Friday, January 05, 2007

NFL Playoff Guesses

I tried to shrug off any accountability when it came to making my picks for the baseball playoffs, which was a good plan since I had the Dodgers and Twins squaring off in the Fall Classic. Solid picks right there. And the whole "these are just guesses because the playoffs are too hard to predict" disclaimer seemed to work, because the number of "you suck, you are an idiot" emails was surprisingly low.

Anyway, I'm going that route again. The NFL playoffs are a complete and total crapshoot, as proven by the sixth-seeded Steelers last year. Given that truth, I am going to lay out my "guesses" for the playoffs. Here goes nothing.


Wild Card Round
PHILLY 27 New York 24 - I don't see how the Eagles can be favored by 7 in this one, but I also don't see how the Giants can switch gears to try to win, when they've been playing like they were trying to lose for two months. I like Philly's defense better (especially the reenergized Brian Dawkins), I think Brian Westbrook is the best offensive player in this game, and I saw Invincible on an airplane recently and that gave me some positive vibes about the Eagles in general. But if I was a gambling man, I would absolutely be taking the Giants and the points.

Dallas 28 SEATTLE 21 - I've seen the last four Seahawks games from start to finish and I'm here to tell you that Seattle sucks (and this is from a Washington native and a guy that picked Seattle to win the Super Bowl this year). The line has been a disaster all year, Alexander is hitting the hole like he's running barefoot on hot coals (the tippy-toe steps, not the urgency), and Hasselbeck is dinged up and missing his best wide receiver (although DJ Hackett is doing an admirable job in Darrell Jackson's absence). Meanwhile, the Cowboys look like the classic possum team that fades down the stretch only to turn it on for the postseason. Like the Cardinals in baseball. Bastards.

Divisional Round
Dallas 31 CHICAGO 24 - This may look surprising, but note a few things: 1) Chicago crapped the bad at home last year as well (against Steve Smith and Carolina), and 2) the Bears have routinely been giving up tons of yards and points ever since Mike Brown and Tommie Harris went down with injuries. The Harris injury was especially costly, because without him, the Bears can't get a pass rush without blitzing. If Dallas keeps Devin Hester from scoring on kick returns, I think they simply have a better team.

NEW ORLEANS 34 Philly 31 - Yes, I think it is going to be a high-scoring postseason, at least in the NFC. When teams aren't that good, the deficiency tends to be on defense, which is the case with many of these squads. The Saints are pretty weak all over on D, Dallas can't stop the deep pass, Seattle has approximately one healthy player in the secondary, the Bears have been ravaged by injuries and are getting by on rep alone, and the Giants and Eagles have been mediocre all year. Who is going to stop anyone? And since the Saints have the best offense in the conference, I think they advance courtesy of shootouts.

Conference Championship
NEW ORLEANS 31 Dallas 21 - The Saints have already defeated the Cowboys (and it was in Dallas), so why go against them here? It doesn't seem like anyone is giving the new America's Team a chance to win the NFC, which confuses me. This race is wide open and all New Orleans has to do is win two games. (When all else fails, go with a team that is required to win fewer games.)


Wild Card Round
INDY 31 Kansas City 17 - I know the Colts can't stop the run, but I think the story is being blown out of proportion. Some of the guys over at Rotowire (where I cover the abysmal Raiders) have dug up some impressive research that seems to prove that yards per pass attempt is the most critical stat in the NFL. And last time I checked, the Colts were pretty good at that and the Chiefs weren't. (And in case you want to point to last year as proof to the contrary, I urge you to check the stats, where you will see that the Steelers marched to the Super Bowl by completing long pass plays, not by running the ball. They were improbably successful on third-and-long in particular, which kind of proves that Cower unleashed the long passing game not by design but by accident.) So even though KC has LJ, they aren't going to beat Indy in the dome.

NEW ENGLAND 24 Jets 10 - I think the Pats are going to get some revenge here. Maroney is finally healthy, Dillon is running hard in his role, and Reche Caldwell has shockingly emerged to give Brady a decent #1 option in the passing game.

Divisional Round
New England 21 SAN DIEGO 17 - Look, I love the Chargers. In fact, if you go back to my NFL preview column for Whatif, you will see that I actually picked them to win the AFC before the season started. I'm not sure about this, but I might be the only person on planet earth that did that (of course, I also picked the Jets to win three games, so I'm not going to get too excited). That said, they are going to be getting a tough matchup here. The Pats looked good against the Titans and Belichek has a habit of making life miserable for young quarterbacks. I see the Patriots loading up on LT, confusing Rivers, and scheming for Merriman ... and pulling off the upset.

BALTIMORE 24 Indy 21 - I kind of feel like this is the Colts year to break through and win it all, if only because this is the year no one expects them to (note: this was the same logic I employed in picking the Cardinals to win their series with the Padres and they went on to win the World Series, so maybe I should take that into consideration ... nah). That said, I think the Ravens defense is too tough and with home field advantage, the Ravens should be able to get the job done.

(By the way, I don't remember ever taking more heat for a preseason pick than I did when I tabbed the Ravens to win the AFC North. Funny, I haven't heard from those readers in a while. And yes, this is going down as my most reflective, bitter, and horn-tooting blog post of all time. So bet it.)

Conference Championship

BALTIMORE 17 New England 13 - The Patriots are going to be a tough out, just as they were last year when a bogus pass interference call was the only thing between them and a possible fourth title in five years. But I think the Ravens will do the job, especially since Kyle Boller has looked good in relief duty this year and gives them insurance for the inevitable Steve McNair injury. Who would have thought that Kyle Boller would ever be an asset? In January, at that.

Super Bowl
New Orleans 24 Baltimore 20 - Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but I believe the Saints can win it all. They have multiple game-breaking players on offense, an explosive return game, and - most importantly - the right matchups if things go this way. Philly, Dallas, and B-More? They can beat those teams. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find an offense better suited to beating the Ravens. With their rhythm passing game led by Drew Brees, New Orleans can get the ball out quickly and force B-More's aging secondary to make tackles. As good as those guys are, I'm not sure that bringing down players like Reggie Bush and Marques Colston in the open field is their specialty.

So there you have it. If I get one game right, I'll be happy.

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