- The Colts were playing 2 MLBs and their safeties up, shutting down the middle of the field for the ground game...what did the Chiefs do? Run up the middle. LJ finished with 32 yards. On the 1 TD drive they had, what did they do? Throw to their TEs, which were covered by those extra MLBs, and had the advantage. Not to mention the fact that Trent Green played terrible, but yet stayed in the whole game.
- The blown FG should never have been an issue for the Boys...why in god's name would you try a sideways pass, the most dangerous pass in football...when you're at your own 2? That's a total recipe for disaster. The reason it's dangerous, is that the pass travels parallel to the line of scrimmage, where any number of players have a chance to make a play on it, and these are the types of passes that get returned for TDs all the time. Terrible call. And then the dropped ball...and who takes the blame?
- The Giants made so many boneheaded moves; I'm just going to cover them separately.
But that's what happened last week, what's going to...yes, I getting there...I know, I'll mention it...Mr. Peeps wants me to mention that he was 4-0 last week. He's been strutting around like he's King of Spain or something...all high and mighty, and trying to predict everything now...he correctly predicted when the toaster buzzer would go off, and then acted offended when I pointed out he was watching the timer. Anyway, we're in the divisional round, and that's what we need...jeez, what? No, I'm not going to do that. No, I don't care if you're 4-0...oh shut up...don't be like that!...damn. Okay, Mr. Peeps has decided to hold out, he's demanding an increase in his salary, which means more beer, and I'm not willing to do that.
Looks like I'll have to do this on my own this week...damn helper monkeys, always screwing you at the worst possible time.
On with the picks....
Indianapolis at Baltimore
Just a classic match-up...Best D vs. Best O (Or close to best O, I believe the Saints actually had that title and the Eagles actually had more yards as well...but Third Best O doesn't sound as dramatic). A fierce attaching D, against an aggressive attacking O...should be a great battle...with 2 big problems for the Colts...
- They're on the Road, where they are a very different team.
- Anytime a D like this is at home, the home-field advantage is upped about 100 times.
Quite simply put, the Colts have lost their last 4 road games. Only one of which was to a playoff team, and that was Dallas who just got bounced. In those games they failed to score more than 20 points in all but one of them...and that was 24 points against a TERRIBLE Houston team. And now they're going against a team that has only allowed 12.6 points a game. Um, how do you say "not good" in Hoosier?
When a good/great defense is at home, their advantage is huge. The reason is, communication is essential to an offense performing up to snuff, and even more important to an offense like the Colts that changes so many things at the line of scrimmage. When you have a screaming crowd and a great, well coached D...it spells almost certain doom for almost any offense. The best remedy? An equally good defense. The best why to shut up a crowd is through big plays on D. The opposing D is on the field during the quiet moments, so crowd noise isn't a factor...and big plays there can rip the heart out of a crowd. The Colts don't bring enough to the table there. And yes, I know this all sounds very simplistic, but you'd be amazed at how many people don't get these simple facts. A good defense allows a team to win anywhere.
Final thought...if Manning throws another 3 picks, he's season is done. 2 of the 3 picks were because of incorrect sight adjustments by his WRs, a correctable thing, but do you think they'll do that much better with a screaming crowd in their ear? No. How big do you think the playoff monkey on Peyton's back is? Is it King Kong sized yet? Or merely Gorilla sized? How much longer before he's crushed under the weight? And will he be saying something similar to Tiki Barber when he retires several years from now?
Can't see Manning getting the monkey off his back against the Ravens, if he was at home he might be able to make something happen, but since they decided to lose all those games down the stetch, he won't have that chance. Ravens beat up on the Colts, McNair gets a game closer to the Super Bowl, and Peyton gets a game closer to just snapping and killing the D-Coordinator.
Philadelphia at New Orleans
Before I get to this game, let me finish some thoughts on the Eagles last game...because it has a direct relation to this game...
The Eagles didn't so much win the Wild Card game, as the Giants lost it. Sure Westbrook had a great game, but the Giants decided they didn't want to play anymore this year...and here's some proof...
- The Giants scored on their first drive, then stuff the Eagles on their first 3 drives, taking possession around midfield each time...and came away with ZERO points. Even if all they get are a couple FGs, they would of controlled the game from there on out.
- Why didn't they score on any of those drives? Well, they took a look at everything that worked that first drive...and said, "Let's make sure we don't do any of that".
- Can someone on the coaching staff go over to Plaxico and tell him not to act like he just won a game, and strut around like a pompus jerk whenever he catches any pass?
- Speaking of Plax, on their last TD drive, he was making the Eagle DBs look silly...you think it would have been a good idea to get him the ball...oh I don't know...a few more times? Say earlier in the game?
Even with the IceBox doing his worst coaching job ever, the Eagles just barely managed to win the game...it took a super human effort by Westbrook to do so...that doesn't bode well for this week.
The Saints had 2 weeks to game plan for this one...and you know Sean Payton has been busy. And this is a guy you don't want to give a lot of extra time to when you have to play against him, cause he'll come up with some good wrinkles. Expect to see an example of what is right with the coaching profession in this one.
Hey, Jim Johnson, let me just give you a small piece of advice...resist all urges to bring more than 5 at any time. Blitzing 6+ is a huge invitation for the big play, and against a team like the Saints, it will kill you. Let's just look at this in very simple terms...who are the normal blitzers? Safeties and LBs. When they aren't blitzing, who are they responsible for? TEs and RBs. So if they blitz 6+ who will likely be open? And most likely be Drew's hot read? I'll give you a hint, he shares a last name with our President. Still no clue? He won the Heisman last year...got passed over by Houston...wanted to wear number 5...jeez, people its Reggie Bush. Oh wait; you can't hear my inner monologue. Damn.
The crowd for this game is going to be awesome. Noisy and totally into it. The Seahawks talk about their 12th (yes, I know they stole it from Texas A&M and several other places) but with the dome and the situation, we could be talking 13th and 14th men as well. The Eagles will have to weather the storm for the first quarter, when the Saints and the crowd will be the most pumped, if they come out of that tied or only a score down, it will be a game...if not, good night sweet heart.
This game should be close, mostly because of the Saints hit or miss D...but in the end Brees and the Crowd will carry them through. McNabb will breath a long sigh of relief so he doesn't have to answer questions about Garcia leading them to the Super Bowl.
Seattle at Chicago
Wow...this is the type of game that could send me to an early grave. These are the 2 teams I know the most about...having been a Bears fan all my life, and having lived in Seattle the last 5 years...add to that the fact that I know a ton of Hawks fans and Bears fans...that all have different opinions on it all...just crazy. I'll forgo the drama and say, I'm picking the Bears...was there any doubt? But what I will give you is a breakdown of what each team needs to do to win this game.
Before I do that, let me just say, it's truly amazing that this Bears team is getting as little respect as it is, and that Chicago fans seem to actually dislike this team...maybe dislike isn't the right word...but there just seems to be this odd mixture of love and hate for this team, because we've all seen how great they can be...and how totally awful they can be. Part of this also can be traced to how cynical the Chicago sports fan is. We've had so many years of futility that we really don't expect our teams to win...and we have a hard time reconciling that when they are winning. I'm not doing a good job of really flushing this out...but I think the Chi-town fans know what I'm trying to say.
Here's what the Hawks need to do to beat the Bears:
- Don't Blitz - resist the urge to send the farm after Rex. I know, you'll be drooling at the mouth, but seriously, don't do it. Just as I mentioned before, blitzing 6+ opens leaves receivers wide open...don't make it easy for Rex to hit the wide open man. Instead bring 1 blitzer, so rush 5, but disguise where that's coming from...that's what really plays with Rex's head, when he doesn't know where things are.
- Sit on the Deep ball - Both Rex and Ron (Turner the O-coordinator) love to take their shots down field. This has been both the best and worst play the Bears O makes...so expect it, and wait for that errant pass to fall into your arms.
- Disguise your coverage - I know in this day and age this sounds silly, as everyone does this to some extent, but mix things up a little. Don't have to get really fancy, just throw the occasional wrinkle out that, that will get Rex in his head, and that is a good thing for you.
- RUN THE BALL - Tommie Harris was the key to the whole defense, he let Urlacher and Briggs do their thing, and made the whole line infinitely better...without him in the middle the Bears can be run on. Just take Shaun, and slam him up in there, and he'll bust out his share of big runs.
- Don't kick to Hester - Just don't do it. Giving the Bears O the ball at the 40 is better than letting Hester get loose for a game changing return.
Here's what the Bears need to do to beat the Hawks:
- Spread it out - The Hawks secondary is a total mess. I think they have the guy from the Replacements out there, as well as the Barista from my local coffee place. So bring on the 3 and 4 WR sets, and force the lesser talented members of the Hawks to cover the field. And don't be afraid to run when you get them spread out like this...but easy pass should be there, and it would be a great way to get Rex's confidence back.
- Get the ball to Moose - Muhsin Muhammad it the best WR the Bears have, and the biggest matchup nightmare for the Hawks, as they have no big DBs. He should find all kinds of space to roam, and Rex should be able to just put it up there and let him go get it.
- The D-Line needs to Channel Tommie - That's right boys, Tank, Ian, you need to do your best Tommie impersonations. And we'll need you to do it for the next 3 weeks. The key to the Bears pass rush is the push in the middle...that forces QBs to their DEs who love to clean up the mess. Without that push, the rush isn't nearly as potent.
- Urlacher and Briggs need to have big days - The Hawks are going to run, and they are going to try to take advantage of the injuries that Bears have...Urlacher and his wingman need to rise up and take control. Hit some people hard early and let them know nothing is going to be easy. We've seen Brian take over a game single handedly, he'll need to do that for the next 3 weeks.
- For the fans, Cheer your damn heads off - DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT boo Rex. I know it will be tempting, but if he gets off to a slow start, or the O sputters a bit, shut up. Booing him will just make matters worse and remove the home field advantage. If you can't cheer for Rex, just cheer for the team. After the game is over, you can complain and yell whatever you want at Rex...but during the game, only good thoughts.
I think that says it all for that one. In the end I think the Bears are just the superior team this year. The Hawks O-Line hasn't jelled, and their Offense has never gotten into the rhythm they had last year. And their D has been horrendous for most of the year. For all that ails the Bears right now, they'll get the win.
New England at San Diego
Now for the other #1 seed...
Does anyone out there really hate the Chargers? Okay, besides Raiders fans, who hate everyone...seriously, I've never met anyone who just flat out hates the Chargers. Almost all the other teams I can think of, I know I've met people that just despise them. Maybe I need to get out more...but it just seems the Chargers are a team you feel strongly about.
Why is that? Maybe cause they play in a gorgeous place, and everyone secrectly wants to go there. Or maybe the Ron Burgundy factor is at play. Or the fact they are always ok, not horrendously bad, and not super good (this year falls outside that)...and so we never have reason to talk about them. Or maybe it's the power of the Powder Blue unis. This year? The answer is simple...
They have 2 of the most exciting players in the game...LT and Merriman. Add in the fact that LT is one of the good guys in sports, a true role model, and you just gotta love this team. And so they are the favorite right now to goto the big game. But Charger fans, it's going to be a hard road. Beat your chests all you want, but there isn't going to be an easy game on the plate. And first up, you've got the Unabomber and his boys.
You know Belichick is just licking his lips for this game. He likes the underdog feeling, and he likes the challenge of trying to stop this kind of offense. And don't even think that he hasn't been planning to play these guys for awhile. He's been dreaming up schemes for this team since midseason...cackling, tenting his fingers and letting out a low "Excellent".
Here are the questions that face San Diego:
- - Can Marty counter the Unabomber's wrinkles?
- - Will Rivers play like a "rookie", and can he handle what the Pats have in store?
- - Can the defense get a good pass rush on Brady? If they don't, he'll pick them apart.
Of course, the Pats have to stop LT, and that's not easy. But the Hawks limited the Chargers to only 20 points, and if they hadn't already suffered injuries in their secondary, might have been able to hold off that final TD pass...so it can be done.
The Chargers win this one, but it should be a good game. Brady and Belichick bring a lot of experience and knowledge into this one, and the Chargers lack experience, and have the looming hex of Marty's past postseason experiences...like I said, for the Chargers to get to the Super Bowl, they are going to have to earn it, not that any past Super Bowl team didn't have to earn it....
And I'm spent. That's a whole lot of Jibber-jabber about the games, and I have to go talk Mr. Peeps down now, I'm not caving to his demands, but he can get a little unruly if I don't at least talk things out with him. Let's just say the last time we had a disagreement like this, my shoes were all filled with a very unpleasant substance.
Enjoy the games!