Everything you already knew about the NFL playoffs but were too afraid to be berated about.

BY  DAN

Today I want to talk to you about the NFL playoffs.

They start on 4.35pm Saturday (which is like 8.35am on Sunday here at Sportress HQ in cloudy Melbourne) and, like every year, promise to be an incredible incomprehensible series of results that bear little resemblance to the regular season people spent their Sundays (or Monday mornings in my case) witnessing.

If you’re not an NFL fan, then you missed some amazing feats of athleticism this year. Like this

This is why Jarryd Hayne will never play in the NFL.

And just tremendous levels of smack talk from a genius like this

 JJ Watt talks smack like an action hero.

And the always hilarious butt fumble.

I know that happened last season but it never fails to make me laugh.

One thing to always love about the NFL playoffs is that spliced in between the feats of athleticism, smack talk and butt fumbles, are amazing games that genuinely surprise each year.

Last year’s Super Bowl was a case in point. Seattle’s impressive defence was pitted against possibly the greatest offence in history. I, along with everyone else, assumed that a team led by possibly the greatest QB in history – Peyton Manning – would dominate. Turns out they got pumped 43-8 as Seattle’s defence unleashed a ferocious level of speed that overwhelmed the Broncos.

 Wes Welker is still overwhelmed

I could list a billion examples of other amazing moments in NFL playoffs (the Brady drive, Poor Tony Romo (capitalised because it’s his full name in my view) botching the snap, Sean Peyton’s ballsy decision to onside kick in the Super Bowl against Manning’s Colts). The point is that you should watch. And here’s a little game by game guide to help you.

Before we get to the games we should note
that the top 2 seeds in each conference have byes for the first week of the playoffs. New England and Denver in the AFC, and Seattle and Green Bay in the NFC. All things being easy, New England and Seattle, as the two top seeds would play each other in Super Bowl XLIX. However, last year’s Super Bowl was only the second in the preceding twenty seasons that the top seeds have faced off in the final game of the season.

So you know, expect the unexpected.

Game one: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

Ah the peculiarities of Division based seeding. Carolina ‘won’ the NFC South division with the outstanding record of 7-8-1. Despite this they will be hosting Arizona, who went 11-5 in the NFC West. And the brutal thing is Carolina will probably win.

See, the Cardinals are now down to their third string quarterback. Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton are both injured so Ryan Lindley will start. For perspective, Ryan Lindley was cut by the Cardinals in August this year. Ryan Lindley was only signed back onto the team when it’s first and second string quarterbacks were injured. Ryan Lindley threw his first touchdown pass ever last week. Up to that point Ryan Lindley had thrown the most passes in NFL history without throwing a touchdown.

Do you trust this man?
Do you trust this man?

In the meantime, after a rough period in the middle of the season, Carolina appear to be coming ‘good’ – with their star quarterback Cam Newton, and notably their defence, healthy. Not winning a Super Bowl good, but good enough to beat Ryan Lindley.

Look, there’s a reason this is the first game. If you’ve got stuff to do, do it during this game.

Our Pick: Panthers 17 Ryan Lindley 9

Game two: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

Otherwise known as the “every decent person hope the Ravens lose” Bowl, this game will come down to whether or not the very good front seven (8th in rush defence) of the Raven’s defence is good enough to make up for the fact it’s secondary is not so good. As we detailed earlier in the year, the Steelers’ have an impressive bunch of receivers. They currently have the second best passing offence is the league. If the Steelers’ offensive line can hold off the Ravens defensive front seven long enough for Roethlisberger to throw downfield, this could be a debacle.

And frankly, given this, this and this, we fucking hope the Ravens get all that is coming to them.

Our pick: Steelers 38 Ravens 24

Game three: Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck is a person you will hear about forever. He is young but he is already good. Montana, Elway, Marino, Manning, Brady good. Unfortunately, there aren’t many more people on his team who are good. T.Y. Hilton is good, but he’s banged up and playing at 75 per cent. Reggie Wayne was good but he’s 63 now and can barely beat my mum for position. Trent Richardson was never good, but for some reason the Colts gave up a first round pick for the pleasure of finding out what everyone else already knew.

It will be an interesting match-up. The Colts’ defence is average (12th in the league against the pass, 18th against the rush) but its offence is tremendous (1st in passing. As I said, Andrew Luck is good). The Bengals defence is not good (20th in the league in both rushing and passing defence) and their passing offence is awful. The Bengals can win this game if they can continue the success they have had with their ‘thunder and lightning’ running backs, Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard. The Colts can win this game if Luck gets help from someone else.

When in doubt, look to the quarterbacks. Andrew Luck is awesome.

Our pick: Colts 31 Bengals 17

Game four: Detroit at Dallas

Here at the Sportress we are split on this. We love Detroit because we love the underdog. And if a city every personified the underdog right now it would be the abandoned metropolis that is Detroit. But Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboy’s quarterback is perhaps the most unfairly maligned figure in the NFL. People think he chokes (primarily because of the video up top); people think he’s soft; people think he’s not very good. This is despite Romo being first in completion percentage (69.9%) and quarterback rating (113.2) and fourth in touchdowns thrown – i.e fucking awesome.

Here’s the thing that matters though. Detroit has the best rushing (and probably overall) defence in the league. Dallas has the best rushing offence in the league, which is the basis for its entire play-action based offence. If the Cowboys can run the ball they will win. If they can’t, they still have one of the best quarterbacks in the league to get it done.

Here’s saying he does.

Our pick: Dallas 24 Detroit 21

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