Baltimore Ravens (11-6) at New England Patriots (12-4)
Bad enough that the Ravens are here again, but now everyone's remembering that magical nauseating run they had two years ago where they went into New England and beat the Patriots, and if you'll recall, I picked against them in every round and they won each time. I thought they weren't that good, but somehow Wimpy Joe Flacco turns into Joe Montana in January and I'll never understand why this happens. New England, however, has put together their best team in a few years, and this is a team that finishes 12-4 and goes to the AFC Championship Game on a routine basis so that's saying something. Tom Brady is still there being Tom Brady, and Rob Gronkowski will probably have had his bowl of gravel for lunch, and oh by the way Darrelle Revis is lurking in the secondary. Pundits that claim to know lots of things seem to be leaning towards the Ravens because this seems to be the sort of situation where Flacco will succeed and because Terrell Suggs intercepted a pass with his feet last week and everyone needs a new Ray Lewis to hang their hat on. That's why the Patriots will win. Too much hype in the opposite direction.
Pick: Patriots 28, Ravens 24
Carolina Panthers (8-8-1) at Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
I'd heard an argument somewhere that maybe, just maybe, the Panthers can come into Seattle, run the ball, not make mistakes and keep the Seahawks off balance and give them a game. I'm not fooled. Carolina didn't play a good game last week against Arizona, but they happened to come out on top because the Cardinals were playing a 4th string Quarterback. This won't fly in Seattle. You know what's coming. The speakers are cranked up, the aluminum walls are extra tinny and the crowd noise is on queue, waiting for Cam Newton to capitulate and throw some dying quail to Richard Sherman so he can disco dance into the End Zone. This is a joke of a matchup and likely won't be interesting for more than a quarter. Make other plans for Saturday night.
Pick: Seahawks 51, Panthers 3
Dallas Cowboys (13-4) at Green Bay Packers (12-4)
So the team that was 8-0 on the road goes to play the team that was 8-0 at home in this matchup of annoying teams that nobody likes but the NFL loves to cram in our faces. America's Team! Frozen Tundra! Aaron Rodgers! Tony Romo! Jerkoff head coaches! Ice Bowl! Coach Willy Loman! Woo woo woo! If you haven't puked from overexposure by the end of the 1st Quarter, I salute you, but this is the sort of matchup that the NFL and TV executives are probably peeing their pants over. Word is it's going to be -33˚ and driving snow in Green Bay, which I think is basically the weather there every day from November to April, or at least that's what the NFL wants you to believe. Meanwhile, there's still a game to be played, and stripping away the hype, you have a pair of teams that at one point or another could have been considered "The Hot Team" in the league. Dallas got off to a hot start. Green Bay was throwing 40+ points on the board each week for a while there. But they both came back to earth, and now what it boils down to is a pair of injured Quarterbacks playing in cold weather, so maybe it's better to focus elsewhere. They can both run the ball. Defense? Hmm...neither of these teams play it much. Dallas can't get out of their own way most of the time and the Packers defense is led by a second-rate commercial actor who plays football when he feels like it. What it boils down to is that this is a total snark-fest and part of me is kind of glad I booked a noon brunch so I can kind of ignore it.
Pick: Packers 45, Cowboys 34
Indianapolis Colts (12-5) at Denver Broncos (12-4)
I actually think this is the oddest matchup of the weekend. Conventional wisdom would have Peyton Manning going out, tugging his jockstrap a few times and throwing 7 Touchdown passes in the 1st half just to remind everyone that he's still the Pizza Man. And that may yet happen. The Colts, as I mentioned last week when I picked against them, don't do many things well, except that they have Andrew Luck, who may be the second coming of Manning himself, if his first few years are any indication. Denver can run and plays good defense. It's highly doubtful that the Colts can do either particularly well. But many of you know my 4pm Sunday game theory, and how in general, conventional wisdom tends to go out the window in favor of strange things happening. That, combined with the fact that strange things tend to happen to Peyton Manning in the Divisional round in general, the certain-to-be-cold weather in Denver, and the fact that he's been sort of un-Manning-like as this season has drawn on and it makes the hero in me want to show itself. There's an overthrown pass on a 3rd down play. There's a dying quail that falls into the hands of an opposing player. There's a 9-minute Touchdown drive in the 3rd Quarter. There's another game slipping away and hands are being tossed in the air and another shake of the head and a puss on the face...
Pick: Colts 23, Broncos 19
OK, ok. I couldn't resist. After all, I'm not putting any money on these games. Get your Insurance and your Pizza and your shampoo and Chunky Soup ready.