We've reached the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs, Tim Tebow is slowly driving everyone insane (or just me), and the NFC looks roughly a thousand times better than the AFC right now. We went 3-1 in last week's picks, so without further ado, and because we already wrote way too many words of Tebow-centric prelude over here, let's dive right in.
All picks in BOLD.
New Orleans at San Francisco (+3.5) ... How badly do you think Alex Smith wishes he was an Evangelical Christian? Maybe he's not actually a great quarterback, but Alex Smith is definitely as good as Tebow, right? And all the wins this year? He could be the most famous athlete in America right now, and instead he's just Alex Smith, the 49ers' sacrificial lamb under center.
As for the game... The 49ers linebackers are good enough to match up well with the Saints in the intermediate passing game, the pass rush will get to Drew Brees, and it all happens on grass, in the cold, which should slow down the Saints juggernaut. Factor in how terrible the Saints defense looked even in victory last week, Brees' and this game actually kind of favors the 49ers on paper. Even if it were a pick 'em, the Niners would probably be the smart play.
But even next to all the rational reasons pointing to the Niners as a sneaky underdog here, in an NFL Playoff game between Drew Brees and Alex Smith, there's no way we're betting on Smith. It just won't happen, ever.
The Pick: New Orleans 31, San Francisco 17.
Denver at New England (-13.5) ... Thursday brought this feature from USA Today:
Tebow does not imbibe, display rivers of tattoo ink on his sculpted physique or hang out in nightclubs. Home-schooled on a 44-acre farm outside Jacksonville, he is serious about personal responsibility.
"The biggest reason I don't (consume alcohol) is because (if I have) a glass of wine, I don't want to be responsible for a kid looking up to me and saying, 'Hey, Tebow's doin' it — I am going to do it.' And then he makes a bad decision.
"Because, like it or not, it is serious," he says.
GUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP.
This is Tebow's fundamental problem in a nutshell. It's one thing to choose not to drink, it's another thing to go out of your way to make sure everyone KNOWS you don't drink, and then tell people you're doing it because you don't want to corrupt any children.
"And then he makes a bad decision..."? Since when is a glass of wine equivalent to meth?
Tebow's fun to watch, but the reason millions of Americans adore is him because of stuff like that quote above. Which begs the question: When did Amercia become so completely lame? No offense, but if we have to hear quarterbacks talk about their personal lives, I'd much rather hear more about Joe Namath drinking all night the day before the Super Bowl:
"Do you drink during the football season?" he was asked.
"Just about all the time."
"What do you, taper off before the game?"
A grin spread from his mouth. [...] "Before the Super Bowl," Namath said. "I went out and got a bottle and grabbed this girl and brought her back to the hotel in Fort Lauderdale and we had a good time the whole night."
He reached for his drink. His grin broke into a laugh. "It’s good for you," he said. He held his arms out and shook them. "It loosens you up good for the game."
Anyway, as for the game... It's hard to beat a good team twice. Double-digit underdogs are always dangerous. In freezing cold weather (a low of 11 degrees Saturday night) it's going to be hard to score points at all, let alone put up enough to cover a two touchdown spread. So basically what we're saying is, if you think Tim Tebow and the Broncos will do anything remotely productive Saturday night, then you should be picking the Broncos here. But, yeah.
The Pick: Patriots 24, Broncos 6
Houston at Baltimore (-7.5) ... This weekend we're picking Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Bress, annnnd... You're goddamn right we're taking T.J. Yates in Baltimore. The Texans may not win, but even with an overmatched rookie against an ass-kicking defense like Baltimore they'll make it closer than you'd think. For three reasons:
- Andre Johnson. Right now the Texans are the only team left in the playoffs that can legitimately claim a dominant running game AND a dominant, game-breaking receiver. Johnson was hurt most of the season, but now that he's healthy, he forces the Ravens to respect Houston's vertical passing game, keeping them from stacking the line. He's also good enough to turn average T.J. Yates throws into big plays. In other words, he makes life easier for T.J. Yates AND Arian Foster. This is important.
- The Texans defense. The focus coming in will be on Baltimore's defense, but it's Houston that ranked 2nd in total defense this year (Baltimore was third), and even in the era of pass-happy offenses and millions of points each week, playing ball-control offense and kickass defense is still a good way to succeed in the NFL playoffs. Plus...
- Joe Flacco. If we're guessing which quarterback could accidentally win the game for someone else this weekend, Flacco's the clear leader in the clubhouse. Even above Alex Smith and T.J. Yates, which is really saying something.
So, both quarterbacks are equally unreliable, both defenses are equally awesome, both running backs have the potential to take over with a lead, and the best playmaker for either team plays for Houston.
The Pick: Texans 23, Ravens 17
New York Giants at Green Bay (-7.5) ... Sometimes you just gotta go with a gut feeling. The Giants seem like a team that's peaking at the right time, they're having fun, and it's always fun to root for Eli.
The Pick: Giants 34, Packers 21