My regular season of intermittent NFL picks has come to a close. I was 9-7 in Week 15; that was the week the Packers finally lost a game and the Colts finally won one. Overall, I finished 2011 132-63, though I had plenty of gimmes with the Packers and Colts being so reliable. In any case, not a bad record. Now on to the playoffs.
Cincinnati at Houston (Saturday, 4:30 pm)
It’s T.J. Yates vs. Andy Dalton! Actually, this could wind up being a competitive and exciting game, as it is a duel between two mediocre teams. Houston has a good defense and a question mark at quarterback. Cincy has a mediocre defense and a semicolon at quarterback. The line is Houston by 3; I’ll take Houston by 5.
Detroit at New Orleans (Saturday, 8 pm)
Two high-scoring offenses, two defenses upon which points can be highly scored. Detroit’s no slouch, but in this case I’m going with home field advantage, playoff experience, and poise over hostile crowd, inexperience, and Ndamukong Suh possibly impaling a referee with a dial-a-down marker. Saints by 7.
Atlanta at New York Football Giants (Sunday, 1 p.m.)
This was a tough one to call. Either one of these teams is capable of totally embarrassing itself just when you think things are going well. I just have a hard time picturing a road win for Atlanta in this case. I could see Falcons coach Mike Smith forgetting he’s down by four and kicking a field goal with :01 remaining or something. In that case… Giants by 4.
Pittsburgh at Denver (Sunday, 4:30 pm)
Pittsburgh by 17. Come on, you can’t honestly believe Tebow is going to “will” his 8-8 (in the AFC West) team to a come-from-behind victory over the big bad Steelers, can you? I’d like to say it’s time to put the Tebow talk to rest, but I don’t think anyone will shut up about him until he wins a Super Bowl and retires, or publicly converts to Satanism and moves to Fiji.
Bonus – BCS National Championship Analysis and Prediction
Louisiana State vs. Alabama
Just kidding! College football and its bowl games are a joke. What else can you say about a system that uses polls and computers to select the “best” teams in the country, stages 35 postseason bowl games* (Hooray! Everyone’s bowl-worthy!), discriminates against undefeated teams that play in smaller conferences, destroys most schools’ championship hopes after one loss, uses baseball-style extra periods for overtime (nothing like a 63-56 football game), booth-reviews every goddamn play, coddles head coaches and treats them like emperors, fiddles with its game clock rules, and forbids players from so much as cracking a smile after a touchdown? Remember when college football bowl day – that is, New Year’s Day – was exciting and dramatic? I’m not saying LSU and Alabama are unworthy teams – they are probably the two best teams in the country and should put on a good show. But who the hell can take seriously a sport that’s as predicated on subjective judgment as figure skating? That’s what we’re looking at here. College football has fallen hard lo these past 13 years or so. Although the game-day atmosphere at many stadiums may be more exciting than, say, a Jacksonville Jaguars-Arizona Cardinals game, the NFL – like college basketball – gets one simple thing right: Championships are decided on the field. Here’s hoping for a college football playoff someday.
*I wonder if Marshall is really going to hang a banner that says “2012 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl Champions” in its football stadium.