I went 9-6-1 last week to finish one game under .500 for the first time since 2001. I would have been at .500 even but for the Jason Taylor touchdown getting overturned, and the Jets driving down for a meaningless backdoor push. But I also benefitted from the Texans going for two even after a false start penalty that put them on the seven-yard line, something no team in its right mind would do down one point if it were actually concerned about winning the game.
In any event, the postseason is a new start, and it's also the best time to put money on the games because you can watch them undistracted by other ones going on at the same time.
Bengals +3 at Texans
My brother (who I'll go in with on a couple games this week) wanted me to take the Bengals because he thinks this is a 50/50 game, so why not take the points? He could be right, but the Texans won in Cincinnati, they have Andre Johnson back and they have one of the best run-blocking offenses in the game which is good for sealing the deal late. And for most of the year, they've had a good defense. The Bengals are stout defensively, but are missing their best cover corner, and Andy Dalton while terrific for a rookie, is still only average at best at the quarterback position, the one area where the Bengals have an advantage. Back Houston.
Texans 24 - 19
Lions +11 at Saints
The Lions are another team that cost me a winning record against the spread - how could they not cover against a Green Bay team that benched its MVP quarterback for the entire game? And if Matt Flynn was Dan Marino against them, what does that make Drew Brees in the Superdome? David Klingler vs. Arizona State? In any event, I'm going to take the points as the Saints aren't great defensively, and I don't love how they got cocky trying to set all those records down the stretch. Back the Lions who keep it close enough.
Saints 31 - 27
Falcons +3 at Giants
You might want to ignore this pick because I'm far too biased to see this game clearly. The Falcons are a team that annihilates weak opponents, especially at home, but has trouble beating anybody good, especially on the road. The Giants are alternatively a weak opponent, and also good, depending on their mood. But this game is in the Meadowlands, and the Giants defense has played well the last two games, thanks in large part to Justin Tuck and Michael Boley getting healthy and Osi Umenyiora coming back. Matt Ryan is less mobile than Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo, so if the Giants continue to generate that same pass rush, I'd expect a fair number of sacks. On the other side of the ball, Eli Manning's played at a Pro Bowl level all year, and the Falcons aren't likely to be able to stay with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Of course, when the Giants don't get to Ryan, Julio Jones can hurt them down the field, too. The bottom line, I think the Giants pass rush will do more to neutralize Ryan than the other way around. Back New York.
Giants 27 - 20
Steelers -8.5 at Broncos
While this might be the dullest game to watch, it's also the most interesting to handicap with a sizeable home dog facing a road favorite whose quarterback (and best player) is likely to be significantly hobbled with an ankle sprain. On the other side of the ball, you have the NFL's biggest story for six weeks, Tim Tebow, coming off two of the worst games turned in by a quarterback in the current millenium. And now Tebow gets the toughest defense he's faced all year. While I could see the Steelers putting an ungodly beating on the reeling Broncos, this is an awfully large line for a road team in the playoffs, especially with Roethlisberger possibly at less than 100 percent. I have to take Denver.
Steelers 17 - 13
We were 9-6-1 last week to put us at 124-125-7 on the season. From 1999-2010 we've gone 1565-1387 (53%, not including ties).