It`s time for all the hype to finally come true. “Final Countdown“ is playing on the loudspeakers (read: my iPhone) and the pressure is mounting. The crowd (my dog) is going wild as we prepare for the biggest matchup of the football season. Yeah sure, the wildcard games are important, but not nearly as important as the Dignity Bowl.
Just in case you haven`t read the previews of the weekend`s biggest matchups here on Sports-Opinionated, let me fill you in. Marty, Pete and I are about to embark on the biggest suicide mission in all of sports pick‘em history. That’s right, we’re picking against our moms. We’re in the JaMarcus Russell zone – there is no upside, and only embarrassment in our future.
Baltimore @ New England -3.5
The Ravens have a good defense, ranking in the top 5 of most categories. Their offense is built around a solid run game and Cam Cameron is a great offensive co-ordinator. Both Ray Rice and Willis McGahee are averaging more than 5 yards per carry despite have a relatively absent passing game. Former Pro Bowl TE Todd Heap has been playing better and is becoming a favorite target for Flacco.
The Belichick empire has been slowly deteriorating. Star WR Moss got mad and ultimately won a blinking contest between him and the Emperor himself, the defense is suspect with many holes, Welker is done for the rest of the year, Brady has been hurt with some bum ribs for most of the season…
It’s obvious you need to take the Patriots. I can’t bet against the Pats at home. Welker’s injury is a massive blow however the Pats are a team that often play better when the spread the touch around. If they can pressure Flacco, the Pats should advance.
I’ll take Mr. Gisele Bundchen and Co. and give the 3.5 points.
The only reason that people are favoring the Patriots in this game is because they have Tom Brady. Granted, he’s probably the most clutch playoff quarterback in the last 10 years, but there are 21 other starters that have to pull their weight as well. The Welker injury is going to have a massive impact on the Pats offense which relies solely on the pass.
The Ravens have a phenomenal rushing offense and were surprisingly the 11th most efficient passing offense in the league. The Patriots defense on the other hand was mediocre at best. Belichik will likely stack the box and dare Flacco to throw, but I think he can do it. The Ravens have played a number of good teams close this year and only lost a few of those due to a poor kicking game.
I’ll take the Ravens and the 3.5 points.
I originally leaned to Baltimore because of the Welker loss, but I have a tough time betting against Belichik at home. I’m picking New England.
The Mom’s Perspective
Maria (Pete’s Mom) – Patriots. They play good games. They are exciting to watch.
Kim (Ryan’s Mom) – Patriots. I’ve always thought New England would be nice place to vacation.
Norma (Marty’s Mom) – I watched them play a few times this year, and they’ve been close in other Superbowls, and Brady is a good quarterback.
New York Jets @ Cincinnati -2.5
I can’t remember a more over-rated & over-hyped team than the Bengals. You swept the Steelers. Big deal. They couldn’t even sneak into the playoffs. The Bengals have scored the least points of all division leaders (by a fair amount) and their defense is average. They have 3 wins in their last 7 games. Those wins are over the mighty Detroit Lions, the exceptional Kansas City Chiefs and the stable organization that is the Cleveland Browns. Yikes. The Jets on the other hand have the best all round defense, the best rated pass defense and the best rushing attack in the NFL. How can I bet on a rookie quarterback on the road in a playoff game you ask? When he has one of the league’s best offensive lines in front of him. That’s how.
I’ll take the Jets and the points thank you.
The Bengals are a middle of the pack team who played extremely well when it counted, against the Ravens and Steelers. Unfortunately they lost their best deep threat (Chris Henry) and they’re most physical defender (Rey Maualuga).
The Jets passing game was the 28th most efficient in the league. With everything on the line, the Bengals should be able to stack the box against the run and rely on outstanding corners Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall to blanket Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery.
Also, Brian Burke over at AdvancedNFLstats.com believes that home field results in a 16% swing in win probability, and he’s a lot smarter than I am.
I’ll take the Bengals at home despite giving up 2.5 points.
I think the Bengals can run the ball, the Jets cannot stop the run. Plus, a rookie QB on the road in the playoffs is NEVER a winning bet.
I’m picking the Bengals.
The Mom’s Perspective
Maria – Bengals obviously because they are favored.
Kim – I’ll take the Bengals because they only have to win by a field goal for me to be right.
Norma – I know the bengals haven’t been doing well. The Jets have been pretty good. I heard something about the Bengals that wasn’t very good.
Philadelphia @ Dallas – 4
Before the season started I thought (like most) that the Eagles would have the better offense than the Cowboys. They don’t. I thought (again like most) that the Eagles would have a better defense than the Cowboys. They don’t. Why you ask? Andy Reid needs a change of scenery instead of a contract extension (he got one midway through this season) and McNabb is getting too old to scramble and make plays. Maybe they should have been focused on a better backup instead of getting Vick. The cowboys on the other hand, seem to be getting better as the season is progressing, despite the exagerated talk of their december struggles. In their last three games, they beat the then undefeated Saints, the Redskins and the Eagles.
I’ll take the Cowboys at home and give the points.
Statistically, the teams are closely matched but Dallas appears to be the better team, based on a hot streak to finish the season. They have the 5th most efficient offense in the league, compared to the Eagles 11th rank. On defense, they are ranked 7th in DVOA while the Eagles are ranked 9th. The only edge the Eagles would appear to have is in special teams.
That said, the Eagles have been here before. McNabb and coach Andy Reid have combined for a 10-7 record in the playoffs and have never lost in the first round. Compare that record to the Wade Philips-Tony Romo combo, who seem to find ways to lose important games all the time.
The Eagles explosive pass offense should be able to exploit a 15th ranked Dallas pass defense. The Cowboys best chance to counter that is to use the NFL’s 3rd most efficient rushing offense against Philadelphia’s 12th most efficient run defense. Given the trade-off, I’d rather have the Eagles passing game.
I’ll take the Eagles and the 4 point cushion.
I cannot ignore what happened last weekend. Dallas is a good team with an amazing defense. All I know is that Reid Vs. Phillips is not a HOF matchup!
I’ll take Dallas.
The Mom’s Perspective
Maria – Have to go Eagles because I have seen them play before, maybe a season or two ago. No idea if they won or lost when I watched them but I have seen them play. Probably remembered them because they played well, hopefully…
Kim – I’ll take the Eagles because I’ve always hated the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
Norma – Dallas seems to be on a winning streak, and I like Romo.
Green Bay @ Arizona – 2.5
The Packers line is the worst offensive line in the NFL, according to the stats while Rodgers is tied for the most times sacked of any quarterback this season. So how is it that the Pack have 2 WR’s with more than 1000 yards, a running back with more than 1000 yards and a quarterback with a rating of 103.2? Yes, Aaron Rodgers is that good. Also, a now healthy offensive line helps.
The Cardinals on the other hand have been living in the shadow of last season’s playoff success. Going into the game with the Packers, the Cards now have to deal with injuries to two of their stars (Boldin & Rodgers-Cromartie). The Cards offense & defense have been below average this season despite playing weak divisional opponents.
I’ll pick the Pack and and 2.5 points faster than Tim Hightower or Beanie Wells fumble. The real question is what is the fumble over/under for sunday’s match-up? Two?
This is the easiest game to pick in my mind.
Green Bay has been on an absolute role and are one of the scariest teams in the NFL heading into the playoffs. Their offense has found some balance, with their running game ranked as the 2nd most efficient in the league on a per play basis.
The Cardinals on the other hand, are currently a middle-of-the-pack team who can do a little bit of everything on offense and defense but aren’t dominant at anything. With injuries to Boldin and Rodgers-Cromartie, they also lose two of their biggest playmakers.
I’ll take the Packers and 2.5 points.
Arizona is hard team to read. It seems like this version has so many similarities to last years. But I still take one of the hottest teams in the league.
I’ll take Green Bay.
The Mom’s Perspective
Maria – Kinda like the Cardinals. Nice jerseys. I like their colors. You never hear anything good about the Cards though. Have to go with the Pack. Wait, am I picking to win? Ok, let’s go with the Packers. But I do like the Cardinals uniforms.
Kim – I remember them being good from when I was a kid, so I’ll take the Packers.
Norma – I have faith in Rodgers the QB, and Green Bay is pretty close to where I live in Manitoba!
So there you have it folks. The gauntlet has been laid down for the Dignity Bowl. Let’s hope the Sports-Opinionated crew hasn’t done anything to anger the football gods, or our mothers for that matter!
Many of the stats in this article are derived from the publicly available and premium database statistics at FootballOutsiders.com, NFL.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com