What a great time to go 0-4, huh?
And I felt like I was going 4-0. I’m gonna warn you all dear readers, especially those who have wagered the occasional nickle on The Liver’s picks, this week has the potential to be another 4-0 or 0-4.
The Liver has been, for a wide variety of reasons, SERIOUSLY distracted over this past week and has not been able to put the kind of time or thought process into handicapping these games as he has for the majority of this past season.
Severe, embarrassing cash shortages; binge drinking; reprehensible, soul-crushing, panic attack-inducing day jobs that could turn Gandhi and John Lennon into drooling serial killers; late night, drunken viewings of “Heat” where I sob at the sight of Pacino and DeNiro holding hands at the end (YIKES ); and hypnotic women that have you questioning EVERYTHING can do that to a man.
I feel like Eddie Felson talking to Vincent in The Color of Money where after Vincent just has to show off and beat Moselle he tells him "You got me talking to myself. Half of me says I got a hold of the best thing I ever seen. Half of me says it ain't worth it." Only I'm NOT talking to or about another man, thank Christ .
Best image of last weekend: Watching the Cowboys and Eagles walk off The Death Star field at halftime and knowing that the game and the drought were both over. Or was that the weekend before?
Most terrifying image of last weekend: George W. Bush and Emmitt Smith hanging out in Jerry’s box at the game. Can’t imagine the level of sheer jaw-dropping stupidity and poor grammar that went on in that conversation. Makes me shudder just thinking of it.
After seeing the line on Cardinals/Packers go from Cardinals -2 ½ Monday when the game opened to Packers -3 before kickoff Sunday, now do you understand why I hate making these picks on Fridays?
I would’ve JUMPED on Arizona at plus 3 at home. If The Liver lived in Vegas, as good as his record was this year, he would’ve won at LEAST 20 more games.
Keep this in mind dear readers, this is the round where people tend to overestimate the teams that looked good in the wild card round so there are actually some good deals, spread-wise here, unlike last week where there were no good deals.
Maybe that was another reason why that weekend sucked.
Of course it goes without saying that the following picks AGAINST THE SPREAD are for RECREATIONAL USE ONLY . Only Rick Pitino, LeGarrette Blount, Donte’ Stallworth, Braylon Edwards, Bob Griese, Miguel Cabrera, Tila Tequila, Bill Belichick, Steve Phillips, Travis Henry, Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, Tony Romo, Elizabeth Lambert, Mariah Carey, Tiger Woods, Richard Heene (a.k.a. Balloon Boy’s father), the Liver’s biological father (a.k.a. The Most Interesting Man in the World), and all Somali Pirates would be drunk enough to question the Esteemed Liver's picks.
Last week’s record: 0-4
2009 record against the spread (regular season and playoffs): 143-110-7 (.565)
Saturday, Jan. 16
Arizona at New Orleans (-7)
Offense anyone? Sugar, Mr. Poon? The Liver would like to thank both the Packers and Cardinals for providing what was clearly the best game of the wild card weekend.
Kurt Warner was just magnificent in that game and, if the offensive line can protect him, should be able to if not duplicate his wild card performance, at least come close.
Beanie Wells gives the Cardinals something they didn’t have last year during their playoff run: a legitimate running game. The Saints weakness on defense is against the run. Can the Cardinals throw at will on the Saints secondary?
The Cardinals are actually a better road team (6-2) this year than they were at home.
The Saints were rocking and rolling at 13-0 and then there was that game against…oh…DAMMIT …I forgot. Still, they did have the best offense in the NFL and an opportunistic defense.
Two things I think will decide this. Number one is the first quarter. New Orleans hasn’t really been on their game since the Cowboys went into New Orleans and beat them in Week 15. If they get off to a hot start, this game could be over early.
Red zone defense will also be key here. Both teams can put up points and it will be the defense that can hold the other offense to field goals that will win. Ultimately, this is the biggest toss-up of the weekend.
This was one of the bigger back and forth picks for me but, ultimately I think that’s too high of a line for New Orleans given the way they finished the season. Pick: Arizona
Baltimore at Indianapolis (-6 ½)
Another game that upon first viewing, I thought I had down cold but after taking another look at it, I changed my mind. Got...to...unleash my Gordon Gekko moment..."Because it's wreckable all right?"
Joe Flacco didn’t look good (4-for-10 for 34 yards and 1 INT) but then again, when your defense is making plays the way Baltimore’s did against the Patriots and your running game produces 234 yards on 52 rushes, you can get away with that.
The Colts run defense, while it may not be as porous as some past Colts run defenses have been, has not been great.
The Ravens cannot win this game though without Flacco giving them SOMETHING and he hasn’t done that all year consistently. Yes, they beat the hell out of New England, but that was a Pats team that was CLEARLY overrated and beat up.
The Ravens have shown that the only team that can REALLY beat them is the Ravens. That comes in the forms of stupid penalties and dropped passes. They avoided both last week against the Patriots.
I think that with the domination of the Patriots last weekend, the Ravens have gained an immeasurable amount of confidence. Maybe too much confidence against a sliding Pats team. I think the Ravens are going to be overvalued here. Pick: Colts
Sunday, Jan. 17
Dallas at Minnesota (-3)
First of all, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank FOX for putting this game at 10 a.m. PST, which is the only time zone that matters to me right now. I’m sure that no one, especially The Liver, would’ve preferred to have had this game be the Saturday night game this weekend. Really appreciate ya, f***ing FOX.
Second, I would STAY AWAY from this game as a gambler. Too much love on Dallas right now and NO love for Minnesota, which scares me.
Third, let me get this out of my system: IT’S OVER . After 12 consecutive years of the Great Playoff Depression, losing the first playoff game they would play in five of those years and not even qualifying in the other seven, the Dallas Cowboys won a playoff game. I enjoyed it immensely Saturday night and even a little Sunday morning as I’m sure the players did. That’s where it should end.
No one needs to be puffing out their chest because of one playoff win against what turned out to be Fake Filthy Eagles. No, now there is another playoff monkey the Cowboys must get off their back although this one isn’t really talked about as much as THAT OTHER ONE that we don’t have to talk about anymore.
That would be the Cowboys’ 0-5 road playoff mark since beating San Francisco in the 1992 NFC title game (a.k.a. One of the Five Greatest NFL Playoff Games Ever Played). The Liver can always come up with these things.
It won’t be easy to break that against a Vikings team that was undefeated at home this season. This also scares The Liver as it should scare all Cowboys fans, that being Tony Romo, who has never looked better, might revert to the Tony Romo of past years in an attempt to out-hot dog his boyhood idol Brett Favre.
Also, the Vikings, unlike the Eagles, are a multi-dimensional team on offense. They can run it just as well as they can throw it.
The playoffs are all about hot teams and in the NFC, no team is hotter than Dallas. The Cowboys have won six of their last eight games and 10 of the past 13.
Meanwhile, the Vikings began the season 6-0 and won 10 of their first 11. Then they lost three of their final five games to if not limp in the playoffs, severely stumble like a drunken infant.
Over the past seven games, the Cowboys have 13 takeaways and just four giveaways. They have 15 sacks over the last four games.
Offensively in the past four games, the Cowboys have converted 50.8 percent of their third-down opportunities and 47.5 percent over the past six. Defensively, opponents have converted just 18.5 percent of their third downs in the past four games. Ware, Ratliff, and Spencer have been dominant over the last month now.
Then there’s the Cowboys consistent ability to run the ball over the past five games, averaging 147.6 yards a game and 4.6 a carry. Most important has been Felix Jones breaking out over the past five games, gaining 406 yards on 65 carries.
The Vikings are the only team left in the NFC that worries me, again the multi-dimensional offense, because the Cowboys have already shown that they can win in New Orleans. They have a great set of wide receivers that will be difficult to cover.
Dallas can give this Vikings team real trouble though. They can match the running game, the offensive line play, and QB play.
The Cowboys secondary has shown that they can match up with any receivers in the game and the defense can rush the passer as well as any team right now. The Vikings have had trouble on special teams coverage this season and that could be a deciding factor if Patrick Crayton or Felix Jones can break a big run.
Then again, the Cowboys field goal kicking unit ain’t exactly what you’d call stellar. Oh, one more thing that scares me: EVERYONE LOVES THE COWBOYS RIGHT NOW .
Special thanks to Eric the Lions fan for endangering his apartment for the third big game in 10 days for The Liver. I'm getting the defibrillator pads out for this one. Against the spread AND to win...Pick: America's Team
N.Y. Jets at San Diego (-9)
I thought I was set on the Chargers here, then after doing some research, I realized that this is the game the Jets wanted. The Jets can run the hell out of the ball, something the Chargers have not been able to stop.
The Chargers also have the worst run game of any team left in the playoffs meaning that they can’t exploit the only weakness on the Jets defense.
They live on the throw, which the Jets can take away. Then again Darrelle Revis can only guard ONE guy so maybe Vincent Jackson is a non-factor. Then again, Jackson has six inches on Revis. Who covers Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd?
Can the Jets throw against the Chargers secondary? This isn’t the Bengals here. The Jets have been preaching all week that they can’t turn the ball over. If they turn it over in the first quarter, does that mean game over? Are you really expecting Mark Sanchez to play well in TWO straight road playoff games?
I’m as sure of the Chargers here as Walter Sobchak was that The Big Lebowski could walk, man. Maybe that wasn’t such a confidence-inducing reference to use?
I must be on acid but I think the Jets can make this a game. I either just made Kim the Jets fan really happy or really terrified. Pick: N.Y. Jets