By Stan "The Fan" Charles
A baseball pitcher who gives up five runs during the first and then throws eight innings of shutout ball still has a 5.00 ERA to show for his effort, which is sort of how my picks have gone this year. I got out of the gates poorly, stumbling pretty badly to the halfway pole. After Week Eight, (a 1-5 stinker), my picks record versus the spread was 19-32-2. I finally peeked my head above the .500 mark last week, going 4-0 during the first round of the playoffs, which ran my record to 61-60-4. That means from Week Nine through the Wild Card Round, I went 42-28-2.
Let's see whether I can stay on a roll with these picks:
Picking The Winners
Baltimore at Denver
Green Bay at San Francisco
Seattle at Atlanta
Houston at New England
*Winners in bold
Picking Against The Spread
Baltimore at Denver -9
If I am wrong on this game, call me a homer, because I'll be spectacularly wrong. I like the Ravens to win this one, based on a stellar performance from quarterback Joe Flacco. Numbers can buttress the arguments on either side of this one, and stats show the Denver Broncos are in the top four since 1967 in point differential during the second half of games. But the number I get stuck on is Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's being a losing quarterback during playoff games (9-10).
Prediction: Baltimore 30, Denver 27
Green Bay at San Francisco -2 ½
Listen, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh knows his team better than most of us. Long term, the switch from quarterback Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick was probably the right move. But, to me, it sent the wrong message to his boys. Yes, the 49ers got an immediate spark from the more athletic Kaepernick, but I am not sold on the move at this point. Watch the speed of the game: If Green Bay can't keep up with the 49ers' tempo and raw speed, the Packers could get blown away. But the Packers' Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback, who needs a few more signature wins to align himself with Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. My hunch is he gets one of these Saturday, by running off two long drives.
Prediction: Green Bay 24, San Francisco 17
Seattle at Atlanta -2 ½
My sense is that this might just be Atlanta's time, after years and years of falling short. Going into last week, the Seahawks were 8-0 at home and just 3-5 on the road. Had Robert Griffin III not been significantly injured, I am not so sure the team from Washington, D.C., wouldn't have been able to outlast the fast-charging team from Washington state. I think the Falcons get up early and grab a couple of turnovers that will allow them to outlast the rapidly improving Seahawks.
Prediction: Atlanta 26, Seattle 17
Houston at New England -9 ½
Much like the Ravens-Broncos game, this matchup may be squarely in the hands of an enigmatic quarterback, who must play mistake-free football for 60 minutes. But I do not see the Texans' Matt Schaub coming into this one ready to put up a pristine performance. But Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has a lot of talent on his side of the ball. He'll have his guys fired up and ready. If Schaub doesn't make any mistakes, the Texans can win the game. If he makes two mistakes, the Patriots will win by 12-15 points. I am betting that he makes one major blunder, which Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will quickly turn into seven points. To me, this is a 9- to 10-point game. I'll still have to go with the half-point extra for the Pats.
Prediction: New England 29, Houston 19
178-81-1 picking winners (4-0 last week)
61-60-4 picking against the spread (4-0)
Posted Jan. 11, 2013