HECTOR’S PLAYOFF PREVIEW
One of my favorite Bill Simmons columns of the year is his fantastic wild card preview. I love it because he really believes he’ll go 11-0 one year and puts in so much time and effort into the first week. So when it came out this morning (I’m on the west coast now, his columns come out early… its weird), it was like Christmas all over again (well Christmas in my house is different… we open our gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve and then celebrate by drinking all night - I will never wait to open my gifts in the morning.) Anyway, I go to espn.com only to see that he got to interview Brady this week and instead of writing my 2nd favorite football column of the year, he wrote a horrifically uninteresting piece on Brady vs. Manning; something that would be relevant only if they were playing each other this week. Whatever, I feel cheated. And I’m sure other readers do too… so with that I’ll give you my best attempt to fill that void. Also it’s Friday night and I have nothing to do since I don’t have any friends here yet so this is a good use of my time.
New Orleans (-10.5) over SEATTLE
This may be a game where a lot of people lose a lot of money… or not. Did you know that Seattle gave up over 30pts in NINE straight games before hosting a rookie QB with a horrifically scared head coach last Sunday Night (I know you Giants all love Spagnuolo and credit the Rams’ resurgence to him but the bottom line is he’s the ONLY reason St. Louis blew that game – I mean, good God I’ve seen coaches be in over their heads during games but never like that… we may look back at that moment and figure out that the cute kid from Jerry Maguire (its on right now) could’ve been coaching the Rams and because of how good Bradford was, still provided the huge improvement we saw.
Anyway, all Seattle’s quotes read to say they’re happy to be there, their wins came against the absolute bottom of the NFL (with the exception of Chicago, which is the reason Chi changed their entire gameplan and lost only twice after) and the Saints should be able to light it up. Saints 41 - Seattle 20
Tangent: There’s at least a 35% chance that I developed sort of football jersey curse this year. Hear me out – I started the year with a Romo and we all know how his season ended in injury. For the rest of the year I wore my new Dez Bryant until he also suffered the same fate. Nothing crazy there, right? Until you realize that in my move, I THREW OUT my old Julius Jones jersey. Two weeks later, he’ll be the starting RB for the defending champs in the playoffs. You can't make this stuff up.
New York ( +3) Over INDIANAPOLIS
I wrote “New York” instead of “New York Jets” to remind all the Giants fans how they missed the playoffs despite holding a 31-10 lead in the 4th quarter of what could’ve been a division clinching game. That was fun.
Ok so these are two teams I hated all pre-season – I knew Indy was depleted and thought the Jets were overrated. While I was wrong about the Jets, I was right about Indy. Unfortunately, who could’ve predicted how much the rest of the division was gonna blow… I mean it’s embarrassing! Houston, Jax and Tenn should be ashamed of the way they let Indy off the hook – take a look at that division – other than the NFC West is there anyone worse? The answer is no. So when you’re thinking about whom to take in this game, remember that Indy being in has NOTHING to do with them being good, just that we had the crappiest showing in the history of the AFC South (is there a division with less history? And please don’t count what the Colts did in Baltimore).
As for the Jets, their tremendous start really shut naysayers like myself up. Luckily we had the New England Patriots to remind us on that fateful Monday Night that in order to win in the NFL, QB’s have to be good, coaches have to be able to make adjustments, defenses have to be fast and running backs have to be young. The Jets have the D but not sure anything else. Mark Sanchez improved from downright horrific last year to serviceable; LDT went from ‘oh my god why did the Chargers let him go’ to ‘do you think anyone will sign him next year?’; Rex Ryan refuses to stop sending 7 or 8 and playing man on the outside despite Cromartie proving he’s only good at producing offspring.
On the plus side for the Jets, the defense, while not as dominant as last year is the reason this team is where it is and can go further. The team also has that heart and grit that really cant be measured and showed it multiple times during the stretch where they kept falling behind crap teams but somehow pulled off all those games. That became even more evident with the playoff-team like effort they put in Pittsburgh during week 15.
They should be able to pound the rock on them, Sanchez should be able to find Holmes/Edwards down the seam and the defense should be able to pressure Peyton “I send a thank you card to Rex Grossman everyday for giving me a ring” Manning into making mistakes.
Jets 31 – Colts 20
Baltimore (-3) over KANSAS CITY
I think this is a stay away game. KC was 7-1 at home, they can run the ball extremely well and Joe Flacco’s collapse down the stretch from “can I creep into the top 10” to “should the Ravens consider Vince Young?” can’t be overlooked. I know because I traded for him in my two QB league only to see him ruin my 11-1 team’s chances in the playoffs. F*ck you Joe Flacco… hey that kinda rhymes.
Anyway, the reason I’m taking the Ravens comes down to three things. The Chiefs lost 2 out of their last 4 games by a combined 62-10, the best team they probably played all season was Indy (seriously, look at their schedule, somehow they missed the top 10 teams!) and Ray Rice came alive the last few weeks, showing us that he may be able to carry the load and help take some of the pressure of Flacco. Lastly, I think a few hard hits will inevitably produce a patented Dwayne Bowe fumble/horrific drop.
Here’s my only issue with the AFC Wild Card – wasn’t the AFC supposed to be good this year? These 4 teams are so flawed that I’d take the 5 good NFC teams over any of these. I guess the conference is just ridiculously top heavy.
Baltimore 19 - KC 15
Green Bay (+3) over PHILADELPHIA
I really believe this is the NFC Championship game. I have no idea who’s going to win but I will take the winner vs any of the other 4 NFC teams. As I’m writing this, I have no idea who I’m picking. But I do know that this is going to be a classic.
So lets quickly review the teams. On one hand we have the Eagles – I feel like we learned an awful lot about this team this year. While we’ve always known Andy Reid is a good coach, most of us didn’t give him the proper credit he deserves – we always thought it was more McNabb than him and it turns out, the guy’s just a master coach (except for the in-game mgmt of course). In addition, LeSean McCoy is a more useful weapon than Brian Westbrook ever was. There’s no better game to look at then the 30-27 Sunday Night game vs Dallas. The Cowboys scored with 4:19 on the clock and would clearly get the ball back. Then they gave the ball to McCoy. And again. And again. And there was absolutely NOTHING we could do – it was staggering. Sure I’ve seen the Giants or other teams run a great, game-ending 4minute drill – but never the Eagles. I was stunned. And impressed – LeSean is that tough, yet still young and fast back that can break your will and that’s something the Eagles never had.
Then we have the Packers, the sexy pick for the Super Bowl by many (including me). Coming into last week, I said if the Packers make the playoffs they run the table in the NFC. I think the Bears agreed. Which is why they did everything in their power to keep them out… and still couldn’t. While this team absolutely cannot run the ball when it needs to, I think I’m taking the Packers based on their defense. It’s just an underrated and yet, better defense than any in the NFC. I think they’ll be able to constantly pressure Vick, control their awesome weapons on the outside and keep the crowd quiet for most of the game. Some see this as an offensive explosion but I think it’ll be one of those cold, classic, gritty NFC-type games we all remember from the early 90’s.
Green bay 20 – Philly 19
The Rest of the Playoffs
Since I probably wont be writing another one of these the rest of the playoffs I’ll put this on here. I’ll take Pittsburgh and New England over whomever gets there and will lay whatever amount of points it takes. I will then look at how healthy Polamalu looked in their Divisional Round win before deciding on the winner. That team will beat whomever shows up from the NFC.
On the NFC side I’ll take Green Bay to beat Atlanta or Philly to beat Chicago. Chicago whooped the Eagles pretty good but I felt like the birds figured something out at the very end of that game and will use that in the rematch. I will also take whomever faces New Orleans. Chicago beat the Saints in ’06, largely due to the Saints awful running game – enter season ending injuries to their two top backs and you have a similar Saints team. If they go to Atlanta, the Falcons wont let them off the hook like they did a few weeks ago again. In the Championship game I’ll take the road team. Chicago had the opportunity to knock Green Bay out and failed – now they will pay. Michael Vick is still a fan favorite with most people in Atlanta and will give them something to cheer for… unfortunately he’ll be wearing an Eagles jersey.
The pick: New England 39 – Green Bay 34 (in my pre-season predictions I had it the other way around)
ENJOY THE PLAYOFFS EVERYONE!