Buehler's Conference Title Game Picks

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Conference Title Games

Welp, 3 games left in the season (single tear drop). Then we’re relegated to draft news, coaching hires, rehashing the newest ink in history books and, yes, some baseball (more tears).

BUT before that happens, we get some juicy conference title games. 3 of the 4 teams in last year’s conference title games are back. The only team not making the trip is the team that won the whole darn thing… God bless the Giants.

One game’s a rematch, the other is impending slaughter. Let’s start with the former.

AFC Title Game

Ravens at Patriots

This is not only a regular season rematch, but a rematch of last year’s AFC Title game. The AFC Title game last year was decided on a dropped ball by Lee Evans and a missed field goal by Billy Cundiff. Shockingly, those names are not found on this year’s Ravens’ roster. Instead Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones have been blazing down the sidelines, Anquan Boldin, who also saw costly drops in last year’s playoffs has been clutch this year and Justin Tucker has been the difference in the win in Denver.

A lot is being made of the notion that the Ravens are a team of destiny and Ray Lewis’s pending retirement is willing this team to victory. Many point to their win over the Broncos as evidence to that notion. I point to Peyton Manning’s interception and the Broncos’ lousy offensive game plan to explain that upset. Destiny schmestiny. This is football. Let’s not romanticize this matchup (I’ll do that with the next one, as I’m sure you’ll notice).

When looking at this Patriots-Ravens matchup, the obvious is that the Patriots are 7-1 in AFC Title games and Tom Brady has more post seasons win than any other quarterback in the history of the game. When you take into account the Patriots’ resurging running attack, the balance on offense is breathtaking. Still, I see two names making the biggest impact in this game.  Terrell Suggs and Rob Gronkowski. One is playing (Suggs) and one is not (Gronk). In the week 3 matchup, won 31-30 by the Ravens in Baltimore, the reverse was true. Gronk played and Suggs did not. The Ravens rallied from 13 and 9-point deficits early and late in the game to take the win. Baltimore won’t forget that. Additionally, the Patriots lost this year to the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Niners. Only Kaepernick comes close to exposing the back end of a secondary like Flacco can and they all have a solid pass rush which has long been the secret to success against Brady. With Suggs providing pressure on Brady, Lewis roaming the middle to suppress that running game, and the Pats missing Gronk, this game is going to be on the shoulders of Welker who hasn’t been as reliable as years past. Especially going across the middle. There’s no reason to suppose the Ravens are a team of destiny when the matchups favor them. For the first time in a decade, there will be a team not named Steelers, Colts or Patriots in the Super Bowl. Ravens win 31-28.

NFC Title Game

Niners at Falcons

I’ll spare you the long post. The Niners are a better team. All around.  The Falcons don’t have the linebackers to deal with Gore, let alone the headache that is Colin Kaepernick. The only way the Falcons win this game is if Kaepernick turns the ball over 3+ times. He can do it twice, I still think the Niners overcome and win. Justin Smith absorbing the double teams for Aldon Smith makes all the difference in the world to the Niners’ defense and the Niners won’t gift-wrap a whole half the way the Seahawks did. It will be 60 minutes of excellent football (provided Kaep doesn’t do that 3 TO thing) and the NFC will be represented in the Super Bowl by the greatest franchise in the history of sports (slight bias seeping through). Niners win 35-21.

Overall, meeting my Niners in New Orleans for the Super Bowl might be the coolest thing I’ve done in my professional career… so IF they don’t end up pulling out the win, you’ll likely find me walking aimlessly through a desert wondering what my next career might be. Here’s to a happy ending…  

 

Buehler's Divisional Round Picks

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Buehler’s Divisional Round Picks

It’s funny. You go out on a limb and it’s not until the ground pounds you in the face that you realize, that limb was too thin and you shoulda stuck closer to what you knew.

Vegas was hammered this year because favorites did their job all season long. Week 9 was the worst week in many sports books’ history because NFL fans weren’t going out on those limbs like I did last week.

The only game I got right was the Packers-Vikings matchup. Other than that, I thought the Bengals could secure some semblance of a running attack to beat the Texans, they did not.

Thought the Skins’ Alfred Morris could help DC avoid the Wildcard Cliff. Shanahan left RG3 in too long and gave Morris 5 carries in the 2nd half. Brutal.

My Colts pick was all emotion. Wanted to see them win more than I thought the matchups favored the Horseshoe. 

The point is, I learned my lesson. I’m looking to bat 1.000 this week…

AFC Games

Ravens at Broncos

You’re going to hear a lot about the Ravens’ defense because Ray Lewis is set to retire and he’s spent the past 42* years building a reputation of irrefutable toughness.  *slight exaggeration

And you’re going to hear a lot about Broncos’ QB Peyton Manning because he’s pulling off the rare “Comeback POY” and MVP campaigns concurrently.

But this game is MORE about the Broncos defense and Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco.

The Ray Lewis led D and Manning will offer every reason to conclude we’re gifted by watching some of the greatest of all time. While Manning has led the Broncos to 5 more wins this season over last season, the defense has been equally impressive, coming in the top 5 in the NFL in passing D, rushing D, scoring D, and leading the NFL in getting off the field so their All-World QB can launch an aerial assault (translation: Broncos lead the NFL in allowing lowest 3rd down conversions).

Then there’s Flacco. Good ole’ Joe. Poor kid. Reminds me of the struggles of Eli Manning before we all decided you couldn’t spell Elite with ELI because he added elusive hardware. Thing is, while Flacco goes downfield more than any other QB in the NFL and has a better completion percentage with the long ball, that form of football is high risk and while Boldin provided the Ravens with their reward last week, it’s not going to work against the Broncos defense. Broncos win 31-10.

Texans at Patriots

JJ Watt is one of my favorite players to watch. He looks just like my baby brother and won the Lott IMPACT Trophy the first year I became a voter. I’d love to see the Texans win. Both teams are 10-1 against common opponents. The Pats went 1-3 against the NFC West, and added a loss to the Ravens while the Texans went 2-2 against the NFC North, and added losses to the Colts and Pats.  The Pats have a tough time against strong pass rushes while the Texans lost games to teams that use the big play.

We know about the Texans’ last trip to Foxboro. It was uglier than me with pink hair. But you can reference the Pats’ week 13 45-3 annihilation of the Jets in 2010 for apt perspective to offer Houston fans because the Jets followed that performance in the divisional round of the playoffs and took the Pats out 28-21, in Foxboro. So there’s hope Texan fans… Of course, Rex Ryan employed a new defensive strategy to handle the Pats and Jim Leonard was back for the Jets and spectacular in that game… but I digress…  

I’m trying to find reasons for a Houston win because I’d like to see it. But the Texans won’t get beaten as badly by the Pats, I just don’t see enough evidence to support an upset bid here. Pats win 28-21.

NFC Games

Seahawks at Falcons

Come Sunday, the Seahawks will have traveled more than 8500 miles in 7 days. Read that again. So that pounding running game is taking a pounding itself and this team will be TIRED come the 4th quarter when they are usually at their best. I have no idea why the team didn’t strategize better. So while the Falcons run defense is a liability, only 3 teams in the NFL give up more rushing touchdowns, I can’t see Seattle’s running game being at it’s best.

Chris Clemons being out is a significant drop off for the Hawks and as great, GREAT, as Russell Wilson has been in the post season and back stretch, no body can endure that kind of physical stress and be at their physical best against one of the NFL’s more elite offenses.  Falcons, the 1 seed, advance 30-14.

Packers at Niners

You know I’m a Niners fan. If Alex Smith were in this game, I’d take the Niners. But he’s not. So I can’t. While Kaepernick is a better weapon and certainly a more explosive athlete, it’s too much pressure to stick him in a head to head battle against Aaron Rodgers. Now, I realize he beat Drew Brees and Tom Brady head to head and on the road. The concern with Kaep is the Niners then want to throw more when he’s in. He’s 5-2 as a starter. His 5 wins: 28 or fewer pass attempts. His 2 losses: 30+ … If the Ninerst stick with the run, they’ll win the game. If Gore carries the ball more than Kaep attempts to throw, they’ll win. But if they don’t. Packers move on. I have a sinking feeling that the Niners will be forced to throw as the Packers can get hot fast. As painful as this is to type right now. Packers win 24-20.

I’ve never wanted to be more wrong than right now. 

 

Buehler's Week 17 Picks

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Buehler’s Week 17 NFL Picks

The final week of the regular season is here which means jubilation for the likes of the Colts and Seahawks who are surprise playoff teams playing for seeding rather than a spot, and relief for Raider fans and Jaguar fans who’s seasons have been hard to watch…

Bucs at Falcons

Falcons have won 7 of the past 8 and while most of their starters could sit, as they’ve wrapped up the 1 seed in the NFC, they’re in the mood to keep rolling until they prove their doubters wrong. Falcons win 31-28.

Jets at Bills

I feel bad for Bills fans. Feel worse for Jets fans. But feel terrible for anyone that has to watch this game. Res Ryan is 6-1 against Buffalo while Gailey is 0-6. Throwing a flier for the Bills, they win 17-7.

Ravens at Bengals

Each team have their playoff spot clinched, but rivalry is heated and the Bengals are still clawing for some respect. This game is the first time the Bengals are favored over the Ravens since 2008, which makes sense since the Ravens have beaten the Bengals the past 4 times including a 44-13 demolition of Cinci in September. Fun game to watch, but Ravens get the edge in the running game. Ravens win 20-17.

Bears at Lions

Sheesh. Week 17, Lions an unimpressive 4-11, Bears need to win to get in. Lions are 0-5 in division play this year, Cutler is 6-1 with 11 TDs, 1 INT versus Detroit. Easy game. Bears win 31-21.

Texans at Colts

The Colts have done things few NFL franchises have accomplished with Peyton Manning at the helm. Took a breathtakingly disastrous turn last year, only to rebound once again in historic fashion this year.  Coach Pagano has been a reverberating inspiration for the whole league. Want to see them win, but they’re the 5 seed regardless of outcome. The Texans are no longer a scary team, and Houston has never won in Indy. Ever. That streak continues. Colts win 27-24.

Panthers at Saints

Read about the Super Bowl Curse. That will help explain how the Saints lost to the Panthers in September. They won’t this week, but Cam Newton will still have a monster game. Saints win 35-28.

Eagles at Giants

It’s amazing to me this game is meaningless. Eagles have won 7 of the past 8, Coughlin has a 9-12 record against this team, Vick is back in the fold, and who knows what that means… Giants, at home, I like their chances. Giants win 21-17.

Browns at Steelers

It’s amazing to me this game is meaningless. The Browns will undergo a facelift, saying goodbye to their head coach and GM, and the Steelers will miss the playoffs. Amazingly, Coach Tomlin has NEVER lost when taking the field with a losing record. And don’t see how he does Sunday. Steelers win 27-21.

Jags at Titans

Awesome. Jags lost to the Pats last week, but not nearly as badly as the Titans lost to the Packers. Jags have won 3 of the last 4 in this matchup and I don’t know if I should lay any more ink to this contest. No one watching this game wins, but the Titans at home do. 21-14.

Chiefs at Broncos

The Broncos, hosting the Chiefs, are the biggest favorite EVER in Denver’s recorded spread history that dates back to 1978. And Broncos could earn a first round bye with a win. So they will. Broncos 35-10.

Packers at Vikings

The Vikings are a great story, AD running for more yards per attempt than Ponder can throw for, beating out the Bears for a potential playoff spot, and having to host the Packers to do so. A Packer team that Leslie Frazier has never beaten. Packers have won the past 5 and with a win, earn a 2 seed in the NFC. Giving this one to Rodgers. No discount double check for division play. Packers win 28-20.

Dolphins at Pats

The Dolphins always seem to play the Pats tough. They haven’t won in the past 5 matchups, but the games aren’t usually blowouts. Still Pats win. 27-14.

Raiders at Chargers

Norved. Both teams are that is. Pryor getting the start is going to provide a spark, for a quarter. Then San Diego’s defense will figure him out. Chargers win 31-13.

Cardinals at Niners

It’s a bad day for teams that have to face the Niners after a loss. But it’s even worse for a team who doesn’t have a quarterback. Division on the line, Niners win 27-3.

Rams at Seahawks

The Seahawks are an absolute buzzsaw right now. They’ve scored 173 points in the month of December, winning all 4 games. That’s 44% of their season’s offense in 4 weeks. They emasculated the Niners. Destroyed the Cardinals’ will to live before that. Now what happens against the Rams who are unbeated in their division at 4-0-1? Can’t bet against the Hawks at home (like I did last week). Seahawks win 31-14.

Cowboys at Redskins

Some fun games this week, but none better than this one.  The Boys MUST win to snag a playoff spot. The Redskins can get in as a wildcard, with the Bears and Vikings losing, but the Cowboys have not been known to be solid under pressure and couldn’t stop Brees last week at home. Most impressive part of the Redskins turnaround is how good their defense has been playing. I’m taking the DC over the Big D. Redskins win 27-24.

Enjoy the final week of the season!! Went 13-3 last week, hope to bat 1.000 this week! 

Buehler's Wildcard Picks

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Buehler’s Week 18 NFL Picks

I know what you’re thinking: “Glad the Niners got a first-round bye so Buehler can’t ooze bias through her NFL picks.” … I hear ya. And you’re right. So while the Niners have a week off to consider a multitude of ways to sufficiently throttle the unlucky team that sojourns to The Stick, I’ll leave the remaining oozing bias for next week and stick with the 4 games happening this weekend.

Saturday’s Games:

Bengals at Texans

These two teams find themselves in the exact same place as they did last year for Wildcard weekend. Well, sort of. The Texans have their starting quarterback, who wasn’t available last year, and the Bengals have an improved defense that is often forgotten in casual conversation. Last year, then rookie, Andy Dalton was called upon to throw 42 times, was picked on 3 of those passes and the Bengals were bounced by a better Texans team.

But, would you believe now second-year man, Dalton, has more postseason experience than Matt Schaub? Or that only 1 team throws more passes of 40+ yards than Cinci? Meanwhile, the Texans give up more big plays than any other playoff team. How about the running game? Texans have a big time runner in Arian Foster, who was the key to last year’s playoff win, but while they’re 4th in the league in attempts per game, they are 13th in the league in terms of 1st down percentage. So they run a lot, but it’s not moving the chains. For contrast, the Redskins and Pats are #1 and #2 in attempts, respectively, and #2 and #1 in 1st down percentage respectively.

The other key ingredient for each team is their defensive line. The Bengals are #3 in the league in sacks, the Texans are close behind at #5. However, if the Bengals can slow JJ Watt, who has collected 20.5 sacks on the season, the next most prolific quarterback threat is Antonio Smith with 7 sacks. Meanwhile, the Bengals have shared responsibilities between Geno Atkins (12.5 sacks) and Michael Johnson (11.5) and some supporting cast with Wallace Gilberry (6.5) and Carlos Dunlap (6). The Bengals have more weapons to get at the passer and we know the Texans are a one-trick pony. If Cinci can slow Foster down and force Schaub to throw the ball more than he’s comfortable, the Bengals defense will do it’s part to snag Marvin Lewis’s first playoff win. And if the Bengals can corral any semblance of a running game more than what they accomplished last year, you’ll be watching the Bengals move on to Denver in the divisional round.  Bengals win 24-21.

Vikings at Packers

This is the easiest game of the weekend to pick. Vikings at home barely beat the Packers who had little to play for. The Packers at home, despite a flawed defense, despite Peterson’s heroics are just too much for the Vikings. Packers win 35-20.

Sunday’s Games

Colts at Ravens

I worked for the Colts last season. I was at every home game as they went 0-2, 0-4, 0-8, 0-11, 0-13… I was also there when they logged the second and final win of the season. Week 17 against the Houston Texans. I watched as Dan Orlovsky found Reggie Wayne in the end zone with 23 seconds left on the clock. The team had nothing to fight for, but they found more than enough fire to knock the division leader in the teeth and send them into the post season with a loss that many considered meaningless, but it demonstrated a will to win in the Colts that has perpetuated the most improbable of regular seasons in NFL history. The Colts are the second team to ever go from 2 wins to 11 wins in one season. They saw THAT dramatic of a turnaround with a rookie general manager, rookie head coach, rookie interim head coach, rookie quarterback, rookie running back…etc… Most think it’s remarkable they made the playoffs (something predicted in this space before week 9), but what’s really remarkable is they aren’t overly impressed with their own success. THEY expected it.

Meanwhile the Ravens are getting Ray Lewis back and while he is the emotional leader and while you suppose his presence alone will improve the defense, he can’t help Joe Flacco. He can’t help Anquan Boldin catch the ball. Lewis isn’t the guy that’s going to get Torrey Smith open. The Ravens do not do well when under pressure. And the Colts don’t realize they are under any. The Horseshoe will continue to SHOCK the unknowing football world, but those who understand what makes a great team tick won’t be shocked at all. Colts win 24-21.

Seahawks at Redskins

Perhaps the only team in the NFL scorching the postseason scene more than Seattle is the Redskins. And as usual, the quarterbacks are getting the bulk of attention in this match up. But as unusual as these two players are, that does make a lot of sense. Last year’s Bengals/Texans matchup was the first time in NFL history two rookies went at it in the playoffs, and this year it’s happening again, except intentionally. I could jot another 500 words on the impressive seasons of RG3 and Russell Wilson, but while the quarterbacks are leading the conversation in most media outlets, I’m looking at this game as Marshawn Lynch versus Alfred Morris.

Marshawn Lynch was beaten in head-to-head rushing only 3 times this season, Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson and Reggie Bush were the backs to rush for more yards in those matchups. The Seahawks lost 2 of those games. No team in the NFL runs the ball more than Washington and the Seattle run defense is mediocre, giving up 4.5 yards a carry. The Seahawks have won 5 straight, the Skins have won 7 in a row. The Hawks took a trip through the NFC West, beat the Bills and Bears. Not a daunting task when you consider the aging Bears defense, Niners emotional trip from New England to Seattle and the Cards', Bills' and Rams' inconsistencies.  The Skins beat the Giants, Cowboys (twice), Eagles (twice), Browns and Ravens in their winning streak. They beat the same team twice, twice. That’s no fluke. They beat Eli and Flacco. They faced down a good pass rush in the Browns. They embarrassed Tony Romo in week 17. I know everyone thinks RG3 at 80% isn’t good enough to beat the Seattle pass rush and I’m telling you he won’t have to be because Alfred Morris is feeling just fine.  I was born and raised in Seattle. Watched them carefully in 2005 as the franchise took it’s first-ever trip to the Super Bowl and I have still NEVER seen or heard THIS much love for the Seahawks. Ever. But when it comes to the game Sunday, it won’t matter how hot the Hawks were in the regular season. Skins win 28-14.

Wildcard weekend is wild, and these games are sure to keep us on our seats! Can’t wait!!

 

 

 

Buehler's Week 16 NFL Picks

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Buehler’s Week 16 NFL Picks

Went 11-5 last week, largely thanks to picking the Niners to upset the Patriots, and candidly, that pick was oozing more bias than MSNBC. But it worked. Hope these do too. 

Saturday Night Football

Falcons at Lions

Buried in the Lions failed season is Calvin Johnson’s season. But he’s becoming the ONLY bright spot for Detroit. Meanwhile, the oft-doubted Falcons are closing in on home-field advantage through the playoffs with a win. Calvin gets his record. But Falcons win 30-17.

Raiders at Panthers

The Raiders are coming off a shutout of the Chiefs, the Panthers are coming off a demolition of the Chargers. In an inglorious showdown of futility, highlighted by a cameo of Terrell Pryor (yes, that’s the only highlight). Panthers win 28-12.

Saints at Cowboys

The Saints have been a mystery all season, explained perfectly by the Super Bowl Curse. The Cowboys have won 4 of their last 5 games by 3,5,1,3 points respectively. Which means they’ve been teetering on losses and the Saints’ potent offense will be on full display. After a brutal start to the season, the Saints TO margin has climbed back to +1. ‘Boys are -9. Saints win 35-31.

Titans at Packers

I don’t know why people are Titan fans. I do know why people are Packer fans. Remember when the media wondered what was wrong with Rodgers? He’s only thrown 25 TDs versus 3 INTs in his last 8 games against the AFC. With a passer rating of 115.7 in those games. Pack is 26-0 when Rodgers’ rating is 115+. Math is simple. Packers win 33-10.

Vikings at Texans

The Vikings are the surprise team in the NFC North that has, get this, supplanted the Bears for a playoff spot.  All the while, Ponder is averaging fewer yards per pass than Peterson is averaging per carry. While that is funny, it’s going to equal turnovers against that Texans defense, which is second in the league with a +15 TO margin. Texans win 20-14.

Pats at Jags

I don’t know what you want me to say. Would you want to face the Patriots after they were embarrassed by the 49ers? Especially since the Jags have NEVER BEATEN THE PATRIOTS. EVER. Geez. Pats win 35-10.

Colts at Chiefs

This was on the schedule, so apparently, they do have to play. Colts win and they clinch a playoff berth. With a rookie head coach, rookie GM and rookie QB. That is 10 times more difficult than you can imagine and therefore, 10 times more impressive than they’re given credit for. Best story in the NFL. Colts win 28-17.

Bills at Dolphins

Dolphins. Because they suck less. 24-17.

Chargers at Jets

So last week, the same Chargers team that beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the first time in the regular season in franchise history, subsequently face planted at home against a lowly Panthers team. THAT means, on the road against a Jets team that is starting Greg Mc Elroy, clearly they felt the Cardinals and Chiefs were receiving too much undo attention for bad quarterbacks when they have a bevvy of them…  the Chargers will actually put together a game plan that is shockingly successful. And prove how #Norved the team is. Chargers win 24-7

Redskins at Eagles

Since the Eagles fired Juan Castillo, the secondary has allowed 14 TDs and collected 0 INTs. Last time these teams met, you might remember RG3 ended up with a PERFECT PASSER RATING, that wasn’t an accident. He gets the start. And the win. Redskins 28-14.

Bengals at Steelers

People often look at the Bengals the same way they used to look at the Saints- skeptical they can take that “next step” and become a legit playoff team. This is the week this team proves they are. They have all the right ingredients: Big armed qb. #1 receiver. Decent running game. Potent defense. Step aside Steelers. Who Dey Nation is taking this one. And a playoff spot. Bengals win 14-10.

Rams at Bucs

I don’t know what to think of either team. I’m not sure any two teams have been so Jeckle and Hyde as these two week in and week out. Both were relevant, then not, then on the cusp of a playoff berth, then not. And now, still not. But given the Bucs woes against the pass and Jeff Fisher’s coaching style, I’m going Rams 27-20.

Browns at Broncos

If the Ravens got shelled by the Broncos at home, the Browns are in for a long Sunday. Broncos win. 30-17.

Bears at Cardinals

Last time this game happened in Arizona, it produced one of the great moments in coaching history. Things have changed now. But, despite a huge win over the ailing Lions last week, the Cardinals are who we think they are. Bears win 28-10.

Giants at Ravens.

Both teams were embarrassed last week by playoff opponents. I’m giving the defending world champions the benefit of the doubt for a rebound, that and the Ravens offense may still need time to adjust to Jim Caldwell. Giants win 27-24.

49ers at Seahawks

I should spare you the reason the Seahawks could win this game. Despite Russell Wilson becoming the first rookie QB since the merger to go undefeated at home through the first 6 home games, despite this team scoring 50+ in back-to-back games and becoming the first team since 1950 to do so, despite the Hawks +11 TO margin besting the Niners +8 mark, I’m still taking the Niners to pull off the upset. Because I can. Niners win 30-14 (boom).  

 

 

 

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