Thursday, January 11, 2007

2006 NFL Playoff Picks - Divisional Round

I’m positively giddy right now. It’s like a perfect storm for me this weekend.

Saturday, I leave for a four day conference in Orlando. I’ll probably miss the early game, which sucks, but I’ll get to see the roof come off the Superdome (bad analogy, sorry) when the Saints play their first home playoff game in over a decade.

Sunday, I’ll be fully entrenched in the best playoff game (Pats/Chargers) and the worst (Bears/Seahawks). More importantly, I won’t be flying during the Patriots’ game this year. Thankfully.

And, then, of course, I now have the opportunity to bet, heavily, against Rex Grossman in the playoffs. Three days before I go to Vegas.

Sometimes, things just all come together in a nice little package…

RAVENS (-3.5) over Colts: Oh, no, look out! The Colts are rejuvenated! They’ve regained their confidence on defense! They shut down the mighty Chiefs’ offense, and kept Larry Johnson in check! Of course, that was a team coached by Herman Edwards, a man whose postseason decisions make Marty Schottenheimer look like a playoff genius. Listen, this year’s Ravens is almost an exact copy of the 2000 Ravens – they have a dominant defense, great special teams, and a competent offense that protects the ball and doesn’t turn it over. Plus – do you have any faith in Peyton Manning, on the road, in the cold, against a defense that likes to blitz and knock the snot out of their opponents? Me neither. The Pick: Ravens 27, Colts 16

Eagles (+5) over SAINTS: This pick hurts. There’s nothing I would like to see more, as a football fan, than the sight of the Saints rolling through the playoffs and reaching Super Bowl XLI. But the Eagles are firing on all cylinders and are coming off a great win against the Giants last week. I expect the Superdome to be deafening – louder even than the Falcons game - I expect Reggie Bush and Brian Westbrook to both do something spectacular, and I expect Drew Brees to throw for over 325 yard. But I also expect the Eagles to win. The Pick: Eagles 34, Saints 23

Seahawks (+8.5) over BEARS: I’ve changed my mind since Tuesday. There’s no way I’m giving up 8.5 points, with Rex Grossman starting at quarterback, to a team fielding the reigning MVP, a halfway decent quarterback, and the game’s best kicker this season. There is no way in my mind Seattle doesn’t get at least a back door cover here, something late, in garbage time. Chicago should still win the game, but I can’t imagine there’s one Bears fan in the country who feels supremely confident right now. The Pick: Bears 24, Seahawks 16

Patriots (+5) over CHARGERS: I cannot wait to watch this game. Seriously – I wish they could just play it right now. I’m going to be sitting in a hotel room all day Sunday just waiting for this game to kickoff. And the worst part – I have to watch the game with my boss. I think I might just find the nearest bar. This game has a lot of intriguing angles, so I’m going to break them down individually:

n Marty Schottenheimer: Choke Artiste. Look, I’m not going to sit here and defend Schotty’s less than stellar 5-12 career playoff record. What I am going to do is completely disregard most of it – he’s only been in the playoffs once with this Chargers’ team (and it wasn’t really even “this” Chargers team – 2004 with no Rivers, no Merriman, and no Castillo). Sure, he’s gotten conservative in the past. But he’s also got the most explosive offensive team he’s ever had. If he chokes this one away, he’s destined to always come up short.

n LaDanian Tomlinson: One-Man Wrecking Ball. There is no one player in the NFL that can stop LdT man-to-man. He’s just too quick and too strong. But if there is one person that can figure out a game plan to take LdT out of an offense, it’s the man in the grey hooded sweatshirt that will be standing on the other sideline. The funny thing is, I think the Patriots are going to do the exact opposite of what everyone is saying – I think they’ll do their best to slow Tomlinson down, but focus more on badgering the wide receivers and forcing Rivers into major mistakes.

n The Patriots’ “mystique”. There is no bigger believer in the philosophy of “They’re the Patriots – they’ll figure out a way to win” than me. In this game, it seems like they have the superior coach, quarterback, and defense (the Chargers’ D was vastly overrated this season). Essentially, San Diego’s running and kicking games are their only real advantages. The mystique/experience of the Patriots might show itself, but more likely, the inexperience of the Chargers will be a bigger story.

n The “respect” factor. Most of the so-called “experts” are split almost 50/50 on this game. That means the Pats can’t really play the disrespect card too effectively (though everyone knows they’ll find some type of bulleting board material to get jacked up). But what not many people – outside of the Greater New England area, of course – are talking about is the fact that the Chargers had a tendency to play to the level of their opponents. They may have ended the season on a 10-game winning streak, but only three of those games were by more than eight points. If I’m New England, I’ve got to believe that if my team is within eight points, we’ve got a shot to win.

In the end, I think the Patriots’ experience (or the Chargers lack thereof) plays the biggest role in this game. I think the fact that Philip Rivers has never had to face a Belichick game plan will end up being huge. And I think that, sadly, Marty Schottenheimer will earn his reputation as a big-game choke artist. The Pick: Patriots 34, Chargers 31

While I’m here – anybody got any suggestions for a decent sports bar and a couple good Mexican places near Walt Disney World? I’m desperate to not have to sit in my hotel room with a couple people who don’t follow football trying to watch the Pats game Sunday. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Random programming note: since I’ll be traveling until the 23rd, I’ll most likely be unable to post anything on here until after the Super Bowl Match-Up is set. I am planning to bring a PDA with Internet capabilities with me, and if I can figure out how, I will do my best to update this page – even if it’s nothing more than quick picks (with lines Live from The Mirage!) or a random Vegas update.

Until then,



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