NFC Championship game, likely right back at Soldier Field next week at 2:00 p.m.

I will be at the game tomorrow as will Beargoggles Captain, Boomer.  You can listen in to WGN on Monday at 2:35 p.m. as I join host, John Williams, recap the game.    LET’S GO BEARS, LET’S GO BEARS, LET’S GO BEARS.

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