As the regular season wound down, many Carolina Panthers fans wrote to say they hoped Saturday’s playoff game wouldn’t take place. They wanted a high draft pick instead of what they considered a certain wild-card loss.
They’re as entitled to believe that as the rest of us are not to. But, man, I don’t get it. If a team can win, it wins. If it can make the playoffs, it makes the playoffs. Do you tell Cam Newton not to throw, Jonathan Stewart not to run, Ryan Kalil not to block, Greg Olsen not to catch, Charles Johnson not to sack, Thomas Davis not to disrupt and Josh Norman not to take on the opposition’s best receiver?
If the Panthers lose Saturday, I’ll hear again from the should-have-tanked fans.
But I don’t think that will happen.
Last Week (picking only the NFC): 7-1.
Lock: Green Bay (-7) 30, Detroit 20. I picked a 33-23 score, but I am humbly counting the result anyway.
Season: I have no idea. Good, I think.
This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS:
CAROLINA 23, Arizona 16
The Panthers did just enough to win last month in home victories against Tampa Bay and Cleveland and anything they wanted in road victories against New Orleans and Atlanta.
This one will be more like Tampa Bay and Cleveland. The Cardinals are well coached. But it’s late in the season, so the Panthers are, too. If Arizona can’t run, it can’t win, and I don’t think Arizona can run. The Panthers opened as 41/2-point favorites and the line has moved to 61/2.
PITTSBURGH 26, Baltimore 20
The Baltimore offense, so good for so much of the season, has been misfiring. Joe Flacco or Ben Roethlisberger is an easy call. The Ravens won’t score enough to win.
INDIANAPOLIS 34, Cincinnati 30
Finally Andy Dalton plays a good postseason game. Andrew Luck plays a better one.
DALLAS 29, Detroit 24
Tell me again why Ndamukong Suh will play? If I do something evil, I want to appear before Ted Cottrell, the NFL hearings officer that overturned Suh’s suspension. The playoffs have been bad for the bad guys. First Florida State went down. On Sunday, the Lions will.