With the Niners flushing their season (and most likely their hopes for the next decade) down the toilet over the past month, this is the least invested I’ve been in football in about five years. This weekend’s slate of games is so meh that I would totally skip it, except I’ll be on a cross-country flight on Sunday afternoon, which will at least trap me into watching the Cowboys game (let’s hope the weight of my hatred doesn’t bring the plane down).
Still, it’s a tradition for me to write a picks column, and even though both people who read this blog are also Niners fans and have also checked out on this season, I figured I owe it to them to put my stupid, uneducated guesses on record. So here goes.
Cincinnati at Indianapolis
The Colts have looked horrible over the last month … but Andy Dalton is still the Bengals’ quarterback.
Andy Dalton, who has never won a playoff game, and who singlehandedly lost Cincy their first-round matchup last year, is still the Bengals’ quarterback. Andy Dalton will be going on the road, to play inside a dome, in a playoff game. Meanwhile, the Colts have Andrew Luck, the best young quarterback in the NFL—maybe just the best quarterback overall other than Aaron Rodgers—who singlehandedly won an epic comeback game at home last year. The Bengals, in case I hadn’t mentioned this, will be starting Andy Dalton. Sometimes, this isn’t that hard. Colts 24, Bengals 10.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
This should be fun: a matchup between blood rivals who have played some of the NFL’s most violent, intense football games over the last decade. I’ve always picked against the Ravens during the Joe Flacco era, and they made me pay for it, dearly, by beating the Niners two years ago in a Super Bowl that I will never be able to scrub from my memory. Even when this team is playing well, they never look that impressive doing it. And make no mistake, the Ravens haven’t played well over the last month—they suffered a heartbreaking come-from-ahead loss to the Chargers, got destroyed by the Texans, and barely beat the Jags and Browns. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh has looked really solid over the last month, and while the Steelers probably won’t have stud running back Le’Veon Bell in this game, they do have the decided edge in a major matchup: The thing the Steelers are the best at is throwing the ball, with Ben Roethlisberger—who may be a fat sexual offender, but who is pretty good at football—chucking it to dynamic receivers Antonio Brown and Martavus Bryant. Baltimore will be trying to defend that passing attack with a secondary so banged-up and patched together that a few weeks ago Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays at Grantland played a game in which they threw out names and tried to guess whether guys were Ravens defensive backs or actor from The Wire. They couldn’t do it. Hell, the Ravens might want to consider signing Bodie Broadus this week.
Baltimore is going to get stuck holding their Charles Dickens. Steelers 31, Ravens 20.
Arizona at Carolina
The big question about this game is, will anyone in America actually watch it? I’m so disinterested in this game, I’m not even gonna bother looking up a photo to go with this pick. Anyway, the Cardinals looked great for the first half of the season, and then injuries destroyed them at quarterback, leaving them starting execrable third-stringer Ryan Lindley on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Panthers became just the second team in NFL history to qualify for the playoffs with a losing record, as they rallied to win the horror show that was the NFC South by blowing out the Saints and the Falcons in the last two weeks of the season. Those two teams are terrible, but Carolina looked great in both of those games, and while Arizona has a great defense, I’m betting Cam Newton will sneak out one or two big plays to put the Panthers over the top. Let’s say Panthers 13, Cardinals 9.
Detroit at Dallas
Would someone explain to me how the Niners fucking destroyed the Cowboys in Dallas in Week One (a game I rather enjoyed) and ended up tanking the season and firing their coach, while Dallas went 12-4 and won their division? I don’t understand football.
I’m just gonna watch that .gif on repeat until I curl up into the fetal position and start bawling, because that play was pretty much the last awesome thing Colin Kaepernick or Vernon Davis did this season. God, I hate everything.
Anyway, I’m loathe to pick Dallas, the team I hate most in all of sports, in this game, but does anyone see Detroit winning this? The Lions have been terrible on offense all season, and while I could see Megatron having a big day against an underwhelming Dallas secondary, does anyone believe that Matthew Stafford is going to be able to deliver in the playoffs? Detroit’s biggest advantage in any game is typically their powerful defensive line, but Dallas should be able to neutralize that with their dominant offensive line. It is Tony Romo’s destiny to destroy all Cowboys fans’ will to live with a crushing fourth-quarter pick six at some point in these playoffs, but I don’t think it happens this week. Cowboys 37, Lions 21.
The Jerry Joneses are going to the Divisional Round. Happy Fucking New Year.