NFL Picks Conference Championships

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Yikes, NFL fans—last week’s divisional playoffs were rough. I missed the spread my three losses by a collective five points (KC +5.5, AZ -7.5, DEN -7.5).

Not sure whether the message is that it’s rare for a playoff game to be decided by two scores, or if I should just chalk it up to bad luck and move on. I hate those eight point spreads for precisely that reason though—I mean, look at how Pittsburgh covered: a last second desperation field goal with an onside kick coming. If they try for the touchdown and fail (which, in my opinion, was what they should’ve done in the first place—and not just because I didn’t cover, but because it gave them the best probability to tie), I cover and the week doesn’t look so bad: two for four. Alas…

Anyway, TO THE PICKS!

NEW ENGLAND (-3.5) at Denver

Taking Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Pats in this one—picked against them last week and paid for it–although it’s not history that’s swaying me this weekend.

No, the reason I’m going with New England is that I just don’t trust Denver’s offense. They had a really hard time scoring last week against a Pittsburgh defense that, frankly, isn’t that good. A big part of it is that Peyton Manning can’t push the ball down the field, which means that defenses can play run/short pass almost exclusively. That means corners are in position to jump out routes and stuff runs outside the tackles, leaving linebackers and safeties in position to blitz and stop the run, which frees up New England’s front to pin their ears back and get after an aging quarterback with a bad arm and a kink in his neck.

If I know this, Belichick knows this, and is right now devising and scheming about how he can further exploit these weaknesses with his defense.

On the other side of the ball, part of the reason I picked against the Pats last week (IDIOT) was that I wasn’t sure if Gronk would play or how effective Edelman would be—well, they were pretty damn good. Indeed, the New England offense was extremely effective, scoring 27 points against a stingy Chiefs’ Defense. Now Denver’s defense is pretty good too, but even so, chances are they won’t entirely shut down the Patriots offense, which is what it will likely require for Denver to win, being that Denver’s offense will be so limited.

New England wins and covers 21-16.

ARIZONA (+3.5) at Carolina

I’ve got a bad feeling about this… cause I’ve ridden Carolina all year and they’ve been money covering spreads.

So why go contrarian now?

One reason: Carolina’s secondary gets beat deep on a regular basis. Consider the following games, at home, when teams with good quarterbacks almost came back to win precisely because of this dynamic.

The first one was on a Monday Night versus the Colts. With 10:44 left in the 4th quarter, the Panthers were up 23-6. Assuming they’d go ahead and cover, I went to bed. Well, as Luck would have it (yuk-yuk), the Colts came back to score 17 unanswered points, tying Carolina at 23 and sending the game into overtime. Now as we all know, Carolina won, but only by three.

The week after that, the same thing almost happened again when the Packers came to town. After the first half, Green Bay was down 27-7. With 9:22 left in the 4th, they were down 37-14. But by the end, Rodgers had captained two touchdown drives to pull the Pack within eight points, finally losing 37-29.

Just last week we saw it again. Up 31-0, Carolina gave up three touchdowns and a field goal to Russell Wilson and company without scoring a single point in response. Their secondary got torched deep time and again, in the end giving up three touchdowns and 366 yards to Seattle receivers.

So even if Carolina’s the better team, there’s every reason to believe Carson Palmer will have success late in the game against that Panther secondary. Look at it this way: even if Cam and his boys absolutely dominate the game and are up by ten with less than two minutes, I’ve got faith the Cardinals can get down the field to score a touchdown and cover.

Thing is, I’m not sure Carolina IS the better team. They’re really damn good, but so are the Cardinals. I’ve been saying it all year, but they’ve got a ton of weapons on offense, a great defense, and they’re well coached and quarterbacked. Arizona’s really good in every facet of the game—there’s absolutely no reason to think they can’t go into Charlotte and win Sunday night.

That’s it, I’ve convinced myself—calling the upset: Arizona 33, Carolina 30.

If you like what we’re doing here at ChuckingRocks.com, please help us out by making a donation. Every dollar counts. If you can’t make a donation at this time, the other way you can help us is to spread the word–so please, like, share, email, tweet, and/or retweet our posts. Remember to follow us on twitter @chuckingrocks or email us: chuckingrocks.com@gmail.com.

About The Author: Jay Scott

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