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2014 NFL Playoffs: Saturday's Divisional Round

January 10, 2015

The following is a conversation previewing the 2014 Divisional match-ups (a discussion of Sunday's games can be found here):


Baltimore v New England @ 4:35 on NBC

The New England Patriots haven't been the same since George W. Bush left office.

Mike Langston: When it comes to the NFL, history and statistics are a big note to any game. In this one, you'll hear about how the Patriots (18-8) and Ravens (15-7) have the best playoff records since Y2K--

Bryan Harvey: Do you think if Belichick had planned Y2K, then Y2K might have actually happened? That all computers might have crashed and fantasy football wouldn't exist?

ML: Since 2000, the Patriots are 12-3 at home in the playoffs, and the Ravens have gone 2-1 against the Patriots in the playoffs. The funny thing about history and statistics, they can be shaped any way you want.

BH: Speaking of history, I've often wondered if New England's success is primarily due to the Patriot Act and the George W. Bush era. After all, the team didn't win a Super Bowl prior to this historical epoch and they haven't won a Super Bowl since Obama took office. You can write these things off as coincidences or even conspiracies, but read the fine print.

ML: I'm pretty sure the Patriot Act has little to do with the Belichick and Brady partnership. Patriot stood for Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.

BH: But wouldn't that just explain where Belichick got all his surveillance capabilities? Let's not forget that before the NSA there was Spy Gate.

ML: Ridiculous.

BH: Ridiculously true.

ML: Do you have anything else to say about New England?

BH: February 6, 2005 is the date of the last New England Patriots Super Bowl win. Where were you on that day? I wasn't married. I didn't have a real job. I was still in college. And barely anyone knew what The Wire was.

ML: Thank you. Those are valid points.

BH: No problem.

ML: Brady has been rather mediocre in his last 6 playoff games (7 TDs and 5 INTs, 3-3 record), which allows one to assume he's in decline--

BH: Just like America.

ML: --but saying so would be ignoring the fantastic season he just had, that Gronk was out for those games and that both New England and Baltimore have had a lot of turnover since either of them won a Super Bowl.

BH: Here's the difference though. Since New England last won a Super Bowl, The Wire pretty much happened in real time, and by real time, I mean the entire decline of America's urban and industrial monoliths. However, since Baltimore last won a Super Bowl, there was only enough time for HBO's Wire marathon.

ML: Still, this Ravens squad is not what it was two seasons ago. The Ravens' depleted defense (over 10 players on IR) going up against one of the most versatile offenses in football.

BH: Is like McNulty typing crime reports on a typewriter.

ML: Sure, but that same depleted defense--whose injury report looks more like an MLB roster--just shut down one of the better offenses in the league last week.

BH: Big Ben revival rest in peace.

ML: You can make either team look like the favorite.

BH: Neither is my favorite.

ML: However, if I were a betting man, I would disregard all of that. It's noise and means absolutely nothing.

BH: I can't hear you!

ML: Ray Rice, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis won't be suiting up.

BH: Well, Ray Lewis will be. He works for ESPN.

ML: Rob Gronkowski isn't hurt.

BH: There's still a few hours before kickoff.

ML: And despite what John Harbaugh says, Joe Flacco still isn't the best QB in the NFL.

BH: Who is?

ML: Now, given all of that, I still don't know what to make of this Patriots team.

BH: How 'bout a football team.

ML: They play good on defense. They have the best tight end in football.

BH: Are you saying Kate Upton doesn't play football?

ML: They can run with any back on their lineup. However, if Gronk goes down or is held in check, the Patriots can become mediocre really quick. Their next two "best" weapons in the air are Julian Edelman and Brandon Lafell.

BH: Sounds awful.

ML: Yeah. But, I'll still take the Patriots. New England 24, Baltimore 17.

BH: I'll probably just re-watch The Wire.


Carolina v Seattle @ 8:15 on Fox


There's no better way to drown out the 12th Man.
ML: After a dreadful 3-3 start to their Super Bowl defending season, the Seahawks have gone 9-1, held five of their last six opponents to seven points or less, and haven't given up a point in the fourth quarter in the last six games.

BH: But I thought the Panthers were the hot team?

ML: That's just a way to legitimize a terrible team even making it into the Playoffs. Of course, it should be noted that in Seattle's last six games were against the following quarterbacks: Mark Sanchez, Colin Kaepernick, Shaun Hill, Ryan Lindley and Drew Stanton.

BH: What does it mean for the 49ers that Kaepernick's name seems as at home on that list as it does with any other five quarterbacks in the league?

ML: Can't be good.

BH: At least he's got endorsements already.

ML: No one will ever take his Beats headphones away from him.

BH: If someone does, then he might actually hear that he's not very good.

ML: True. Anyway, none of those six quarterbacks the Seahawks have faced are quite as capable of achieving what Cam Newton is.

BH: How is he not doing Fig Newton commercials?

ML: There's probably a good reason for that.

BH: Really?

ML: Newton has been playing pretty good as of late and thanks to a complete defensive turnaround, the Panthers, as undeserving as they might be, get to continue a rather improbable run.

BH: Do the Panthers beat any other Playoff team than Arizona last week?

ML: Does it matter? Luke Kuechly's defensive unit has only allowed 11.8 points in their last five games. In the wild card round, they only allowed 78 yards, an NFL record.

BH: They played the Cardinals.

ML: Given how well these two defenses are playing, this game could be ugly.

BH: Uglier than the Cardinals quarterback situation?

ML: It could be the type of game where relying on a great back like Marshawn Lynch could make the difference.

BH: You're telling me Lynch can pimp Skittles and no one has thought of having Cam endorse Newtons?

ML: But Lynch has struggled against the Panthers, having been held to 85 yards or less in his five games against Carolina.

BH: That's like opening a bag of Skittles and seeing only the orange kind.

ML: I feel like the Panthers could sneak out with this one.

BH: A slept on fruit is the fig.

ML: Cam and the Panthers have to realize how lucky they are to have made it here. And he's always been good when the lights are the brightest. I really want to take them. But, alas, I cannot.

BH: Yeah, it's hard to pick a 7-8-1 team playing on the road against the defending champs.

ML: The Seahawks are a different beast at home. More specifically, Russell Wilson is a different quarterback at home.

BH: He's selling headphones now too.

ML: The Panthers' offense should be fine, but the defense will get exhausted, as Russell Wilson scrambles for a mind numbing amount of first downs on third and longs. Seattle 17, Carolina 13.

BH: If Cam were to eat a Fig Newton, would that be cannibalism?

Mike Langston can be followed @LangstonLCBBryan Harvey can be followed on Twitter @LawnChairBoys.

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