Divisional Round ATS Picks and Predictions
Wild Card Weekend Review (Week 2-2, Season 41-48, All Time 144-127-2)
Between the marquee match ups and a few controversial plays, Wild Card Weekend provided all the entertainment that an NFL fan could ask for. However, what made the weekend most interesting was the general low level of play. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh were significantly outclassed, while Arizona and Carolina were---well, they were Arizona and Carolina. Even Dallas, the best team in the first round struggled to win at home. Because the play was so much lower overall than what would be generally expected for the playoffs, we can't really say that we were really impressed by any team. Our ATS picks this week are centered on the theory that first round winners are now being over valued because of their first round wins, and we are picking against all of them.
Divisional Round ATS Picks
New England Patriots -7 vs Baltimore Ravens
In recent years, this has become one of the best rivalries in the NFL, as the Patriots and Ravens have played in many single score games decided by late possessions. Many believe that this game will continue the trend of close games, however, we believe that Baltimore is being over valued because of their recent performance over a streaky Steelers team. Baltimore does have a solid pass rush, but as we have mentioned many times before, their defensive secondary is not NFL caliber. The Ravens should benefit from some globally nice match ups against New England, in particular in their ability to defend short passes and their significant advantage in the front seven (versus New England's O-Line, which has regressed slightly in recent weeks). Despite these schematic advantages, the Ravens are an inferior team to the Patriots. Both teams have similar balance on offense, but the Patriots defense has become championship level and plays complimentary to the offense. We like the Patriots to win comfortably.
Seattle Seahawks -11 vs Carolina Panthers
No one ever likes to lay points, especially not 11, and especially not for a playoff game. That being said, Seattle -11 might be our favorite pick of the week. As mentioned last week, Carolina's record has been boosted by a very easy schedule and is not reflective of their actual ability as a team. In road games against teams with winning records, the Panthers tied their first game, and then proceeded to lose by 28, 21, 24, and 18 points. Some argue that Carolina's proven ability to play Seattle close at home will translate into another close game this Saturday, but can you really compare regular season early games at Carolina to prime time in Seattle? We think not. We like the Seahawks to absolutely dismantle what we continue to believe is a very bad Carolina Panthers team.
Green Bay -5.5 vs Dallas Cowboys
According to most media outlets, the only important piece to this game is the health of Aaron Rodgers. Considering he merely has a strained muscle and was able to complete 11 second half passes on 14 attempts for 119 yards against the Detroit Lions' defense immediately after sustaining said injury, we think Rodgers is just fine. Dallas will probably score quite a few points in this game, but they simply cannot match up with Green Bay's receivers. We think Green Bay will be able to win with offense and cover the spread.
Denver Broncos -7 vs Indianapolis Colts
The Colts certainly looked impressive against the Bengals, but they were never really challenged. The Bengals couldn't generate anything remotely resembling a pass rush and Luck was able to throw all day. We believe that things will be much different in Denver this weekend. We think the Colts are still firmly in the second tier of teams, while Denver has sneakily continued to play at an elite level. We are concerned about a Manning playoff meltdown, but ultimately we will side with the success elite QBs have had against this Colts' defense and pick Denver to win.