NFL Round by Round Playoff Picks!!!

Back at it baby! It’s NFL playoff football time! We are excited to not have to watch the Jets, Titans, or Panthers anymore! (Oh wait, I’m being told the Carolina Panthers, at 7-8-1, made the playoffs. What a joke. I guess not as big a joke as the Oakland Raiders, but still pretty funny.)

Once A-Rob gets done punching me for writing this open, we here at The Junkies are going to break down and predict the outcome of the playoffs. Unlike other respectable sports sites we aren’t just predicting Wild Card weekend and then if we fail, reset and start over. Nope, we #PutEmOnGlass here because that’s what men do! So if we botch the Wild Card games, this whole thing will be about as useless as Colin Kaepernick was this season. Well here goes nothing (the same phrase Geno Smith utters before each throw), your Junkies NFL Playoff Preview:

Ravens (6) at Steelers (3)

The Steelers and Ravens have more beef than East Coast/West Coast rap had back in the Death Row Records days (RIP Biggie and Pac). When Pittsburgh and Baltimore get together you expect a physical battle that is won in the trenches as well as a low-scoring affair. Unfortunately, unlike years past, the days of the Steel Curtain are fading away as Big Ben has been putting up some gaudy passing numbers, with a group that’s led by the only guy to attempt to ninja kick a punter this season in Antonio Brown. e’Veon Bell can’t go (hypertension of knee), so it will be hard for the Steelers to move the ball against Baltimore’s D-Line. So expect Big Ben to be pass heavy and test the secondary for the Ravens.

For the Ravens, after a regular season under the nation’s microscope as former star running back Ray Rice knocked out his fiancee and was later released from the team, they made the playoffs with 10 wins. On paper, that looks good, but if you look further into it only 1 win of their 10 was against a team who finished the year above .500. That came against the Steelers in week 2. I know that Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl winner and has been successful in the playoffs, but I can’t see him winning a shootout on the road against Big Ben. THE PICK: Steelers 37 Bengals 24

Bengals (5) at Colts (4)

The Neck Beard vs The Ginga Ninja. Both Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton have yet to miss the playoffs in their short careers (4 years for Dalton, 3 for Luck). The Bengals were one of the teams that was supposed to be the best in football this season, but didn’t quite live up to expectations, failing to capture the AFC North crown and stumbling into the 5 seed. The Colts were expected to be the cream of the oh-so-awful crop of the AFC South and easily took the title in that division, despite having a suspect defense and absolutely zero running game. Even after a week 7 27-0 rout the Bengals took at the hand of the Colts, I see this game being much more competitive. If Dalton is ever going to break through in the playoffs and silence his critics, well, Sunday at 1:05 p.m. is that time. If the Bengals can jump out to an early lead, they have a more than solid running game led by Jeremy Hill. They should be able to control the clock and squeeze out a victory on the road, giving them their 1st playoff victory since the Boomer Esiason days. (For you younger people, that’s a long time.) THE PICK: Cincinnati 27 Colts 21 

Divisional Playoffs

Bengals (5) at Patriots (1)

Well, congratulations Cincinnati, you’ve finally won a playoff game and Andy Dalton we assume played well enough to not screw it up. What do you get as a reward? Well, you get to take on the Patriots in Foxborough. Yes, the same team that dismantled you earlier in the season 43-17. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, New England is playing arguably the best football of anyone right now, so don’t be surprised if this isn’t much of a game. Asking Dalton to win two playoff games in a row is laughable and he simply won’t be able to make enough plays to keep up with the machine known as the New England Patriots. THE PICK: New England 38 Cincinnati 24Steelers (3) at Broncos (2) 

Unlike the other team with a bye in the AFC, the Broncos haven’t been playing like a well-oiled machine. Peyton Manning has struggled lately including a 4-interception game against the Bengals in week 16. I don’t know if it’s age or injury, maybe both, but Manning doesn’t look right and he is the key to this Broncos offense. The Steelers can put up points in a hurry and offensively have the ability to keep up with the Broncos’ offense. Let’s also not forget Manning has a tendency to have his worst games in the playoffs. So I don’t think anyone should be surprised when the Steelers win this game on the road to earn a spot in the AFC title game. THE PICK: Pittsburgh 42 Denver 37 

AFC Title Game 

Steelers (3) at Patriots (1)

Two storied franchises, two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, and a possibly snowy day in New England – what more could you want? This has the makings of a slobberknocker (Jim Ross voice)! This should be a battle for the ages, both teams can score at will, but if the weather becomes an issue it will come down to defenses and the running game. Pittsburgh has the best back in this game in Bell (assuming he’s healthy by then) while New England does it by committee or what I like to call the Billy Effect. The Billy Effect s when Bill Belichick just plucks any running back from his roster and says, “Today you’re gaining 100+ yards and ultimately screwing over millions of fantasy owners in the process.” New England has the defense to stop the Steelers from moving the ball, and will come up with one or two bigger plays than the Steelers’ defense to earn a spot in the Super Bowl and shut up all the critics that doubted them after getting slaughtered by Kansas City. This season is New England’s ultimate “Eff You” season. THE PICK: New England 24 Pittsburgh 14 

Now that Bizzle has made his sure to be wrong AFC predictions, led by predicting Andy Dalton to win a playoff game (sorry bud, you know I love you), A-Rob will step in to predict the NFC games. The NFC appears on paper to be the stronger of the two conferences, but also has probably the league’s worst two playoff teams heading into January. Wrap your head around that one. These wild-card games are really just an appetizer to what should be a very fun divisional weekend of games, but let’s jump into it and tell you what I think about the NFC playoff picture.

Cardinals (5) at Panthers (4)

Awww yeah. Carolina Panthers football fever! Catch it! Carolina is the second-worst playoff team by record in NFL history at 7-8-1, just edging out the 2010 Seattle Seahawks who were 7-9. This is thanks to maybe the most pathetic division of all time, the NFC South. There are any number of fun NFC South factoids, but probably my favorite was when the Panthers beat the Saints Dec. 7 to go from 3-8-1 to 4-8-1 and moved within a half-game of first place in the division that week. But out of all that came a home playoff game, and even better, a home playoff game against Ryan Lindley. Thanks to an injury apocalypse only Ohio State can truly understand, Arizona has to start the guy who set an NFL record for consecutive pass attempts to start a career without a TD pass. There are really only two things to understand when picking this game, and Lindley starting is the first. The second is that Carolina’s defense has quietly morphed back into the 2013 unit after some housecleaning post-Thanksgiving. The Panthers should handle things and join the 2010 Seahawks as terrible playoff teams who nonetheless won their first round game. THE PICK: Panthers 26 Cardinals 13

Lions (6) at Cowboys (3)

I hear for this game Ndamukong Suh has been practicing by stomping on pigeons at the practice facility. In all seriousness, the Lions match up pretty well with Dallas heading into this game, with the Cowboys’ main strength being running the ball and Detroit’s main strength being stopping the run. This will probably be a better game than it might first appear. However, I have to believe Tony Romo will have more plays in him than Matt Stafford when it comes down to it. NFL Network astutely pointed out last week that Stafford has never beaten an above .500 team on the road, which seems unreal to me, and yet it’s true. I’m going to guess that the Cowboys are able to bruise out a win in this one, probably with a big play from Dez Bryant leading the way. THE PICK: Cowboys 27 Lions 20

Divisional Playoffs

Panthers (4) at Seahawks (1)

These two teams actually faced off back in October, when the Seahawks were reeling at 3-3 and looked in danger of falling victim to the same disease that always seems to afflict the teams that played in the Super Bowl the previous season. Carolina was consistently unable to get anything going and the Seahawks ultimately had a couple of more big plays in them in a close win. Both teams have improved since that day, but the Seahawks’ improvement has been absolutely meteoric and they look like maybe the best team in the league. Their one problem is that they don’t score a lot, but you don’t have to when your D gives up 13 or less seemingly every week. This game will probably be close kind of like the first matchup, but again I’m sure the Seahawks will have enough to end Carolina’s Cinderella story. THE PICK: Seahawks 20 Panthers 9

Cowboys (3) at Packers (2)
Romo vs Rodgers, a dream matchup of Golden Boy quarterbacks. The only one better might be Rodgers vs Manning which would see every commercial aired be one with one of those two in it. However, we’ll have to settle for this one, a rematch of the fabled Ice Bowl in the late 1960s. It might be just as cold this time around, which doesn’t play well for Dallas as they continue to deal with nagging injuries to Romo and DeMarco Murray. Even though the Pack lost the last time they hosted a playoff game, they have looked outstanding for much of the season and I think “RODGAHS” discount double-checks his way to a win in this one. THE PICK: Packers 34 Cowboys 21
NFC Title Game
Packers (2) at Seahawks (1)
We’ve come full circle, ladies and gentlemen, as this game is a rematch of the first game of the season. That one was a Seattle bludgeoning, but this game will have the makings of a terrific battle. Rodgers had some minor success going at Richard Sherman early on in the Week 1 game, and I suspect he will try to do so again this time as the BEST CORNER IN THE GAME will probably spend a lot of time on Jordy Nelson. The Pack has looked mortal at times, though, especially in Buffalo, a game that sent me to the fantasy football title game. Thanks again, Rodgers! Anyway, if Buffalo can hold down the Pack, I’m guessing Seattle can do, and the Seahawks will pull off a close one to reach the Super Bowl. THE PICK: Seahawks 26 Packers 17
Stay tuned for our continuing picks as the Super Bowl approaches!
NFL Round by Round Playoff Picks!!!

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