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  • Contributors


    Cris Collinsworth

    Former Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals and Emmy-winning analyst from Sunday Night Football and Inside the NFL.
    Dave Lapham
    Has called game for the Bengals radio network for 25 years. Analyst for Big 12 games on Fox Sports Net. Played 10 years in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals.
    Turk Schonert
    NFL quarterback for 10 years with the Bengals and Falcons. Has served as quarterback coach for the Buccaneers, Bills, Panthers, Giants and Saints and Offensive Coordinator for the Bills.
    Phil McConkey
    Played 6 years in the NFL as a WR, punt returner and kick returner for the Giants, Packers, Cardinals and Chargers. Played college football at the Naval Academy and served in the U.S. Navy before joining the NFL. Best remembered for his oustanding game in Super Bowl XXI.
    Josina Anderson
    Josina "JoJo" Anderson is contributing reporter on Showtime's Inside the NFL and is a weekend co-anchor/reporter/producer for FOX 31 Sports in Denver, Colorado. Josina produces the nightly sportscasts and covers the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the Colorado Rockies.
    Jerry Jones
    NFL Draft Expert, has published the acclaimed Drugstore List since 1978.
    Russell S Baxter
    Researcher, writer and editor covering the NFL for over 30 years.
    Andy Freeland
    Statistician and researcher for NBC's Sunday Night Football.
  • Council of the Learned 2012: Divisional Playoffs



    Last weekend was one of rare events. Usually the road teams win two of the Wild Card games. Last week featured one win by the visitors, a stat usually reserved for the Divisional Round. Home teams win just over 75% of the Divisional Playoff games since the 12 team playoff format was implemented.

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

    Baltimore @ Denver- Peyton Manning is 9-2 against the Ravens in his career and has not lost to them since 2001. That was a 39-27 loss in which the game-winning score was a 5 yard pass to Qadry Ismail from Elvis Grbac. Moe Williams was the leading rusher in that game. By then, Ray Lewis was already about to go to his fifth Pro Bowl. Manning's 15-6 win in 2006 is still one of the most interesting playoff games of recent history. Of course, that 15-6 is one of the two Manning wins outdoors during January in his career (2-7).

    Can Manning find success against them again? I think he can, considering that Andrew Luck was able to have success throwing to Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener last week. The Ravens won that game with the big blitz, but they have to know Manning would kill them with that game plan. Sadly, the Ray Lewis comeback could really hurt the Ravens with some of the high-low and levels concepts that the Manning Offense is known to live by. Let's be honest, Mike McCoy, a hot coaching candidate, gave away the reigns to Peyton weeks ago. Of course, he probably deserved it for the work put into getting all those wins with Tebow last season. PICK: (DEN 8-1)

    Green Bay @ San Francisco- Alex Smith is not the quarterback. The best receiving weapon for Aaron Rodgers is not Greg Jennings. Neither team ended up to be the #1 seed in the NFC. Coach Harbaugh has given extra stick-um out in practice this week and America is ready to throw their shoes at the TV if they see any more State Farm commercials. By the way, Green Bay, can you get a better line soon? It's impossible to try and write a joke about it without thinking about Swiss cheese. PICK: (SF 5-4)

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

    Seattle @ Atlanta- In honor of hockey being back, the Seahawks will wear full "Green Man" bodysuits for the game like the Canucks fans. That's a National Hockey League team in Vancouver. Vancouver is in Canada. I know, I know, this is a football column. Okay, fine, how did everyone feel about Demba Ba going to Chelsea?

    Okay, in all seriousness, can anyone remember any #1 seed not coached by Marty Schottenheimer that could play the "Nobody Believes in Us" card? Matt Ryan is 33-5 at home in the regular season and 0-1 at home in the playoffs along with being 0-3 overall in the playoffs. See, that's why Falcons. That, and Michael Turner is running like Jerome Bettis. It's not good to run like a retired guy and it's not good that Atlanta only converts 18.5% of their runs into first downs. Only the Saints, Browns and Cardinals were worse in that category. Finally, the Falcons and the Colts were the only playoff teams to give up more yards per play on defense than they gained on offense. Those are the reasons many don't believe in the Falcons. PICK: (SEA 5-4)

    Houston @ New England- It is easy to think that the Patriots will dominate this game since they won 42-14 just a few weeks ago. Of course, the Jets from a few years ago won despite being killed a few weeks earlier by the Pats, so that is not a great way to look at it. The best way to look at it is to look at Matt Schaub and then give a gander to Tom Brady. Isn't Tom Brady dreamy? I mean, uh, his passes. His passes look much better than Schaub's. Plus, Belichick is probably pissed that his team came less than ten plays short of the record for plays ran in a season. PICK: (NE 8-1)


    LAST WEEK: 4-0
    SEASON: 167-92-1 (64.4%)

    Comments 19 Comments
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Forecast for Denver:
      High: 21 F
      Wind Chill: near 0 F

      OMG, Manning is a cooked goose in cold weather! (Don't you love my mixed imagery?)

      The Guardian, of all places, has a good story on this.

      Manning, himself, is noted for an atrocious playoff record in games with the temperature below 40 degrees. He's 0-3 in these games and a combined 64 for 120 for 612 yards with one touchdown and seven interceptions. His passer rating was below 40 in two of those games.
      But wait!

      These were all games on the road. Teams win only 40% of their road playoff games. Two of them were against the New England Patriots. Road teams in New England when Bill Belichick is at the helm have only won 17% of their games. Manning losing these games is not really surprising.
      And there's more!

      You get a completely different picture of Manning when you examine his cold games during the regular season.

      In 13 regular season games where the temperature was 21 to 40 degrees fahrenheit, Manning had a quarterback rating of 94.5. That's little different from his 95.7 quarterback rating in games overall. Manning's completion percentage in these games was 64.7 and he threw for an average of 8.0 yards per attempt. That's on par with the 65.2% completion percentage in all games and 7.6 yards per attempt.

      Did I mention that he had 23 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions in these cold games? In fact, even in the one game he played below 20 degrees, he still was 14 for 18 on pass attempts.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Myself, I think the home teams sweep.

      The closest games will probably be in the NFC.

      Atlanta's run defense (and defense in general) has been pointed out as a weakness. The yardage numbers agree. The Falcons have been getting by on scheme and on turnovers. They're 5th in turnover margin, I believe, and 5th-best in points allowed.

      Seattle has a short week, a lot of travel and a rookie QB. This will help Atlanta's rested defense, which returns safety William Moore. Also, Seattle suffered a big loss at defensive end.

      And emotionally, how much do they have left? Pete Carroll is great at getting his guys up for a game. But there's no way they'll match Atlanta's intensity.

      Players feed on disrespect and the whole world has been pooping on the birds. Expect a response.

      For reasons which are beyond my limited understanding, Green Bay has not been its usual impressive self on offense. For that reason alone, I see them losing in San Francisco.
    1. edave's Avatar
      You guys finally bucked a disturbing trend, too many are picking the Packers. Thank you! If everyone is seeing things the same way that's not good.

      I can see a 20 point win, a 20 point loss and just about everything in between.

      Also the OL crack is somewhat deserved, but not for the reasons you might think.

      In the first meeting, it was Ahmad Brooks and Carlos Rogers who did much of the damage (Brooks had 3 QB hits to go with a sack, Rogers was 1/1). Smith and Smith were handled pretty well by Newhouse and Lang. Sitton and Bulaga both had rough days. Sitton has mostly regained his form while Bulaga was a yoyo before heading to IR. On the other side, Joe Staley was abused by Matthews and then went on to have a pretty good season. The big question marks this time around are Don Barclay, who has been fine at home and a bit shaky on the road (noise?) and maybe EDS with the calls. Even if Staley struggles with Clay, Kaepernick is a lot more mobile than Smith and far less likely to take a sack (he could be pushed into doing something silly, which is the hope I'm sure).

      On the flip side, Jarrett Bush isn't going to be playing CB in this game unless disaster strikes. Smith and Perry aren't going to be covering RBs and TEs on the intermediate routes. I'm anticipating that the 49ers will try to find a way to exploit Woodson covering Vernon Davis and/or Delanie Walker.

      And don't forget that the whole game could come down to one of the shaky kicker club members on either side.

      I can't wait, this is going to be great, either way it turns out.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Update: An even more detailed look at the Divisional Round with an accompanying Preview Podcast now in the blog section.

      http://footballpros.com/entry.php/229-Manning-Up
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      The interesting facet to the divisional games every year is if there will be any visible rust by the top seeds due to the week off. As Rich mentioned, home teams win in this round just over 75% of the time. However, dating back to 2005, there have been at least 2 road teams pulling off the upset in this round in 5 of 7 seasons, including 2008, which featured 3 road teams (Baltimore, Arizona, Philadelphia) all winning their contests. In total, road teams are a respectable 13-15 over that 7 year stretch.

      Chalk Picks

      On paper, the Denver-Baltimore game seems to be the least fascinating of the 4 games. I fully expect this to be a defensive struggle. Denver was tied for the top spot in fewest yards per play, and finished 2nd in yards allowed per rush. To close the season, the Denver defense was arguably the most dominating defense in all of football. Baltimore meanwhile saw their defense improve greatly down the stretch. Both Denver and Baltimore were 2 of the 5 most difficult teams on opposing QBs over the last 5 games. But while Baltimore's run defense improved late, it's still the squeakiest wheel that will likely be exploited in this game. As was mentioned above, Peyton Manning is nearly as good in the cold weather during the regular season as he is in a controlled climate. But during the postseason, his numbers drop dramatically. Whether that means he's a poor cold-weather QB, or just tends to lay an egg in the playoffs is up to one's own interpretation, but it's tough to argue with a 6/9 TD/INT ratio in 9 road playoff games. Especially for a guy who otherwise averages nearly 2 TD passes per game throughout his career. I like Denver to take a low-scoring affair, controlling the ball with a solid ground attack, and just enough game-management from Manning, who will be smart enough to understand his own limitations. Denver 17 Baltimore 6

      I love everything about the 49ers-Packers game. SF almost seemed bored at the end of the year. Perhaps the Seattle game was their wakeup call. And I'm not sure why, but I'm not sold on GB this year. They seem to be a bit inconsistent. I feel like SF will be able to bully the GB defense with Frank Gore, opening additional lanes for Kaepernick, and letting SF control when they take their shots to Crabtree, Davis, and their one shot with Moss. I think DuJuan Harris is the biggest key to this game. If he can give GB a consistent threat on the ground, and allow them to not have to be one-dimensional, then GB probably wins. However, I think SF limits GB's rush attack, and wins this game. San Francisco 27 Green Bay 20


      ATD-

      Seattle is the trendy pick, and rightly so. But Wilson is still a rookie QB on a that did struggle on the road this year. Plus, Atlanta gets the rare opportunity to invoke the "nobody believes in us" card as the 1 seed at home. Honestly, I have no idea how a porous ATL run defense shuts down Marshawn Lynch, but I have a feeling they find a way to get a big play out of Julio Jones, make a couple of plays defensively, and pull away late. Atlanta 27 Seattle 17

      Houston isn't as bad as they showed vs. NE or GB this year. The last game with NE got out of hand early, but Houston was able to move the ball on NE. After NE's first TD, Houston drove down the field until Schaub threw a bad INT in the end zone. NE followed with a long TD to Brandon Lloyd, and the rout was on. Houston will be highly motivated, as is already evidenced by Arian Foster's twitter feed. I feel like Watt will be able to disrupt Brady, and I'm not sure NE will have an answer for Foster. Plus, I'm seeing a gigantic game from Andre Johnson. *Upset Special* Houston 31 New England 27
    1. Pruitt's Avatar
      Good work Wax! Love the fact that the Guardian's NFL writer uses stats as ridiculously as an American writer!

      "Here's a fact. Now here's a fact that explains why the previously stated fact may be meaningless."

      Guy should work with Aaron Schatz...

      I'm not alone in smelling potential beatdowns in the AFC and two epics in the NFC.

      Get set for the Broncos/Patriots and Packers in Atlanta next week.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
      I'm not alone in smelling potential beatdowns in the AFC and two epics in the NFC.

      Get set for the Broncos/Patriots and Packers in Atlanta next week.
      For me, the toughest game to pick is Packers-SF. All the others, I feel pretty confident about. I've opted for 49ers because neither team seems to be in peak form and I think the home field will decide it. I took 49ers in my playoff survivor for the NFC because I want to save Atlanta. Always a risky way to go about a survivor pool.
    1. Amy's Avatar
      Wow, I'm the only person who picked the Ravens? Really, no one else thinks that a team that was missing 8 starters the last time they played Denver can't upset a Broncos team who has played 1, maybe 2, quality opponents in 3 months?

      Now, more than before, I really hope the Ravens win!
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Amy View Post
      Wow, I'm the only person who picked the Ravens? Really, no one else thinks that a team that was missing 8 starters the last time they played Denver can't upset a Broncos team who has played 1, maybe 2, quality opponents in 3 months?

      Now, more than before, I really hope the Ravens win!
      Looks like your wish may be granted!
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Well, I switched my survivor pick to Green Bay. (I had the NFC, so could wait until kickoff.)
    1. Amy's Avatar
      YAY Ravens!

      I screamed more in this game then for any Pats game this year.

      What a game, instant classic.

      Double OT. Amazing plays on both teams. Just incredible.

      Oh, and I guess Denver won't win the Super Bowl this year. So sorry to all the talking heads who crowned them in November.
    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Amy View Post
      Wow, I'm the only person who picked the Ravens? Really, no one else thinks that a team that was missing 8 starters the last time they played Denver can't upset a Broncos team who has played 1, maybe 2, quality opponents in 3 months?

      Now, more than before, I really hope the Ravens win!
      I didn't think the ravens couldn't upset the Broncos, but in my picks I go with logic. Hottest team in the AFC vs the coldest team in the AFC pre playoffs. Broncos were better on both offense and defense, plus they had homefield. Logical to make that pick.

      However, my gut and emotions told me the Broncos were going to lose, and lose because of manning. It's why I picked the ravens in my upset special. Manning was exactly what I believed he was..

      Now if the pats win vs the Texans it sets up a pats vs ravens afcg. The ravens are patriot kryptonite, especially in the playoffs, especially at Gillette...

      The pats will be favored, but im likely to go with my gut again.. add in some extra special ray ray retirement magic, and it makes me picking the upset quite likely, just not necessarily in the council picks
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      I have to say that I'm amazed at the transformation in Baltimore's defense. I thought a gimpy Suggs and Lewis wouldn't help them much. I was wrong as wrong can be. Even when it was gassed the defense played well.
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by wxwax View Post
      I have to say that I'm amazed at the transformation in Baltimore's defense. I thought a gimpy Suggs and Lewis wouldn't help them much. I was wrong as wrong can be. Even when it was gassed the defense played well.
      they gave up 35 points, no?
    1. KabaModernFan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Bengals1181 View Post
      they gave up 35 points, no?
      No. They gave up 21 points.
    1. KabaModernFan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by wxwax View Post
      I have to say that I'm amazed at the transformation in Baltimore's defense. I thought a gimpy Suggs and Lewis wouldn't help them much. I was wrong as wrong can be. Even when it was gassed the defense played well.
      A lot of players turned their seasons around during the second half of the season on the defense. Paul Kruger is the best example; a lot of people really don't realize that he was a liability on defense throughout the first half of the year. But also Cary Williams, Dannell Ellerbe, and Arthur Jones had noticeable improvement in their play. Jimmy Smith's injury was really a blessing in disguise as it put Corey Graham into the starting lineup and he's been great. Pernell McPhee returning from his injury also really helped.
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by KabaModernFan View Post
      No. They gave up 21 points.
      thanks. I didn't watch most of the game so didn't want to assume all 35 were from them.
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      kaba, what's your thoughts on the future of Boldin as far as being a cap casualty? Some Bengals fans are interested in maybe bringing him in for a year while guys like Sanu and Jones mature.
    1. KabaModernFan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Bengals1181 View Post
      thanks. I didn't watch most of the game so didn't want to assume all 35 were from them.
      No problem. The other two touchdowns were the ones scored on kick returns by Holliday.