Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wildcard Round - Monday, January 5, 2009

Just a quick one here because I just watched playoff football this weekend and I have some fresh thoughts that I jotted down.

NFL Playoffs
I wish I was a betting man because I think that I would have made some money over the weekend. I went 3-1 in the wild card round (picking winners and against the spread I might add). Of course, if I would have put money on the games, I would have lost it all. It’s best that I just prognosticate with no real stakes… you know, sort of like in real life.

I was pretty confident in my picks, but I thought that if I was going to miss one it would be Atlanta and Arizona, not Indy and San Diego. Darren Sproles is awesome. He was incredible at Kansas State as I remember him putting close to 300 yards on Missouri. The dude is so fast and strong for his size and he carried that team on Saturday. Kim watched the game with me and fell in love with the diminutive dude, much the way she fell for Allen Iverson back in 2001 when Philly played L.A. in the finals. She has a soft spot for the little guys, I guess. Anyway, she really didn’t like Reggie Wayne because he showboated (Usain Bolted) when he slowed down after catching that weird TD when all of San Diego’s D was looking at the sidelines when Indy snapped the ball. When that happened, she began pulling for San Diego. She also said that football is much more enjoyable to watch when I don’t have a rooting interest because when I do, I’m not much fun to be around because she can feel the stress (so I guess it is a good thing that I don’t bet on games). Maybe I should just stop caring. That way I could watch more games, because I’m sure that’s exactly what happens when a baby joins the family.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the games this weekend:

Baltimore at Tennessee
Baltimore looked dominant, defensively, against Miami on Sunday. Everyone knows that their D is tough, but I think that the conventional thinking was that since Miami had not really turned the ball over all season that they would be able to stay in the game because Baltimore’s offense is not dynamic. Then Ed Reed intercepts two passes (and should have had three) and runs one of them back for a TD. Baltimore had two other interceptions and another fumble recovery and pretty much destroyed Miami for most of the day. Despite the fact that they had so many turnovers, I really don’t like Baltimore’s hesitancy to do anything other than call safe pass plays and running plays on offense. I realize that it had led them to many victories, but it also keeps opponents in games. Baltimore had a number of three-and-outs and also settled for FGs. It seemed like Miami was getting absolutely killed in the game and they were only down 10 or so. I fully understand why they do what they do, but I also think it’s going to cost them against a team that can score and/or is equally tough defensively… which is why I’m picking Tennessee in this game.

Tennessee is as tough as Baltimore defensively and I think that they’ve got just a little more explosion/diversity in their offense. Kerry Collins isn’t asked to do a ton in Tennessee’s offense, but he gets quite a bit more latitude than does Joe Flacco, which is understandable, since Flacco’s a rookie. Because of that, I think that Tennessee will make a few more plays and win the game.

Prediction: Tennessee 17 Baltimore 10

Arizona at Carolina
My gut tells me that Carolina is going to massacre Arizona, but my head tells me that probably won’t happen. Even though Arizona looked fantastic against Atlanta (and they really did) I just think that they won’t be able to replicate that in Charlotte. They, like Seattle, have such a huge problem playing on the East Coast. It’s stupid, makes no sense, but alas, it’s true. That’s not the only reason I think Carolina will win this game though. I just think that Carolina’s D will put a lot of pressure on Kurt Warner and force him to either fumble or throw a couple of INTs and they’ll be playing catch-up against a team that can run the hell out of the ball. I think Warner will have a crazy stat line like 25-42 345 yards 2 TD, 3 INT, 4 sacks, 1 fumble lost. They played remarkably well on Saturday, but I just don’t think that they’ll be able to run that ball at all against Carolina and that Carolina will be able to run the ball and hit big plays with Steve Smith. They’ll control the clock and force Warner to throw way too much and that will be that.

Prediction: Carolina 30 Arizona 24

Philly at New York
I don’t know what to make of Philly. I think that they got extremely lucky to play a very weak Minnesota team. I will say this though, I was very, very close on the actual score in this game (I said it would be 24-13). However, I’m more impressed with my Adrian Peterson prediction. I said that he’d have something like 25 carries and 87 yards. He actually ended up with 20 carries for 83 yards. Not to continually toot my own horn here, but that’s not bad! I guess I’m just surprised, is all, but I shouldn’t be because Philly’s D is tough to deal with and Tavarious Jackson is a terrible, terrible, terrible QB, so there is no way that Philly was scared of him. That interception he threw to Asante Samuel was embarrassing. There is no way that a QB of a playoff team should ever make that kind of pass. He sucks.

So, about this game; I’m not sure how to look at it. New York is a bit hobbled by bullet wounds and other injuries. I really do like their team, and I trust them a lot more than I trust Philly. I think that NY’s WRs don’t match up really well against Philly’s secondary, but I do think that NY can run on them with their three (well, mostly 2 recently) backs. If Brandon Jacobs is OK, I think that NY wins this game, if he’s not OK, then I think Philly will take it. I also think that Eli Manning can make some plays and that he’ll get good protection to do so.

Prediction: New York 27 Philly 24

San Diego at Pittsburgh
So Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Tennessee look like the same exact team to me. All three have amazing defenses and all three run pretty much the same kind of extremely conservative, run-oriented offenses… in other words, Big 10 football at the NFL level. Isn’t it ironic that spread offenses and speedy defenses wins (big) at the college level, but doesn’t work at the highest level? I guess that’s because every single dude in the NFL is fast (at positions where speed is necessary) so the spread just won’t work consistently and beat-your-ass defense is at a premium. The spread offense almost led a team to a championship last year with New England, but when they ran up against a defense that was tidal-wave like, it folded. If you look at the teams in this year’s playoffs, there are two teams that don’t fit the mold: Arizona and San Diego. While both teams have decent to good defenses, they aren’t on the same plane as the other teams that remain. Also, do you know who else doesn’t fit that mold? SEATTLE, that’s who. Man, I really hope they do something about that in the off season. It really isn’t very fun to root for a team whose defense can’t get off of the field on third down.

So, back to this game. Pittsburgh looks like a team that can make some things happen. Like Baltimore and Tennessee, they have great defenses, but unlike those two teams, I think that Roethlisberger is given a little more freedom, which is funny to say, because their offense is very Ronald Regan, but maybe more McCain than say Baltimore’s George W. Bush.

Pittsburgh will neutralize Sproles, Tomlinson won’t play much and Rivers will get his ass handed to him.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 28 San Diego 15

Whatever happens, I do think it will be a very good weekend for football.

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