We’re sticking to straight lines this week after trying to inadvertently shoot the moon with last week’s Wild Card picks, going 0-4 and being ostracized by the gambling community at large. No one will touch us, they won’t even take our money until we can at least break even and it’s a slow burn to the Super Bowl when you can’t manage to cover even one game.
Selah. All our choices were wrong.
This week’s lines:
Green Bay (+3) over San Francisco
Any number of intangible factors come into play here: revenge, for one, everyone for some reason doubting Aaron Rodgers receiving corps for another. They’re all finally healthy and when that’s the case, Rodgers has a lot of options: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and the sneaky good Randall Cobb. That’s a hell of a lot of talent for even a secondary like San Fran’s to cover.
But let’s not discount the Niners just yet. Since Colin Kaepernick’s coup d’etat, they’ve developed into a two dimensional offense with the emergence (finally!) of Michael Crabtree. They’ve bested some pretty offensively minded teams this season (the Patriots, the Saints, the Seahawks and shit, the Packers in Week 1). If you had to make a call on who the more well-rounded team was you’d have to say San Francisco.
But Green Bay and the points? It’s too good to pass up.
Atlanta (-2.5) over Seattle
One of less reported injuries last Sunday, shadowed almost entirely by RGIII, was the injury to Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons. He basically anchored their defense, appearing on the field for 20 per cent more snaps than even the second most common player. His injury leaves the Seahawks, who have been surprisingly inefficient at stopping the run in a jam.
Now I know you’re saying: wait, their playing Atlanta. Michael “The Burner” Turner is on the wrong side of 30 and Jacquizz Rodgers hasn’t been anything to write home about. And you’re right. The Falcons ranked among the worst in rushing offense (somewhere down in the bottom percentile in almost every statistical category) but Clemons' injury might just be enough for them to turn in even an average game on the ground and keep the clock moving. If they can come out throwing (which they've been known to do) and get ahead, they should be able to stave off the Seahawks.
New England (-9.5) over Houston
It’s hard to believe that this Sunday will be the first time the Patriots top four receivers will work together all-season; with Gronk, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd all green-lit and good to go, a Patriots team that has managed to lead the league in offense all season anyway will finally be at full strength and that’s bad news for a Texans team that looks like it’s about ready to roll over and die.
In last week’s wild card matchup, Houston mustered little more than a touchdown and a couple field goals while giving up a pick-six inside their own 20 and looking pretty lethargic all around. And while we could credit the 198 yards accrued by the Bengals and 0/9 shutout on third down conversions to the Texan’s defense, we won’t; the Bengals blew that game all on their own. With Houston trying out second and third stringers like Brandon Harris and Shiloh Keo in the secondary (in the playoffs), the Pats will take advantage of the weak matchups out of the gate, at the line and light up this secondary by far more than 9.5 points.
Denver (-9.5) over Baltimore
If there is one stat to define the Broncos success this season it’s this one: Denver’s offensive line has allowed only 45 quarterback hits (good for first in the league) and 21 sacks (second). If Peyton Manning is allowed to stand and target even the most mediocre of receivers with impunity he will succeed. He doesn’t rely on outlandish arm strength, mobility or muscle; he’s a cerebral kind of guy, maybe the best there ever was, and if he’s allowed to lollygag all day long behind the line he’s going to pick you apart.
As he has already done once this season against the Ravens. With their once notable defense ravaged by both time and age, Peyton lit them up to the tune of 34-17 in Week 15, winning the battle on both sides of the ball at the line of scrimmage and providing virtually no cover in the backfield, with Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno both breaking the century mark and Demaryius Thomas not even being much of a factor.
The one redeeming factor for the Ravens might be that Ray Rice didn’t do much in that game; if the Ravens can spread the Broncos thin on play-action they might have more success on offense, bluffing the pass, but if they can’t break through that O-Line (and considering their injuries on defense, that seems unlikely) Peyton will again have a field day and this game will over before it ever really got started. If the Ravens get behind, their offense hasn’t shown it can catch up.
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