Ridiculously Average Football Picks: Superbowl Sunday!

Hold the presses! I’ve just had yet another example of how horrible my memory is. I looked back at my past football predictions, and realized that my record was actually 5-6 for the past three years, not 6-5 as I’ve been telling you. So in reality, I suck worse than I thought I did. Nice.

However, that makes my performance this postseason more impressive. My picks for Championship Sunday were spot on, and those two picks raised my record this postseason to 6-4.

6-4! Barely above .500! Woo hoo!

I know, I set the bar low. But I still celebrate when I jump over it. Heh.

That means no matter what happens in the Superbowl, this will be my best record of any postseason yet. Sad, isn’t it?

With that being said, here is my pick for the Superbowl (and my chance to go 7-4):

New England Patriots over the New York Giants
This was actually a tougher pick than it should have been. The NFC side of things is lacking a truly elite team. The Packers and the Saints both decided to not show up for their playoff games, and that made the Superbowl this year a little less exciting. Sure, the Giants are good, but they’re certainly not elite – or even great, probably. But they caught fire at just the right time, won games they shouldn’t have, and now all that matters is they are just one game away from another Superbowl trophy.

Another Superbowl trophy, however, would have to come at the expense of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots — the team they beat four years ago for their other one. And even though the Giants’ wide receiver corps is greatly improved since they implausibly won that game, I just can’t see history repeating itself this Sunday.

Four years ago, the Patriots lost to the Giants in the Superbowl. Then Tom Brady got hurt. Then they began rebuilding their defense after they lost a slew of veterans. Two years ago on this blog, I wrote that as the young, new defensive players began to really learn the Patriot system that the Pats would be a championship-caliber team once again. And here they are, two years later, playing for the championship.

It’s true: the Patriots’ defense still isn’t the best in the league. Not by any stretch. There are still a lot of young, no-name players holding it together. But they do enough to allow Tom Brady and Belichick’s offensive system to work its magic, and that’s all that matters. And that defense looked like it finally started really clicking toward the end of the season, and they brought that into the playoffs with them where they have excelled.

The Giants are riding a six-game winning streak into the Superbowl. Everybody is talking about their momentum. Well, the Patriots are riding a ten-game winning streak. There’s some momentum for you.

The Giants’ pass defense is the worst in the NFL. And that’s not good when you’re going up against Tom Brady. Especially not when you’re going up against Tom Brady and Belichick’s newly patented two-tight-end domination offense. The way the Pats utilize Hernandez and Gronkowski is nothing short of remarkable to watch. Belichick is once again on the cutting edge of offensive evolution, and those two tight ends have been a huge reason for their success this season.

The hesitation with this pick comes on two levels. First, that two tight end offense isn’t going to be playing at 100% because of Gronkowski’s injury a couple of weeks ago. On any other team, having one of your biggest star receivers injured would spell doom. However, this is the Patriots we are talking about here. Gronkowski is likely to play, but he won’t be at his normal level of domination. It will be interesting to see how well he does and how well the Giants are able to neutralize his threat. What makes me still favor the Patriots here, even with Gronkowski’s injury, is the fact that Hernandez is sitting on the other side of the line ready to make huge plays as well. It’s virtually impossible to stop this Patriot’s offense.

And secondly, the Giants did beat the Patriots four years ago – and they did beat them earlier this season. How? The Giants made up for their lacking pass defense in both games by devising all sorts of crazy honey-badger like blitz schemes to put pressure on Tom Brady. That pressure is what made the difference both times. The Giants apparently have the Pats’ number when it comes to winning the battle of the trenches.

Or do they? Bill Belichick is famous for his “bullseye” game plans – that is, devising schemes and formations specifically to match up against the teams he is playing. And now, with two weeks to prepare for the Superbowl, you can’t tell me he isn’t working hard with his offensive linemen and backs to neutralize that part of the Giants’ game plan. It was completely unexpected four years ago when the Giants won. It will not be unexpected this time around.

One way or another, this game may come down to how much pressure the Giants can get on Tom Brady. Outside of that, neither team’s defense is that great, so I look forward to another Superbowl shootout with a ton of points being scored. My final prediction: the Giants get the ball to end the game, six points down and needing a touchdown to win. The Patriots defense steps up, holds them off, and when the clock reads 0:00 the scoreboard will read Patriots 30, Giants 24.

Ridiculously Average Football Picks: Championship Weekend

Holy moly, I couldn’t have done this more perfectly if I’d tried. My ridiculously average football picks continue their strong tradition of being ridiculously average, standing at an impressive 4-4 record after eight games! With only three games left to go, that means only one more of my picks can be incorrect if I’m going to hit 6-5 for the fourth year in a row.

The games this weekend aren’t going to be much help… I could see both games going either way. The AFC championship because both teams are so strong, and the NFC championship because I never expected either team to get this far. Here goes nothing.

Baltimore Ravens at New England PatriotsSunday, 3:00 eastern, CBS
I’m going with the Patriots over the Ravens in this one solely because I trust Tom Brady more than Joe Flacco. According to a headline on ESPN.com, the Patriots have the second best offense in the league and the Ravens have the third best defense in the league… so it is unstoppable force, meet immovable object. But I have more faith in Tom Brady to pick apart the Raven defense than I do of Joe Flacco capitalizing on a weak Patriots defense. That Pat’s D found its rhythm last week in Denver, too; if they bring that A game into Sunday, it could be a long afternoon for the Ravens.

New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers – Sunday, 6:30 eastern, FOX
The Giants have absolutely no running game, ranking dead last in the league. The 49ers have the best run defense in the league. So don’t expect to see a lot of ground game from the men in blue Sunday night. Luckily for them, they also have one of the league’s best passing games, and ultimately that’s what I think helps them prevail in this game. I’ve underrated the Giants all season and through the postseason — but that victory over Green Bay caught my attention and made me give them a second look. They are better than their 9-7 regular season record might indicate. The Giants have a crazy weak pass defense, but again, luckily for them, the 49ers have a crazy weak passing game. And if this comes down to a Frank Gore / Eli Manning matchup, take the Giants all the way.

So there you have it: the Superbowl will be a repeat of the Patriots/Giants matchup from four years ago at Superbowl XLII.

Which probably means, because that’s what I picked, that the 49ers or Ravens will actually be in it.

Ridiculously Average Football Picks: Divisional Round

Well, my picks last weekend were… ridiculously average! Things started out really well, as I perfectly called Saturday’s game to jump out to a 2-0 record. But then Sunday hit and the Falcons flopped in the first round (again) and my Denver Broncos pulled the upset of the year by shocking the Steelers! I couldn’t be happier about a wrong pick than I was about that one, but that means my record after one weekend is 2-2.

Now the real fun begins: the divisional round.

New Orleans at San Francisco – Saturday, 4:30 eastern, FOX
The 49ers are one of the biggest surprises in the playoffs this year, but I think they are also one of the most overrated. They had impressive wins against the Steelers, the Lions, and… well, that’s about it, really. They’re not nearly as good as their 13-3 record would indicate, piling on the wins in an incredibly weak schedule. They do have a phenomenal run defense, so there’s that. Unfortunately for them, the Saints have the quarterback that broke the NFL passing record this season – and the 49ers have no way of stopping him. According to the betting lines, this will be the closest game of the weekend. I don’t see it. I say the Saints in a rout.

Denver at New EnglandSaturday, 8:00 eastern, CBS
I know, I know – I didn’t learn my lesson from picking against the Broncos last weekend. I should believe after the miraculous upset a week ago. And maybe if the Broncos advance one more round, I might. But by luck of the brackets they are matched up against the Patriots and Tom Brady tomorrow night… yes, Pittsburgh is a great team. But the Pats are a legendary team – largely because they have a legendary coach and a legendary quarterback. Bill Belichick will have his guys up for this game like nobody’s business. Tebow may look really good against one of the league’s worst passing defenses, but if this comes down to a shootout between Brady and Tebow’s passing arms I don’t know if that’s a battle Tebow can win. I’m going with the safe pick on this one. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised again.

Houston at BaltimoreSunday, 1:00 eastern, CBS
I said last week that Houston didn’t really belong in the playoffs, but lucked out by getting to play the only team that deserved to be in the playoffs less than they did. And this week, the Ravens, one of the strongest teams in the AFC, will showcase just how true that is. Houston might try to put up a fight for a while, but in the end Baltimore will easily prevail.

New York Giants at Green BaySunday, 4:30 eastern, FOX
As I watched the Saints dismantle the Lions last weekend, I commented to a couple friends that if I were any other team in the NFC I would be scared to death of playing the Saints – unless my name was the Green Bay Packers. Ultimately, the NFC championship game will come down to those two powerhouses, which means the Giants (who have played mediocre football in a season dotted with a few big wins) will be but a speed bump in the Packers path. I don’t see any way for the Giants to stop Green Bay here. They’re just out of their league in this game.

Ridiculously Average Football Picks: Wildcard Weekend

Okay, so I’ve done NFL playoff picks here at Reflected Riddles for three years in a row now, and each year I have ended up 6-5 with my picks. Essentially, I am no better at picking football games than flipping that coin you just found under the couch cushion. Weak!

But, I love doing it, and you know you love reading it. It’s okay, you can admit it. How can you handle the excitement of wondering: could this finally be the year I break out and do better than 6-5?

There’s only one way to find out…

Cincinnati at HoustonSaturday, 4:30 Eastern, NBC
The NFC definitely has the more powerful lineup of playoff teams this season, and nowhere is that more evidenced than this first round AFC matchup between two teams who don’t really belong in the playoffs. If it hadn’t been for the Jets, the Bengals could have been the poster children for dysfunctional teams this season. They’ve only managed to beat one team with a winning record all year. They have a horrible offense. And yet they are only three point underdogs as a wildcard team. Meanwhile, Houston has suffered major injuries all year that more or less derailed what began as a really strong season for them. It’s a shame the one year the Colts lose Peyton Manning that they have to lose so many players as well, which means they won’t go too far into the playoffs. They ended the season on a three game losing skid, but against the Bengals on their homefield they pull of the W.

Detroit at New OrleansSaturday, 8:00 Eastern, NBC
What a feel-good story Detroit has been this season (minus the whole head-stomping thing and other assorted personal fouls by Suh, anyway). It’s near impossible to cheer against Detroit, which makes it so lousy that their first game in the playoffs has to be against the high-powered Saints. I’m rooting for the Lions in this one, but in the end there’s a reason they are 11 point underdogs. Saints easily.

Atlanta at NY Giants — Sunday, 1:00 Eastern, FOX
Call me crazy, but I don’t see how the Giants are favored to win this game. Home field advantage isn’t that strong. The Giants have literally the worst running game in the NFL and have a lousy defense on the other side of the ball. Toward the end of the season, they lost 5 out of 6 games and only seemed to be able to get up for their two games against the rival Cowboys. Meanwhile, the Falcons had a rocky start to the season but began cleaning up toward the end. Some of their only losses came at the hands of powerhouses like New Orleans and Green Bay. This is a team that is heating up at just the right time, and will knock off the Giants in their home stadium.

Pittsburgh at Denver — Sunday, 4:30 Eastern, CBS
It’s exciting to see my home team, the Broncos, back in the playoffs again. But oh, how they are going to get creamed on Sunday. I wish it wasn’t so, but I don’t see any way around it. Our offense is lousy, especially against good defenses. Our defense is tremendous and allows us to stay in close games late — but I’m afraid there won’t be any close game late in this one. Pittsburgh covers the 8.5 point spread.

There you have it: the quest for mediocrity begins anew. What are your picks for the games this weekend?

In Which I am a Grumpy Old Man Sitting on My Porch Yelling at Kids to Get Off My Lawn

Please excuse me for a moment while I step out of my usually mild-mannered self to don the persona of a grumpy old man rocking on my front porch — because this latest NFL labor dispute is starting to tick me off.

I love football (just in case you hadn’t figured that out by now). It’s my favorite entertainment choice, hands down – which is probably why I’m so disappointed in it at the moment.

First, you have Adrian Peterson, one of the best running backs to play the game, come out and enlighten us by saying that playing football in the NFL was like “modern day slavery.” Really, Adrian Peterson? Because everyone knows that slaves were routinely paid $41 million for their services. And given the ability to do commercials for an insane amount of endorsement deals.

Pathetic.

It’s reported that the major sticking point – the linchpin reason this thing fell apart – was because the players were demanding full financial disclosure from the league. They wanted complete and audited financial statements from the past ten years from their teams.

This, of course, was for one simple reason: they think their bosses are making too much money, and they feel entitled to even more ridiculous and larger sums of money if they are proven correct.

You have problems expanding the season to 18 games? You want better health insurance? I can understand those complaints. I get that. But demanding audited financial statements? C’mon. Never mind the fact that most of these college dropouts couldn’t even spell the word “audited,” let alone actually read a financial statement to save their lives. (They’ll leave that up to their slick talking charlatan of an agent.) The thing that gets me about this demand is this: tell me any other private sector job where this kind of behavior would be tolerated!

Seriously. I used to work for a private postsecondary school. I started at ten bucks an hour, and worked my way up to fifteen bucks an hour. I was good at what I did and they compensated me pretty well for it.

Now, can you imagine me rounding up all the other employees at the school and essentially holding the place hostage until they proved to us what the salaries of the school President and Vice Presidents were? And then for me to say, “You know what? I think the President is making too much money. I think I’m entitled to an additional $5 an hour out of their paycheck. And unless you give it to me, we aren’t going back to work. In fact, unless you give it to me, we’re all going to sue you.”

Absurd.

And that’s an example from the education sector. Someone needs to remind these NFL players that they work in the entertainment industry. They don’t so much provide essential goods and services to keep this country running. Their purpose is to entertain.

The average salary — annually — for an NFL player is $1.8 million.

One point eight million dollars.

On average, players receive a $1.34 million signing bonus. And the other bonuses in their contracts, on average, stack up to nearly half a million dollars.

On average.

Yes, please, Adrian Peterson, sign me up to be the NFL’s slave for those prices.

To turn around and sue the league that skyrocketed you through the top of the tax brackets because they didn’t give you enough smacks of greed and arrogance.

And now, the latest threat by these overpaid buffoons is to boycott draft day. That’s a great idea… let’s take what should be one of the biggest highlights for a young athlete – realizing your dream and getting drafted to play professional football – and turn it into a hollow, meaningless event. All because you think you deserve another few hundred thousand dollars in your paycheck.

At the beginning of this labor dispute, I thought both sides looked like idiots. But the more the players and the players’ association flap their gums, the more I’m seeing what the owners are having to put up with: a bunch of overpaid prima donnas who are looking out for nobody but themselves. Here’s hoping the league is able to put them in their place and get the football train up and running again soon.

And that’s the end of my rant. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. :)

My Super Bowl Pick

Well, having redeemed myself somewhat by picking both games correctly on championship weekend (and thoroughly enjoying Rex Ryan’s deflated ego erupt in anger at the end of the Jets/Steelers game), I am no up to 4-6 for this postseason’s picks. That means if I pick the Super Bowl correctly, I will match last year’s equally as pitiful mark of 5-6 for my picks.

So, since I know you’re all waiting on pins and needles to see if I can finish slightly worse than flipping a coin once again, here’s my Super Bowl pick for this Sunday.

Sunday, 6:30 ET, FOX
Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh has done some impressive things this season. They only lost four games all year, and all four were to top-notch teams: New England, New Orleans, Baltimore, and the Jets. They avenged two of those losses to get to the Super Bowl. They have the best defense in the league in terms of points allowed, and the second best in terms of yards per game. As much as it pains me to say it, they belong in the Super Bowl.

But Green Bay has been equally as impressive. Their defense has been underrated all season. Pittsburgh might have the number one defense for points allowed, but guess who comes in an incredibly close second? That’s right – the Pack. And they are number 5 when it comes to yards per game. They lost some tough games throughout the season because they lacked any semblance of a running game — but that all changed when they reached the playoffs. Somehow, James Starks has come out of nowhere to propel this team into the realm of legit Super Bowl contenders.

Interestingly, the weaknesses in each team’s defense matches up with the other team’s offensive strengths. The Packers are fantastic at defending the pass, but have trouble containing the run. The Steelers, behind Rashard Mendenhall, are a better rushing team than a passing team.

Likewise, the Steelers excel in stopping the run cold, but are weak against the pass. The Packers have relied on Aaron Rodgers to carry them all season, and he tore apart the Eagles and the Falcons.

To me, it seems like the Packers are surging at just the right time and have the momentum coming into this game. Plus, I have dismissed Aaron Rodgers all season long, and now he is beginning to make a believer out of me. It will be a hard fought, close game between two defensive powerhouses, but in the end, I like Aaron Rodgers to pull it out for the Packers and begin building his young legacy as one of the NFL’s elite.

Green Bay 23, Pittsburgh 20

My Super Bowl Pick

Well, having redeemed myself somewhat by picking both games correctly on championship weekend (and thoroughly enjoying Rex Ryan’s deflated ego erupt in anger at the end of the Jets/Steelers game), I am no up to 4-6 for this postseason’s picks. That means if I pick the Super Bowl correctly, I will match last year’s equally as pitiful mark of 5-6 for my picks.

So, since I know you’re all waiting on pins and needles to see if I can finish slightly worse than flipping a coin once again, here’s my Super Bowl pick for this Sunday.

Sunday, 6:30 ET, FOX
Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh has done some impressive things this season. They only lost four games all year, and all four were to top-notch teams: New England, New Orleans, Baltimore, and the Jets. They avenged two of those losses to get to the Super Bowl. They have the best defense in the league in terms of points allowed, and the second best in terms of yards per game. As much as it pains me to say it, they belong in the Super Bowl.

But Green Bay has been equally as impressive. Their defense has been underrated all season. Pittsburgh might have the number one defense for points allowed, but guess who comes in an incredibly close second? That’s right – the Pack. And they are number 5 when it comes to yards per game. They lost some tough games throughout the season because they lacked any semblance of a running game — but that all changed when they reached the playoffs. Somehow, James Starks has come out of nowhere to propel this team into the realm of legit Super Bowl contenders.

Interestingly, the weaknesses in each team’s defense matches up with the other team’s offensive strengths. The Packers are fantastic at defending the pass, but have trouble containing the run. The Steelers, behind Rashard Mendenhall, are a better rushing team than a passing team.

Likewise, the Steelers excel in stopping the run cold, but are weak against the pass. The Packers have relied on Aaron Rodgers to carry them all season, and he tore apart the Eagles and the Falcons.

To me, it seems like the Packers are surging at just the right time and have the momentum coming into this game. Plus, I have dismissed Aaron Rodgers all season long, and now he is beginning to make a believer out of me. It will be a hard fought, close game between two defensive powerhouses, but in the end, I like Aaron Rodgers to pull it out for the Packers and begin building his young legacy as one of the NFL’s elite.

Green Bay 23, Pittsburgh 20

Horrendously Awful Football Picks, Round Three

I’m bringing my dead sexy 2-6 record for picks this year into the Conference championships with no hope of getting above .500 this year. So if you’re the betting type, take note: bet against every team I pick. You’ve been warned.

Sunday, 1:00 pm ET, FOX
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears — Okay, so I severely underestimated the Green Bay Packers. I’ll give Aaron Rodgers some more credit. Maybe he is the “elite” quarterback everyone seems to think he is. If that’s true, he should have no problem dispatching the weakest playoff team left: the Chicago Bears, with Crybaby Cutler at QB. Again, Chicago had the weakest strength of schedule and strength of victory this year, and they got ridiculously lucky getting to play Seattle last weekend. This weekend, Green Bay will show them what a true playoff team looks like.

Sunday, 4:30 pm ET, CBS
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers — This one is pretty much a tossup (Pittsburgh is less than a three point favorite), but I’m picking Pittsburgh based solely on the fact that I just cannot bring myself to believe a team filled with such hubris and dysfunction as the Jets can possibly make it to the Superbowl. I would like nothing more than to watch Rex Ryan walk off the field in defeat before the Superbowl, and Pittsburgh is the last remaining team possible to make that happen.

So I guess that means I’m picking a Steelers/Packers Superbowl. In other words, Bears and Jets fans, start booking your tickets to Dallas now.

Horrendously Awful Football Picks, Round Three

I’m bringing my dead sexy 2-6 record for picks this year into the Conference championships with no hope of getting above .500 this year. So if you’re the betting type, take note: bet against every team I pick. You’ve been warned.

Sunday, 1:00 pm ET, FOX
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears — Okay, so I severely underestimated the Green Bay Packers. I’ll give Aaron Rodgers some more credit. Maybe he is the “elite” quarterback everyone seems to think he is. If that’s true, he should have no problem dispatching the weakest playoff team left: the Chicago Bears, with Crybaby Cutler at QB. Again, Chicago had the weakest strength of schedule and strength of victory this year, and they got ridiculously lucky getting to play Seattle last weekend. This weekend, Green Bay will show them what a true playoff team looks like.

Sunday, 4:30 pm ET, CBS
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers — This one is pretty much a tossup (Pittsburgh is less than a three point favorite), but I’m picking Pittsburgh based solely on the fact that I just cannot bring myself to believe a team filled with such hubris and dysfunction as the Jets can possibly make it to the Superbowl. I would like nothing more than to watch Rex Ryan walk off the field in defeat before the Superbowl, and Pittsburgh is the last remaining team possible to make that happen.

So I guess that means I’m picking a Steelers/Packers Superbowl. In other words, Bears and Jets fans, start booking your tickets to Dallas now.

More Playoff Predictions – Why? I Honestly Don’t Know.

Okay. So apparently I suck at making these predictions. But I have a lot of fun doing it, so I will continue on in my futile efforts, much to your amusement I’m sure. Heh.

Saturday, 4:30 ET, CBS
Ravens at Steelers — This is the one I feel the least confident about this weekend. I think the Ravens have amazing momentum after their last two games, and I discounted that momentum last year when they came in and defeated a better New England team. I think they barely squeak by a very good Pittsburgh team who is rested and healthy.

Saturday, 8:00 ET, FOX
Packers at Falcons — The Packers are playing really good football, and they may have actually discovered a running game last weekend against the Eagles. But the Falcons are quite simply the best team in the NFC. The Packers will put up a strong fight and make a game of it, but the Falcons will advance to the NFC championship game.

Sunday, 4:30 ET, CBS
Jets at Patriots — As I said last week, even if the Jets managed to beat Peyton Manning, there is no way they beat Bill Belichick. I look forward to watching the Pats stomp on Ryan and his dysfunctional team of loudmouths. If I could watch only one game this weekend, it would be this one in order to restore the sense of justice in this world. Heh.

Sunday, 8:00 ET, FOX
Seahawks at Bears — As much as it pains me to say it, I think the Bears will actually be playing in the NFC championship game. They really lucked out getting to play the Seahawks on Sunday. Chicago had one of the easiest strength of schedules of any playoff team this year, and their strength of victory measure is pitiful. I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see the Seahawks pull another huge upset, but I’ll stick with conventional wisdom and say the stronger of these two weak teams will prevail.

For the past two years, I was hovering around .500 with my picks. This year I’ll need a miracle to pull back to .500 after my 1-3 start last week!