I went 2-2 in what had to be the worst Wild Card weekend in NFL history. I had a Seattle feeling but scrapped it in favor of the value with the Redskins plus-3 at home, and I might have been right were it not for the RGIII injury, but we'll never know. And same with Green Bay laying 8.5 against the Vikings. I had the Pack, but who knows what that game would have been like with Christian Ponder under center instead of Joe Webb. It's always disappointing when the game answers a question no one was asking.
This week, I especially like the Niners at home laying the points. I'm most ambivalent about SEA-ATL.
Ravens +9.5 at Broncos
We've been calling the Ravens a fraud all year, and here they are in the final eight, having dispatched an equally fraudulent Indy team at home last week. This is where reality intervenes against a Denver squad that's better on both offense and defense and has a quarterback who will adjust quickly to whatever is thrown at him. The Ravens are an experienced bunch and are a good bet to keep their cool under big-game pressure, but Peyton Manning should whip his younger teammates into line and mitigate that disadvantage. Back the Broncos.
Broncos 34 - 17
Packers +3 at 49ers
The Packers beat a Vikings team with essentially a college-level QB, so not much can be gleaned from that while the Niners have a top-three NFL defense and an efficient offense with good balance and one of the league's best offensive lines. If Colin Kaepernick - who would have led the NFL in YPA had he played enough games to qualify - plays reasonably well, then Aaron Rodgers will have to play out of his mind to keep up. Rodgers is certainly capable of such a performance, but even for the all-time greats, the odds are against it. Back San Francisco at home.
49ers 27 - 20
Seahawks +2.5 at Falcons
As I wrote in the intro, I feel a bit cheated by RGIII's injury and the fact that the Seahawks never really had to pass a real test en route to Atlanta. The Falcons certainly are a weak No. 1 seed, but a bye-week, home field, a solid pass defense and competent quarterback have them installed as a favorite, albeit a small one. Of some concern for Seattle is the loss of its best pass rusher, Chris Clemons, and Atlanta's top shelf wideout duo should test Seattle's star corners. But Seattle's offense should run the ball at will, and Russell Wilson will take shots down the field if the Falcons bring more people to the line of scrimmage. The bottom line, this is a game I could see either team winning, and as such, I'll take the points. Back Seattle.
Seahawks 24 - 23
Texans +9.5 at Patriots
The first game between these teams was a blowout, and until last week's sound showing against the Bengals - a game that wasn't as close as its score - there was no reason to think a subsequent matchup would be different. But Arian Foster looked more like the back we saw last year, breaking tackles and contributing in the passing game, and Houston's defense looked dominant, allowing no offensive touchdowns. I could easily see the Patriots blowing them out again as few offenses are as difficult to prepare for, and Bill Belichick off a bye is going to have a formidable gameplan. That said, I think the smart money is on the Texans whose recent poor performance probably isn't a great indicator of their true level. Take the points.
Patriots 27 - 24
We went 2-2 last week and 121-129-6 on the regular season. From 1999-2011 we've gone 1,689-1,512 (52.8%), not including ties.