So playoffs are upon us. In just over three weeks the 2007 NFL season will be in the books. Been a tough year for many of us. If you live in Colorado, like I do, watching the Broncos has been a tough pill to swallow. Same thing for so many teams around the country, Chicago, Miami, KC, Oakland (although I feel no sympathy for them), St. Louis, etc..
Tough thing about the NFL is most of us only have one favorite team. The home team is the usual pick, if you grew up in a place without a home team then it’s usually one of the other quintessental contenders (Cowboys, Steelers, Bears). I am as much a fan of the game as I am any specific team, so even though the Broncos will always be number one in my heart, I can definitely show some love for other great programs like the Colts or Green Bay.
All that said, I want to make some predictions for the remainder of the season. This is just my best case scenario, and no, I’m not interested in betting. I’ve learned the hard way that you never bet your heart. I love the game and these teams too much to make an objective wager.
This week’s predictions
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Jacksonville over the Patriots
I know, I know, the Patriots went undefeated in the regular season, and that’s an amazing feat. Thing is the Patriots are in, arguably, the WORST division in football. The Jets, and of course Dolphins, had horrendous years. The Bills had glimmers of greatness, but overall weren’t a playoff level team. This means that out of the Patriots 16 wins, six were gimmes. The remainder of their schedule wasn’t too hard with the exception of the Steelers and Colts. As the year progressed we saw a New England team that was accused of running up the score early in the season go back to barely eeking out wins of Philedelphia, Baltimore and New York. Difficult weather conditions and a long season have slowed down the Brady/Moss touchdown machine.
Jacksonville is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Rather than trying to keep their attitude up to win the last few games of the season, the Jaguars have been in must-win mode. They stood to lose more than just a spotless season record with a loss, they have been fighting every game for a post-season berth. The last few games have shown us two things about the Jaguars. First, Jacksonville is a tough, agressive, old-school football team. They are going to take the field and just smack their opponent right in the mouth. Both offense and defense is playing as aggressive as the rules allow (and maybe a little more). The other thing we have learned is that the Jaguars have heart. David Garrard and his teamates just don’t know when to quite. Sunday they faced a tough battle with Pittsburgh, but they fought down to the last play, and they prevailed. Both of these characteristics are what is going to enable them to defeat the mighty Patriots. The Jacksonville defense should be able to slow down the Pats offense, and Garrard, Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor should be able to pound their defense to dust.
San Diego falls to Indy
Everyone says that the San Diego ownership is vindicated for firing Schottenheimer, but let’s not be so hasty. Norv Turner beat the lowly Titans in a Wild Card game. Marty lost last year’s playoff game to the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round. Technically, if (when) San Diego loses to Indy, Turner will not have made it any further than Marty. Bottom line is, the Chargers are not the team they were last year. They have struggled all season, dropping from an 06 record of 14-2 to 11-5 this year. Overall, they just don’t look sharp. Sure, they beat a banged up Colts mid-season, by two points, but this is playoff football against a well rested, defending Super Bowl champion team that is as healthy as they have been all season. Throw in a home game at the RCA dome to boot, San Diego doesn’t stand much of a chance.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
Green Bay over Seattle
Sure, maybe Favre is too old (I don’t think he is, but that’s another discussion) and maybe Holmgrem’s got his number, but adding Mike McCarthy at the head coach position has breathed new life into this franchise. Playing at Lambeau in January, this game won’t even be a contest. A Seahawks team that looked rather pathetic in their win of Washington is going to have their hands full in Green Bay.
Dallas falls to New York
We’ve all heard about how great Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are. Frankly, I’m tired of the hype. Dallas has had a good year, but ever since locking up the first seed in the NFC they have been pathetic. Between the Jessica Simpson fiasco and Terrell Owens injury, “America’s team” has fallen on hard times. With Owens possibly out, and definitely not at 100% for this weekends meeting with the Giants, the Cowboys will be at a disadvantage. Interesting how the Romo fan club falls silent when he’s missing his star receiver. Guess Terrell Owens can make anyone look good.
The New York Giants are on the upswing. A solid win against Tampa Bay showed everyone that they are for real. An emotionless Eli Manning seems to have finally connected with his team. Eli plays football like it’s in a schoolyard. Not the Brett Favre schoolyard where the teenage girls are swooning over the handsome kid that always gets picked first as quaterback. Eli plays like he’s just hanging out with some friends after school throwing the ball around. Sure, he can throw the ball, but it’s not that big of a deal. He almost plays like they aren’t even keeping score, every play is an entity to itself, every toss is just a moment in time, when the actions over it’s over. The Giants as a whole seemed to have accepted and even embraced this attitude. They aren’t like the Pats with their mock humility, or like the Colts with Dungy’s Quiet Strength. The Giants just seem to have this devil may care Eli Manning attitude, in spite of Tom Coughlin’s ranting on the sideline. They play their game at their own pace, take every challenge as it comes, and sometime mid 4th quarter they finally figure they should wrap everything up.
This won’t be an easy game for Dallas or the Giants, but I honestly belive Eli is ready to meet the challenge and New York will unseat Wade Phillps Texas boys.