Finally, the playoffs are here, so I don't have to worry about the Buffalo Bills anymore. Especially after they finished their season with a classic punch in the gut game. Even when they were up 21-0, somehow I knew they would lose. And it still sucked to watch. I finished the season with an 11-5 overall week and a 6-9-1 ATS record, after a Week 16 total of 9-7 Overall/ 8-8 ATS. For the whole season, I was 168-88 overall and 124-126-5 ATS (all figures approximate). Dang. My overall picks were good, but still couldn't go above .500 against the spread. Well, better luck next year, and in the playoffs. Wild Card playoff games are always good- you know something crazy is going to happen (see: Seahawks over Saints last year).
Cincinnati at Houston (-4)
We've got two rookie quarterbacks here, with the threat of Jake Delhomme (or Jeff Garcia!) looming for the Texans. As much as that should be the equivalent of playoff suicide for the Texans, they've lucked out in facing the Bengals, this year's quintessential "luck of the schedule Gods" team. The Bengals haven't beat a playoff team this year- with a loss to the Tebow-less Broncos, two apiece to the Ravens and Steelers, a close loss the 49ers, and a loss to the Texans earlier. If you have to find their "best" win, it's either their win over the Titans or a win over the Bills-when-they-were-good. The Texans, despite being on a little slide into the playoffs, have the rushing attack and a hopefully healthy Andre Johnson, and a defense that is still near elite even without Mario Williams. The Bengals have the better rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton, but the worse overall offense and defense. I expect the Bengals to be able to hang around in this game, thanks to AJ Green, but to actually win this game? They haven't done it yet, so why believe it now?
Pick: Texans win, Bengals cover
Detroit at New Orleans (-10.5)
You're not beating New Orleans at home. Sorry. Drew Brees is too efficient and ridiculously good at home, and he ended the season in MVP form. The Lions have a great offense (even without any semblance of a run game), but their defense doesn't have the chops to stop an elite offense. For instance, we'll take last week, when the Lions gave up 480 yards and 6 touchdowns to Matt Flynn, the Packers backup QB. This is Drew Brees' turn, and he should be able to put up numbers as good. The only reason I can't pick the Saints to win and cover is their porous, turnover dependent defense isn't going to completely hold down Calvin Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Something like 45-35 seems right to me- not close, but close enough for a Lions cover.
Pick: Saints win, Lions cover.
Atlanta at NY Giants (-3)
Have you ever sat back and said "Wow, those Falcons sure are good!" No, you haven't. They're a consistent team that are better than most of the NFL, but against great teams, great defenses or on the road, they never jump out at you. In essence, this is a team that can get you to the playoffs, but I could never see them as Super Bowl Champions. The Giants rollercoaster-ed their way through the season, peaks and valleys. They've finished the season peaking, winning the must-win, high pressure games with panache. They have a QB in Eli Manning who flirts with elite status and has a knack for 4th quarter, game winning or game-icing drives, and a dangerous wide receiver group. The defense rushes the passer so well; Matt Ryan should be getting ready to become quite cozy with the cold New York turf. The Giants defense is nothing special against the pass, and their run game won't blow anyone away, but their best is better than the Falcons best. Add in home field advantage and I see the Giants taking it over the good-but-never-great Falcons.
Pick: Giants win, cover
Pittsburgh (-8.5) at Denver
You can't have honestly watched the last three weeks and confidently pick the Broncos. The Bills- THE BILLS- were able to hold the Broncos to 14 points and pick off Tebow 3 times (plus a interception that was changed into a fumble). Last I checked, my 8th grade flag football team could score 21 against the Bills. He threw for 60 yards against the Chiefs. That's in four quarters. Simply put, teams have figured him out. You don't blitz him too much (or else he'll run), cover everyone, let him stay in the pocket, and keep a spy on him in case he rolls left to throw. In addition, the defense has lost some of their stinginess- they aren't quite as dominant. The Steelers have a crippled Ben Roethlisberger at QB, their main running back tore his ACL, and their leading tackler can't play because of sickle cell anemia. Despite all this, their defense is good enough to stop Tebow and the Broncos- in fact, they're more than good enough. And even if the Broncos put in Brady Quinn (Tebow has a short leash this week), it would be laughably not enough to beat the Steelers. The Steelers offense doesn't have to be great to win this- they just have to be decent, and Peg-Leg Roethlisberger should be able to put together something. Seeing as the Steelers are so hampered, though, I'm hedging and saying the Broncos can stay within a touchdown.
Pick: Steelers win, Broncos cover