NFL Outlook: Bandit's Blog

Unlike many bloggers who felt the need to formulate all their official playoff scenarios as well as their predictions for the next month of postseason football, I will only take the games as they come and that is on a weekly basis because I don't want to overlook potential injuries or upsets in this weekend's wild card games.  It is futile to give a predetermined schedule of what games will be played in 2,3, or 4 weeks from now because there's no guaranteee that it will pan out to our expectations.  So why predict scores and winners on games that might never exist in the first place? Do we really believe our proposed matchups for the whole playoffs will maintain its integrity?  Even if we did predict the wild card games right, why are some people still getting the seeded matchups wrong in the next round? Lord, help us!!!  I really didn't deem it was necessary to outline all the playoff teams as if I knew how their destiny was going to turn out, not even that of the Patriots.  If we were that good at predictions, we should be having the last laugh in Vegas. Bracket seedings are for March Madness.  Wow, that's in 3 months! 

:Breathes and stretches......:
OK, I have vented enough, sorry for that rant.
Moving on..                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Alright, I have managed to go 13-3 on my picks for the last week of the season(week 17 outlook). The NFL 2007 regular season is in the books as we focus our attention on the playoffs, starting with this weekend's Wild Card games.  It is without a doubt the time to play some serious football.   Last season, all 4 homes teams came out victorious from the WC games after only one in 2005.  So it has been a tale of two extremes in the last couple of years.   I am ecstatic to see the Wild Card matchups, and even though I don't believe upsets are likely to happen this weekend.. it is always something to take into consideration especially in the playoffs.  Underdogs, whom I've always said to beware of on my weekly outlook blogs, do have a lot of bark and bite in them.  Being scrutinized as the probable loser will only motivate them to play harder and prove the critics wrong.  Enough with the tedious chants, let's get down to business.

Washington @ SEATTLE :

Line:  Seattle favored by 3.5
O/U: 40 pts

Washington seems to be peaking at the right time as evident of their 4 straight victories with Todd Collins at the helm. Joe Gibbs has done a wonderful job gettin his team into a playoff spot. Who would have thought Washington could rebound after winning only 5 of their first 12 games, and in the process having to emotionally deal with the Taylor tragedy for the last quarter of the season.  They have found new life, and a spirit from above is smiling upon them.  Todd Collins has done a spectacular job replacing an injured Campbell, while Clinton Portis is heating up in the late going.  Collins might struggle throwing against a solid secondary, if and when he does have time to throw in the pocket because Tapp and Kerney love to harass opposing qb's with a passion.  It is essential for Portis to establish the running game early, otherwise it will never open up the passing game for Collins.  Cooley would have to be the main source of the passing attack, as Randle El and Santana Moss have been inconsistent for much of the season although Moss has decided to show up in the last couple of games.  Has he decided to save his best for last, or is it just a fluke?  I am thinking the latter.
Holmgren's squad has cooled off a bit in the last few games after a 5 game winning streak.  They have rested 7 starters in their last game against Atlanta in hopes to come out healthy come playoff time.  Seattle has the 15th ranked D, being 12th against the run and 19th on the pass.  Washington has the 8th rank defense in the league(4th against the run, and 16th against the pass).
After analyzing this match-up, it seems like Washington would be the logical choice to come out victorious considering the fact that they are playing well at the right time.  But they are the road team here and they are slight underdogs for a reason, and I believe it is because Collins lack playoff experience.  Although he has been terrific since he took over as the QB, the Qwest Field crowd who has claimed the title of "12th man" will make it as uncomfortable and disruptive for the offense to establish any rhythm.  Most of his wins all have come against the suspect secondaries of Chicago, NYGiants, and Minnesota. Although Seattle's pass D has somewhat slipped down in recent weeks, they play much better at home than what the rankings indicate. Both teams has a formidable defense comprised of stout LB's and a proficient secondary.  Seattle's quick LB core of Tatupu, Peterson, and Hill complement a feisty frontline that includes Tapp and Kerney.  Tack in a secondary that only allowed 11 passing TD's all year excluding the last game and it concludes me to believe that Seattle's D will show up much less feed of the home crowd.   Seattle is only giving up an average of 14 points at home this season. While I believe that this might be a higher scoring affair than what the Vegas oddmakers predict to be, the Seahawks will have the better and more balanced offense come Saturday which leads me to pick them as the victor. Should the running game duo of Alexander and Morris become contained, Haselbeck has shown he can be effective enough to lead his team to victory by virtue of the passing game.  Wideouts such as Branch, Engram, Burleson, and Hackett offer more than Washington can handle. Burleson poses a threat on special teams as he is capable of electrifying the crowd with impressive returns. I really like Holmgren to have his squad well prepared as well as focused.  Bottom line: Seattle is a much better team at home.   They score more, and their defense only allows an average of 14 points. Seattle has always been a hostile environment for opposing teams.  Just ask Tony Romo.
SEATTLE    30      Washington     23

Jacksonville @ PITTSBURGH:

Line:  Jacksonville favored by 2
O/U: 40 points

Jacksonville:  12th ranked DEF (#11 run,  #15 pass)        7th ranked OFF(#2 rush, #17 pass)
Pittsburgh:      1st ranked DEF (#3 run, #3 pass)             17th ranked OFF (#3 rush, #22 pass)

This seems to be the most intriguing matchup for Saturday, as the Jags are the only road team favored to win.  At first, oddmakers had this game at an even pick but the line has gradually swayed in Jacksonville's favor as the majority of sportswagering junkies are expecting Del Rio's team to win.  Not only will this be a physical matchup between two of the NFL's better defenses, but it will also feature the sensational running attack of both teams. The revived Fred Taylor has been nothing short of spectacular for the latter part of the season, as he has burned the Steeler D for 147 yds along with 2 TD's on their last meeting.  He's had 5 straight 100 yard games, and is no doubt playing with a resurgent pulse.  Both Taylor and MJD has complemented each other very well all year, leaving opposing defenses the daunting task of shutting down a formidable duo.  On the Steelers end, the untimely loss of Willie Parker to injury is without a doubt a discernable detriment in their running attack which is now obligated to Davenport.  It is unfortunate because Parker was having one of his better seasons.  Once again, expect Del Rio to employ full dedication of the rushing attack in hopes of acquiring similar results from his last meeting againsTomlin's squad.  There is no doubt that the Steelers rush D will be tested once again.   I believe Tomlin will rectify the situation by fortifying his frontline D so they can better contain Jacksonville's rush attack,  leaving their chances on how well Garrard will fare versus their #3 rank pass D.  Look for Del Rio to roll the dice by having Garrard constantly throw deep to maintain the integrity of their passing game.  The underrated QB has been very efficient in terms of execution as well limiting his mistakes and it should be no different here.                                                                                                                                                  On the other side, Davenport is a huge bulky back who is delighted to finally have a chance as a starter.  But he will likely be contained for much of the contest and in the process the detrimental loss of Parker will be exposed as the Jags look to stuff the frontline against a Steeler offense that has been mediocre this year even with pro bowler Faneca in the lineup.  The Steeler's fate will rely at the hands of Big Ben who will likely struggle against a splendid Jags secondary that when healthy, will not yield a lot of big plays. Tomlin's offense would have to come through Ward, Holmes, and Miller but it is likely that these sources will have minimal success against Mathis and Williams. Look for Spicer, Hayward, and company to dominate the line of scrimmage against the Steeler offensive line resulting in sacks, hurrries, and knock downs of Roethlisberger leaving him be to be ineffective for the majority of the game. Del Rio's defense can consistently match up well with any offense and this is a favorable matchup for his squad as the Steeler O-line has yielded 47 sacks for the season.  That does not bode well for Big Ben who might find himself running for his life.  If Jacksonville's offense can get it going especially with the relentless rush attack of Taylor and MJD, the defense should peform well enough to hold the lead.   With that said, I see the Jags sneaking one out in a close matchup filled with amazing defensive highlights.  The Steelers look to exact revenge from an earlier loss to Jacksonville, and even though they have not lost to the same team at home twice in a season...there is always a first for everything.  Bottom Line: Del Rio has his club playing with confidence, and feels they belong despite being inexperienced.  Look for a smashmouth defensive battle between the two clubs, as both offenses will likely be stifled for much of the game.  But with the Jags presenting a more balanced offense with Garrard and his RB duo, I would have to go with them to win a nailbiter in what could be the best wild card game of the weekend.   It wouldn't be surprising to see this game go into overtime.                                                                                                                     Jacksonville    20   PITTSBURGH    17

thanks for reading my blog. Please feel free to comment, they are always welcome.  Enjoy the playoffs!


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