Sportsmasher had a strong wildcard weekend of the divisional playoffs, going (3-1) against the spread, the only loss being taking the points in Bengals @ Texans. He would have covered that spread if Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton did not miss star wide receiver A.J. Green wide open several times and under throw a pass to Marvin Jones when he had his man beat, costing his team the game, and costing Sportsmasher a perfect week to kick off the postseason. This weekend, Sportsmasher is going back, attempting the perfect week again, as the one and two seeds enter the tournament. Let’s get to the picks:
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos (-10) The Baltimore Ravens handled their business at home last weekend, beating the Indianapolis Colts 23-9, and now travel to Denver to take on a dangerous number one seeded Denver Broncos team. There is a lot to like about this Broncos team, Peyton Manning may win NFL MVP after his incredible performance this season, and the he plenty of offensive weapons at his disposal, plus Denver’s defense finished as the second best unit in the NFL. For the Ravens to have a chance in Denver, they will need to establish the running game with Ray Rice, which will allow quarterback Joe Flacco to find some success with the deep ball. The Ravens are a confident bunch, they fully expect to go into Denver and win this game, but it will not happen. I think that Denver is too well rounded in all phases of the game, and will defend home field, setting up the matchup between Manning and Tom Brady that we all are dying to see. However, I think the line is too large, and am taking the points in this game.
The Pick: Ravens (+10) FINAL SCORE: Broncos 27 Ravens 20
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers (-3) In what should be the best game of the weekend, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers head to the Bay Area to take on the ferocious 49ers defense, in a matchup loaded with history. Aaron Rodgers is from the Bay Area and the 49ers passed on him with the first overall pick of the 2005 to draft Alex Smith, and Rodgers slid all the way to the 24th pick. Also Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is the former offensive coordinator of the 49ers, during a season where they were ranked last in the NFL in points scored, with the aforementioned Alex Smith starting at quarterback. The big story here will be, can 49ers second year quarterback Colin Kapernick make enough plays to win this game, while staying mistake free? I think the answer to that is no. Kapernick will make a few mistakes that will cost the 49ers this game, as a Packers team that is the healthiest they have been all season will move on to the NFC title game. The 49ers defense is loaded, however, Aaron Rogers is so good that he will find ways to move the ball.
The Pick: Green Bay (+3) FINAL SCORE: Packers 23 49ers 20
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons (-3) Everyone has been hyping up the Seattle Seahawks in this matchup, to the point where it seems like the Atlanta Falcons are actually underdogs in this game, despite going (13-3) in the regular season and landing home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs. The Seahawks had an impressive win over the Redskins (who lost their star player to a knee injury, likely changing the outcome) in Washington last weekend, however they are a much better home team than a road team, and they lost their best pass rusher (Chris Clemons) in the process. My biggest problem with the Falcons is their lack of a pass rush, however, they are playing a rookie quarterback who they may be able to force into mistakes. Seattle will try to rely on tailback Marshawn Lynch and their athletic defense, but I think that Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan will find his playmakers, and Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez will do enough at home to give Atlanta the victory. Remember, the media has been feeding the Falcons bulletin board material all week, and I expect this to motivate a suddenly underrated Atlanta team.
The Pick: Falcons (-3) FINAL SCORE: Falcons 24 Seahawks 17
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots (-10) The Houston Texans have not played well as of late, losing three of their last four regular season games, and coming far from dominating the Bengals in Houston last weekend. However, normally they are set up like a team that historically gives the Patriots trouble, as they can rush the passer and control the clock with the run game. For the Texans to have a chance in this game, they need to play smart football and avoid turning the ball over, if they commit an early turnover and are suddenly down (17-0) at the end of the first quarter this game is over. The Texans need to establish the run early and get physical with the Patriots defensively, set the tone early, and show New England they will not be put away easily. Also, a second pass catcher needs to step up for the Texans, because you know Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will take star wideout Andre Johnson out of the game. The Patriots have so many weapons with both tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) healthy together for just the fifth game this year, along with Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd as targets for Tom Brady. I am going to go out on a limb here and say take the points, I think that the Patriots win this game, but I think that the Texans will find some success running the ball and defensive player of the year candidate J.J. Watt will bother Tom Brady enough to keep the Texans in the game.
The Pick: Texans (+10) FINAL SCORE: Patriots 28 Texans 21
Week 1: (9-7)
Week 2: (7-8-1)
Week 3: (10-5-1)
Week 4: (8-7)
Week 5: (5-9)
Week 6: (6-7-1)
Week 7: (6-7)
Week 8: (5-9)
Week 9: (8-6)
Week 10: (5-9)
Week 11: (9-5)
Week 12: (10-5-1)
Week 13: (5-11)
Week 14: (9-6-1)
Week 15: (8-8)
Week 16: (11-4-1)
Week 17: (8-8)
2012 Season: (132-122-6)
Sportsmasher’s Best Bets: 26-24
RexRated’s Best Bets: 26-23-2