As always, using these picks to bet with is an idea that we take no responsibility for.
Cardinals @ Panthers
Kelen Conley: The Cardinals have been on a downward spiral since losing Carson Palmer and Andre Ellington’s injury only sped up the process. They have no reliable quarterback. Their defense has been strong all season though, so a few turnovers here and there could keep this game close and winnable for them.
Cam’s car accident seems to have shaken out the cobwebs that plagued him all season long. The Carolina defense has reappeared with him.
Winner: Get ready to be pissed NFL purists, the Panthers should win their 5th game in a row. I’m thinking by a touchdown or two since they have the home field advantage.
Anthony Sellers: You basically said everything I was thinking for this game. You’re right that the Cardinals have been sliding the since Palmer’s injury. I agree that the defense is solid, however, a defense can only do so much before it needs some kind of help from the offense. With Arizona not having a reliable QB and having a less-than-stellar O-Line, I don’t see them keeping pace with the Panthers and their offense.
To add to it, DeAngelo Williams is slated to return for the Panthers this week.
Winner: Carolina, but it’s more by default as Arizona’s offense will not be able move the ball enough to keep pace.
Ravens @ Steelers
KC: I hate to say this, but this feels like a year Pittsburgh could win the AFC. Bell’s injury hurts them a lot but their offense still can score in bunches and their defense gets stops when the need to have them.
I liked the Ravens’ chances more a few weeks ago but lately, they seem to be struggling on all sides of the ball. Forsett has been a bright spot the past month or so, but I don’t think they can control the clock well enough for him to really decide the game.
Winner: I have the Steelers in this one. I think Flacco makes some late mistakes and Pittsburgh capitalizes.
AS: This is a game I’d much rather see a tie in, but since it’s the playoffs, that’s not gonna happen. I mean seriously, is there a way a bomb could just drop on the stadium in the third quarter? (Oh no, he said bomb, you can’t say bomb, man!!!!) It’s okay guys, I’m just bitter ’cause I’m a Browns fan, my football life stays futile.
For real though, this should be a really good game. A divisional rivalry game in the playoffs, it doesn’t get better for them. Baltimore’s offense isn’t as potent as the Steelers offense, but Flacco knows the system well, which merits some weight. The same has to be said for Big Ben as well.
Winner: Like I said before, I’d rather not pick the game, but since I must, I think with Pittsburgh having home field gives them a needed edge. If the game was in Baltimore, I’d be going with Baltimore, it’s that close for me and it’s going to boil down to which defense makes the clutch stop down the stretch. Steelers win.
Bengals @ Colts
KC: This is the time of year that Marvin Lewis starts his vacation as he hasn’t won a playoff game yet. Andy Dalton has also been terrible in playoff games and his performance the last few weeks of the season left a lot to be desired. Thankfully, the running game and the defense have been hitting on all cylinders as of late.
And the Colts are just a mess. After playing so well early in the season, Andrew Luck has been making mental errors early. They still have no running game, TY Hilton has been hurt, Reggie Wayne can’t catch any more, Hakeem Nicks is collecting checks, and Sidney Moncrief isn’t quite ready. And their defense has been atrocious.
Winner: If the Bengals walk out of Lucas Oil Stadium losers in these circumstances, isn’t it time to fire Lewis now? Otherwise, I see them taking an early big lead that that Colts cut into by the second half. But Cincy should have the W when the clock hits zero.
AS: Look here, a third AFC North team. Luckily they play the Colts. And we finally have a disagreement. Dalton doesn’t have the “it” factor to push the Bengals into the Super Bowl. They lose this week. Luck and the Colts won’t let this one pass by. The offense just has too many weapons and Cincy’s defense won’t be able to matchup all game.
Lions @ Cowboys
KC: The Lions have been blessed with an amazing defense that keeps them in ballgames long enough for them to win. Stafford has cut down his mistakes, Joique Bell has developed into a nice feature back with Reggie Bush ailing most of the time, oh, and they have Megatron… healthy.
Everything has gone right for the Cowboys this season, including Tony Romo not choking in December. DeMarco Murray had his best season ever, despite hurting his hand. Dez Bryant was healthy for an entire campaign and showed he deserved to wear Michael Irvin’s number 88. And a defense that should have been really bad has shut down offense after offense.
Winner: Lions. I’m really split on the Cowboys, as in they could flame out or win it all, so I’m going with the flame out option. I expect it to be close throughout but the Lions should have the ball last and the win.
AS: Everything you wrote about the Cowboys is the exact reason why they will win. The one big thing you forgot to mention is how good their O’Line is, which is what propelled Murray to the exceptional season he’s had. It’s also part of the reason why Romo didn’t choke down the stretch.
The Lions offense isn’t consistent even with all the weapons. They’ve had too many games they should have won that they lost in my mind. If there’s anything that helps the Lions, its that Dallas’s secondary is subpar, at least in my mind. I’m taking the Cowboys in this one. It should be a close game much like the Pittsburgh/Baltimore game.
NEXT WEEK: The Divisional Round!