The divisional playoffs commence on Saturday afternoon, and by tomorrow night the country will know the NFC and AFC championship game match-ups. Gambling opportunities are rapidly dwindling, of course, so it's time to flaunt your season winnings or make a (perhaps ill-advised) push to climb back even.
Of course, on a weekend like this, it's best to treat gambling as the cherry on top of an awesome custard, jam and meat trifle. Not only do Atlanta fans get to see their team travel to the NFC Championship Game, but they can make the money to buy a ticket! It's the power of positive thinking, people, and positive thinking (along with Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Brent Grimes, Curtis Lofton, etc.) will make your Saturday night a happy and profitable one.
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-3). There's absolutely nothing about these teams that seems mismatched: gutty QBs, oft-muffled but potentially explosive running games, receivers who don't leap to mind but probably should, relentless and fracture-producing defenses. So when it doubt, go with the team with these three advantages:
1) A bye week. No team needed a bye as much as the hobbling Steelers, and the week off allowed them to heal up and catch their breath.
2) Home-field advantage. Atlanta may have the stats, Kansas City may have the history, but Pittsburgh probably offers the league's best pure home support.
3) Experience. The Ravens have had some playoff success in recent years, but it doesn't compare to Pittsburgh's. Ben Roethlisberger has done some good postseason things, to say the least - and a lot of his supporting cast has been with him all along. PICK: Pittsburgh
Saturday, 8 p.m.
Green Bay @ Atlanta (-1 1/2). Falcons fans are suddenly pulling their hair out over this one, as a nation of "experts" and polls back the pea soup-colored opponent from the north. As a life-long Atlanta fan, I get the stress - leave it to 'em to win the first seed, and still end up getting screwed (Green Bay coming here, two-seed Chicago hosting 8-9 Seattle). Sure, the Packers almost beat Atlanta earlier in the season, and are now supposedly coming back with a resurgent running game. I understand the freak-out, I really do. I just ain't takin' part.
Two words make me confident about Atlanta's success: James Starks. Starks is the previously unknown Green Bay running back who broke out last week, to the tune of 123 yards against Philadelphia. In almost everything you read about this weekend's game, he's going to be Green Bay's savior - the missing piece they've needed all along. STOP THAT. Yes, he had a good game against Philly's 15th-ranked rushing defense. But let's not forget there's a reason we hadn't heard of him until 2011. There's a reason he spent multiple weeks this year on the "inactive" list. And it's this guy, who rushed six times for eight yards against Detroit, who's going to break Atlanta's seemingly unflappable home field advantage? Back off with that nonsense. Not only do I call a Falcons victory, but Starks doesn't go over 40 yards. PICK: Atlanta
Sunday's picks coming soon.
Last Week: 1-3-0
Regular Season Total: 133-116-7
Lines via SBNation.