Who Dat 12th Man? Danny California’s 2014 NFL Divisional Round Playoff Predictions and Analysis

Last week’s Wild Card Playoff round was just as crazy and interesting to watch as promised. The first game between Indy and KC was a wild one, with (as I predicted, at least, the comeback part) the Colts coming roaring back from a 28 point deficit to humiliate a Chiefs team that put a hurting on Indianapolis (even without Jamaal Charles) in the first half. Andrew Luck is starting to cement himself as the most elite quarterback of his draft class, and perhaps is destined to be the NFL’s best someday soon. Following that game, New Orleans went into frigid Philadelphia and behind journeyman kicker Shayne Graham’s leg, the Saints found a few rounds of birdshot left and shot down the Eagles and their playoff hopes in the final seconds. On Sunday. we saw Andy Dalton post his best postseason QB rating yet out of three total games (at a 67.0 rating, yikes) and the Bengals get destroyed by San Diego despite the flurries and the fact that Philip Rivers is still under center. And finally, in what seems to be proof that cold weather isn’t as much as a factor as I thought, San Francisco went into the negative wind chill temps of Lambeau Field and pulled out a close win over Green Bay.

This weekend promises more balmy temperatures (even in Foxboro, Massachusetts) compared to last week, and also throws the teams with first round byes into play, making things a little bit more interesting.

Saturday, January 11th Games

New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks, 4:35 PM EST

According to popular consensus, most people though that the Saints would win last week. With Drew Brees at the helm and a better tested coaching staff and roster, New Orleans held the slight advantage over Philadelphia. Typically, Saints football is thought to be Brees throwing for four scores and the defense doing just enough to ensure that the don’t get outscored. Last Saturday though, perhaps everyone not nicknamed “The Wolfman” was surprised as Brees threw two pretty bad picks, and the defense and running game stepped up and came through to produce a win for the Saints. New Orleans also exorcised the demons of playing on the road in the playoffs, going into frigid Philly and shutting down rushing champion Lesean McCoy. It seemed though, that the Eagles lost the game more than the Saints won it, as some key mistakes and overt conservativity of Nick Foles doomed the Philly offense. If the Saints are going to advance to the NFC Championship game, they will have to keep their turnovers down (3 against the Eagles was almost too many), and have an aerial attack that was missing when these two teams met earlier this season in a Seattle blowout.

The Seahawks have been one of, if not the favorite to win the NFC since the start of the season. With a healthy Percy Harvin alongside weapons Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch leading the way on offense, Seattle plays punishing defense on the other side of the ball which paves the way to victory. By giving up the second fewest PPG on the season built on giving up the fewest offensive yards, Seattle’s defense is the reason this team wins, and is even capable of scoring by themselves by leading the league in INTs with 28, and forcing the fourth most fumbles with 15. Add in an offense that scores the second most points in the NFL per game and has the third most rushing yards on average, the ‘Hawks control the clock, make minimal mistakes on offense, and force mistakes on defense. There really isn’t a better all-around team in the league. Combine that with CenturyLink field and the “12th Man” that the crowd dubs themselves as, and it’s hard not to pick them to go all the way. And yet, in this divisional round, I am doing the unheard of and picking New Orleans. The Saints have already been embarrassed in Seattle, they know what it’s like and will deal better a second time around. They’ve gotten the road victory monkey off their back and their defense is coming together well as a unit. Last week they shut down McCoy to the point where he was completely irrelevant, which I believe they can replicate against Lynch. And, I think Drew Brees is due. To have him go on the road and throw three touchdowns is exactly what is needed for the team from the Big Easy, with Shayne Graham delivering again to send the Saints to the championship game. 27-24 New Orleans

Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots, 8:15 PM EST

Anybody who watched last week’s Wild Card game involving the Colts had to be astonished. I haven’t talked to anyone yet who turned it off at halftime thinking it was over, but I’m sure those piteous people exist somewhere. Andrew Luck led a seriously insane comeback against the playoff greenhorn Chiefs, and helped solidify his name as the best up and coming quarterback in the league. Unfortunately for Indy, their defense was exposed and they lost a few players to injuries which never helps in a playoff run. But, they still have the explosive TY Hilton and talented Luck to put up points on the scoreboard in a hurry. The Colts are riding momentum right now having now won four straight, and for a streaky team like theirs this is nothing but good news. The only serious problem shown on Saturday was the running game. Trent Richardson is turning out to be totally useless with Donald Brown completely taking over the ground attack. Although when a team is down by 28 they shouldn’t really be running the ball, it’s still a little concerning that Richardson is such a bust. Indianapolis also signed ex-Patriots receiver Deion Branch to plug the gap filled by Darrius “Todd Pinkston” Hayward-Bey. Whether this helps or not is yet to be seen, but it would be nice to see Branch burn his former team once or twice at the ripe age of 34.

Of course, the Patriots are used to these January battles with the Colts, this time without Peyton Manning at the helm of the opposition. That means that Tom Brady and Emperor Belicheat will have an evil game plan that is tried and true, and this time around should result in Brady receiving high fives from his teammates. The thing I don’t like about New England is that they’re rather untested during the regular season. Sure, they beat Denver and New Orleans, but most of the other games they played were really soft. The AFC East is a partial joke, as the Bills are a bad team, the Jets are a bad unpredictable team, and the Dolphins are an above-average mediocre team. Still, the Patriots managed going only 4-2 in their own division, losing their other two games to playoff teams Cincinnati and Carolina. The Patriots are also banged up on offense, missing all of their good pass catchers (Gronk), as Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman will need to come up big for Tom Brady. Stevan Ridley has also shown some promise on the ground, basically splitting carries with LeGarrette Blount, who between the two of them average 4.75 YPC. New England’s defense is underrated too , as their run defense is the only thing that is a problem, which against the Colts isn’t a real problem at all. If Andy Reid’s Alex Smith can throw for four TD’s against Indy, just imagine what Tom Brady and Bill Belichick can do. I don’t want the Patriots to win, but the combination of a good ground attack, solid pass defense, the home crowd in Foxboro,. and the intangibles that are the Brady and Belichick combo should pull it out against the young Luck(y) upstarts. 38-27 New England

Sunday, January 12th Games

San Francisco 49ers @ Carolina Panthers, 1:05 PM EST

The Niners managed to pull it out last week against Green Bay, I’ll give them that much. The only problem is, they played such a close game against the weakest division champion outside of Philadelphia. Colin Kaepernick overcame his mistakes by using his legs to torch the Packers defense, who you would have thought would have learned by now to keep a man spy on the QB. Michael Crabtree also came up huge for San Fran, grabbing 125 yards worth of passes, completely overshadowing Number One receiver Anquan Boldin in the Green Bay game. They also played good downfield coverage, not allowing receivers to run loose in the secondary and letting Aaron Rodgers beat them. This should be a low-scoring, grind-it-out defensive game, just like the 10-9 Carolina victory that these two teams played back in Week 10.

Of course, I don’t think anybody could have predicted that the Panthers would be here after starting the season 0-2. Looking back on their season though, it is almost amazing how nobody could have seen how good this Panthers team was. Their only bad loss was to a Buffalo Bills team on the road by one point. Their other losses were in New Orleans where everybody loses, and against the Seahawks and the Cardinals. They weren’t really gifted with an easy schedule either, as they had to play the West (Seattle, San Fran, and Arizona all had 11 or more wins), the Saints twice, and the Patriots and Dolphins. Going 4-3 in those games is a testament to the talent of Carolina, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve given up the least points per game of any team, along with only an average of surrendering 80 yards a game on the ground. Although not a high-caliber offense, being able to grind out yards on the ground and having a multi-talented quarterback in Cam Newton give this Panthers squad enough to work with in terms of reaching pay dirt. All the Panthers have to do is shut down Kaepernick’s running game, and they’ll win this game. 17-12 Carolina

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos, 4:40 PM EST

Well, the Chargers sure proved me wrong last week. I don’t know if it was more of the Bengals channeling the Bungles of old, or San Diego actually putting a charge into something, but that was one game that I got sorely wrong. They’re playing good football, Philip Rivers isn’t making mistakes, and the running game dominated last week. Except, again, you were playing the Bengals who turned the ball over in embarrassing fashion. Don’t expect that from Peyton Manning and the best offense in NFL history this week. Although the Chargers have played Denver pretty well this year, I don’t see this game being very close. It’s Manning time, and he’s going to reign. The good news is, since San Diego beat the Broncos once this year already, all those bothersome people who say “it’s so hard to beat the same team three times in the same year” can keep their traps shut. But come on, this is the Denver Broncos, and this is Peyton Manning, who will have Wes Welker back in addition to every single other offensive weapon this team has. Denver cruises. 38-24 Denver

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The Wild, Wild Wests : Your Guide to the Correct Predictions and Analysis of the 2014 NFL WildCard Playoff Weekend

It really is amazing what a difference a year can make. A year ago, my Washington Redskins had just come off the NFC East division title and were set to host their first playoff game against the upstart Seattle Seahawks. Everything was going well, RG3 was firing on all cylinders as the ‘Skins put up a 14 point lead that quickly started to fade as Griffin III got injured and was kept in the game by Shanny, which basically took away RG3’s playmaking ability. A healthy Robert Griffin would’ve had Pete Carroll selling used cars out of his back yard, but we all know the ending to this story. Washington proceeded to go 3-13 this year, forfeiting their Number 2 overall draft pick to St. Louis from the trade up to grab Griffin, and Mike Shanahan got canned because of disagreements with Darth Daniel Snyder.

Just as one year can make a difference to my favorite team, so can it affect the overall playoff scheme in the NFL. So if you need to make some quick cash, read the factual predictions and analysis that I have below, and prepare to become a rich man.

Saturday, January 4th Games

Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis Colts 4:35 PM EST

Remember when people were talking about KC running the table and being undefeated? Obviously that hasn’t been realistic since Priest Holmes was their star player, but Andy Reid has certainly turned this team around. In a division where three out of the four teams made the playoffs, Kansas City’s 11-5 record can be rather deceiving. They haven’t really beaten anybody very good, and other than blowing out horrible teams like Jacksonville, NYG, and the Redskins, they’ve lost to every playoff team except for a game against Philadelphia. There are some great things about this team, with Reid doing an amazing job turning the keys of the offense over to an electric player in Jamaal Charles, and creating a terrific defense that can take advantage of the offense controlling the clock. But, Alex Smith is still their quarterback, and he fails to make plays when he needs to, lacking good receivers to help him out. I like what this KC team has built so far, however they’re not battle tested enough to survive in the world of the playoffs.

Indianapolis on the other hand is perhaps the most battle tested team in the league. They’re very streaky, and despite the loss of veteran offensive leader Reggie Wayne, have come together to see the emergence of TY Hilton and a team with a defense that is built to bend but not break.  They’ve beaten both number one teams in each league, and wrecked the Chiefs during the regular season at Arrowhead. They also beat the 49ers, but got shellacked by the underrated Arizona Cardinals and the terrible St Louis Rams. The Colts have built a reputation on starting slow but coming back, led by Andrew Luck who has cut his interceptions in half from last year. I don’t think they’re going to come out guns blazing, even though they are on a three game win streak. Two of those wins came against the awful teams in Houston and Jacksonville, and the other was against KC who turned the ball over four times to gift wrap the victory to Indy. I expect them to be down 14-3 or so at the half, but to come back and force Alex Smith into a bad play or two and coast to victory. 27-17 Indianapolis

New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles 8:10 PM EST

I love the Saints and cannot stand the Eagles and their obnoxious fans. As I’ve said before, living in the great state of Pennsylvania is torture if you’re not a fan of either of their football teams. Steelers fans are like the village idiot, whereas Eagles fans are like the village drunk. You simply can’t win either way. Although the Saints are playing away from the friendly confines of the Louisiana Superdome, I really think this team is vastly underrated. People say “oh, well the Saints are playing on the road so they’re definitely going to lose this game.” Yes, all their losses have come on the road this season. But look who they were playing. They barely lost in a game that they should have won to New England, they lost to the best team in the NFC in the most hostile atmosphere (whose crowd noise registers on the Richter Scale) in Seattle, and they lost to division champion Carolina. Granted, they also lost to the most inconsistent and unpredictable team in the NFL in the New York Jets, as well as the St Louis Rams (who, it may be noted, embarrassed the Colts as well), but they also beat a healthy Chicago Bears team on the road. Don’t forget that this team has the best statistical quarterback of our current generation in Drew Brees, and a much improved defense under Rob “the Wolfman” Ryan.

Philadelphia isn’t exactly a pushover this year though. They’re probably the most volatile team in the playoffs, capable of losing hysterically or creating an utter blowout. Nick Foles it seems is the answer to the Eagles’ quarterback search, and with one of the most talented running backs (and rushing champion) Lesean McCoy, their offense is very potent even without mentioning playmaker Desean Jackson. However, like Kansas City, their record is a bit deceiving. They played in the worst divison in the NFL, and yet failed to have any convincing victories against any of those horrible teams, even losing to the Giants and the Cowboys once each. For being gifted three turnovers by Kyle Orton and the Dallas Cowboys last week, they still almost found a way to lose the game. The defense is a leaky siv, and it seems like their team almost quits in the second half letting teams back into games with ease. They also have only beat one team that is currently in the playoffs (the Green Bay Packers), and that was when Green Bay didn’t have Aaron Rodgers. The Eagles have several things going for them, such as the weather and the Saints on the road, but barring a massive offensive output, I don’t seem them winning this game. 24-20 New Orleans

Sunday, January 5th Games

San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1:05 PM EST

The Chargers in my mind simply don’t belong here. Yes, they’ve played in the second best division in football, but if Philip Rivers wasn’t having a career year this team would be under .500. San Diego has quietly been able to beat playoff teams in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and the Chiefs backups, but they have also lost games to the dreadful ‘Skins, Texans, Raiders, and Titans. Keenan Allen has had a breakout season, and it seems that Ryan Mathews might finally be restoring decency to the running game of the Chargers. Danny Woodhead has also been a key acquisition, fitting nicely into the utility playmaker role by catching the second most passes on the team and rushing for over 400 yards in a backup role. This team is all about offense, with a defense focused on bending as much as possible and trying to desperately not get outscored by the opponent. Even though their D is middle of the pack where PPG (points per game)  is concerned, they rank fourth to last when it comes to YAPG (yards allowed per game). It’s all about the offense in Sea World, where if the Rivers doesn’t dry up, the team has a chance to win.

Cincinnati is a bit of a question mark in these playoffs. They have beaten Indy, San Diego, Miami, New England, and Green Bay, but they’re playoff untested. Remember how they got blown out by TJ Yates and the Texans last year? This team is virtually unchanged, sporting a better defense but benefitting majorly from a division that has gotten considerably weaker. Andy Dalton is progressing and maturing, but still is missing a soul. AJ Green has turned into a monster of a wide receiver, capable of torching any cornerback for a huge gain. Giovani Bernard still has the run of the year, but the split carries role he gets with “The Law Firm”, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is hindering his talent. The trouble with this team is that if Dalton does nothing, this team will lose. Without a threatening running game, Dalton has to put points on the board by himself, and have a good game for the Bengals to win. Which, with the Chargers defense and undefeated Bengals record at home, shouldn’t really be much of an issue. 34-20 Cincy

San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers, 4:40 PM EST

The Niners are 12-4. And they’re a five seed. The Packers have won eight games, and they’re a number four seed. It really sucks to be San Francisco, because they’re going to lose this game even though they’re such a good team, and only because they play in the same division as the Seattle Seahawks. Why? There’s only one thing you need to look at. The weather. In Green Bay on Sunday, the high is going to be 1. One degree Fahrenheit. With a low of -19 at night. The record low in San Francisco for January 5th is 39 degrees, a whole 38 degrees warmer than the highest predicted temperature on Sunday. The furthest North San Fran has had to play this year was against Seattle, in September. There’s no way this tropical team is going to be ready to play in the utterly bitter cold that is at Lambeau Field, where Aaron Rodgers and the Packer faithful will thrive and create a hostile environment for Colin Kaepernick and the rest of the 49er team. 35-10 Green Bay

2013 MLB ALDS and ALCS Playoff Predictions and Analysis

ALDS Expert Analysis and Predictions

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox

I will be the first to say that I did not want the Rays in the postseason. With their first scheduled meeting today at 3:07 PM, Tampa has snuck into the playoffs winning on the road in Toronto to force a play-in game with the Texas Rangers for the Wild Card, beating them, and then defeating the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card playoff, all on the road. I liked Cleveland, and I wanted to see them win, but Tampa would have none of it thanks to their pitching. Although not as amazing as National League pitching (or that of Detroit), these guys get the job done under pressure in playoff situations. David Price is going to be tough to beat, and has the composure of a veteran in the postseason. Although Jeremy Hellickson has been really iffy this season, with Price and Moore heading their staff, if they can get past Boston after using both Price and Moore to reach this point, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. Fernando Rodney out of the bullpen is simply fun to watch (and he’s good), as this young staff compliments the young bats of Tampa well. Rookie Wil Myers has been great so far, to compliment the Rays mainstays of Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria, along with Boston/LAD castoff James Loney. Although these guys are all young hitters and tend to be more aggressive at the plate, I think that will play to their strengths against Boston command and control pitchers in this series.

Personally, I still don’t understand how the Red Sox are here. I simply don’t know how they are this good, in the best division in baseball. I do understand how David Ortiz (despite the basepath liability he is) and Dustin Pedroia are good hitters, and how Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino are quality players (yet not superstars), but the rest of the team? Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks? They’re average players with average stats. Their pitching has obviously been their superiority and strength, as Clay Bucholz (when he’s healthy) is having a ridiculous year, but beyond that I’m not terribly impressed. John Lackey, Jon Lester, and Jake Peavy are all good pitchers but all very hittable. And Ryan Dumpster isn’t exactly something to brag about, and should be on the roster only for emergency long relief. At the start of the season I would’ve placed them to finish fourth in the AL East, and looking at their statistics now I probably would’ve said the same thing. And yet, they win ballgames, and a lot of them against good teams. I just can’t comprehend it.

Which is why I’m picking them to lose. Until they convincingly demonstrate to me that they’re actually good, I will always pick against them. Especially against the Rays who are coming in red-hot, and are not affected by playing on the road, and while they can start Moore and Price in the first two games at Boston. It’s a real shame that nobody goes to see Rays games in Tampa Bay, because they’re going to punch their ALCS ticket at home. Tampa Bay Rays in 3

Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics

Why are the Tigers so bad in the playoffs? The past two years they have had great teams, and yet at one point or another (2011 ALCS, 2012 WS) they simply lost all their moxie and got outplayed. Is this the year that they finally shake the monkey off their back and get it all right? It could be, because I don’t think their hitting has ever been better. Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in all of baseball and just an absolute monster. Then you still have the power of Prince Fielder to deal with, along with the bats of Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, Jhonny Peralta, and even Omar Infante who all hit above .300 for the season. This team is like the Cardinals, except with more power and a deeper pitching staff. As any baseball fan should know, Max Scherzer is having what should be a Cy Young season. Anibal Sanchez is having a career year, and even though Justin Verlander is having an “off-year, his ERA is still under 3.50 and he’s almost averaging a strikeout per inning. This Detroit team has to put on a good playoff showing though, and convince everyone that they still have life after seeming rather lethargic toward the tail end of the season. If they can do that, there might be no stopping this team.

The A’s on the other hand, are a complete X factor as they always are. They receive very little press, and play in front of sparsely populated crowds, yet consistently win with different pieces every year. And then they win a lot of regular season ballgames, and lose in the Division Series just like last year against Detroit. I want them to win, because besides Bartolo Colon and his diet of Big Macs I like their team. Just like the Braves and Pirates, the A’s strike out a lot and they don’t hit for much average with only two everyday starters even close to hovering around .300, but they have a good amount of pop with Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Brandon Moss. And in traditional Oakland style, their pitching is what counts. Barty Colon has seemingly revitalized his steroid and grease ridden career with a ridiculous 2.65 ERA, supported by a young staff that although they aren’t superstars, throw quality games with ERAs under 4.00. They’re also very like the Red Sox in the fact that they play very well in their division, even though most teams don’t have a tough time playing the likes of Houston and Seattle.

I want Oakland to win, simply because they’re the underdog and they are due for some playoff victories. But when matched up against Detroit, the fact of the matter is that they are overmatched. The A’s should manage to steal a few games and make things interesting, in the end though, the Oakland playoff curse will continue, and the Tigers will be seeing a repeat of last seasons ALDS. Detroit Tigers in 5

Down the Road……

ALCS

Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Unless Tampa manages to convincingly sweep Boston, there’s no way they will be able to handle the Tigers and all their weapons. Detroit Tigers in 6

World Series

Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

This will be a marquee matchup with fantastic staffs and great teams working together. But, Detroit falls apart again to an NL West squad. Los Angeles Dodgers in 5

2013 MLB NLDS and NLCS Playoff Predictions and Analysis

In my vaunted opinion, the MLB playoffs start this afternoon with Pittsburgh visiting St. Louis at 5:07 PM. Of course, with last year’s addition to the wild card round and a one game playoff, the postseason technically began several days ago. Below, you’ll find my predictions for the NLDS of the major league baseball playoffs, with some expert analysis sprinkled in.

NLDS

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Cardinals are the #1 seed in the National League, and for pretty good reason. They are probably the best team in baseball over the past ten years, with a squad that consistently plays at a higher level. Although they’re missing the big names of Pujols and Berkman, this team plays such solid ball that those big names don’t terribly matter. With four starters batting .300 or over, and seven of the starting nine hitting over .275, this team gets hits and spreads them around. Although the non-avilability of Allen Craig will inevitably hurt, the offense should be fine without him. As far as pitching goes, when you have Adam Wainwright available to pitch at two games of a division series, finding the third game to win to close it out shouldn’t be all that hard. Both Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller are solid, if playoff untested, second and third options to take the mound, with Edward Mujica anchoring the bullpen with a solid 2.78 ERA as a closer.

The Pirates on the other hand, came into the playoffs as the #4 seed, after losing out on winning the division to the Cardinals. In the Wild Card round, they defeated a sorely unprepared and inferior Cincinnati Reds team, using their signature long balls and solid starting pitching. Third in baseball with a 3.25 team ERA, the hodge-podge of starters that the Pirates have thrown together has worked wonders, with castoffs such as Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett finally putting together good seasons. Their main weakness is their hitting, which only compiled a .245 team average for the year, which puts them in the lower 25% of MLB teams. They also had the third most strikeouts, compiling lots of big swings and misses. Only Andrew McCutchen hit over .300 on the year, with Pedro Alvarez, their biggest power hitter, posting a weak .233 BA. But, they have the fire and the team unity and motivation to win, and although they’re not playing ridiculously hot baseball, they may have enough moxie on their side to stage an upset.

Overall, with St Louis having home field advantage and two of those games at home probably being pitched by Adam Wainwright (if the series goes to five), the Cardinals have the advantage in this series. If Wainwright can produce those swings and misses, and St Louis can play small ball and just string together hits like they have all season, Pittsburgh doesn’t stand a chance. Even though the Pirates had the advantage over the Cards in the season series, posting a 10-9 record against them, the Cardinals swept the most recent series, a four game set in September. Pittsburgh will win one at home, but overall will fall to St Louis in four games. St. Louis Cardinals in 4

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves

This series will start tonight after the first NLDS game, at 8:07 EST. The Dodgers will send probable 2013 Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw to the mound, and it doesn’t really matter who you put up against him (as good as Kris Medlen really is). With a dominating 1.83 ERA on the season Kershaw is just part of the buzzsaw called the Dodgers pitching rotation, with Kershaw, Zack Greinke, rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Ricky Nolasco (probably the dullest blade on the saw). Kenley Jansen and Brian Wilson create a duo in the bullpen that if any starter can go 7 innings (which Kershaw and Greinke should do easily), the game might as well be over. As far as offense goes, with the second highest payroll in all of baseball, one would hope that the Dodgers could at least score some runs for their potent pitchers. Even with such a slow start to the season, they managed to come in fifth in all of baseball in team batting average, although phenom Yasiel Puig has come down to the level of mere mortals as the season has progressed. Still, with Puig, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, and Adrian Gonzalez, this playoff lineup is poised to score some runs. Unfortunately, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are both injured, with Ethier limited to pinch-hitting and Kemp completely out, hindering this offense from reaching their true potential. The Dodgers also haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009, and the majority of their team outside of reliever Brian Wilson is very green as far as postseason experience goes.

For the Braves, it’s all been about pitching (sense a trend in the NL playoff teams?). With a MLB best team 3.18 ERA, even without staff ace Tim Hudson this rotation has been dominant with Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Juilo Teheran. Even though their ‘pen is missing the absence of Johnny Venters, Craig Kimbrell is one of the best, if not the best fireballing closer in baseball. The one thing the Braves do not have going for them is the fact that their team is rather playoff untested, as is their franchise as a whole, since they have not won a postseason series since 2001. Their hitting, very much like the Pirates, relies rather much on home runs, generating a metric ton of swings and misses, striking out the second most in all of baseball. Dan Uggla and BJ Upton have been disasters, both supposed to be quality starting position players and producing averages under the Mendoza line, and as such are riding the bench for the playoffs. Both Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson are actually good hitters, as are Brian McCann and Jason Heyward who simply haven’t produced other than the longball this year. This Braves team can hit, let there be no doubt, but will they? They also had the benefit of playing in the softest division by far this year, as the NL East is mostly hapless and pathetic.

Just like in the other NLDS matchup, anticipate swings and misses from the Braves at the hands of Kershaw and Greinke. I don’t think the Dodgers will pile on a ton of runs, but scoring two or three off the Atlanta rotation should be good enough to win. The only way that Atlanta has a chance is if they can produce timely home runs that aren’t solo shots. The trouble with slim leads and a team like the Braves is that they can close the gap in a lead pretty darn quick. Will they though? I think not. The Dodgers will win this series once it heads back to SoCal. Los Angeles Dodgers in 4

Down the Road……….

NLCS

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

This might be the best series of the entire playoffs when it comes to fruition, as the Cardinals are the more experienced and better hitting club as well as having Wainwright, but the Dodgers have a deeper rotation and bullpen, along with the big names in the lineup. In the end, Kershaw and Greinke will be too much for St Louis…….but it’ll be close. Los Angeles Dodgers in 7