Thursday, January 04, 2007

NFL Playoff Predictions

Even though I already made predictions almost a month ago, I've noticed some referral traffic looking for "NFL Playoff Predictions", and getting directed to my picks from the 2004-2005 season. That seems like cheating somehow.

Also, let's face it -- several of my picks from last month were flat wrong. The cat teams (Jags and Bungles) botched their way out of the playoffs in the AFC, letting the Jets and Chefs ponce in. Doesn't matter, the end result is the same -- the AFC Championship game will be Baltimore at San Diego.

In the meantime, as far as this week's wild-card games are concerned, I'd like to think that the Jets can go into Foxborough and upset the Pats like they did in the regular season, but realistically, experience and treachery (and Tom Brady) usually win out over youth and enthusiasm (and Chad Pennington). Pennington gets saddled with the "noodle arm" smack, somewhat unfairly. The Jets' biggest inequity actually appears to be in the running game. They got nothin' to help Pennington out, and the Pats have a healthy Corey Dillon and a legit Rookie of the Year candidate (in most seasons, anyway; this season had a surprisingly large group of excellent rookies) in Lawrence Maroney.
Patriots 27, Jets 14.

The Chefs, on the other hand, are a genuine threat even in Indianapolis. Their offensive strength perfectly complements the Colts' defensive weakness -- the running game -- and while Trent Green is never going to keep Peyton Manning awake with fear at night, he generally makes good decisions. Indianapolis finished the season pretty weak, and seems to have lost the momentum necessary to go deep in the playoffs. If Kansas City avoids turnovers, grinds the clock with Larry Johnson, and steps up their mediocre pass defense a couple notches, they could pull off a huge playoff upset. I'm calling the upset on this one.
Chiefs 37, Colts 35.

The NFC's a tougher nut to crack, because even the top-seeded Bears have been unpredictably bad lately. Success in the playoffs is more about peaking at the right time than having the best record, and the only team of the six that finished strong in December was the Eagles. The Saints have been very good, and maybe their late-season lapses against the woeful Redskins and Panthers will turn out to be flukes.

But few teams have performed like Dallas, who teased and flirted with glimmers of talent through Thanksgiving, only to get their asses pounded by the aforementioned Saints. Since that student-pummels-teacher clinic, Dallas has only won once and lost their final two, including last week's embarrassing home loss to the 3-13 Detroit Lions, which cost the Cowpies their playoff seeding (dropped from #3 to #5) and home wild-card game. Fortunately, since they have Terrell Owens, Dallas is always within spitting distance of the playoffs (hyuk hyuk). And their host this Saturday, Seattle, is a mediocrity as well. If these two teams didn't have to play each other, they'd both be one-and-done. But Seattle has actually established a decent record in recent years at home, so despite their likely efforts to give the game to Dallas, I'll take the home team.
Seahawks 24, Cowboys 20.

The other NFC wild-card game should be more predictable -- the struggling Giants going into Philly to face the resurgent Iggles. It took a couple fourth-quarter gimmes from the awful Washington Redskins last week just for the Giants to get the #6 seed, while Philadelphia is experiencing three little words I never imagined saying -- Jeff Garcia renaissance. He's playing every game like he thinks it's his last, and he's got the team believing. The defense is strong and healthy, and will hang around Plaxico Burress' neck like a clock on Flavor Flav. Tiki Barber will give it his best, but Eli Manning has folded like a cheap accordion as of late, and it won't take long for the blitz monsters to smell blood in the water (trying to see how many hacky sports clich├ęs I can stuff into one sentence).
Eagles 34, Giants 17.

As always, kids, please wager responsibly.

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