Divisional Weekend – Round 1

4 teams enter, 2 teams leave!

4 teams enter, 2 teams leave!

I know, I know.  You’re still upset about how the refs handed the Cowboys the game last week.  So are we, but they don’t play until tomorrow, so The Machine will hold back its disbelief for another day, and instead focus on today’s games.

Baltimore at New England (-7.5)


How will the Patriots cheat their way to victory?

How will the Patriots cheat their way to victory?

If you can only watch one game today (we don’t know why you would do that) it would be this game.  At first glance, you say the Patriots will roll.  The aura of Belichick and Brady, plus Gronk, plus playing at home, should be enough for New England to win.  But consider two things:

One:      The Patriots can’t cheat anymore (how many post-Spygate Super Bowls have they won?)

Two:      Joe Flacco.

Yes, Joe Flacco.  Flacco is about as bland a guy as you’ll find.  He makes Alex Smith look like a badass.  Christ, he went to the University of Delaware.  The Fighting Blue Hens.  But Joe has quietly put together a solid year, throwing for a career high in yards (3,986) and touchdowns (27).  Also, this just in:  Joe Flacco is good in the playoffs.  Real good.

In his last 9 playoff games, he’s thrown for 20 tds with only 2 ints.  Not surprisingly, the Ravens at 7-2 (with a Super Bowl) over that stretch.

That said, Brady is no slouch, and the Patriots have Revis Island to shut down Steve Smith.  Plus, our conspiracy theory radar is on high – given last week’s Cowboys game – which means the NFL will do anything for another Brady/Manning showdown.  And, the Ravens have no one to cover Gronk…he will create match-up nightmares all day.

The refs will make sure the "no one touch Tom" rule is in full effect.

The refs will make sure the “no one touch Tom” rule is in full effect.

Speaking of Gronk, here’s our literary recommendation for the week:

Mrs. Machine's book club pick of the week.

Mrs. Machine’s book club pick of the week.

The Machine thinks this game will be close.  The Patriots will likely pull it out, but we like Baltimore with the points.

Carolina at Seattle (-12)

Chances of snooze fest?  Likely.

Chances of snooze fest? Likely.

Normally, when a team is a double-digit underdog, it means they’re not good.  That theory holds true today as Carolina travels to Seattle.  Yes, Carolina looked impressive last week against Arizona and third string QB Ryan Lindley, but they have their work cut out for them as they won’t be facing a JV quarterback.  Instead, they’re up against a Seattle team that is peaking at just the right time.

Seattle has been up and down this year, but there’s no question where they are as of late.  Seattle’s won 6 games in row (9 of their last 10) and are playing at a championship level.  They’re also 7-1 at home.

The real match-up to watch will be the Carolina run game v. Seattle’s run D.  The Panthers lead the league with 172 rushing yards per game…Seattle only allows 81 yards on the ground a game, good for third in the league.  If Seattle can shut down the running game, that will force Cam to throw the ball, and he has struggled at that this year.  We think the Seattle D is up to the task at handling the Panthers run game.  Seattle is very familiar with the read/option, as their offense uses it often.  Thus, Michael Bennet, Cliff Avril and the rest of the line know how to contain the edge, and not overpursue the runner.  If they can shut down Carolina’s read option, this game will get out of hand quick.

Also, The Machine’s calling another epic Beast Mode run.  Like this.

Yeah, yeah, we know these teams played each other this year (in Carolina) and Seattle only won by 4.  We don’t care.  That was in October.  Don’t be afraid of the points.  We like Seattle to cover.

No wonder why the fans are so loud.

No wonder why the fans are so loud.

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