Monday, January 4, 2010
NFL playoffs preview: Finally a Super Bowl for the Chargers
Well, another crazy, ridiculous NFL regular season is in the books. Among the surprises?
The Steelers somehow missed the playoffs (I only picked them to win the Super Bowl again). The Titans also missed out on the postseason (they were only the No. 1 seed out of the AFC a year ago). And the Bengals won the AFC's North Division. See that one coming?
Side note: About the only thing I nailed head-on was another terrible Lions season. But, c'mon, if you're familiar with the team, making such a prediction is like taking a nap after Thanksgiving -- not too difficult.
So now we arrive at the postseason, which, to me, is the most intriguing one in years. Why? Well, both No. 1 seeds are interesting studies. The Colts started 14-0 ... and then finished with two losses. The Saints were 13-0 ... and lost three in a row. Of course, it should be noted that the Colts rested their starters for most of their two losses and the Saints rested 'em for the final game.
But recent history, especially Indianapolis Colts history, tells us that this strategy of respite might not work out well here in a couple weeks.
We also have the red-hot teams. The Chargers haven't lost, it seems, since Antonio Gates was grabbing rebounds for Kent State. They seem unstoppable at the moment. The same can be said of the Packers, who absolutely drilled the hapless Cardinals Sunday to win their seventh game in eight tries. They'll do it again in Arizona on Sunday, right?
Not so fast, my friends.
Anyone who remembers a year ago knows not to rule out the Cards, who slogged into the playoffs, were immediately written off by every pundit in the entire universe, and then went on to come within a play of, oh, winning the Super Bowl. Not too shabby.
And, obviously, don't write off the Wild Card teams -- yes, even the "How did they get here?" Jets. As any good NFL fan is aware of, three teams in the past nine years (the 2000 Ravens, the '03 Patriots and the '07 Giants won the Super Bowl as Wild Cards; only the Ravens played a game at home).
So what to make of all this? Well, I'll leave the X's and O's to the guys with hair gel on TV. These picks are more about feeling. Run with 'em or make fun of 'em.
WILD CARD ROUND
(6) Philadelphia def. (3) Dallas 31-27
(5) Green Bay def. (4) Arizona 28-20
(6) Baltimore def. (3) New England 16-14
(5) New York Jets def. (4) Cincinnati 21-13
(1) New Orleans def. (6) Philadelphia 38-28
(2) Minnesota def. (5) Green Bay 30-26
(1) Indianapolis def. (6) Baltimore 21-16
(2) San Diego def (5) New York Jets 28-14
(2) Minnesota def. (1) New Orleans 28-27: With the game on the line, Brett Favre knows it's his last chance to get to another Super Bowl and engineers a 71-yard drive, capping it with a fade to Sidney Rice for the game-winning score.
(2) San Diego def. (1) Indianapolis 27-21: Like in recent playoffs, the Chargers will own the Colts at home, jumping out to a two-possession lead and then holding on at the end, getting a game-sealing interception of Peyton Manning in the waning seconds.
San Diego def. Minnesota 28-19: The dream stops here for Favre and begins for the Chargers, who win their first Super Bowl behind the tremendous and consistent play of Philip Rivers and a very underrated receiving corps. Ladainian Tomlinson adds a touchdown to cement his legacy as one of the all-time greats, and fans riot in the streets of San Diego ... wearing T-shirts (or nothing at all)!