Wildcard Weekend – Round 1

It's go time!

It’s go time!

Welcome to Wildcard Weekend!  Before we get to today’s games, let’s first take a look back at the regular season, and see who ended up winning the Big Red Sports Machine’s Pick with the Pros [pops champagne].  Yes sir, for the second year in a row, Ginger King walks away with the regular season crown.  I walk around the house with a better sense of pride, and my kids (and Mrs. Machine) are in awe of my (non-money making) ability to pick games against the spread.  Some day…

Wife football picks

Mrs. Machine on Christmas.

Anyway, until the Big Red Sports Machine opens up its off-shore betting service (what’s you New Years Resolution?) let’s look at today’s playoff match-ups.

Arizona at Carolina (-6.5)

Arizona v. CarolinaIn the day’s first match-up, the 11-5 Cardinals travel to the 7-8-1 Panthers.  First, stop with the whole “how does a losing team make the playoffs AND get a home game”?  Enough whining, already.  Carolina won the NFC South.  Plain and simple.  Stop trying to over-regulate it.  The Panthers are at home, going against 3rd string quarterback Ryan Lindley.  You got to like that match-up, right?

With that said, there’s no way in hell Carolina covers 6.5 points.  In fact, the Machine likes the Cardinals to win this outright.  Say what you want about Carolina being in the playoffs (actually don’t, because it’s annoying) but they’re still not a good team.  Cam Newton has regressed, throwing the fewest tds (18), yards (3,127) and most fumbles (6) in his career.  As Cam goes, so go the Panthers.

The Cardinals, however, are more of a complete team, and have been able to withstand promoting the ball boy to starting quarterback.  Patrick Peterson is the most underrated corner in the league.  He will be a difference maker.  The Cardinals game plan should be to force Cam to throw the ball.  Even with promising rookie Kelvin Benjamin ,the Panthers passing attack isn’t great.  Letting Steve Smith leave will haunt them.

Take the Cardinals.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-7)

Smash mouth baby!

Smash mouth baby!

You better take the Ravens with the points before Vegas shuts this line down.  With Le’Veon Bell in, Pittsburgh wins this game handily.  The Steelers are tough to beat at home (6-2 this year) and even more so in the playoffs.  Bell is their workhorse.  He ran for over 1,300 yards and 8 td, and also had 83 catches for over 850 yards and 3 tds.

But, with Le’Veon Bell out, this game has become a toss-up.  The Steelers are now one dimension.  Granted, it’s a pretty good dimension, with Big Ben and stud receiver Antonio Brown.  Brown led the league with 129 receptions for a league best 1,698 yards.  He simply looks unstoppable at times.  But how much of that potent passing attack is predicated on the efficiency of the running game?  Regardless, Brown is simply too good to not be a factor.  Pittsburgh will get him involved, perhaps even in the running game (we’re calling an end around).

On the other side, Baltimore has quietly put together a solid season.  They lost Ray Rice, but still had a top 10 rushing offense, running for over 126 yards a game, good for 8th overall.  Baltimore will want to play the ball control game, with long, time-consuming drives.  They can do that behind their offensive line.  Pittsburgh’s D isn’t what it used to be…James Harrison is back, but he’s not any younger.  They are vulnerable.  Look for Baltimore to use the run game to set up the play action deep ball to Torrey Smith.

This game will be close.  Take Baltimore and the points.

The Steelers can cover, just not 7 points.

The Steelers can cover, just not 7 points.

2 thoughts on “Wildcard Weekend – Round 1

  1. Ginger goes .500 on day 1. Great, following your picks, I just lost the vig…better then big daddy shit picks…I would have lost my hall of fame ring…skip that.

    P.S. Vinny is my favorite.

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