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Reporter's Notebook: Super Bowl, college bowls and 2013’s fine football finish
Good thing I’m not a betting sports fan.
My picks for the 2013-2014 college football bowl season was going swimmingly, with spot-on picks for about two-thirds of the games and slim losses in several other games. The only grievous miscalculations were in (oddly) three match-ups involving Pac-12 schools and a game in which I severely underestimated Utah State’s ability to shut down Northern Illinois.
And then we hit New Year’s Day. I lost all six bowl picks to ring in the New Year, starting with an abnormally solid Nebraska defense shutting down Georgia and finishing with Central Florida keeping pace with — and eventually out-gunning — an explosive Baylor squad.
An Oklahoma win against Alabama the next day ran my losing streak to seven and put me at.500.
Going into Monday night’s championship game pitting Florida State against Auburn (results were too late for this edition; I picked FSU by a touchdown), my overall mark was dead even at 17-17.
Yikes. If there were licenses for sports writers, I’d imagine mine would be revoked.
Perhaps my picks for the NFL postseason will go better:
• Saturday, Jan. 11
Matchup: New Orleans at Seattle
Time/channel: 1:35 p.m., Fox
My pick: Seattle, 31-17
The skinny: The season may have ended a bit shaky for the ‘Hawks, who needed to knock off a resurgent Rams team in the regular season finale to secure a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. So the offense is a little anemic recently — particularly for a fan base salivating at the prospect of a Super Bowl berth — but the defense is absolutely solid, with all-pros in the secondary like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. When New Orleans’ offense truly revolves around Drew Brees and the Saints’ receiving corps matches up against the best aspect of Seattle’s stout defense, the Seahawks will dominate. Not as much as their 34-7 win in early December, but pretty close.
• Sunday, Jan. 12Matchup: San Francisco at Carolina
Time/channel: 10:05 a.m., Fox
My pick: San Francisco, 27-24
The skinny: I hate picking the 49ers — truly I do. It’s not that I dislike San Francisco or the stadium or 49er fans or the team colors … OK, I pretty much dislike it all. I’d feel the same way about the Seahawks … if they weren’t my team. But San Francisco, like Seattle, is built almost perfectly around a solid run game, mobile quarterback and scary-good defense. I like how Cam Newton evolved this year, particularly how he gutted out that 10-9 win against San Fran on Nov. 10, and the Panther defense is one to be reckoned with. But the 49ers’ playoff experience, both in last year’s Super Bowl run and last week’s win at Green Bay — gives them a slight edge.
AFC• Saturday, Jan. 11
Matchup: Indianapolis at New England
Time/channel: 5:15 p.m., CBS
My pick: New England, 27-13
The skinny: For big quarterback matchup geeks, the AFC really has a pair of great ones starting with Indy’s Andrew Luck and the Pats’ Tom Brady. Luck proved last week that playoff experience can be overrated as the Colts edged Kansas City. But Indy will be on the road, the Patriots are rested and Brady has juuuuust enough options at his disposal for the victory.
• Sunday, Jan. 12
Matchup: San Diego at Denver
Time/channel: 1:40 p.m., CBS
My pick: Denver, 34-7
The skinny: Phillip Rivers had a nice win at Cincinnati. Well done! Denver is no Cincinnati. Peyton Manning is just getting warmed up.
• Jan. 19
AFC matchup: New England at Denver
Time/channel: Noon, CBS
My pick: Denver, 38-34
The skinny: Clash of the Titans? Pretty much. Manning versus Brady also seems a bit predestined, but it’ll be key defensive stops in the fourth quarter by the Broncos that help Manning back to the Super Bowl — after a three-quarter, gunslinging shootout.
NFC matchup: San Francisco at Seattle
Time/channel: 3:30 p.m., Fox
My pick: Seattle, 31-21
The skinny: It almost seems inevitable, doesn’t it? The players, the coaches, the fans … nobody particularly likes each other. Finally, a game to let all the Forty-Whiners and the Shehawks (yes, those are two of the most common online putdowns for this rivalry) settle their differences. As expected, it’ll be a slugfest, with Earl Thomas sealing the win with a fourth quarter interception-and-score off Colin Kaepernick, sending the 12th Man into a seismic frenzy.
• Feb. 2
Matchup: Seattle vs. Denver
Time/channel: 4:30 p.m., NBC
Location: MetLife Stadium, New York
My pick: Seattle, 17-13
The skinny: Not expecting a defensive struggle? It will be, with four inches of snow on the ground. The weather dampens Manning’s Herculean arm while Seattle’s more mobile Russell Wilson makes Denver pay with a pair of scoring scrambles.
For the first time, a Seahawk can hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy. Beauty!
Michael Dashiell is editor of the Sequim Gazette. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.