2012 NFL Playoff picks – AFC Championship game

Baltimore Ravens (12-6) @ New England Patriots (13-4), Sunday 6:30 PM (ET)

BAL@NE

Prediction 

Just like last season, it will happen again this season, the Patriots and the Ravens battling out for the right to represent AFC Champion in this year’s Super Bowl. And just like last season it will be New England with a home-field advantage. In the case of the Patriots home field is truly a big advantage in the playoffs as they hold the best record with 14 wins and only 3 losses. The Ravens on other hand hold the best record for road playoff games, they are 8-5 on the road and they already beat the Patriots this season in a game played in Baltimore. This will be only the third time both teams meet in a playoff game and I think it will be close as have been the last few games including last season’s Championship game. With lots of momentum I think the Ravens have a chance against Patriots as long as their QB Joe Flacco can play at a level he’s been playing lately. I anticipate close game, this time with different outcome, Ravens win and advance to the big game.

Pick: Ravens 30-27, Result: Ravens 28-13
Against The Spread: Ravens (+7.5)
Over/Under: Over 51.5




 


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2012 NFL Playoff picks – NFC Championship game

Only four teams left with a chance to advance to this year’s Super Bowl, 3 of those teams are the same as last year but only the New England Patriots have a chance to repeat Super Bowl appearance. Last season we saw close games decided in last seconds of regulation and overtime as has been the case in NFC championship game, let’s hope for another exciting Conference Championship weekend. First, here is my pick for NFC Championship game.

San Francisco 49ers (12-4-1) @ Atlanta Falcons (14-3), Sunday 3:00 PM (ET)

SF@ATL

Prediction 

The Falcons finally won a playoff game in Matt Ryan era and have to feel pretty good about themselves going into Conference title game after they beat the hottest team in the NFL – Seattle Seahawks. The last time the Falcons played in NFC Championship game was back in 1998 when they beat Minnesota on the road in a game decided in overtime. For San Francisco this will be second consecutive Championship game, last season the 49ers lost the game against the Giants also decided in overtime. On paper the 49ers match well against Falcons team who had problems running the ball and stopping opposing ground attack. So look for the 49ers to try to exploit Atlanta’s run defense early on in the game. It is crucial for San Francisco not to fall behind early if they want to have any success against the home team. Atlanta on other hand will look to attack the 49ers through the air and I can see Falcons having success against 49ers secondary especially if defensive line doesn’t step up and pressure QB Matt Ryan. With the latest distraction surrounding WR Michael Crabtree the 49ers have a tough task ahead, but still I think this time it will be their offense who will come up with solid performance and lead this team to Super Bowl.

Pick: 49ers 26-24, Result: 49ers 28-24
Against The Spread: Falcons (+3.5)
Over/Under: Over 48.5




 


2012 NFL Playoff picks – Divisional Playoffs, Sunday games

The two games that have already played out on Saturday proved yet again that the best and most exciting football is played in Divisional playoff round. On Saturday the Ravens beat the Broncos in double overtime and the 49ers beat the Packers to advance to Conference Championship games. I went 1-1 with  Saturday Divisional playoff picks, here are my picks for 2 Sunday Divisional round games.

Seattle Seahawks (12-5) @ Atlanta Falcons (13-3), Sunday 1:00 PM (ET)

SEA@ATL

Prediction 

This is supposed to be a great matchup between physical Seahawks’ secondary going against one of the best air attack in the league. Seattle is playing great on defense in general and I think they’ll be able to limit Atlanta’s passing game especially if they can stuff their running game early on in the game. For Atlanta on other hand it will be even more crucial to stop Seattle’s ground game, not only Seattle’s running backs but also rookie quarterback Russell Wilson who can make plays on the ground. Atlanta had plenty of time to prepare for dangerous Seattle team and the Falcons have an important home-field advantage in a game that will be played at 1 PM Eastern Time. The last two Seattle losses were against Detroit and Miami and both games were early games played on East Coast. This is a second consecutive trip to East Coast for Seattle Seahawks and I think they won’t be able to overcome that even tough I expect another solid performance from their defensive unit.

Pick: Falcons 24-23, Result: Falcons 30-28
Against The Spread: Seahawks (+2.5)
Over/Under: Over 45.5




Houston Texans (13-4) @ New England Patriots (12-4), Sunday 4:30 PM (ET)

HOU@NE

Prediction 

This is a rematch from regular season game in which the Patriots beat up the Texans 42-14. I expect it to be much closer battle than it was in Week 14 on Monday Night when nothing seemed to go Texans’ way and I think Houston will be hungry to revenge regular season loss and will be difficult to beat. With a couple of late season losses Texans lost the right to host this playoff game which could end up being a big disadvantage. With Tom Brady at quarterback the Patriots are 10-2 when playing at home and will look to improve on that record. Like I said I anticipate much closer game but I’m going with New England to win this one at home and advance to AFC championship game for the second year in a row.

Pick: Patriots 27-21, Result: Patriots 41-28
Against The Spread: Texans (+9.5)
Over/Under: Under 48.5

2012 NFL Playoff picks – Divisional Playoffs, Saturday games

After Wild Card weekend there are only 8 teams left in the hunt for Lombardy trophy, 4 of those teams will advance to next Sunday’s Conference Championship games. First, here are my picks for Saturday Divisional Playoffs games.

Baltimore Ravens (11-6) @ Denver Broncos (13-3), Saturday 4:30 PM (ET)

BAL@DEN

Prediction 

The last time this two teams met it was Week 13 of 2012 regular season. The Broncos led 31-3 at the end of 3rd quarter and easily won the game played in Baltimore with final score 34-17. This time the game will be played in Denver and the Broncos should have no problem advancing to the AFC Championship game next Sunday. But this is a playoff game, divisional round and chances are there will be an upset in one of 4 games this weekend. Somehow I’m not comfortable with picking against the Broncos who will have to face the Ravens led by QB Joe Flacco. Flacco had it rough all season when playing on the road and Broncos’ defense will probably make it even harder for him than the last time they played them Week 13 of the regular season in which Flacco completed only 50% of his passes. Again, I can’t see how could Flacco outplay QB Peyton Manning’s offense who scored an average of 33 points in the last 5 regular season games. True, it happen against not so good opponents but I think that Denver will find ways to score enough points on the Ravens and advance to AFC championship game.

Pick: Broncos 26-20, Result: Ravens 38-35 (2OT)
Against The Spread: Ravens (+9.5)
Over/Under: Over 45.5




Green Bay Packers (12-5) @ San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1), Saturday 8:00 PM (ET)

GB@SF

Prediction 

Just like Denver and Baltimore this two NFC rivals also played during regular season, but a lot has changed since Week 1. This time San Francisco will try to beat the Packers with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback and with injured DT Justin Smith. The Packers come to San Francisco healthier and with more balance on offense compared to earlier part of the season. If the 49ers want to beat the Packers they’ll again have to shut down opponent’s running game and force QB Aaron Rodgers to make mistakes. When on offense, the Niners will try to run the ball as much as possible in order to keep Rodgers off the field. Even without Justin Smith at full strength, I believe 49ers D-line can make Packers’ offense a bit more one-dimensional. It will be difficult for 49ers to win this game, but it’s playoff time and I have no intention to pick against San Francisco as they face their toughest challenge so far in this season.

Pick: 49ers 28-26, Result: 49ers 45-31
Against The Spread: Packers (+3.5)
Over/Under: Over 45.5

2012 NFL Playoff picks – Wild Card Weekend, Sunday games

Once again home-field proved to be big advantage in Wild Card playoff round, in first two Wild Card games played on Saturday Texans beat the Bengals and Packers beat the Vikings to advance to the Divisional playoff round. I went 2-0 with Saturday Wild Card picks, here are my picks for 2 Sunday Wild card games.

Indianapolis Colts (11-5) @ Baltimore Ravens (10-6), Sunday 1:00 PM (ET)

IND@BAL

Prediction 

No offence to all Colts fans out there, but 2012 Colts have to be one of the worst if not the worst 11-5 team in NFL history. Those 11 wins mostly came against below average competition. The Colts did won 3 times against teams with winning record, but all those wins were at home including a win against the Texans in the last week of the regular season. The Colts will need some kind of miracle similar to the one Denver Broncos generated in last season’s Wild Card overtime win over Pittsburgh Steelers. Remember, no one gave any chance to the Broncos last year, but they somehow managed to win the game. Anything can happen, but I think the Ravens will take advantage of home-crowd atmosphere and will be too much for the Colts. Baltimore went only 1-4 in its last 5 but 3 of those 5 teams were playoff teams. Indianapolis Colts were flying high all season on emotions but it seems the Ravens will out-emotion them this week as LB Ray Lewis returns in the lineup from injury after he announced he plans to retire at the end of this season.

Pick: Ravens 30-23, Result: Ravens 24-9
Against The Spread: Ravens (-6.5)
Over/Under: Over 46.5




Seattle Seahawks (11-5) @ Washington Redskins (10-6), Sunday 4:30 PM (ET)

SEA@WAS

Prediction 

This are two very similar teams, offensively that is. With rookies at quarterback, Seahawks and Redskins were 2 most run-heavy teams in the NFL during regular season. Seahawks ran the ball 55% of their all offensive snaps, Redskins with 51% also went against the flow. So both teams don’t ask a lot from their quarterbacks, at least not with their pass attack. The team that can stop opponent’s running game and make them pass more will probably win this game and I like the Seahawks defense more in this matchup. Of course things can go different way with a couple of great plays from special teams, but here too I think that the Seahawks are in better position to receive the necessary spark from the special team unit. Out of all 4 Wild Card games I really can’t wait to see this battle between Seahawks and Redskins. The Redskins are at home and Seahawks had to make cross-country trip but their level of play has been great lately and I think they will come out of this battle victorious.

Pick: Seahawks 24-17, Result: Seahawks 24-14
Against The Spread: Seahawks (-3.5)
Over/Under: Under 46.5

2012 NFL Playoff picks – Wild Card Weekend, Saturday games

Regular season concluded with a final Week 17 in the NFL. With a 13-3 record last week I went 167-88-1 for the season, which is a bit of a drop-off compared to last season when I correctly picked 169 winners (66%).
Now it’s time for the playoffs and once again I’ll try to correctly pick as many games as possible, that would be 11, Super Bowl included.
Postseason is a completely different season and to be able to play a playoff game at home is an important advantage. For example, last season home teams won 8 out of 10 playoff games. Of course that doesn’t mean it will happen again this season, but it is something worth considering when picking postseason NFL games. First on the menu are 4 Wild Card playoff games, here are my picks for 2 Saturday Wild card games.

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) @ Houston Texans (12-4), Saturday 4:30 PM (ET)

CIN@HOUPrediction 

With a late season meltdown Houston Texans lost the No.1 seed and now have to host Wild Card playoff game and for second consecutive season it will be against Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals seem to be in better shape finishing with a 4-1 record in their last 5 games, but in those 5 games the Bengals played only once against playoff team, and it was against the Ravens last week in a meaningless game. The Texans on other hand went 2-3 in their last 5, but it was against much tougher competition. Their last 5 opponents finished the regular season with a combined 50-30 record with 4 of those 5 teams making the playoffs. I think it will be difficult for both Bengals and Texans to score points in this game as both teams play much better on defense. Texans QB Matt Schaub has yet to experience a playoff game, but he’ll have home crowd to support him. Bengals QB Andy Dalton had a solid second year as a pro but didn’t play good in his last few road games and he probably doesn’t want to remember his last playoff performance against the Texans.  Difficult to decide but I’m leaning towards the Texans to beat the Bengals who will yet again fail to win their first road playoff game ever.

Pick: Texans 23-20, Result: Texans 19-13
Against The Spread: Bengals (+4.5)
Over/Under: Under 43.5




Minnesota Vikings (10-6) @ Green Bay Packers (11-5), Saturday 8:00 PM (ET)

MIN@GBPrediction 

It happened before that teams who played in the last week of regular season had to play against each other in a Wild Card playoff game the following week. The Vikings – Packers game will be the 13th such rematch since 1990, when NFL introduced 12-team playoff format. And based on previous 12 such games the Vikings have little chances as home teams went 10-2 in those games. RB Adrian Peterson will probably have another great game, but I don’t think the Vikings as a team can duplicate their Week 17 performance.  It’s QB Christian Ponder who will have to perform as good as he did the last week in Minneapolis and chances are he won’t this time around in a hostile environment. If the Packers can find just a little bit of a running game to support Rodgers’ pass attack than the Pack should have no problem earning a trip to San Francisco for a Divisional Playoff clash.

Pick: Packers 27-17, Result: Packers 24-10
Against The Spread: Packers (-7.5)
Over/Under: Under 46.5

2012 Final Quality Standings

Quality Standings are standings based on games teams played only against opponents with winning record. At the end of the season we have 14 teams with winning records, 8 in the NFC and 6 in the AFC. Here’s a list of all 14 teams who finished regular season with a winning record,

Denver Broncos (13-3), Atlanta Falcons (13-3), New England Patriots (12-4), Houston Texans (12-4), San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1), Green Bay Packers (11-5), Seattle Seahawks (11-5), Indianapolis Colts (11-5), Baltimore Ravens (10-6), Washington Redskins (10-6), Cincinnati Bengals (10-6), Minnesota Vikings (10-6), Chicago Bears (10-6), New York Giants (9-7),

and the table with Quality Standings sorted by conference and winning record (teams who made the playoffs are in bold):

A few observations from the Quality Standings above:

– Tennessee, Kansas City, Buffalo and Oakland are teams without a win against teams with winning record
– Seattle has the most wins against ‘quality’ teams (5)
– Atlanta has the best record (3-0), but they’ve also played the fewest games against ‘quality’ teams (3)
– Detroit has played the most games against teams with winning record (11).