Saturday, January 16, 2010

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

New York Jets @ San Diego Chargers

Thoughts: As much as I want to pick the Jets, and as much as I want to see them win, I see the buck stopping here for the Jets. I see the Chargers 'secondary' weapons being the reason they win the game. By secondary, I'm talking about guys like Darren Sproles, Malcolm Floyd, Legedu Naanee and others. I don't see the Jets letting Philip Rivers throwing to Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates beat them, so they will force the hands of the complimentary players, and they'll rise to the occasion. While I expect the Jets to hold the Chargers below their offensive averages, and play well, I expect the Jets offense to falter a bit. While they played well last week, there is more that points to that being a fluke than it being a sign. The Jets have a lot of positives for the near and distant future to build on, but the 2009 buck stops in California, as Rivers and company move on to the AFC Championship Game.

PREDICTION: Chargers 27 Jets 17

Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts

Thoughts: I'm hearing a lot of love for Baltimore this week, and rightfully so. They are a very good team. They can run the ball, play defense and they have a QB who's not going to hurt them. That being said, I like Peyton Manning and the Colts here, but the game will be a close one. I think the game will come down to Joe Flacco eventually having to make plays to lead his team, and I don't see that happening. Though I think the Colts defense is very suspect, I've seen very little that makes Joe Flacco reliable in a game where he has to win it on his arm. That is what I think he will have to do, as the Colts will do everything in their power to stop the Ravens strong rushing attack. The Ravens fall a bit short, Manning and the Colts move on to the AFC Title game.

Prediction: Colts 31 Ravens 20

Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings

Thoughts: Dallas is coming in riding a wave of momentum, and these teams are polar opposites when it comes to their respective season ends. Minnesota finished losing 2 out of 3, and Dallas has won 4 straight. Minnesota has struggled in making Carolina and Chicago's offenses look like world beaters. The Cowboys defense is dominating, and in that four game winning streak, they kept the Saints to 17, they shut out the Eagles, and Redskins, and held the Eagles in check last week. The Cowboys pass rush has become fearsome with Anthony Spencer, DeMarcus Ware, and Jay Ratliff leading the way. I think Minnesota's pass blocking is a bit suspect, which Favre covers up for with his excellent pocket presence, and quick release. I think when you combine the pass rush with the secondary play, you'll have a vintage Brett Favre playoff performance. That means, expect to see a backbreaking interception in there somewhere. I think Tony Romo is more trustworthy in this spot, given Favre's history, and his play this year has been superb. Romo has silenced a lot of critics along the way and I expect them to be like a public library after this game. I like Dallas.

Prediction: Cowboys 34 Vikings 27

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints

Thoughts: I hope the scoreboard operator(s) has plenty of light bulbs. This one is going to be high scoring. I could see either one of these teams winning the game, but it's hard to get a read on the Saints right now. They limped into the gate, losing two out of their last three, and before that really hadn't played all that well. That being said, they still have Drew Brees, they still have that offense, and if last week is any indication, defense to the Arizona Cardinals is clearly optional. Kurt Warner is one of the best postseason Quarterbacks ever, and I don't see this game taking anything away from his numbers as he is going against a very suspect New Orleans defense. I see this one being very "Madden-esque". It's a toss up but I'll go with New Orleans at home.

Prediction: Saints 45 Cardinals 38

Monday, January 11, 2010

Thoughts on Wildcard Weekend

- All the games this weekend were brutal with the exception of the Shootout in the Wild West featuring the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals.

- 96 points, more than 1,000 yards of total offense, two QBs picking apart helpless defenses. If not for AZ/GB, this entire weekend of football would have been a disaster when it comes to the caliber of the game. And the fact that the game ended in a defensive score is the highest form of irony. The defensive players in this game played like they were stuck in quick sand.

-On the second play of last drive for Green Bay in the Overtime period, how exactly was Bertrand Berry not called for a penalty? He not only hit Rodgers in the face, but he hit him 'late' (according to the NFL standards anyway), and didn't get called for a thing. I could only imagine if that happened to Tom Brady. Berry would probably be banned for life.

- Dos Cuatro> Ocho Cinco

-Kurt Warner had more touchdowns than incompletions. Wow.

-Seeing Neil Rackers miss that field goal at the end of regulation makes me wonder if there ever has been a worse period for kickers. Brutal

-How many garbage calls did they make against Darrelle Revis in that game? That pass interference was a joke, and on the first illegal contact, the wide receiver ran into him and gave him a two handed shove. The refs were a joke during that game.

- It's rare that you see the Patriots look that bad, but the Ravens really kicked them in the teeth. It was an ominous sign when Ray Rice rumbled for an 83 yard TD before the seats even filled up. From minute one to minute 60, the Ravens simply did whatever they wanted with the Patriots. I look forward to the week worth of 'WWWD' (What Would Welker Do), sentiments/excuses.

-I keep hearing how the Ravens over the Patriots is an upset and I don't understand how. They played earlier this season and the Ravens were done in with a couple awful calls. The Patriots haven't been the same team we've come to know all year. They were evenly matched, so where is this "upset"?

- Did the Bengals hand this game to the Jets too? That's all I heard throughout the week leading up to the game, and the Jets kicked the stuffing out of them on Saturday. They pounded the rock, were efficient passing the ball and played great defense. Mark Sanchez was basically spotless in his first playoff game, and Carson Palmer looked completely brutal.

- The entire Eagle team laid an egg, and I'll get that out of the way. That being said, I'd like to give a shout out to the great Donovan McNabb for adding to his playoff lore with a performance for the ages Saturday night. He's such a leader, and is a top QB in the league. On a more serious note, Saturday night was a 60 minute snapshot as to why Philadelphia will never win anything with him under center. He doesn't have the makeup to get it done.

-I guess no one is bashing Tony Romo these days for being overrated, a guy who comes up small, and being the sole reason for Dallas' failures? Regardless he played very well and has done so for basically the entire season as he has been magnificent. McNabb should take some notes from Romo. He certainly could use them.

-What was Mike Jenkins doing lateraling the ball when his team was up 20+ points? Take your INT, make snow angels on the ground and be done with it.

- I think we've seen the last of Brian Westbrook in a Philadelphia uniform.

- What was the point of signing Jeremiah Trotter? I don't get Philly management. They can let Brian Dawkins go, though his price was reasonable but then they sign Mike Vick and Trotter who's been done for about a decade? Really?

- Whoever thought it was a good idea to put Joe Theismann and Joe Gibbs in the booth together needs to be terminated immediately.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Wildcard Weekend

New York Jets @ Cincinnati Bengals

Thoughts: I keep hearing how the Bengals laid down for the Jets last week, and I can't help but think that is ridiculous. I don't care how much you may/may not want to play a certain team, you don't lie down, get your collective ass kicked and give that team ultimate confidence going into the playoff game.

That being said, these are two evenly matched teams, with the one glaring difference being that the Bengals have a good QB, and the Jets have one of arguably the three worst in the league.

I'll go with the obvious here for a second. The key to this game is the Jets run offense against the Bengals run defense. If the Bengals let the Jets run anywhere near as effectively as they did last week, the Jets chances increase tremendously. The less Mark Sanchez throws the ball, the better for obvious reasons.

Even with the Jets glaring hole at the QB spot I like the Jets defense and running game to lift the team to a victory, sending them to sunny San Diego for a match up for Philip Rivers and the hot Chargers.

Jets 17
Bengals 13

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

Thoughts: I like this matchup in Baltimore's favor for a few reasons. One is the revenge they want to inflict on the Patriots after the early season loss, which featured the worst call in NFL history (the roughing the passer where Terrell Suggs stomped on a bug in the general vicinity of Brady). Another is the simple matchup on paper. These teams matchup well, and while you'll never confuse Joe Flacco with a great QB, or the Baltimore passing game for the 1999 Rams, Baltimore is respectable in all aspects of the game. Their defense, which was much maligned early, has come back strong and finished 3rd in the league.

New England lost Wes Welker for the rest of the season, but I don't think the loss is going to hurt them all that much. While the talking heads make Welker out to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, I think his production is more about the role in that offense and what is around him as opposed to him being a world beater. Edelman isn't as good as Welker and that is understood, but the facts are in the two games where Edelman got the majority of the playing time he had 18 catches. Edelman will do enough and not be a liability. Baltimore's secondary is nothing to write home about either so I wouldn't be shocked to see the Patriots spread them out and attack them that way. Oh look, Frank Walker just committed a pass interference penalty as I type this.

The Patriots defense, while it is 4th in the league, is liable in the secondary and I expect the Ravens to take a few shots at them next week. While Brady and Belichick have the pedigree, I expect the Ravens to walk in and win, in the only game that I am confident about this weekend.

Baltimore 24
New England 17

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

Thoughts: I think the NFC games are incredibly hard to forecast. The Cowboys beat the Eagles twice this season and held the Eagle offense in check in both meetings, but it's incredibly hard to beat the same team three times in one year, especially when the teams are as evenly matched as these two are.

The Cowboys come in on a roll but I don't buy regular season momentum carrying over into the postseason, but I do buy the change in Tony Romo's style of play. Maybe a playoff win will get the credit Romo the credit that he deserves since he gets bashed more than nearly every other QB in football. 4,483 yards, 26 touchdowns, 9 interceptions later, Romo has put up yet another excellent regular season. The Cowboy defense has been good, but I don't like the matchup of their secondary vs the Eagle WRs. Had it not been for Donovan McNabb doing his best "McNabb in a big game" impersonation, Philly might be at home right now waiting for the next opponent.

As far as the Eagles, I expect the defense to throw the entire arsenal at Tony Romo and the Cowboy offense this week. Last week in the first half, the Eagle defense didn't look good, but the second half they had some success, while McNabb and the offense stalled. The Eagle offense is very reliant on the big play, especially with Desean Jackson scoring a 50+ yard TD seemingly every week. They are very feast or famine. Their running game lacks but that is nothing new.

The Cowboys are probably slightly better and are at home so I like the Cowboys this week. I don't trust McNabb at all in big spots, so I'll take Dallas in a close one.

Dallas 27
Philadelphia 21

Green Bay Packers @ Arizona Cardinals

Thoughts: This game is a 50/50 toss up in my opinion. It features two fairly even teams, and two explosive offensive teams. I'm sure the Packers absolutely regret handing the reigns to Aaron Rodgers. Upgrading at QB was the worst thing the Packers could ever do. On a more serious note, Rodgers is one of the best QBs in football. He went for 65% completion percentage, 4,434 yards, 30 touchdowns and 7 interceptions and has proven himself to be one of the very best quarterbacks in the business. I fully expect the Packers to take advantage of Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, considering his penchant to be overaggressive combined with his injury.

The Cardinals defense is about middle of the pack, but on a team featuring an offense like that, an average defense is all that is needed. I think their secondary is suspect and I see Aaron Rodgers having a coming out party (for those who still can't get over Brett Favre or overemphasize wins/playoff wins) of the ages on Sunday. Ryan Grant will be a non factor, so expect Rodgers to toss it around on the Cardinals defense. I don't think they'll be up to the task of stopping him.

The Cardinals offense should put up plenty of points, even without Anquan Boldin. When Warner is in rhythm he's right up there with the game's best. He better be on point Sunday, or the game could get ugly quickly.

In the wildest game of the weekend, I like Green Bay to win a shootout.

Green Bay 38
Arizona 34