So this year only 8 teams will end their season with a win: The yet to be determined SuperBowl champion and the Steelers, Texans, Lions, Rams, Panthers, 49ers, and Packers. Ahh...there's hope for next year...
The NFL playoffs offer two weekends of exciting matchups (wild card weekend, and the conference finals) and two weekends of let down matchups that will probably be blowouts (division weekend and the SuperBowl). It's always fun, but almost never accurate, to try and predict what will happen so here's my shot:
Wild Card Weekend
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts:
On paper this looks like it could be an offensive shootout, with the KC Chiefs impressive rushing against the poor Indianapolis rush defense on one side and Peyton manning on the other.
Both coaches have less than impressive playoff records, with Herm Edwards being especially poor in Time Management (see NYJ v PIT two years ago).
I'm going with Indy in this one since:
- The Colts are playing at home where they are 8-0
- KC lost to Pittsburgh like 87-3 or something equally lopsided earlier this season, and the Steelers couldn't even make the postseason
- KC must be just happy making the playoffs after needing about 6 things to happen last weekend to make it (including nail-biting OT loses by both the bengals and broncos)
- KC is only 3-5 on the road
- Larry Johnson (KC RB) has rushed a ton this year (pretty much their entire offense) and must be at the point of breaking
- Indy desperately wants to shake its rep as playoff choke artists (they started by choking in the regular season)
New York Jets at New England Patriots:
As members of the same division, these two have played twice already - each winning the 'away' game. This game will be played at New England's Gillette Stadium. Don't expect a repeat performance of the 17-14 loss the Pats had in that game though. The Jets' coach, Eric Mangini, is a rookie and the youngest in the NFL and was also a former assistant of the Patriots' Bill Belichek.
The only concern for the Patriots is the same one they've faced all year - no real playmakers at wide receiver. They'll rely on the same three aspects they've used all year to win:
- Well coached players - probably the best in the league
- Smart play calling on both sides of the ball
- Tom Brady - [channelling generic sports announcer]"This guy just knows how to win games in the National Football League"[end channelling]
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks:
I really don't follow the NFC nearly as closely as the AFC (because the Steelers are in the AFC, and the AFC seems to just be a better conference at this point, as evident from the last SuperBowl with the #6 AFC seed beating the #1 NFC seed). However, I'll still try to predict these games.
Dallas is starting a rookie QB (Tony Romo) who won his first few starts but has looked terrible in the last couple, has the ongoing soap opera of a WR in Terrell Owens, and the super arrogant/over-rated coach Bill Parcells.
Meanwhile, the other sideline will have the SuperBowl losers from last year with only one appreciable difference from last years team - the departed Pro Bowl OL Steve Hutchinson. Last year, the Seahawks seemed almost unbeatable at home, but this year they were a mediocre 5-3 (good enough for the playoffs in the NFC).
I have to think that Seattle just has to not make any big mistakes and Dallas would have to play almost as perfectly as they can in order for the Cowboys to progress any further in the postseason. I don't see that happening, so...
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles:
I've picked each home team so far, and even though the odds are against all home teams winning, in the wild-card weeked, I still can't pick the Giants to beat the Eagles.
The Giants have Manning the Younger at QB, Tiki Barber and RB, Jeremy Shockey at TE and former Steeler Plaxico Burress at WR. So on paper they look like they have a really good offense that would be able to beat a team that lost its starting QB to injury in the season, its best WR to Dallas in the offseason, and hasn't had a decent running game since Randall Cunningham was their QB. Unfortunately they removed the play calling duties from their offensive coordinator after week 16 ( replace by Kevin Gilbride last week) and they have a head coach in Tom Coughlin who likes to take credit for the victories and blame others (notably Eli Manning, their place kicker, and offensive coordinator) for their loses - not exactly what you look for in a leader. Tiki Barber has been promoting his retirement and post-football career since the midpoint of the season.
The Eagles have lots of playoff experience in the past few years, a big advantage of playing at home, and Jeff Garcia (their replacement QB) knows how to win from his time in the CFL and with the 49ers.
Pick: The Eagles
Assuming everything happens as I predicted above I see Indy beating Baltimore in Baltimore in the division weekend, with the remaining home teams (San Diego, Chicago, and New Orleans) winning.
Then in the Conference Weekend San Diego beating Indy and New Orleans beating Chicago.
Finally, the SuperBowl will be won by New Orleans.