Posts Tagged ‘playoffs’

Overall: 165-101
Last Week: 2-0

Panthers @ Broncos

Last Rodeo

Like Peyton Manning, this is my last game. I cannot imagine enjoying football without Peyton Manning.

This year was already a bitter taste of what is to come. The State of Quarterbacks in the NFL is pathetic. When healthy, Manning is still in the better half of those who “play” the position. For fuck sakes, we live in a world Johnny Manziel has been handed the reigns to an NFL franchise—before they finally realized his raging alcoholism. The problem is that Peyton Manning has only been healthy for a handful of games. Even that is relative since we’re talking about a man who cannot feel his fingers.

Yet, Peyton made the necessary throws against the Patriots while the Denver defense buried Tom Brady in his own ineptitude. Don’t give me any bullshit about New England not being healthy. Brady had the necessary weapons, but he was clearly flustered and incapable of making rudimentary decisions. If the positions were reversed, everyone would have been talking about Manning. Tom Brady embarrassed himself. It’s amazing how the tables are turned when one team has the superior defense. For the duration of his early career with the Colts, Manning played with truly horrendous defenses that refused to employ anyone over 300lbs on their line until Booger McFarland. It’s just unfortunate that it took the last year of his career for Peyton to finally have an all-world defense supporting him. Let’s never forget that Manning is 3-1 against Brady in AFC Championship Games. But I guess playoff records only matter when it supports the crafted narrative propping up Tom Brady. And Tom Brady has the luxury of heaving the football to the trained polar bear the Patriots employ at TE that they’ve named Gronkowski—easily and unarguably, the most dominant player currently in the NFL.

Everyone is picking the Panthers in this Super Bowl.

The case is simply that the Carolina Panthers are a better version of the Seahawks with a superior QB in Cam Newton—the second-most dominant player currently in the NFL. Pressuring an overrated Tom Brady is one thing, but good luck tackling Cam Newton when he’s bigger than most of Denver’s defenders. Oh, and Carolina will definitely design runs for Cam too. Not only do the Broncos have to sack Cam, but they also have to stop him from just running whenever he thinks a play is broken. The Super Bowl against Seattle went to shit early for Denver. In order for the Broncos to make this a competitive matchup (unlike the NFC Championship Game against the Cardinals), Denver needs to score first and sit on an early lead like they did against New England. While most have focused on Manning, I think the offense will be good for a few scores. The Broncos need to run the ball effectively, which is troublesome considering Gary Kubiak’s insistence on involving Ronnie Hillman—who looks like an 8th grader on a field with men when he tries to run between the tackles. Denver needs C.J. Anderson to dominate carries and act like a bowling ball plowing through Carolina’s defense. With Manning throwing less than 30 times, that’s the conservative game plan the Broncos must utilize.

Defensively, Denver’s ability to keep it close relies on stopping Greg Olsen.

Rob Gronkowski mauled the smaller defenders Denver tried to hang off him. Gronk shook them aside whenever he wanted. Greg Olsen and his third leg could swing the game for the Panthers rather easily. The Broncos just don’t have anyone to glue on Olsen for the whole game. While Aqib Talib and Chris Harris should cover Carolina’s receivers on the outside, all Cam needs to do is slide around (with the threat to run) and find Olsen in the seam a few times. There’s a reason the Panthers are the heavy, prohibitive favorite. Carolina nearly ran undefeated through the season.

But I have to have hope. In his final game, is there enough magic left in Manning’s arm?

Every time Manning throws the ball—even on the fucking sidelines—Peyton noticeably grimaces like he’s being stabbed in the shoulder. It doesn’t look good. The passes aren’t pretty, but Peyton can still burn someone the caliber of Cortland Finnegan. If the Broncos treat Josh Norman like Richard Sherman (avoiding him whenever possible) and account for Luke Kuechly on every play, I can envision a scenario where Peyton might have a chance to thrive rather than merely survive.

Does the old man have enough left for this game?

Win: Denver Broncos

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Overall: 163-101
Last Week: 3-1

Patriots @ Broncos

Red Forehead

Fuck Tom Brady. It’s infuriating to still see everyone credit Tom Brady when the clear difference-maker on the Patriots is Rob Gronkowski. Brady immediately regressed to mediocre when Gronk was hurt, but he’s back to being a world-beater who gets rid of the ball in less than two seconds when that monster is roaming the field. The New England Patriots trained a polar bear to catch passes. Gronkowski doesn’t need to be open to catch passes. Gronk will just maul whatever unfortunate soul is around him and grab the ball mid-air in his teeth. This isn’t Brady vs. Manning as much as it is Gronkowski vs. The World.

The Gronk’s Prayer is a thing that exists…

Our Gronk who scores in sevens,
Hollowed be thy brain.
Thy kingdom dumb.
Thy will mix rum,
On turf as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily meat spread,
And don’t forgive us our trespasses,
As we don’t forgive those who double-cover against us,
Lead us directly and repeatedly into temptation,
But deliver dat sexy body from evil.
For spikes in the endzone,
With great power, bring you glory,
Forever.
Way-men.

Rob Gronkowski is One Man Gang. There’s no question who the man is in New England. Gronk is the straw that stirs the drink—and then proceeds to pound that drink and drink everyone else’s. But I have to believe that Good finds a way. Everyone but Peyton Manning knows this is the last hurrah. How sweet it would be for Peyton to bring his record against Brady to 3-2 in the playoffs, and a shot at riding off into the sunset with a ring. A man can dream. Peyton is pulling out all the stops, he even rope-a-doped the Steelers last week by falling down (without being touched) only to get back up to throw and make the biggest play of the game. The Patriots are back at full strength while Denver is limping into the game with a still-injured Peyton Manning. In 2009, I was at the 4th and 2 Game in Indianapolis—the only NFL game I’ve ever attended. It’s not quite the same with Manning at the end of his career, but he’s the only player I’ve witnessed get in Belicheat’s head. Manning brought the Colts back from the brink, and there was no way the Patriots wanted to give him the ball in those final moments. Everyone in that stadium knew Manning was marching down the field to win that game. No question about it.

In order for the Broncos to win this game, it is going to take a similar heroic effort from Peyton Manning AND a monumental defensive stop to finish the game. Those odds aren’t great. But there’s a chance. Even if it is just for old times’ sake, I want to believe Good will triumph over Evil.

Win: Denver Broncos

Cardinals @ Panthers

The Nature Boy once said, “To Be THE Man, You’ve Gotta Beat THE Man! WOOOOO!!!!!”

WOO

The Panthers made Ric Flair (Carolina hometown boy) proud last week by beating the Seattle Seahawks. Carolina eclipsed the NFC’s Super Bowl representative from the last two years. But the Panthers aren’t alone on the mountain top yet. Arizona is coming to town as the last remaining obstacle in the Carolina Panthers’ path to the Super Bowl. Carson Palmer has been shaky since injuring his finger, and the Cardinals are lacking the depth—namely, on defense and running the ball—to finish out this final stretch. If Carolina contains David Johnson out of the backfield and puts the clamps on big plays, then Arizona is going to have a tough time hanging with the Panthers. As the best running team in this Final Four, Carolina has an advantage by being able to run the ball down anyone’s throat. Arizona has a chance because of Bruce Arians’ ballsy play-calling, but that also can backfire real quick if Carson Palmer turns the ball over. Last year, Cam Newton proved he could walk away unscathed after rolling his car. It’s going to take a lot more than a car wreck for the Cardinals to stop him today.

Win: Carolina Panthers

Overall: 160-100
Last Week: 3-1

Chiefs @ Patriots

Fuck Tom Brady. The Chiefs predictably pounded the Texans last week. But that’s where the improbable Alex Smith run ends. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see the Patriots choke a home playoff game away. I sincerely doubt the probability of that happening against Alex Smith’s Kansas City Chiefs as coached by Andy Reid. Since Jamaal Charles’ injury, Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware have been running the ball. With Jeremy Maclin very likely out for this game, all Belicheat has to do is take Travis Kelce away in order to stifle Kansas City’s offense. Unless Alex Smith plays out of his mind, the Patriots will post too many points for the Chiefs to catch up to by kicking field goals.

Win: New England Patriots

Packers @ Cardinals

In terms of pure entertainment value, Green Bay against Arizona might be the sneaky best matchup of the week. The Packers are not a good football team. Green Bay wins and loses on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers. Their offensive line hasn’t given Rodgers enough room to operate, but the Packers looked vastly improved last week. I would not be shocked to see Aaron Rodgers create havoc for Arizona’s defense—particularly if Rodgers uses his legs to breathe new life into broken plays. The Cardinals are a good football team. But like all things Arizona, they are rather unspectacular. Bruce Arians will put the Cardinals in the best position to win, but I just don’t know if Arizona can survive if Green Bay bottles up David Johnson on the ground. A shootout favors Arizona with their penchant for big plays, but the Packers could pull off a mighty upset with another dominating running attack. The Cardinals (especially their annoying bandwagon fans) are still riding high after recently wiping the floor with Green Bay, but Arizona should be on red alert with Rodgers lurking.

Win: Arizona Cardinals

Seahawks @ Panthers

Fuck the 12th Man. Hipster Michael Myers did it again. After being left for dead yet again, Seattle rose from their grave and continued their crazed murderous streak. The Seahawks had no business winning that fucking game. This team is so fucking insufferable. It’s torturous listening to Russell Wilson give generic athlete speak and credit God for all things good. He’s a soulless pod person. Since Seattle doesn’t deserve to be in this game, the Seahawks will continue personifying Michael Myers by stabbing Cam Newton in the chest on their way to claiming a victory in Carolina. You know it is happening. Collectively, everyone outside of the Pacific Northwest hates this boring team too much for them to not unjustly advance to another round. If the world is as cruel and unforgiving as I fear, we’re headed straight for a Super Bowl rematch.

Win: Seattle Seahawks

Steelers @ Broncos

Grimace

If the Broncos beat the Steelers this week, Denver owes bounty hunter Vontaze Burfict his dues for taking out Le’Veon Bell ($10,000) and Antonio Brown ($8,000) and maiming Rapistberger ($2,000). We all deserve one last Brady-Manning battle before Peyton sets off in the sunset. Let’s hope that Week 17 wasn’t an aberration because it would be a shame to see Manning’s health break down yet again. Denver shouldn’t be sleeping on the Steelers. Rapistberger has a long history of over-exaggerating injuries to build himself up to hero status so don’t be shocked to see that happen again. If Pittsburgh is going to win, they need Big Ben to turn back the clock. The Broncos defense is susceptible to being passed on, but I don’t believe the Steelers will be able to put away Denver without their full complement of weapons. However, Mike Tomlin will surely pull out all the stops in a desperate attempt to upset Denver so all trick plays and onside kicks are on the table. I wouldn’t trust Gary Kubiak with anything mildly important, which scares the shit out of me when watching the final moments of any close Broncos game. We don’t know the true health of either QB so this could be a complete toss-up.

Win: Denver Broncos

Overall: 157-99
Last Week: 9-7

Week 17 wasn’t exactly a kind end of the season, but I still managed a 61% success rate when picking winners. I went 163-93 in 2014 and 162-93-1 in 2013, which (combined with this year’s results) puts me at a 63% rate. This proves any idiot can pick NFL games. With zero research or anything invested in the process, you too can be just like so-called experts. Now onto the playoffs!

Chiefs @ Texans

You know the patented Andy Reid faceplant is coming. Alex Smith and the ground game have been stellar in the second half of the season, but do not underestimate the ability of Kansas City to shoot themselves in the foot. With J.J. Watt as the only real legitimate threat to the Chiefs, they should run Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware right at him. What they shouldn’t do but probably will do is over-expose Alex Smith to hits by dropping back to pass too much. It’s an Andy Reid staple. However, I cannot root for J.J. Watt and this shitty Texans team to advance. Between Bill O’Brien and Andy Reid, gimme the byproduct of the Kool-Aid Man fucking a walrus every time.

Win: Kansas City Chiefs

Steelers @ Bengals

McCarron

Pittsburgh is the most feared team in the AFC due to their potential to post points. Without DeAngelo Williams, the Steelers will employ a rotating door behind Rapistberger. If Big Ben pulls off another unwanted penetration (of Cincinnati’s secondary…and all of their college-aged white women) successfully, there’s very little question whether the Steelers will win. The Bengals’ ability to win this game relies completely on their defense. All season, Cincinnati’s defense has bended but not broken. Considering A.J. McCarron is starting, even bending too much will result in yet another early exit. But being without a running threat is when Pittsburgh will be their most vulnerable these playoffs. I hate both teams, but I think we’re building to A.J. McCarron notching a playoff win before Andy Dalton. Then there’s the possibility of Andy Dalton returning if the Bengals manage to advance.

Win: Cincinnati Bengals

Seahawks @ Vikings

Weeks ago, I told you hipster Michael Myers wouldn’t die. The Seattle Seahawks are the worst nightmare for any respectable NFL fan. This team is awful to watch, but that didn’t stop them from squeezing into the playoffs again. I would love for the Minnesota Vikings to win this game. Yes, I’d rather root for a team that employs a man who beat his child with a stick than watch the Seahawks win another playoff game. I’m beyond sick of this stupid team. When you stab them in the chest, don’t just run away thinking you’ll be fine. This team will get up and continue haunting you. Please cut their head off and end it for good. Marshawn Lynch’s late scratch gives the Vikings hope. But I’ve watched this movie before and know the ending. There’s always a shitty sequel waiting.

Win: Seattle Seahawks

Packers @ Redskins

Congratulations, NFL. We live in a world where the Washington Racial Slurs are back in the playoffs. Parity! I don’t know what black hole to an alternate universe I slipped into, but I want to go back to the place where Aaron Rodgers was playing like an all-time great and Kirk Cousins was a shitty backup to RG Knee. The Redskins were the fortunate winner of the no good NFC East—y’know, the division that just fired two coaches and the third is a ginger. If Mike McCarthy can’t get the offensive line to protect Aaron Rodgers long enough to unleash deep balls, then expect to see the Redskins in the next round. A loss may very well bring the guillotine down on Mike McCarthy’s fat neck and triple chins. But I’m hoping Rodgers still has another Super Bowl run in his right arm.

Win: Green Bay Packers

Overall: 170-96
Last Week: 0-2…but not really

Patriots @ Seahawks

Who the fuck cares about this game?

This year’s Super Bowl is the least interesting match-up in a long while. Outside of New England and the Pacific Northwest, who seriously cares about either the Patriots or Seahawks? Both franchises feature so many obnoxious and downright unlikable players like Tom Brady, LeGarette Blount, Russell Wilson, and Richard Sherman. For as much shit that has been thrown at Marshawn Lynch for his refusal to speak with the media, no player in the history of sports has quit his way to success like Patriots RB LeGarette Blount. I haven’t even mentioned the patriarchs of each team—Despicable Me evil villain Bill Belicheat and Coach Double Rainbow (yeah, dude, bro) Pete Carroll.

For the record, I’m fine with someone dropping a nuclear bomb on the Super Bowl. I would die from the blast or the fallout would reach me 30 minutes away from the stadium. But at least I would die knowing that Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson, and Richard Sherman all died horrible deaths. Somehow, Rob Gronkowski would emerge from rubble unscathed and dancing shirtless.

Try as I might, I cannot hate him. Rob Gronkowski is a polar bear.

Polar Bear

Even if Gronk carries the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory in a decade, I personally feel the entire run of New England under the Belicheat Regime is (at the least) tainted or (at the worst) invalidated. In their 3 Super Bowl wins in the early 2000s, the Patriots beat their opponents by a combined 9 times. Heap all the adoration you want onto Tom Brady’s shoulders, but New England won every Super Bowl on the strength of an Adam Vinatieri game-winning field goal.

While the topic of underblown balls has become completely overblown, you would think Seattle’s laundry list of PED suspensions (including Richard Sherman’s reversal on a shady Adderall claim) might be newsworthy. Especially since it coincides with the recent success of the Seahawks over the last few years. Maybe Seattle just has a bunch of players with short attention spans and learning deficiencies. Or the Seahawks have found a convenient excuse for PED usage because teams don’t truly have to release the real reason behind a positive test.

Despite the hype of DeflateGate, the most revealing aspect of this scandal is that New England is still trying to do everything possible to gain an unfair advantage. Clearly, the removal of draft picks is not a sufficient deterrent after New England was already caught red-handed videotaping other teams. What happened to those tapes? In all his infinite wisdom, Roger Goodell destroyed the goddamn tapes.

Why? You can’t have evidence of the greatest coach in NFL history blatantly cheating.

 

Oh, and remember that time the Patriots harbored a murdered? The Aaron Hernandez murder trial of Odin Lloyd starts tomorrow. Apparently, jurors can watch the Super Bowl as long as Aaron Hernandez isn’t mentioned—monitored by the judge. But the jurors must leave the room if his name comes up. If the media coverage leading up to the Super Bowl is any indication, the jurors will get to watch the game uninterrupted. How many teams can say they drafted a player who went on to savagely murder several people? Right now, I believe the body county has climbed to possibly 3 in which we’re presently aware—not mentioning a handful of questionable instances during college.

Regardless, the Patriots are willing to do anything in the name of winning. When Aaron Hernandez finally got caught, Bill Belichick tore a hamstring running to the waiver wire to release him. Just like that, the entire Patriots franchise stepped back from any responsibility and washed their hands of the whole situation. It’s not our fault.

Accountability seems to be a perpetual issue for the Patriots. From last week’s batshit crazy press conferences, it was abundantly clear that both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were brazenly lying to the general public. Tom Brady can continue to be Teflon under pressure in football games, but I found out all I needed to know about Tom Brady as a human being when he cracked in the face of rather mundane media questions. There’s no need to be rattled if you’re only telling the truth. Instead of admitting that he ordered employees of the Patriots to rub down and deflate his balls, Tom Brady gave a fake laugh and immediately tried to brush off the controversy in a radio interview after the AFC Championship. Remember, Tom Brady led the charge years ago to allow road teams to prepare the footballs before games.

Tom Brady can just flash that smile and everything goes away. Everyone already forgot about Tom Brady’s hair plugs. Speaking of rugs, scandals don’t matter when you’re successful because anything can get swept under the rug.

Lie, cheat, and steal: The Patriot Way.

Patriot Way

Win: New England Patriots, 28-25

Overall: 170-94
Last Week: 3-1

Last week, I went 3-1 but lost the only game that mattered. I would gladly trade that meaningless 3-1 for a 1-3 record if it meant we got to watch Peyton Manning in another AFC Championship match—preferably against Tom Brady. But it was clear Peyton Manning was 60-65% with a partially torn quad.

Everyone knows we’re destined for a Super Bowl showcasing Patriots vs. Seahawks. And Bill Belicheat will uncover a new evil genius way to skirt the rules, but Tom Brady will still get all of the credit.

Because “clutch” exists. The thought makes me want to vomit. In two weeks, the likes of Bill Belicheat, Tom Brady, Pete Carroll, Richard Sherman, and Russell Wilson will invade Arizona—where I currently reside. I hate these people with a fevered passion. I think I will have to leave for a while so I am not within 30 minutes of them at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

Since the Super Bowl slate seems inevitable, I’ll throw caution to the wind and put any ounce of power I possess into making the arguments on how the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts can pull off the upset win. Why? Because the thought exercise will make me happier than continuing to mope about seeing more of the Patriots and Seahawks. I don’t care if I get both games wrong this week. Hopefully there’s some karmic influence that can create an Aaron Rodgers vs. Andrew Luck dream Super Bowl.

Packers @ Seahawks

If Aaron Rodgers were 100% healthy, I could find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the Packers against the Seahawks and Coach Double Rainbow (Pete Carroll). But without complete mobility to escape the pressure of Seattle’s quick defensive front, Green Bay will struggle to convert on 3rd Down. The Packers will need to give Eddie Lacy a healthy dose of carries to knock Seattle around. James Starks also needs to be involved to provide a change of pace and quick burst on screen passes. And just when the Seahawks can’t take the abuse of being run ragged, Green Bay should start Randall Cobb in the backfield and shift him all around to gift him separation and the opportunity to make plays.

Aaron Rodgers is great, but executing a lethal running attack is the way the Packers win. Mike McCarthy may not have the commitment to stick with the run if it falters for any stretch, but a limited Aaron Rodgers needs to be limited and simply pick his spots. When the ball is near the goal line, only then should Rodgers risk scrambling. The way Rodgers performed last week against the Cowboys was admirable, but that was the Dallas defense playing a lot of prevent packages. Seattle will blitz and put pressure on Green Bay’s offensive line, which means Rodgers needs to have a quick trigger with smart decision-making skills.

It’s not impossible, but a Green Bay win in an uphill climb. The Packers need more than just Aaron Rodgers to win this game. Focus on a strong, punishing running attack should do wonders to help keep the game close—especially limiting Seattle’s chances to score more than 24+ points. The recipe is there if the supporting cast can step up, but Green Bay can’t avoid many mistakes.

Win: Green Bay Packers, 26-23

Colts @ Patriots

Andrew Luck was the silver lining to last week’s unfortunate outcome for an injured Peyton Manning. As a franchise, the Colts couldn’t be in more capable hands than Andrew the Giant. Watching Andrew Luck play is a different experience than any other QB. Luck oozes a certain intensity and physicality that’s typical from a linebacker. While the confidence is much-deserved, the decision-making isn’t always rational as Luck attempts to rocket passes into tight windows through multiple defenders. Just like his face, it isn’t always pretty. Indianapolis was lucky that Luck’s interceptions were glorified punts.

It didn’t cost the team the game, but it might this week against New England.

In order for Indianapolis to win, Andrew Luck needs to play his greatest game ever. New England’s defense has a stout front line, versatile linebackers, and a Hall of Fame cornerback that enables Bill Belicheat to be creative and scheme different ways to dissect an offense. Luck needs to kill the Patriots scrambling with his legs and using his physical prowess to simply overpower everyone.

Luck Slobber

Marshawn Lynch can have his Beast Mode, but Andrew Luck needs to unlock Caveman Mode.

“I’m pretty sure Luck spends his offseason training with grizzly bears, pulling salmon out of the White River with his horse teeth, and fueling Bigfoot sightings all over rural Indiana.” – Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Don’t be surprised if Andrew Luck steals a page out of Peyton Manning’s playbook by employing Peyton’s patented double-stiff arm—where he stuffs the football under his chin and just pushes everyone out of the way with both arms. I’m afraid Indianapolis played their best all-around game against Denver. A repeat performance against a stronger, healthier Patriots team seems so unlikely.

Along with Luck and luck, the Colts will need an inhuman performance from Daniel Herron. Running up the gut with a small RB that likes to call himself Boom will result in Vince Wilfork eating him whole and digesting his bones. Indianapolis needs to use their lateral quickness against New England’s linebackers instead of going right into the bellies of their fat defensive linemen.

The only time I’ve stood in an NFL stadium was November 19, 2005. It is now known as the 4th and 2 Game. With a few seconds before the two-minute warning and the Patriots up 34-28, Bill Belicheat didn’t want to give Peyton Manning the ball so Tom Brady went for it on 4th and 2 with a short pass to Kevin Faulk. Maybe it was a crazy call since New England was around the 30-yard line in their own territory.

But I would still defend that call. I was in that stadium. The feeling in that stadium was palpable. It didn’t matter what the distance was to score the touchdown. If you gave Peyton Manning the ball, he was driving the length of the field and he was scoring that touchdown. No one doubted it.

Once the Colts drove Kevin Faulk into the ground, Peyton Manning predictably drove the length and threw that TD for a Colts win, 35-34. History might repeat itself in this game. Even at this early stage, Andrew Luck has reached that point where the opponent is afraid what will happen when he has the ball. Anything can happen. Success or disaster is only a throw away.

Maybe, just maybe Andrew Luck can pull that horseshoe out of his ass.

Luck Yay!

Win: Indianapolis Colts, 35-34

Overall: 167-93
Last Week: 4-0

Ravens @ Patriots

Gronk

Tom Brady hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 2004. Since his last Super Bowl title, Tom Brady is 9-8 in the playoffs while making the postseason in 8 years. Yet no one speaks a word about his recent stretch of futility. It’s sacrilegious. Everyone wants to tout the success of Brady during those 3 Super Bowl runs when the New England Patriots had one of the most dominant defenses in all of football with a stacked team and arguably the greatest strategic head coach. Nope, it’s all Tom Terrific.

If any franchise has been kryptonite for Tom Brady, it’s the Baltimore Ravens. Everyone and their mother are playing up the hype of Baltimore’s recent matchups against New England. What’s the missing piece that no one wants to bring up? Rob fucking Gronkowski. The Patriots won the one time The Gronk was healthy and played against the Ravens. Rob Gronkowski is the most physically imposing, dominant TE that I’ve ever seen play the position. He’s a man-child, but he towers over everyone. Gronkowski literally hurls defenders into cameras when he’s asked to block. He can catch any throw within a radius of 10 feet from his body.

Rob Gronkowski is the MVP of 2014. And if he stays healthy, he’ll be the MVP of the 2015 postseason. No one has an answer for him. If you double-team the TE, everything else opens up—the underneath routes, intermediate passing lanes, and the seam are all there for huge plays. While Baltimore has had success covering TEs this season, John Harbaugh is just as crazy as Jim Harbaugh if he thinks Will Hill can cover Gronk. Expect a huge impact from Rob Gronkowski, which will be the difference-maker in this game.

Good luck to any man who dares to get in that monster’s way.

Win: New England Patriots, 35-27

Panthers @ Seahawks

The Carolina Panthers are the one team that the Seattle Seahawks did not want to see in this Divisional Round. For whatever reason, Carolina is able to make these games ugly and slug it out with Seattle. I was all set to ride the Panthers to an upset this week, but then the news broke that Carolina would be without DT Star Lotulelei. Without their biggest presence in the middle, the Panthers will be very susceptible to Marshawn Lynch gashing them for gigantic, spirit-crushing runs. As long as Russell Wilson can convert on 3rd Down, the Seahawks shouldn’t have much of an issue with Cam Newton and Carolina today. If the Panthers can take out either Marshawn Lynch or Russell Wilson with an injury, then Carolina has an opportunity to stifle Seattle’s offensive attack and win on the strength of their defense. There’s not enough talent on offense for the Panthers to pull out a victory if their defense isn’t dominant.

Win: Seattle Seahawks, 24-17

Cowboys @ Packers

If anyone has ever had a calf cramp, you know it is debilitating. Now imagine straining your calf with tiny little tears in the muscle, and you are a professional athlete that excels based on your athletic ability. Mobility is what makes Aaron Rodgers special. He’s still elite when passing in the pocket, but turning a negative play into a positive by breaking a run and moving the chains by throwing on the run are those uber-elite traits that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning don’t possess. A QB that can harness that power is unstoppable. But no one has done it just yet. Can Aaron Rodgers perform at 75% of that level?

I’m concerned Rodgers will pop his calf if he tries to run. Even if he doesn’t attempt to escape out of pure instinct, there’s a high probability of re-injury if the offensive line can’t protect him. Despite all of the questions and uncertainty, I have faith that Green Bay can run the ball down Dallas’ throat with Eddie Lacy. Whether Mike McCarthy has the commitment to run is a different story. Although I like Tony Romo, this game feels like the Monday morning sports radio hot topic will undeservedly be Romo in big moments. Tony Romo is capable of winning this game. I’m just not counting on it. Chalk all the way.

Win: Green Bay Packers, 27-24

Colts @ Broncos

Since 2004, Peyton Manning is 8-7 in the playoffs with a Super Bowl title (more recently than Tom Brady) while making the postseason in 8 years. But no, he wilts under pressure. Let’s not take into account his consistently lackluster defenses and all-around supporting casts. It’s ridiculous that Manning wears that L for the 2012 playoff loss when Rahim “Daydream” Moore screwed up his one job as a safety and Baltimore streaked on to win the Super Bowl they didn’t deserve. It’s just easier to continue the agreed-upon narrative that Peyton Manning isn’t good in the playoffs.

In the last few weeks of the season, Peyton Manning was obviously crippled by a thigh injury that sapped even more authority from his throws. Call them wounded ducks if you want. Those wounded ducks go for touchdowns. As long as the Denver offensive line can pick up blitzes and protect Peyton, Manning will be able to throw against Indianapolis with success. But still expect C.J. Anderson to run the ball all over the Colts. A punishing running game is the best weapon for the Broncos right now.

The two biggest differences between the Patriots and Broncos this season are New England’s defense and Rob Gronkowski. Denver’s defense is not up to the same level as New England. The Patriots play together as a unit swarming to the ball and have Darrelle Revis to shut down receivers. Like the old Colts with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, the Broncos can play extremely well with a 10-point lead by rushing the passer with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. But there are still issues with safeties in coverage and Denver has an underwhelming LB group that can’t stay healthy. And imagine if Peyton Manning had a Gronk. Even when he’s fully healthy, former basketball player Julius Thomas is barely 1/3 of the TE that Rob Gronkowski is for New England. Not only is Julius Thomas not healthy, but Demaryius Thomas might also not be healthy for tomorrow’s game. With whatever MASH unit takes the field on Sunday, I expect Peyton Manning to defeat his old team and their new stud QB. Andrew Luck will have his moments this Sunday and in the future. But this is still Peyton Manning’s time. He is a leader of men.

Peyton Manning is Greg Maddux and Tom Brady is John Smoltz.
Even now, I’ll still take Greg Maddux and his surgical precision.

Win: Denver Broncos, 33-24