Saturday, January 19, 2008

2007 NFL Picks - Championship Round

So much to cover in such a short period of time. Before breaking into the picks, a couple of random thoughts from the past couple of weeks.

1) The West Coast is far too nice to ever visit without immediately wishing you didn't have to leave. I just came back from a five day trip to San Diego, where the average temperature was about 63 degrees, followed up by a return flight to Pittsburgh where the temperture was 23 with a light snowfall. And the doors & windows in my car were frozen shut. Guh. More on this discussion later...

2) Note to anyone out there who takes taxis regularly. If you happen to be in a situation where you might need to be in the cab for awhile, put in headphones. I found this out the hard way when I took a cab to the SD Airport Wednesday morning and decided to have a conversation with the driver rather than listen to the iPod. As soon as he found out that I worked in a hospital (my actual 9-5 job) he started asking medical questions. Which eventually led to him talking - albeit in fairly broken English - about his medical problems. Which then led to him asking for my opinion on different types of medications. I won't go into detail, but I'll tell you this - I should have stopped the conversation when he tried to ask about "Tapestries that you put in the richter..."

3) The Mitchell Report, the fallout, and the subsequent new round of hearings and FBI investigation into Miguel Tejada's responses to the government (?!?!) are an abolute joke. There is not one thing in the Mitchell Report that was "news". Not one name surprised me - including Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, or Brian Roberts. The fact that the US Government sees a need to intervene and waste time & money with rounds of hearings and investigations makes me unbelieveably angry, and sad. If I wasn't so apathetic about politics, I might consider doing something about it. Maybe a strongly worded letter...

4) I really can't stand watching NBA games anymore. You can watch 15 total minutes - the end of each half - and get the entire point of the game. Of course, as I write this the Bulls & Warriors are spending almost 15 minutes (with two commercial breaks and seven - seven - personal fouls) to play out the final 41.2 seconds of regulation in a game that is going to end as a Warriors win by 8 points. Insane.

5) I gave serious thought to driving home to Massachusetts tomorrow to surprise a couple of people this weekend for birthday parties, and to watch the AFC Title game with people who actually care about it. The average Pittsburgh fan has either switched into full Penguins-support mode (so Sidney Crosby's injury today may have thrown this city into a sports-depression until next year's Steelers mini-camps), or is actively preparing for the 2008 NFL Combine. I'm expecting it to be very difficult to find a decent place to watch the game Sunday, so I'll probably stay home and watching it in my bedroom. Again: Guh...

Speaking of the games, let's get down to the picks. Had an astonishing 3-1 week in the Divisional Round, pushing the playoff record to 5-3, and even correctly picked the Seahawks & Jaguars to each score 20 points. Of course, I also picked the Colts to win by 15 and the Giants to cover but not win outright... Hey, a win is a win.

Onto the games in this weekend's Championship Round. Lines from, and accurate as of 1AM Saturday Morning. I'm bored. Lots on my mind - might as well write. Home teams in CAPS, as always.

PACKERS (-7.5) over Giants: I actually like this line better at (-7) as it was a couple hours ago, and I like it a whole lot better at (-1.5) after it gets teased down. Either way, I think the Packers are the best team in the NFC, and have been saying that for about five weeks now. As much as the Giants are the NFC's hottest team for the past two months (12-4 since losing to the Packers in Week 2), they're not a better team that this incarnation of the Pack. Factor in the predicted weather conditions, the fact that every person outside of the tri-state area is pulling for Brett Favre, and that (even though he's been pretty good as of late) Eli Manning is still involved in the game, I can't pick the Giants to cover that line. Pick: Packers 34, Giants 23

Chargers @ PATRIOTS: You know, even as I was typing the Colts/Chargers pick from last week ("Not like I thought the Chargers had any chance of winning this game anyway, but the fact that Antonio Gates is "iffy" with a dislocated toe... no. Not happening. No cover, no way."), I was thinking to myself - if the Chargers somehow manage to cover or win this thing outright, I'm going to feel like an idiot. I even originally had a line written in about a reverse-jinx, trying like hell to have the Pats avoid the Colts in the AFC Title Game.

Then the improbable happened, and the Chargers shocked the Colts, and suddenly not only did I feel like an idiot, but I realized that the Patriots were hosting the AFC Title game, in 10-20 degree weather, against a San Diego team that could be missing any or all of Philip Rivers, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Antonio Gates. I even sent out a text message to a handful of friends on Sunday night that said “I’ll put the opening line at Pats (-21)”. I was only half-joking.

I was close. As of right now, it’s Pats (-14). And I’m completely torn on which side I’m taking.

First things first – I’m not making any proclamations about the Patriots invincibility and the inevitability of a win. Learned my lesson last week.

But in all honesty, what to make of that line, and this game? The Chargers are the hottest team in football not hailing from Foxboro. They’ve won eight straight, and with the exception of the overtime game in Tennessee in Week 14, none have really been close.

Gates will probably play. Tomlinson will probably play. Rivers isn’t practicing, and is rumored to have one sprained MCL and one torn ACL, but somehow he says he’s going to play. Not like he’s a mobile QB anyway.

On the Patriots’ side of the ball, not only does the implied “pressure” of 19-0 mount with every game, but now they have even more distractions to deal with in the form of assault allegations against Randy Moss.

(Quick aside: I just spent five days in San Diego, including Sunday when the Chargers upset the Colts. I know that most of this country despises Boston sports fans, if not Boston sports teams. But there is no group of fans more smug, more cocky, and more unlikable than Chargers fans. And to me, it stems from one thing – no matter how many times you tell them, they just don’t seem to get it: You ain’t won shit. Ever. Stop talking about your team like they’re the three-time reigning Super Bowl champs – the Chargers have won exactly six playoff games in their history since the 1969 merger. Six. In 38 years. I just don’t get it.)

This was already shaping up to be a pretty damned good game. The Chargers have payback on their minds not only for the thrashing the Patriots gave them in Week 2, but also for last years’ playoff loss. The Patriots have a date with destiny, and if there is one team that can overcome pressure and distractions, it’s this incarnation of the Patriots.

Pick: Patriots 27, Chargers 10

For the record, I’m ecstatic that I have no money on any game this week. Not only do I get the chance to enjoy one of the best weekends in quite awhile, but I don’t have to constantly run through scoring scenarios in my head for a back-door cover.

And finally, a quick life update. By Super Bowl Sunday on February 3rd, I’ll be living somewhere else. Might be back in Massachusetts, might be in Vegas, California, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Canada, New York, or any other possibility. (By the way – I listed those places in order of preference from best to worst… I shudder at having to live in Canada or New York). But wherever it is, it won’t be Pittsburgh. Things didn’t work out here, so I’m leaving by the end of this month.

Hopefully I’ll be settled in wherever I end up in time for the annual MLB Preview post. But whatever happens, I’ll keep up with posting here. I passed the four-year blogging mark back in October, and I like it so much, I’m going to shoot for five.

Back in time for SB XLII...


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