RR NFL Picks for the 2016 NFL Playoffs

By The Ruddy Report Staff nfl nfl playoffs picks

Possibly my favorite weekend of the year in the world of sports is almost here. The NFL Wild Card Round is the one of the most exciting weekends of the NFL Playoffs, especially this year, because three of the four games in the Wild Card Round feature road favorites. 1 To top it all off, the second annual College Football Playoff Championship Game becomes a special edition of Monday Night Football, part of the elegant taper of winter football availability.

One of my favorite things about the internet and sports journalism is that you have to put your money where your mouth is. People can dig up everything you say, and the internet won't really let you get out of it, as Ron Jaworski is probably finding out. So what Patrick and I are going to do is put our brackets out there. It's the first step on our path to legitimacy. We're taking it as seriously as we can. Which isn't very, but it's something.

We're going to pick this March Madness style and give our picks for games that we don't even know will end up happening for one reason, and one reason only: so we can make fun of each other later.

Wild Card Round - Patrick's Picks

Seattle at Minnesota

It’s going to be really, really cold. The game is also early for the Seahawks, who apparently can’t function before 11:00 am PST. These factors favor the Vikings.

They should still lose.

Seattle 27 Minnesota 17

Green Bay at Washington

Every week I assume that Aaron Rodgers can will the flawed Green Bay offense back into its 2011 form. Every week I'm wrong. Albert Einstein may or may not have said that “insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result,” but HOF running back Abraham Lincoln definitely said “don’t change horses in midstream.”

Green Bay 24 Washington 19

Baltimore at Indianapolis

The biggest question mark in this game is which version of Joe Flacco will come to play. He’s been solid but unspectacular during the regular season, but has had magical playoff runs before. Flacco, Suggs, and the rest of the Ravens will be extra motivated to delay Steve Smith, Sr.’s impending retirement at least another week.

On the other side of the field, MVP Andrew Luck has been unstoppable this year. His connection with T.Y. Hilton—

Kansas City at Houston

Wait, seriously? The Chiefs and Texans are playing in a playoff game? Wow.

Kansas City 16 Houston 10

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

This game figures to be brutal. These bitter division rivals have not played nicely with each other this year and it will be a win for the NFL if this doesn’t happen.

The Steelers enter this game without much momentum. After losing to the Baltimore Ravens B team, Pittsburgh managed an uninspiring win against the Cleveland Browns and still needed help to make the playoffs. Having lost both Le’veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams to injury, the Steelers will turn to 16-year old high school phenom Fitzgerald Croissant2 to carry the ball.

Meanwhile, the Bengals are in an even more desperate situation. Losing Andy Dalton is a big setback3, but having to play in primetime might be an insurmountable hurdle for Cincinnati. They should have tanked to clinch the early Saturday game.

Pittsburgh 21 Cincinnati 20

Wild Card Round - Kashev's Picks

Seattle at Minnesota

One of the things that I hate in NFL hot-take-ism is the respect that traditionally good franchises like the Steelers and the Patriots get. The Steelers laid a huge egg and lost to the Ravens in week 16. That Ravens team finished the season 5-11. That Ravens team started Ryan Mallet, who was cut from a Texans team which is traditionally approximately 100000000 times worse than the Ravens. More on that later. The point is, it is downright troubling to me that the Steelers lost that game. However, if you turn on NFL Network or ESPN NFL Insiders or whatever football table talk show you find on daytime TV, you will hear that the Steelers are not a team you want to face right now. The reason you hear this is because the Steelers are traditionally good. They have a history of winning in the post-season, and because of that, we're led to believe that this incarnation of the team knows how to win in the post-season. I don't believe in that. I believe that team is capable of dropping any given game.

But this pick is about the Seahawks. And the Vikings, but for me, this is mostly about the Seahawks. Lately, Seattle, with Russell Wilson, Beast Mode (when he makes it to the field), and the Legion of Boom, has gotten the same sort of dynastic respect as the Steelers and the Patriots get. They're excused for more mistakes than a team like the Packers, which has been making a lot of mistakes lately.

Despite my distaste for that post-season experience narrative, I think the Seahawks are better than this Vikings team. I don't believe that Teddy Two Gloves is going to be able to throw well enough against an excited and hungry Seattle secondary. I don't think Adrian Peterson is going to be able to break off as many long runs as Russell Wilson. There's nothing wrong with this Vikings team, and I don't think they'll make a lot of mistakes this weekend. I think both teams will probably score plenty of points. But I don't think that'll be enough.

Seattle 28 Minnesota 20

Green Bay at Washington

Kirk Cousins is not better than Aaron Rodgers. Kirk Cousins is not better than Aaron Rodgers. Kirk Cousins is not better than Aaron Rodgers. Stop saying that. Stop asking who I want as my quarterback for the next five years. It's no contest.

But Patrick is wrong here. The Washington Professional Football Team is going to beat the Packers. You like that??

The problem for the Packers, who would have won this game last year, is that their wide receiving corps is decimated. Aaron Rodgers keeps them in games by sheer force of will, and sometimes even wins those games. It's impressive. But this isn't a good football team this season. I don't trust them to beat Washington. Kirk Cousins, of all people, will take care of business, especially at home.

Washington 31 Green Bay 24

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

I don't trust Pittsburgh, but Cincinnati isn't the same team that they were when Andy Dalton was tearing the league up with his new haircut. They're starting AJ McCarron, who is serviceable, but not experienced enough to deal with a blitzing defense like Pittsburgh in the post-season. I don't buy the post-season experience narrative (see: all the stuff I wrote about that Seattle game), but the Bengals don't win here. Andy Dalton's redemption will have to wait another year.

Pittsburgh 25 Cincinnati 10

Kansas City at Houston

How did the Texans get a home game? How did that crap happen? The Chiefs are rolling, and they're going to beat the crap out of the Texans handily. I don't know who the Texans are starting at quarterback without looking it up. JJ Watt is not 100%. It's just not going to happen for the Texans until their offense is up to par. That's the kind of league it is.

I don't trust Andy Reid not to screw this one up. He's .500 in the post-season and I don't expect him to get much better. But this one is gonna be too easy.

Kansas City 35 Houston 9

Divisional Round - Patrick's Picks

Pittsburgh at Denver

Last time Pittsburgh met Denver in the playoffs, they lost on an overtime touchdown pass by Tim Tebow.

Look for Denver to sign Tebow to a one-day contract before the game. History repeats itself.

Denver 29 Pittsburgh 23 (OT)

Kansas City at New England

Depending on how quickly various players heal from injury, the Patriots may also need to sign Tim Tebow to a one-day contract to play running back and wide receiver. The B&B Empire is incredible, but this team is flawed. Hopefully wide receiver Julian Edelman will be able to return at full strength, but if he is slow coming off of injury then this offense is down to Brady and Gronk. I also don't trust New England's secondary against a deep passing attack.

Luckily for the Patriots, Kansas City only throws the ball behind the line of scrimmage. I'm decently sure Andy Reid thinks he's coaching rugby. Among quarterbacks who have thrown for at least 150 yards this season4, Alex Smith ranks a hilariously low 42nd in average air yards per passing attempt.5 That puts him behind Case Keenum, Blaine Gabbert, Austin Davis, and all the other quarterbacks sure to start games for the (LA?) Rams in 2016.

But.

Playoff Alex. Alex Cool. Alex Ice. These nicknames are associated with Alex Smith for a reason. In his three career playoff starts, Smith has thrown for 9 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 873 yards6. In his most reason playoff game, a loss, he put up 44 points! His effort was wasted when the team collapsed in the wake of injuries to, among others, Jamaal Charles7.

This game intrigues me more than any other. I trust Kansas City's defense, which has been incredible since getting healthy mid-season.

Kansas City 23 Tom Brady 21

Seattle at Carolina

Look, I'm sorry, but, spoiler alert, I'm going to pick Seattle. I know, I'm a hater9, stuck in the past, not trusting the eye test.

Carolina is an excellent team. They are having a fantastic season. I think they're a top 4 team in the league. However, I think Seattle is a top 4 team as well, and they have a lot of playoff experience.

Cam Newton is phenomenal and deserving of the MVP, but how is Ted Ginn, Jr. going to get open against Richard Sherman10?

Honestly, the Charles Tillman injury worries me. Josh Norman might have been the best cornerback in the league this year, and he'll make it a tough game for Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin, but losing Tillman opens up opportunities for Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to create mismatches.

Seattle 26 Carolina 23

Green Bay at Arizona8

Arizona is a refreshing combination of really good and really fun. The Cardinals absolutely attack downfield. Remember how Alex Smith was 42nd in average air yards per passing attempt? Well, Carson Palmer is number 111. Bruce Arians' offensive philosophy is "Have fun! Throw it!"12

Arizona 21 Green Bay 20

Divisional Round - Kashev's Picks

Seattle at Carolina

I am really high on the Panthers. I don't care about Elo, I don't care about the article FiveThirtyEight puts out every other week about how the Panthers aren't that good. I am from Chicago, and I root for the Bears, and I treat the Panthers like the Bears East. They have Ron Rivera, who was on the 1985 Super Bowl winning Bears. They have Greg Olson, who I still don't know why we traded. They have Charles Tillman, who is injured, but they still have him. They have Jared Allen, who only passed through Chicago, but still. I am pulling for them. I don't think that Seattle will have more magic than the Panthers.

Did Patrick seriously mention playoff experience?

Carolina 45 Seattle 40 (have I mentioned I don't know how to pick scores?)

Washington at Arizona

Arizona is a really good football team. Bruce Arians is going to win super bowls. They don't like that. Kirk Cousins will turn back into a pumpkin, and they are going to get destroyed.

Arizona 63 Washington 13 (all in the 4th Quarter)

Kansas City at New England

Oh, New England. Bill Belichick is going to decide to win this one, I promise. No more not calling plays for Gronk. I don't know what running back they'll pick up off the street, but they'll make it work. I think their banged up white receivers will be back and in championship form. No knocks on the Chiefs, but I don't see this one going well for them, especially on the road.

New England 28 Kansas City 12

Pittsburgh at Denver

This one is tough. And when things get tough, I go with my heart instead of my brains or my guts. I want Peyton to have another ring so badly.

Denver 17 Pittsburgh 16

Conference Championships - Patrick's Picks

Kansas City at Denver

Really? These are the two teams I have in the AFC Conference Championship? I think both of these teams are weak. The Bengals are better than both of these teams. Why couldn't the Bengals have gotten a bye week so that Andy Dalton could heal and they could have the honor of losing the the NFC champion in the Super Bowl?

This is so bad. I wish I could pick the Bengals.

Kansas City 4 Denver 213

Seattle at Arizona

What a game this could be. I don't care that Arizona lost to Seattle 36-6 in Arizona just a few weeks ago. You can't convince me that deep down they actually cared about that game, knowing that they had already locked up a bye week and were unlikely to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

I spent many years thinking Carson Palmer was an overrated diva. He has reinvented himself under Bruce Arians.

Cardinals 31 Seahawks 28

Conference Championships - Kashev's Picks

Arizona at Carolina

I really believe in Cam this year. I think the Panthers defense will be able to stop Carson Palmer, and Cam Newton will be good in the 4th Quarter.

Carolina 28 Arizona 21

New England at Denver

Brady-Manning Bowl whatever number it is. As much as I love Peyton, Tom and Bill win this one most of the time. And that's really gonna be all there is to it.

New England 24 Denver 17

Patrick's Super Bowl Pick

Kansas City and Arizona

I haven't spent much time focusing on defenses throughout these picks, but here I've got two of the best in the Super Bowl. That would be fun to watch.

However, I have Kansas City in the Super Bowl. Kansas City should not be in the Super Bowl. How did I let this happen? No offense to their 10 game winning streak against inferior competition, the ghost of Peyton Manning, and the Fightin' Landry Jones'14, but this is the Kansas City Chiefs without Jamaal Charles and they will have to win at least two road games to reach the Super Bowl.

This game is supposed to be the Bengals versus any of the Cardinals, Seahawks, or Panthers. However, I fear the injury gods will defeat the Bengals early.

Speaking of injury gods, I just remembered that the Cardinals lost Pro Football Focus' top-rated cornerback of the season, Tyrann Mathieu.15 And now I have them in the Super Bowl. Against Kansas City.

Crap.

Where did I go wrong?

Arizona 100 Kansas City Participation Trophy

Kashev's Super Bowl Pick

New England and Carolina

My buddy Brady (not to be confused with the New England QB; just a fan) will be insufferable if the Pats win again this year.

Why in the world does Patrick have Kansas City in the Super Bowl? Is he just asking me to make fun of him?

Carolina 24 New England 21

Summary

Kashev's Picks

Wild Card Round

Seattle 28 Minnesota 20
Washington 31 Green Bay 24
Pittsburgh 25 Cincinnati 10
Kansas City 35 Houston 9

Divisional Round

Carolina 45 Seattle 40
Arizona 63 Washington 13
New England 28 Kansas City 12
Denver 17 Pittsburgh 16

Conference Championships

Carolina 28 Arizona 21
New England 24 Denver 17

Super Bowl

Carolina 24 New England 21

Patrick's Picks

Wild Card Round

Seattle 27 Minnesota 17
Green Bay 24 Washington 19
Kansas City 16 Houston 10
Pittsburgh 21 Cincinnati 20

Divisional Round

Denver 29 Pittsburgh 23
Kansas City 23 Tom Brady 21
Seattle 26 Carolina 23
Arizona 21 Green Bay 20

Conference Championships

Kansas City 4 Denver 2
Cardinals 31 Seahawks 28

Super Bowl

Arizona 100 Kansas City Participation Trophy

Footnotes

  1. "These Are The Best Wild-Card Road Teams In Modern History" by Neil Paine, FiveThirtyEight

  2. No offense to Toussaint, who I loved at Michigan.

  3. If Hue Jackson manages to manufacture a passing game for Cincinnati against a divisional foe, in primetime, in the playoffs, with AJ McCarron, then he should get all of the vacant head coaching positions. All of them.

  4. I chose this number completely arbitrarily. I felt like Luke McCown and Geno Smith played just enough to be relevant, but that RR and fan favorite Alex Tanney, sadly, did not. #FreeAlexTanney

  5. According to SportingCharts.

  6. Pro-Football-Reference

  7. Foreshadowing?

  8. I'm a fan of defense, but the last time these two teams met in the playoffs, they produced what might have been the best non-Super Bowl NFL game in modern history.

  9. I thought I'd be trendy and put HTTR here. Until I googled it for this article, I thought that was internet speak for hater. Apparently not.

  10. The easy answer is line up on the right side of the field.

  11. Again, among QBs with over 150 yards. If you remove the 150 yard minimum, Palmer falls to 4th, one slot behind RR favorite ALEX TANNEY.

  12. From The MMQB, which produced both this exceptional article on Bruce Arians and this in-depth analysis of Carson Palmer's game preparation.

  13. Laugh all you want, but last time Denver was this far in the playoffs, the prediction of a safety won this fan a lot of money.

  14. When a Landry Jones led team is an exception to the qualifier "inferior," you have a winning streak that you cannot trust.

  15. Rankings here. Mathieu is truly a-positional. Does he play cornerback or safety? Yes. He deserves a few DPOY votes.