I knew my only shot at catching MDS in our 11-game postseason picks contest would be to take the upsets this weekend — and hope for two of the bigger conference-title-game upsets in recent history. But then I remembered that: (1) it’s still more important to get the picks right; and (2) I picked the Patriots and Seahawks to make it to the Super Bowl back in September.
So I stuck with the favorites, even though I knew MDS would.
Did I mention the reasoning simply for the ability to point out that I’d picked the Patriots and Seahawks to make it to the Super Bowl back in September? Perhaps.
Last week, MDS and yours truly both went 3-1 in the divisional round, and I should get extra credit for picking the Colts to beat the Broncos. (That mention definitely was gratuitous.)
Through two weeks of postseason play, MDS has gone 7-1, and I’m 5-3.
Packers at Seahawks
MDS’s take: The Seahawks are the best team in the NFL. They were the best team in the NFL a year ago, they were the best team in the NFL when they spanked the Packers in Week One, and they’re the best team in the NFL today.
So do the Packers have any chance? Sure. When you have the best quarterback in the NFL, as the Packers do, you always have a chance to put a lot of points on the board. I’m not going to say Aaron Rodgers can’t have a big game, I’m just saying that if there’s one defense that can shut Rodgers down, it’s Seattle’s.
And let’s not overlook Russell Wilson, who in last week’s win over Carolina had a passer rating of 149.2, the highest for any quarterback in a playoff game in the last five years. Even if Rodgers has a big game, the Seahawks’ offense might have a big game, too.
And so I’m taking Seattle, and taking Seattle comfortably. The best team in the NFL will return to the Super Bowl.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Packers 17.
Florio’s take: Way back in September, the Seahawks raised their first championship banner and then dismantled the Packers, winning by 20. This time around, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who chased the R-E-L-A-X moment with an M-V-P season) is playing on a pogo stick, thanks to an injured calf that has limited his uncanny mobility. While that could be balanced out by a willingness to throw at cornerback Richard Sherman’s side of the field (unlike the first time around), it can’t be enough to overcome one of the best defenses of the past generation in a place where it becomes harder and harder to win as the stakes get higher and higher.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 24, Packers 16.
Colts at Patriots
MDS’s take: Last week Andrew Luck took his first step toward establishing a changing of the guard in the AFC by dethroning Peyton Manning. Can Luck do it to Tom Brady this week?
I don’t think so. Luck is a phenomenal quarterback who may out-play Brady on Sunday, but the Colts just don’t have the personnel elsewhere to keep pace with the Patriots. The Patriots’ defense is much better than the Colts’ defense, and the Patriots’ offense can control a game on the ground if it has to, something that the Colts’ offense can’t do.
There may come a time in the near future when Luck has the Colts atop the AFC, but that time is not now. The Patriots will return to the Super Bowl.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Colts 17.
Florio’s take: Last week, the Patriots managed only 14 rushing yards against Baltimore. It’s a stark contrast from the 200-plus gained by previously (and since) unknown tailback Jonas Gray against the Colts in November. So what does it mean for the rematch against Indy? Probably more running. Probably from LeGarrette Blount, who has since the regular-season game against the Colts returned to the Patriots and who had 166 yards and four touchdowns against Indy in the postseason a year ago. While the chess match that routinely occurs during football games could prompt the Pats to flip the game plan to a pass-heavy attack, the safer approach will be to keep running the ball and running the ball and running the ball some more, until the Colts show they can stop the Patriots. With 367 yards and eight touchdowns from the team’s leading rushers in the last two meetings, there’s no reason for Bill Belichick and company to do anything differently.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 41, Colts 21.