Thursday, January 5, 2012
Here's the thing about which I'm most certain as we hit the playoffs.
The distance between the best teams (Packers/Saints/Steelers) and the next tier (Patriots/Ravens/New York) isn't as great as it is most years. Were New York or my Niners or Atlanta or Detroit to wind up with the chip, it would not shock. This is not the year to invest right now in, say, the Packers to win the whole thing.
That said - the team most likely to win the whole thing is the Packers. The next thing about which I'm most certain is that teams who have a first round bye are significantly more likely to win than teams that do not. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, when I do a pre tournament crapshoot, I pick the team that best maximizes my chances of being right.
If you want to do that, take Green Bay.
I'm not going to do that and not for a reason any better than I don't feel like doing it.
Who I'm tempted to take is New York. I'm not doing that either; they're more likely to lose to Atlanta than beat the Packers, but if I had ten dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I might look at +2000 for NY to win the title.
I'll do the full playoff picks in a minute, first, here are my Week One thoughts.
The game I like the most:
Houston -3 Cincinnati
-Houston was a significantly better team than the Bengals and the line doesn't reflect that. The Schaub injury matters but not as much as the public believes. This should be a 6 1/2 point line. I like this game a decent amount.(win/win)
Detroit +10.5 NO
-The Saints win the game, but this should be a 7.5 point line; the public (me included) is overly weighing recent Saints performance; Detroit's a good football team, they shouldn't be giving double digits to anyone.(loss/win)
New York -3 Atlanta
-I like the Giants as previously expressed; they're a couple points better than Atlanta and they're at home. I'd see this as a 4, 4.5 point game. If you're investing, do it now before the public bets this up a half point.(win/win)
Denver +9 Pittsburgh
-The Steelers are the best team in the AFC, Denver is easily the worst team in the playoffs, but with Ben hurting there's a real possibility of a 14-7 game here, maybe that 7 being a late Bronco touchdown. The line's moving up, if you're investing, wait until it gets to 10.(win/loss)
(Edit - Bill Barnwell at Grantland, who knows more about this than I do, is taking the Bengals, Falcons and Broncos straight up, so do with that knowledge what you will.)
So, here's where that would leave us.
New York at Green Bay
New Orleans at San Francisco
I'm almost certainly going to suggest taking the points in both of these games, but picking the favorites to win; Green Bay is better than New York, but, particularly if the Atlanta game is a 4 point back and forth game, the line should be more than the distance between the teams. The Saints are solidly better than my Niners, but with a home game and a week off, I'd like it to be tight.
New Orleans at Green Bay
People are looking for reasons not to take the Packers; I don't have a list of major prognostications, but my sense is that given the regular season record disparity between Green Bay (who looked like they were about to go undefeated a minute and a half ago) and everyone else that the number of people (like me) picking teams who aren't Green Bay is unusual.
That said - I'm taking the Saints. They're just as good as Green Bay so I'm picking them.
And watch out for New York.
Pittsburgh at New England
Houston at Baltimore
The Steelers are the best team in the AFC and I'm picking them to go to the Super Bowl. That said, picking New England here would make sense, Ben's hurt, New England is at home with a bye. I'm taking the Steelers but with no confidence.
I'll almost certainly argue to take the Texans and the points, they were just as good as Baltimore this season; it's only the bye week, the loss of Schaub, and home field advantage that moves me to take the Ravens at all. But I'll like Houston getting the points and if its a week from now and in this space you read me saying that Houston is headed to the AFC Championship game, don't be shocked.
The Steelers/Patriots winner is going to the Super Bowl and I picked Pittsburgh so there you go.
That means Saints/Steelers in Super Bowl (46? is it 46?). I'm taking Brees to win his second title.