• Wagers & Lagers: 2014 Wild Card Round


    This week, Team W&L is going to pick all four games along with, for the first time, all four over/unders. This should be interesting. We have an intra-division rivalry game, a losing team against a team starting its third string quarterback, the freaking Lions inept offense stomping into big D, and a Bengals team hell-bent on revenge at Lucas Oil Stadium. Time to make fools of ourselves.

    Arizona @ Carolina (-5.5), o/u 38

    RG: I hate this line. Simply put, though, I cannot trust a bad quarterback on the road in the playoffs. The ATS stats do not support my pick here. The Panthers didn't even cover in two of their final four wins they needed to reach the playoffs. Arizona was 11-5 ATS overall, the best mark in the NFL. Stanton is likely to be out for this game after missing Wednesday's practice. I think some fluke things are likely to happen when two defenses face somewhat suspect offenses (Arizona's stinks and we never really know what Carolina will give), so I expect some turnovers, a weird score of some sort and a close game before the Panthers put it away. If you can get the Cardinals at +6, take it. Pick: Panthers, Over

    PS: It is hard to accept the Panthers as five and a half point favorites considering how stout the Cardinals' defense has been. Perhaps this is something of a mirage, though. PFF grades the Cards' D out at (-21.2) which is just 22nd in the league. Screw it. The wiseguys are far better at this than me. Pick: Panthers, Over

    MK: The Panthers have gotten hot mostly by playing wretched teams--or at least teams that are performing that way--down the stretch, and unfortunately that is exactly how Arizona looks right in the opening game of this season's playoffs. The Cardinals, despite this stretch, still have the fifth ranked scoring defense in the league. I have major questions about Carolina's receivers' ability to get open that secondary, and while Jonathan Stewart's return has been a boon for the Panthers' rushing attack, this is an excellent defense against the run. Something just feels off about this game to me, as way too many people are all over a seven-win team, Ryan Lindley or not. Pick: Cardinals, Under

    Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-3), over/under 46.5

    RG: The Ravens offense will be trying to find a way to keep up with the Steeler passing game that now supports the #1 offense in the league. The concerning thing that prior history points to a close game. Seven of 11 games have been decided by a field goal or less between these squads. The loss of Le'Veon Bell looms large and Joe Flacco has played well in big games before. If I was really betting this, I would stay away from the line and go for an over/under pick. Pick: Steelers, Under

    PS: Same here, Rich. The Ravens team that showed up in the second half last week might be able to score some against a Steelers defense that is shockingly mediocre. The Ravens, on the other hand, have Pro Football Focus' second overall ranked defense and its best pass rush grade (+65.5). They should be able to harass Big Ben and maybe force a couple turnovers. Pick: Ravens, Under

    MK: I'm not so sure, Pat. The Ravens lost to Case Keenum and were one bad break away from losing to Connor Shaw. I don't see them suddenly coming up huge against Roethlisberger at Heinz Field at night. If there was a dangling half-point here, I'd be worried, but there isn't and I'm not. Pick: Steelers, Under

    Cincinnati @ Indianapolis (-4), o/u 49

    RG: I think the Colts are vulnerable at home. The Colts pass rush has not been as impressive in the second half of the season. I can't ignore Andy Dalton's history or the fact that the Colts were 10-5-1 ATS during the season, but I like 4 points a lot more than 3 points in this game. I think the Bengals are a better team and could win outright, so you also take the points in that spot. Pick: Bengals, Under

    PS: The Bengals have been running the ball much more effectively since the ass-whooping they took at the hands of the Colts in week seven. I think that makes a huge difference as they can play ball control offense and keep Andrew Luck on the sidelines. I do have concerns about A.J. Green. As of this writing Green has not practiced all week and is still under the thumb of the NFL's concussion protocol. If Green does not get the OK to play, this pick may change. Pick: Bengals, Under

    MK: For all the talk about how the Colts may be vulnerable, they haven't lost to a team that's won fewer than ten games all season. I get that those are the teams you run into in the playoffs. Remember when the Colts shut out the Bengals 27-0 during the regular season, though? Pick: Colts, Under

    Detroit @ Dallas (-7.5), o/u 48.5

    RG: That extra half point is a jerk. A jerky jerk jerk. If Biggie met that half point, I would tell him to punch it instead of Jim Harbaugh (inside joke, folks, pay no mind). I have seen this at seven in places, but we go with the most common Monday/Tuesday lines, so this game might be easier to pick if you waited until now before deciding who you like. Personally, I hate the Lions offense more than I hate the Cowboys defense. I am showing a lot of trust in the Cowboys offense, though. They may have the best offensive line in the playoffs. Pick: Cowboys, Over

    PS: I am interested to see how well this Lions defense travels in a big game. I am not interested to see how poorly the offense does not. Pick: Cowboys, Under

    MK: The second-ranked rushing offense in the league meets the top-ranked rushing defense in the wild card round. In fact, Detroit only surrendered over 100 yards rushing last week for the second this season last week against Green Bay. We all hate the Lions' offense, though, and specifically the running game, which is among the worst in football. Dallas is exceedingly likely to control the clock, and we all know that time of possession is a worthless statistic until you run into one of those games where you've only had the ball for about eighteen minutes and had to kick a few field goals. Pick: Cowboys, Over

    Beer


    Founders Brewing Company Dark Penance Black Ale is a thing of beauty. Dark, hoppy and a little sweet thanks to a nice blend of Chinook and Centennial hops. This brew is not easy to find. So when you come across it, buy it.

    Gametime Grub

    MK: Two weeks ago, I gave you all a fairly ornate take on chili, so this week I'm going incredibly simple. Here's Black Pepper Crusted Pork in brown butter. Pork, and pork tenderloin especially, is an excellent and cost-effective way to feed a lot of people, so you;ll want to consider this one for a party, if you're going for something slightly better than chili or sliders. You may think I'm phoning this recipe in until you make it. This one, believe it or not based on how uncomplicated this looks, deserves a hat-tip to a couple of friends in New Orleans, so I'll do that now and say, 'Thanks, Alix and Sarah.' Here's what you need, though:

    1 Pork Tenderloin (or equivalent amount of pork chops--not sliced too thick)
    2+ tbsp Butter
    Kosher Salt
    Black Pepper

    First things first, season the pork. There's not a whole lot going on here, so it is absolutely imperative that you salt the pork very liberally--yes, all of it--and cover the meat in black pepper. (It doesn't have to fresh ground pepper as much as it should be black pepper.) You should know there's plenty of salt, but someone should look at the pork and say, 'Wow, that's kind of a lot of pepper.' Got it? Okay.

    Take a good, broad, flat pan--enamel, cast iron, stainless steel, it doesn't really matter--and place it on your biggest burner and crank the heat to medium/medium-high. Add your butter to the pan, and allow it to melt completely. (You may consider adding just a drop or two of olive oil to the pan. Olive oil burns at a much higher temperature than butter, and as this will cook at sustained, high heat for a bit, you may want to be careful about that.) As the butter melts, make sure the bottom of the pan is completely covered with it. Once the melted butter begins to form bubbles and starts to turn brown in the pan, add your pork to the pan, cooking it on each side for roughly four minutes each on top of the stove at medium-high. (For instance, a pork tenderloin here will usually four sides for our purposes. Chops two. This will give you a nice, moist, yet-still-adequately-cooked piece of meat. You can cook each side for five minutes each if that makes you more comfortable.)

    The most important thing while you're cooking, though, is not to touch the meat. I repeat: do not touch the bastard. Unless the pork somehow catches on fire--it shouldn't--don't touch it. Do not turn down the heat, either. (Turn on your vent if there's a little smoke.) Not screwing around with or moving your pork is the difference between a beautiful, brown, crunch of a crust and a drab, grey, limp and lifeless exterior. If you want to do this justice, leave the meat alone in the pan.

    Serve however you like. I've always had good results with roasted vegetables--carrot, onions, mushrooms with garlic and thyme is a good standby. Rice or potatoes will do, if you like a starch. It does not require it, but a pan sauce is easy to make, too, with the residual grease after a deglaze with red wine, some more butter, rosemary and thyme, more salt and pepper, and a bit of flour to thicken it and some fresh parsley to finish it.

    Or, for football party mode, you could also slice it thin and serve it on French bread with an aioli or a very good mayonnaise. The choices are all yours, as long as you don't touch it while it's in the pan.

    STANDINGS

    RG: Last Week: 4-4-0, Overall: 56-52-0
    PS: Last Week: 3-5-0, Overall: 50-58-0
    MK: Last Week: 2-6-0, Overall: 45-63-0

    Comments 20 Comments
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      I think I like this week. Two of the games are absolute crapshoots, and Steelers/Ravens is mostly a crapshoot, Pittsburgh is the better team but you just never know with AFC North teams.
      I agree that quite a few people are a little more impressed with the Panthers than they should be. They need big rushing days from JStew and Cam if they're going to win. Teams (except the Bucs) have been shutting down Olsen, and while Benjamin is a beast, he's still an inconsistent rookie beast. Take away Olsen and you've pretty much shut down the Panthers' passing attack.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      So the NFL Playoffs are making their cable debut today on ESPN with the broadcast being done by Tirico & Gruden.
    1. Curtis's Avatar
      Happy new year to you all. I realized I haven't been here since September. It's been a goofy season for the NFL and a busy time for me. The wife and I put our house on the market and moved from Kansas City to Los Angeles just after Thanksgiving. We are currently in Vegas getting ready to board our flight to Pitt, taking in the game with the posse. Go Ravens.

      Anyway, enjoy your games. And please let the Lions beat the piss out of the Cowpukes. That is all.
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      still weird to see NFL playoffs on cable. doesn't seem right.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Bengals1181 View Post
      still weird to see NFL playoffs on cable. doesn't seem right.
      I assume the game is getting picked up by a FOX affiliate in the Phoenix and Charlotte markets, but I'm generally of the opinion that no one should have to own cable to watch the playoffs when the field of teams is as small as it is in pro football. (I would say the same thing about baseball, which made the partial transition to cable long ago. I'm also annoyed that ESPN has taken over for ABC in broadcasting the most important of the bowl games in college football. I understand I'm a Luddite and that's okay.)
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      AJ Green officially out. Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert been out. Gresham questionable. Top 4 receiving threats coming into the season.


      We're about to see if Andy Dalton, Jeremy Hill, Gio Bernard, Mo Sanu and....Greg Little can beat the Colts.


      Hold on to your hats.


      It's really time that Bo Jackson lets go of the grudge.
    1. Nancy's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Bengals1181 View Post
      AJ Green officially out. Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert been out. Gresham questionable. Top 4 receiving threats coming into the season.


      We're about to see if Andy Dalton, Jeremy Hill, Gio Bernard, Mo Sanu and....Greg Little can beat the Colts.


      Hold on to your hats.


      It's really time that Bo Jackson lets go of the grudge.
      I may be crazy, but I think Hill and Bernard run, Sanu picks up the slack and the Bengals win, because the Colts can't run and they can't protect Luck. If the Bengals hold on to the ball and limit the big passes to Hilton, they'll be fine.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      We all got dinged on that safety.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Damn if those wiseguys ain't good at pegging the total.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      If these expert picks are at all indicative of national trends, Vegas cleaned up on Steeler Nation. Ouch.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Our Day One:
      Biggie: 3-1
      Me: 2-2
      Matt: 0-4
    1. Bengals1181's Avatar
      congrats to the Ravens. I really thought the Steelers would abuse their secondary.
    1. Amy's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Bengals1181 View Post
      congrats to the Ravens. I really thought the Steelers would abuse their secondary.
      I did, too.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      My ATS picks this season have been terrible, but trust me, that pork is solid.
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Matt Kocsan View Post
      My ATS picks this season have been terrible, but trust me, that pork is solid.
      I bet it is. BTW, if pork is not your thing, sub in a good beef roast.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Sullivan View Post
      I bet it is. BTW, if pork is not your thing, sub in a good beef roast.
      Yes, this works very, very well with a steak, too. You should cook it less, though.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Me: 3-5, 59-57
      PS: 5-3, 55-61
      MK: 2-6, 47-69
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      For the WC round:

      PS: 5-3-0 (a damn safety away from going 4-0 on the totals)
      RG: 3-5-0
      MK: 2-6-0
    1. Patrick Sullivan's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Rich Gapinski View Post
      Me: 3-5, 59-57
      PS: 5-3, 55-61
      MK: 2-6, 47-69
      Beat me to it, Rich.
    1. Matt Kocsan's Avatar
      I am just so bad at this now.