This is the last real weekend of football for a long time, so soak it in.
We get two great games on Saturday, and two great games on Sunday.
After this weekend, we only get two games next Sunday, then a week off, and then (sad trombone) one game, the Super Bowl.
After the Super Bowl, we enter into a real sports wasteland. There is nothing happening in February.
So, enjoy this weekend as much as possible because this is the beginning of the end.
All you have to look forward to is a month in the cold, bored out of your mind, counting the days until the Masters.
Last week I was a perfect 2-2 picking playoff games against the spread.
Let’s dig into this week’s games. Lines are from Las Vegas Hilton, via Vegas Insider, and are current as of Friday morning.
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Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is a bad man. (As one would say.)
The Seattle Seahawks are 8-point favourites at home against New Orleans (4:35 p.m. Saturday, FOX)
This is a lot of points, and my inclination is to take the points.
I watched the Saints beat the Eagles last Saturday, and it seems like they could use a similar game plan to keep things close with Seahawks and cover the spread.
But then, this morning, I read this analysis from Bill Barnwell at Grantland and I totally changed my mind.
The Seahawks’ defence is scary good. It’s the best passing defence in the league by a mile. Considering Drew Brees couldn’t do much against a weak Eagles secondary, I expect him to do nothing against the great Seahawks secondary.
This means the Saints running game is going to have to win the game like it did against the Eagles. But the Seahawks will fare better against the run because they have better personnel. Philly’s fast strike offence leads to its defence being on the field a lot, which leads to fatigue, which leads to it getting nuked by the run late in the game. I don’t think that happens for Seattle.
On the offensive side, the Seahawks aren’t as dynamic as the Eagles, but Russell Wilson’s athleticism coupled with Marshawn Lynch’s punishing running attack will be enough to score points on the Saints.
Bottom line: The Seahawks defence will shut down the Saints offence, and the Seahawks offence will do enough to score. And let’s not forget that the Seahawks are great at home, and Saints have been pretty bad on the road.
How do the Saints win? With a grinding running game and an above average defensive performance. Neither of those things are Saints specialties.
I am a little nervous about Russell Wilson, who hasn’t played all that well down the stretch, but I’m hoping he delivers in this game.
The pick: Seahawks -8
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Bill Belichick is the best.
The New England Patriots are 7-point favourites at home against Indianapolis (8:15 p.m. Saturday, CBS)
Here’s something that’s annoying me lately: Every single talking head says something like, “Bill Belichick isn’t getting any mention as coach of the year, but this is his finest coaching job. He really deserves the coach of the year award.”
Yes, Belichick didn’t get mention as coach of the year early on, but in the last quarter of the season, everyone is talking about it. So, stop saying he’s not getting a mention as coach of the year. He is. And with good reason!
Mike Mayock was on the Rich Eisen podcast and he said, “I have no idea how the Patriots, with that roster, got 12 wins this year. It’s baffling.”
The Patriots have lost the most important players on their defence, they’ve been decimated on offence, and yet… they’re in the running to go to the Super Bowl.
The Colts, meanwhile, are a team that no one really believes in. There’s a reason the Chiefs game was a pick ’em by game time. The Colts have a weak defence — Alex Freaking Smith threw for 378 yards and 4 touchdowns last week. Andrew Luck is so good that he keeps the Colts in games, but he’s constantly having to overcome big deficits.
The way I see this game is that we have two highly flawed teams led by super talented quarterbacks. Therefore I can’t see a Patriots blowout. So, give me points.
The pick: Colts +7
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The San Francisco 49ers are 1-point favourites on the road against Carolina (1:05 p.m. Sunday, FOX)
Why do the Panthers get no respect? Is it because they’ve stunk for years, so people refuse to believe this season’s results?
I’m all in on the Panthers here. I think they’ve got a good defence, and a good quarterback.
The 49ers have a good defence, and an ok quarterback. But, after watching them almost lose the Packers last week, I don’t have faith they can win this week. I think the Panthers contain Kaepernick, and Cam Newton plays well enough to win.
What scares me: Newton is likely to be without Steve Smith, and the Kaepernick will have his favourite target in Michael Crabtree. I could see that being enough to swing the game, but like I said, I’m all Panthers’d up.
The pick: Panthers +1
Fear the Bolo!
The Denver Broncos are 9.5-point favourites at home against San Diego (4:40 p.m., CBS)
This is a lot of points for a divisional game.
The Chargers are getting no respect even though they’re hot and they beat the Broncos at home just a month ago.
Why? I guess because Peyton Manning is pretty great. But, the Chargers are pretty good, too.
I really don’t have much to say other than I think the Chargers can keep the game close enough to cover a 9.5-point spread, so I’m taking the points.
(You want more? Fine. The Broncos defence isn’t spectacular, and the Chargers coaches should have enough to keep Manning from going nuts.)
The pick: Chargers +9.5
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