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The Playoff Gambling Suggestion Box

Now that the NFL doesn’t make sense, the Sports Guy has altered his manifesto to include a few recommendations to guide you.

Colin Kaepernick

I posted my last Playoff Gambling Manifesto in January of 2006 right before the NFL playoffs turned into a glorified crapshoot. That particular document contained 15 gambling “rules” that I created from 1991 to 2005, along with my buddy Geoff, during an extended trial-and-error period that left more than a few scars and bruises. For instance, you only learn a rule like “Never bet on a playoff team coached by Marty Schottenheimer” once you’ve said things like, “The next time you hear me say that I’m betting on Marty Schottenheimer in January, just swing an ax into my chest.”

And you know what? The Manifesto actually worked. When New England won back-to-back Super Bowls, I finished 14-8 against the spread in those two postseasons. Everything flipped in January, 2006, right when I posted Manifesto 4.0. Over the next six postseasons, I staggered to a middling 31-34-1 record, slowly drifting away from the Manifesto as the league stopped making sense. These last two postseasons, I went 15-7 by obeying a stripped-down set of rules (we’ll get to them). Still, I’m not sure people realize how wonky these last eight postseasons were.

Since January 2006 …

• The league’s two best teams by record only faced off in one Super Bowl: the ’09 Saints versus ’09 Colts (combined records: 31-5).1


We’re identifying these teams with the year their regular season happened, not when their Super Bowl happened. For instance: The 16-0 Pats lost the Super Bowl in February 2008, but everyone knows them as the 2007 Pats.

• The no. 1–ranked DVOA team only made one Super Bowl … (long gulp) … yup, the ’07 Pats. Only two other top-three DVOA teams made a Super Bowl: the ’10 Packers (third) beat the ’10 Steelers (second). The last top-two team in DVOA to actually win the title? The ’04 Pats, who finished first. In other words, keep your guard up, Seahawks fans.2


DVOA finishes by Super Bowl champs: ’05 Steelers (4th); ’06 Colts (7th); ’07 Giants (16th); ’08 Steelers (4th); ’09 Saints (6th); ’10 Packers (3rd); ’11 Giants (12th); and ’12 Ravens (8th). DVOA finishes by Super Bowl runners-up: ’05 Seahawks (5th); ’06 Bears (4th); ’07 Pats (1st); ’08 Cards (20th); ’09 Colts (8th); ’10 Steelers (2nd); ’11 Pats (4th); ’12 Niners (4th).

• Underdogs covered six of the last seven Super Bowls and won four outright: the ’07 Giants (12-point dogs); the ’09 Saints (five-point dogs); the ’11 Giants (2.5-point dogs); and the ’12 Ravens (4.5-point dogs). The previous four underdogs to win a Super Bowl outright: the ’02 Bucs, ’01 Pats, ’97 Broncos and ’90 Giants.

• It’s really important to clinch a Round 1 bye, right? Well, the ’08 Steelers and ’09 Saints were the only bye week teams to win Super Bowls. The Bye Weekers only finished over .500 in the playoffs once, in 2009, when they went 6-3. They never went “chalk,” finishing 29-30 overall. By contrast, from 1998 through 2004, the Bye Weekers won six of seven Super Bowls,3 went “chalk” three times (in 1998, 2002 and 2004), and never dipped below .500 (finishing 40-22 overall).4


From 1998 to 2004, only the 2000 Ravens came out of Round 1 to win a Super Bowl.


By year: 4-4 in 2012; 4-4 in 2011; 3-4 in 2010; 6-3 in 2009; 3-3 in 2008; 3-4 in 2007; 3-4 in 2006; 3-4 in 2005; 7-3 in 2004; 4-3 in 2003; 7-3 in 2002; 6-3 in 2001; 4-4 in 2000; 5-3 in 1999; 7-3 in 1998.

• Three teams won a Super Bowl without hosting a playoff game: the ’05 Steelers, ’07 Giants and ’10 Packers. From 1966 through 2004, that only happened twice.

• The ’08 Cardinals went 9-7 and somehow lost the title in the final minute, on the highest degree-of-difficulty game-winning pass in Super Bowl history. Three years later, the ’11 Giants became the first 9-7 team to win the title, as well as the only Super Bowl champ that gave up more regular-season points than it scored. I will get over this at some point in my life. Probably not this decade or next decade. But at some point.

• Five of the last six Super Bowls were nail-biters that included at least one unforgettable moment: David Tyree catching a season-saving football off his helmet and then never making another professional catch in his entire life (Super Bowl XLII); James Harrison’s insane touchdown and the semi-miraculous Roethlisberger/Holmes game-winning touchdown (Super Bowl XLIII); Peyton Manning’s season-ending pick-six (Super Bowl XLIV); Brady just missing Welker for a potential season-clinching TD that I can still see when I fall asleep at night (Super Bowl XLVI); and the blackout and all the other unforgettable stuff that happened during that Ravens-Niners barn burner (Super Bowl XLVII).

• We’ve had one significant Round 2 upset for eight straight Januarys: the ’05 Steelers in Indy (+9.5 underdogs); the ’06 Pats in San Diego (+4.5); the ’07 Chargers in Indianapolis (+11); the ’08 Cards in Carolina (+10); the ’09 Jets in San Diego (+8.5); the ’10 Jets in New England (+9); the ’11 Giants in Green Bay (+8.5); and the ’12 Ravens in Denver (+9). Good lord! Seven of those were MONSTER upsets, too. Kudos to the Greatest Quarterback of All Time, Peyton Manning, for somehow being on the wrong side of three of them! (Sorry, I had to.)

• We’ve had two stunning conference title game upsets: the ’07 Giants (nine-point underdogs in Green Bay) and ’12 Ravens (7.5-point dogs in New England). And we had one semi-mildly stunning upset that wasn’t so stunning because we’d already learned that you should never bet against God, puppies and gambling theories hatched in Pakistan: the ’08 Cards as four-point home dogs over Philly.

• From 2000 through 2006, only three times did a matchup feature a playoff team that had won four or more games than its opponent: Eagles-Vikings in 2004, Steelers-Jets in 2004, and Bears-Seahawks in 2006. All three times, the better team won. From 2007 through 2011, those matchups happened at least twice per postseason and an unbelievable 14 times overall. Seven of those 14 games were won by the vastly inferior team,5 including two by .500-or-under teams playing at home and as 7-plus-point underdogs (the 2010 Seahawks and 2011 Broncos).


From 2007 through 2011 (any game in which the team with the lesser record won is asterisked): Pats-Jaguars (2007); Pats-Giants (2007);* Colts-Chargers (2008);* Steelers-Chargers (2008); Chargers-Jets (2009);* Colts-Ravens (2009); Colts-Jets (2009); Saints-Seahawks (2010);* Bears-Seahawks (2010); Steelers-Broncos (2011);* Packers-Giants (2011);* Pats-Broncos (2011); Niners-Giants (2011);* Pats-Giants (2011).*

• For anyone making proclamations this week like “I just don’t trust Andy Dalton in January,” please remember that, in the last eight postseasons, (a) Matt Hasselbeck and Rex Grossman started Super Bowl games; (b) Mark Sanchez won FOUR ROAD PLAYOFF GAMES IN TWO YEARS; (c) Matt Schaub won a playoff game only 12 months ago and just nine months before he became a bleary-eyed carcass; (e) Jake Delhomme won consecutive road playoff games; and (f) Tim Tebow won a playoff game … in overtime … by completing an 80-yard touchdown pass.6


Wait, one last time … TEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-BOWWWWW!!!!!

• In the last eight postseasons, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are 19-16 combined, with two Super Bowl titles.

• In the last eight postseasons, Mark Sanchez, Eli Manning, and Joe Flacco are 21-9 combined, with three Super Bowl titles.

• Read those last two paragraphs again.

So I ask you again … how can you give your gambling career over to a Playoff Manifesto when all hell has apparently broken loose????

I don’t see things changing, either. We knew the NFL wanted perpetual parity by ushering in the Salary Cap era, but the Bigger, Stronger, Faster era might be having a bigger impact than anything else. These guys are clearly too huge now; the YouTube videos of the 1970s games have little correlation to what we’re watching now. (Bonus points for the Brent and Irv footage! I think Irv was the first announcer I ever made fun of … I’ll always have a soft spot for him.) And let’s be honest — nobody really cares. The league’s PED testing system remains a laughable joke, as does the fact that it won’t discuss weight limits or any other out-of-the-box idea that might make the league’s players a little more, um, realistic. Instead, it’s cracking down on hard hits, cheap shots and headhunting — a decent start, but nothing that will solve the fundamental problem of NFL players outgrowing a sport that was originally designed for different bodies and different speeds.

Whether it’s a coincidence or something more (and I say the latter), it sure seems like we’re seeing more and more injuries to marquee players. The lack of depth has been astonishing. In Week 16, the injury-ravaged Patriots started four guys they found off the street — not even off practice squads, but off the street. In this month’s AFC playoffs, our top-three seeds will be missing Von Miller, Rob Gronkowski, Leon Hall, Vince Wilfork, Geno Atkins, Ryan Clady, Jerod Mayo, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Koppen … I mean, I can’t even keep track anymore. Throw in the advances in concussion awareness (translation: “throw in the NFL finally acknowledging that concussions might be dangerous”), and it sure seems like more quality players than ever are either limping off the field, being carted off while sadly slapping hands with teammates, or wobbling back to the sidelines like they’re failing a Breathalyzer.

Now throw this in: The slew of NFL safety-first rule changes made it easier for receivers and tight ends to run over the middle, and also allowed quarterbacks to stand in the pocket without worrying about being decapitated or being bernardkarmellpollarded. In the old days, you’d just assume that a shitty-to-mediocre QB would self-destruct in the playoffs because of the defensive pressure, the intensity or whatever. That’s why three of my 15 Manifesto 4.0 rules revolved around quarterbacks: “Never, ever, EVER back a crappy QB on the road,” “Check out the backup QBs” and “Before you make a decision, take one last look at the quarterbacks again.” But in today’s safety-first NFL, how many times did we see the likes of Mike Glennon, Christian Ponder or Jason Campbell looking exceedingly comfortable in an allegedly scary venue like Seattle or San Francisco? It’s much more difficult to break a quarterback now. Well, unless it’s Blaine Gabbert.

Swinging it back to this year’s playoffs: In the old days, I would have said, “No way Andy Dalton can win a playoff game on the road, he’ll self-combust” and back that mind-set with a sizable illegal wager. In 2014? I mean … name me an AFC team/crowd combo that’s breaking Andy Dalton. It doesn’t exist. Only Andy Dalton can break Andy Dalton. (And don’t worry — he might.) Everyone has a puncher’s chance in 2014. Everyone. And that’s one of many reasons why Playoff Gambling Manifesto 5.0 will never happen.

The good news? We learned a few lessons and suggestions over these past eight years. You don’t have to live by these babies; just keep them in your hip pocket and sprinkle them into your gambling life however you want. Call it a Pseudo-Manifesto.

SUGGESTION NO. 1: Find this year’s “NOBODY BELIEVES IN US!!!!” team and give strong consideration to riding them like Secretariat.

We’re currently riding a streak of six “NOBODY BELIEVES IN US!” playoff teams: the Giants (2007), Cardinals (2008), Jets (2009), Packers (2010), Giants (2011) and Ravens (2012). Four won Super Bowls, the fifth came one minute away from the title, and the sixth nearly made the Super Bowl with Mark Sanchez. We’ve covered this phenomenon a million times in this space; it’s a real thing. When everything’s relatively equal, a little extra motivation goes a long way. Athletes love proving people wrong, and the greatest thing about sports is that, in the words of Joaquin Andujar, “youneverknow.” Our best “NOBODY BELIEVES IN US!” possibilities for this year’s playoffs?

Green Bay Packers: Somehow made the playoffs after playing Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace at QB for 40 percent of the season … gave up more points (428) than they scored (417) … nearly lost a win-or-go-home game to a Bears team that was so limited, the general reaction of Chicago fans was, “I’m bummed that we lost, but I’m relieved the season is finally over” … severely banged-up on both sides of the ball … it’s unclear if people remember how good Rodgers is (if they don’t, the fourth-and-8 play should have reminded them) … had major trouble selling out this weekend’s playoff game against the Niners, fostering a little “even Packers fans don’t totally believe” sentiment … and here’s the biggie: They’re GETTING POINTS at Lambeau this weekend. Nobody believes in you, Green Bay!!!!!!

San Diego Chargers: Barely finished 9-7 … only made the playoffs after getting major help from Geno Smith and Geno Smith’s dong … oh, and they needed five quarters and Ryan Succop’s shanked game winner to beat KC’s second string in Week 17 with their season on the line … have a tortured playoff history that includes the traumatic “Freezer Bowl” loss in Cincinnati during the Dan “MFIC” Fouts era … are playing in Cincinnati this weekend … oh, and they’re coached by a guy who said “You know what?” approximately 377 times during this allegedly inspiring speech.

(The verdict? You’ll have to wait until we get to the picks.)

SUGGESTION NO. 2: Don’t bet against God, puppies or gambling theories from Pakistan.

A cousin of Lesson No. 1 … but still …

SUGGESTION NO. 3: Beware of the “Everybody Believed In Us” team.

The bastard sibling of the “Nobody Believed In Us” team. A few years ago, I compared this phenomenon to Albert Ganz, the bad guy in my favorite movie ever (48 Hrs). Nick Nolte shoots him at the end, followed by Ganz looking down at the bullet hole and hissing, “I can’t believe it … I got shot.” You never want to be riding the consensus favorite that’s suddenly and incredulously staring down at that bullet hole — whether it’s the 2001 Rams, the 2007 Pats, the 2012 Broncos or whomever. Overconfidence = playoff death. I don’t think we have a Ganz team right now; it would have been the Seahawks, but that Week 16 home loss to Arizona may have shaken them out of it. If Seadderall blows someone out in Round 2 and gets a round of “Seattle might be a juggernaut!” momentum going? Be careful, my friends. Be careful. That also leads into our first lesson …

LESSON NO. 1: Beware of the “Looked A Little Too Good The Previous Round” team.

One of the few Manifesto staples that still works — remember, people love overreacting to whatever happened the previous week (and during the Twitter/Internet/Talking Head era, overreacting in general). A good recent example: the 2011 Saints dropping 45 on the Lions in Round 1, charging into San Francisco in Round 2 as four-point favorites … then losing to Alex Smith.

LESSON NO. 2: Beware of any and all aging QBs in cold weather.

Or, as it’s better known, the Favre/Manning Theory. (And hopefully not this month, the Favre/Manning/Brady theory.)

LESSON NO. 3: Beware of all dome teams in cold weather.

Thanks to Chase Stuart for this stat: Dome teams are 3-22 in the playoffs when they’re outdoors and it’s 35 degrees or colder.7


The three exceptions: ’04 Vikes (in Green Bay), ’02 Falcons (in Green Bay) and ’95 Colts (in Kansas City).

Take it from a lifetime New Englander who spent the last 12 years in Southern California and turned into a total cold-weather wuss — at some point, your body decides, “Look, I’m not used to being cold” and acts accordingly. And if you’re an aging QB from a dome team? I think you just self-combust on the first sack.

LESSON NO. 4: Don’t make any three-team, 10-point teasers with three Round 2 favorites.

As covered earlier, the last time all four Round 2 teams went “chalk” was January 2005. This isn’t even a lesson, it’s a rule — no three-team teasers in Round 2. Period. Don’t even think about it. The cousin of this rule: “Beware of the two-team teaser or parlay on paper that looks a little too easy.” Gambling is never easy. Ever. Ever. Ever.

SUGGESTION NO. 4: Be careful with any team that battled a major off-field distraction during the week leading up to the big game.

Also known as the Eugene Robinson Corollary. All dong-photo scandals, PED scandals, sex scandals, locker room fistfights, hooker/strip club scandals and vengeful-former-employee scandals go here. To be fair, the Ravens won last year’s Super Bowl even after the Ray Lewis/deer antler spray fiasco became a major story for a couple of days followed by everyone looking the other way and pretending it never happened — that’s why I made it a suggestion and not a rule.

SUGGESTION NO. 5: Ignore final records and gravitate toward how teams finished in November and December.

Again, this one doesn’t always work — remember “red-hot” Washington losing to Seattle in Round 1 last season? I’m more leery of teams that started strong and faded late — like the Chiefs winning nine straight, then blowing five of their last seven (including the only three games they played all year that actually mattered). Would you rather take them … or would you rather take the peaking-at-the-right-time Colts? Hold on, this next lesson might help you.

SUGGESTION NO. 6: “Before you pick a team, just make sure Marty Schottenheimer, Herm Edwards, Wade Phillips, Norv Turner, Andy Reid, Anyone Named Mike, Anyone Described As Andy Reid’s Pupil and Anyone With the Last Name Mora” Isn’t Coaching Them.

I made this tweak in 2010 and feel good about it — especially when the “Anyone Named Mike” rule miraculously covers the Always Shaky Mike McCarthy and Mike “You Know What?” McCoy (both involved this weekend!) as well as Mike Smith, Mike “The Sideline Karma Gods Put A Curse On Me” Tomlin, Mike Munchak and the recently fired Mike Shanahan. We’re also covered if Mike Shula, Mike Martz, Mike Mularkey, Mike Tice or Mike Sherman ever make comebacks. I’m not saying you bet against the Mikes — just be psychotically careful with them. As for Andy Reid … we’ll get to him in a second.

LESSON NO. 5: Don’t forget that the most important people on a playoff team are the coach and the quarterback.

Here’s a little game for you: Before every playoff game, rate the coaches and quarterbacks from 1 to 10, add up their scores, then make sure you’re OK with the math before you keep going. A good example from last year: Joe Webb (1) + Leslie Frazier (3) against Aaron Rodgers (10) + Mike McCarthy (5). A four against a 15??? And you thought about taking the Vikings +7½???? Really? My numbers for Round 1 this weekend …

Kansas City: Alex Smith (3) + Playoff Andy Reid (3) = 6
Indianapolis: Andrew Luck (8) + Chuck Strong (7) = 15

(Hmmmmmmm. And I only have to lay a field goal with Indy at home???)

New Orleans: Cold-Weather Drew Brees (5 or 6) + Sean Payton (9) = 14 or 15
Philly: Sold His Soul Nick Foles (8) + Chip Kelly (7) = 15

(An even battle! Now I’m even more confused.)

San Diego: Cold-Weather Phil Rivers (7) + Mike McCoy (3) = 10
Cincinnati: Andy Dalton (3) + Marvin Lewis (6 or 7) = 9 or 10

(Basically dead even! Remember — Rivers won in cold weather this year in K.C. and Denver.)

San Francisco: Colin Kaepernick (5 or 6) and Jim Harbaugh (10) = 15 or 16
Green Bay: Aaron Rodgers (10) and Mike McCarthy (3 or 4) = 13 or 14

(Who else is abjectly terrified of taking the “3 or 4” coach against the “10” coach?)

LESSON NO. 6: Never bet too much money on your own team, and (obviously) never bet against your own team, ever, under any circumstances.

Goes without saying. If your team made the playoffs, you already have enough at stake. To be fair, I violated this lesson somewhere between eight and 25 times during the Belichick-Brady era — including Super Bowl XLVI, when I bet most of my winnings from the 2010 Hilton SuperContest on a Vegas ticket for the 2011 Pats to win the title. You know how that turned out. I’m like three bad gambling stories away from a new Grantland Channel series called “Bill’s Top 50 Worst Gambling Stories.” Anyway, don’t bet on your own team. (Well, unless it’s next week … and you’re a Pats fan with Andy Dalton coming into town. Then it’s OK. Any other time? Not OK!)

SUGGESTION NO. 7: Don’t try to be a hero, just try to win money.

I get it. You want to be cute. You want to say things like, “I don’t care about Andy Reid’s history in big games, or Alex Smith’s history in general … that’s precisely why nobody will see the Chiefs coming this weekend!” and load up on the Chiefs, then feel like a hero when they covered.

Ask yourself this question: If your life depended on it, you’d really bet on Alex Smith and Andy Reid in a road playoff game?

(You would?)

(You’d do that?)


LESSON NO. 7: When in doubt, gravitate toward the one pick that (a) would screw over the most gamblers and experts, and (b) would definitely be going against the single worst gambler you know.

Remember — there’s a reason casinos keep adding new buildings, online gambling sites keep fighting to be legal everywhere, and bookies risk incarceration just to take your dumb/predictable/bandwagon wagers. By the way, I finished the 2013 regular season with a 108-140-8 record against the spread. At least for this season, there’s a good chance that I’m the worst gambler you know.

Which reminds me … it’s time to make some picks! We’ll speed through these because I just laid out all the reasons they’re happening.

COLTS (-1) over Chiefs

Why You Eventually Regretted Taking the Colts: You got too excited about how they finished the season … and forgot that two of those last three wins were against Houston and Jacksonville. You overvalued Week 16’s K.C. beating and forgot about the revenge factor. You paid too much attention to the Indy-related “Only six teams ever beat three 12-win teams in one season and three made the Super Bowl!” stat. You forgot that their running backs were Donald Brown and Trent 3.0. You forgot how good Jamaal Charles was, and how scary K.C.’s kick returners were, and how important Justin Houston was to Kansas City’s defense. You were a little too excited for a Manning-Colts Round 2 matchup that seemed like karmic destiny and started thinking ahead. And you banked on Andy Reid falling apart in another playoff game while forgetting that it could just as easily happen in Round 2.

Why You Eventually Regretted Taking the Chiefs: You forgot they went 0-5 against the AFC’s other playoff teams, or that they were absolutely 2013’s Good Bad Team. You forgot that Andrew Luck is 22-11 lifetime and 13-3 at home, and that he’s the best player in this game (and you went against him anyway). You forgot that there’s little more agonizing than betting on Alex Smith when he’s down by 10 or more. You forgot that every Chiefs fan freaks out during every Ryan Succop field goal attempt (and with reason). You forgot how good Luck has looked in Indy’s revamped, up-tempo offense lately. You totally forgot about Andy Reid’s play calling and clock management in a big game, and that he was definitely going to be apologizing 90 minutes after the game for mistakenly giving Jamaal Charles just 14 touches. You didn’t call your buddy from Philly on Saturday morning and ask him, “Hey, I’m thinking of taking the Chiefs in this game, would you bet on Andy if you were me?” Now you have to spend the next 72 hours hating yourself.

My Pick: Colts 27, Chiefs 14

EAGLES (-2.5) over Saints

Why You Eventually Regretted Taking the Eagles: You took a newish QB and newish head coach in their first NFL playoff game ever against Drew Brees and Sean Payton. You ignored that the NFC East was awful and had to burp out a champion by default, or that the Saints played one NFC East team (Dallas) and won by 32 points. You forgot that Philly fans are destined to be unhappy in January — that’s just what God wants — and the fact that they were actually semi-confident heading into Round 1 was a glaring red flag. You didn’t realize that the Saints inadvertently qualify for a junior version of the “Nobody Believes In Us” theory because so many people think they’re screwed outdoors in cold weather. You forgot that you can’t name four guys on Philly’s defense. You got way too excited about Nick Foles. I mean, WAY too excited. He’s Nick Foles! What were you thinking???

Why You Eventually Regretted Taking the Saints: Again, the Saints are a perpetually forgettable road team that plays its home games indoors. You knew this. You also knew that there’s a big difference between Indoor Brees and Outdoor Brees. And yet you took the Saints getting less than three points, on the road, against a red-hot Eagles team … when they’re playing outdoors in 27-degree weather right after an East Coast blizzard? WTF? Did you get hit in the head? You may have gotten hit in the head. Go get an MRI.

My Pick: Eagles 34, Saints 22

Chargers (+7) over BENGALS

Why You Eventually Regretted Taking the Chargers: You willingly took a West Coast team that (a) barely eked by Kansas City’s second string in Week 17, (b) has the worst defense in the playoffs by far, and (c) shouldn’t have made the playoffs anyway. Then, you expected them to hang tough in Round 1 on East Coast time, in freezing weather — against a no. 3 seed that went undefeated at home, always seem to get lucky plays/bounces/tips/rolls when they need them AND scored 208 points in their last five home games. And you did this because, and I quote, “nobody believed in them”? That was your plan, Socrates?

Why You Eventually Regretted Taking the Bengals: You forgot that they haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, that Marvin Lewis is 0-4 in the playoffs, and that the Bengals barely sold out this game. You forgot that Cincy was starting two backup cornerbacks, and that Keenan Allen is winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award for a reason. You actually said the words “I know Andy Dalton can be awful, but I don’t think that’s rearing its ugly head until Round 2 or Round 3.” You ignored how the Chargers lost their seven games by 3, 3, 10, 6 (in OT), 8, 4 and 7 points … in other words, they always hang around, and yet you stupidly laid a TD against them. You forgot to read my illegitimate son Barnwell on this Sunday’s games, so you never knew that Cincy’s 8-0 home record isn’t as intimidating as it sounds — of the last seven teams to go 8-0 at home that played outdoors, five lost their first playoff home game. Instead, you took the inferior QB, and you weren’t scared enough that the superior QB kicked ass in Philly, Kansas City and Denver this season. Most important, you ignored this email in Simmons’s column from Jesse in Los Angeles …

“Has any team executed the ‘nobody believes in us’ strategy in week 17 more perfectly than this year’s Chargers? Going to overtime due to a missed 41 yard field goal (not to mention the apparent missed call by the referees) against the Chiefs B-Team and then barely eking out the victory. Think about it, they couldn’t even beat a team of practice squad players without the help of some higher power AND the help of the NFL’s finest. NOBODY BELIEVES IN YOU SAN DIEGO!!”

My Pick: Cincinnati 27, San Diego 23 (Chargers cover) … a.k.a. the “Andy Dalton Wins People Over With A Last-Minute Season-Saving Drive, Then Totally Self-Combusts A Week Later While San Diego Does A Valiant Job Of Protecting The Nobody Believes In Us Theory” game.

49ers (-3) over PACKERS

Why You Eventually Regretted Going Against The Packers: You went against Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau. You went against a home dog in the playoffs — and not just that, the Packers in zero-degree weather, the very foundation on which that franchise was built. You got carried away by all the Niners hype, and you stupidly believed in Colin Kaepernick when he’s more up-and-down than a season of The Walking Dead. Oh, and one more time: You went against Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs. Stop gambling. Just stop it. You suck at gambling.

Why You Eventually Regretted Going Against The Niners: You went against a red-hot contender, one of the NFL’s most talented teams AND a potentially explosive offense that’s finally healthy again. You went against a team that would have gotten the no. 1 seed if Ahmad Brooks’s hit on Brees had been called correctly. You went against Kaepernick against the one team he owns (Green Bay) and the one defensive coordinator he owns (Dom Capers). You backed Mike McCarthy over Jim Harbaugh. Again: You backed Mike McCarthy over Jim Harbaugh. You got seduced by Green Bay’s season-saving comeback win while conveniently forgetting that Green Bay never should have gotten itself into that fourth-and-8 mess, and that it took John Kuhn’s incredible block, Chicago’s abysmal secondary and the best play of Aaron Rodgers’s career just to propel the Pack to Week 18. And you screwed up the “Nobody Believes In Us” factor. If anything, nobody believed in the Niners — giving just three points against THAT Packers team? That line was a gift from the gambling gods: a superior playoff team giving a field goal to a deeply flawed playoff team … and you blew it. But hey, there’s always next weekend.

My Pick: San Francisco 41, Green Bay 20

Last Week: 6-10
Season: 108-140-8
Playoffs: 0-0