NFL Wildcard Weekend Recap: Making a Mockery of Guarantees

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys

Welp, I guess we were due for that. After last year’s foursome of entertaining Wildcard games, things reverted to the norm this past wekend: Partial blowouts, bad football and an overall lack of drama.

The referee-aided Dallas comeback on Sunday afternoon gave us just enough to make the weekend not an entire waste.

When Arizona’s 11-point loss in Carolina is the second most entertaining game of the weekend, it’s a particularly rough stretch of football.

This all gives me hope that we’re in for a wild Divisional Round in just five days. In fact, I think only an idiot would expect another handful of blowouts. There’s every reason to believe the Ravens can play the Patriots close, same for the Cowboys in Green Bay. Even if Denver looks like an easy call, the Colts have the quarterback to orchestrate a comeback of any amount if needed. Carolina’s the only underdog I can’t initially find a great case for in terms of covering or pulling off an upset.

From a statistical standpoint (using FootballOutsiders.com’s DVOA rankings), we get the following matchups in the Divisional Round:

  • #1 Seattle vs #25 Carolina
  • #2 Denver vs #12 Indianapolis
  • #3 Green Bay vs #6 Dallas
  • #4 New England vs #5 Baltimore

The Seattle mismatch notwithstanding, those are some dream games on paper.

I think we’re in for a memorable two days.

Speaking of memorable, how about my guarantee in last week’s picks column. Imagine if Joe Namath had made his famous guarantee before Super Bowl III and then went out and lost to the Colts 56-0. That’s the equivalent of what I did, guaranteeing a 4-0 against the spread weekend and walking away 0-4 instead.

I got pummeled. Two of the teams I backed weren’t even within two scores of covering the spread when their games ended (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh).

There is a silver lining though. This 0-4 start gives me a chance to guarantee success in the next three rounds of the playoffs and see if I can go 0-11. If I can, then next football season should be really profitable. Make the weekly picks, guarantee their success, bet the farm against each of those picks. From a reader’s standpoint, you shouldn’t care one way or another, just as long as I can inform you to go against every pick instead of backing them. I’m doing this for you guys.

I plan to spend the rest of this week focusing on how I can successfully put up another winless set of picks, but let’s quickly go through my notes from this past weekend:

  • Information that would have been useful to me before I made my picks/bets: Arizona apparently employs a punter who had never attempted to kick a football prior to Saturday? Or at least it seemed that bad as the poor guy was booting 30-yard after 30-yard punt all game.
  • If you’re going to have a 7-8-1 team facing Ryan Lindley in the playoffs, you might as well get all the awful out onto the field in one game. My hope was that if we were getting a gruesome injury or a game-swinging mistake by a referee, this was the game to do it. Unfortunately we had to deal with referee incompetence in the best game of the weekend instead.
  • When you’re making a case in your head for Carolina’s chances in Seattle on Saturday night, remember that they went into halftime at home losing 14-13 to the Cardinals.
  • The opening game of the weekend didn’t play out any differently than I expected when I consciously backed Arizona. I guess I was just hoping the giant horseshoe jammed up Arizona’s collective ass would stay lodged in there just a little longer. Lindley’s two interceptions deep in Carolina territory trumped any miracles that our Lord & Savior Bruce Arians could perform.
  • Congratulations, Carolina! You’ve finally climbed that mountain all the way back to a .500 record. The last time you touched that mark was 70 days ago. (But please, let’s expand the playoffs.)
  • Here’s a great example of why I likely need a money manager/common sense manager controlling everything I do from a gambling perspective: I had placed a bet on Cincinnati on Friday evening. Fine. But then on Sunday morning, even after hearing that Jermaine Gresham would be joining A.J. Green in street clothes for the game, I laid out more money on the Bengals. Why would I do that? I knew how injured they were, and more than anything I love watching Andy Dalton spectacularly crash & burn. Why would I put even more money on the opposite to happen?
  • The only noteworthy part of Sunday morning’s AFC game was seeing Andrew Luck complete some throws that I honestly believe only he & Aaron Rodgers are capable of making. Luck’s touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter that stretched the lead to 10 was a great example. He was being chased, in the midst of getting hit, and threw a perfect 35-yard pass into the end zone for a Donte Moncrief touchdown.
  • I’ll reiterate what I said earlier this season: In three or four years, Luck might not have any true competition or rival in the AFC. If the Colts ever put together a decent team around their quarterback, they should be bathing in Super Bowl appearances.
  • Of course the first playoff meeting between Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck is going to be over-covered in a big way this week, but don’t sleep on two other storylines getting beaten into your head nonstop:
    1. The Ice Bowl Rematch between Dallas and Green Bay! A game 48 years in the making!
    2. The Patriots would have liked to have seen any other team coming into Foxboro this weekend. The Ravens play them close and have playoff experience winning in New England. The Patriots are scared.
  • I plan to keep the TV off for most of the week.
  • As for Cincinnati and where they go from here, I do think it’s time to part ways with Marvin Lewis. It’s nothing like how Atlanta needed to rid itself of Mike Smith or any other typical firing. I’m not saying Lewis is a bad coach or has messed anything up for the Bengals. But there comes a time when a change is needed. I learned early on in my software sales career that some sales leaders are good for getting the company’s revenue from $1 million a year to $10 million a year, and some leaders are better-suited to lead the company from that $10 million to the $100 million a year success. Lewis apparently is the stepping-stone guy. Before he arrived in 2003, the Bengals had gone 12 straight years without a playoff appearance. Their collective record during that time? 55-137. (.286 winning percentage)
  • In the 12 years that Lewis has been the head coach, Cincinnati is 100-90-2 (.526 win rate) and has made six playoff appearances. Clearly he has had plenty of success and has gotten the Bengals to a level of respectability.
  • But I think it’s time for the next leader to come in and get them beyond the first round of the postseason.
  • If you took a minute on Sunday to stop rolling around on the floor laughing at my “guaranteed picks”, you’d notice that I actually did OK with the three prop bets I recommended. Betting on either one or two Wildcard teams to advance paid off, and the Cowboys’ win kept my exact Super Bowl matchup of New England vs Dallas alive. The only place I failed was betting Ben Roethlisberger to finish the weekend with the most passing yards. Andrew Luck beat him by a small enough amount that I still feel OK with the bet itself.
  • So going forward the best advice I can offer is to bet against my game picks and bet on my prop picks. Simple as that.

Divisional Round picks coming up later this week. It’s time to get excited about our final eight teams!

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