Thursday, January 1, 2009

Playoff picks. Because I also have a playoff pool.

After finishing the regular season with a very disappointing record, I felt like giving up entirely (although I did finish a respectable 77th overall in the CHEZ pool despite missing my picks one week). However, like any real gambler, I am convinced I can regain the money I lost during the regular season with a successful performance during the playoffs. Oh, I can taste that ten bucks now!

Indianapolis - San Diego: Too bad this game has to come so early. Frankly, I think either of these teams could beat, on any given day, any of the other teams in the playoffs. Especially right now, with the Chargers heating up. But I really think the Colts are too strong right now for the Chargers to win. They will keep it close, especially with the home game, but the Colts will cover the 1 1/2 point spread on the road. The Colts have won nine in a row. Nine. Look for that streak to hit 12 by the time they are in the Super Bowl. Indy is the best team in the AFC, again, right now.

Chargers, 23-17. It sure was close. But the Colts, amazingly, self-destructed with several late penalties, (some of which I found rather questionable), and that was all she wrote. I would assume that had the Colts won the OT coin toss, they would have won this game. But way to go Chargers, they have heated up at the right time and managed to knock out the team I thought was the best in the AFC, without LT. If I'm right about the Ravens (and I have no idea now - I was wrong about both Saturday games), the Chargers will play in Pittsburgh with a real chance of winning the game, as long as Darren Sproles can keep playing like he's the best football player in the world.

Atlanta - Arizona: Again, I have to go with the road team, who is once again favoured in this one. A lot of people talk about games like this one as a reason to change the playoff system because it's a team with a worse record hosting a team with a better record, and so forth. A bigger travesty would be the 8-8 Chargers making the playoffs over the 11-5 Patriots. But I'm not with them. I like the playoff format the way it is, and this creates some seriously interesting wild card rounds and games. And this is one of them. I think the Falcons have had a magical season, but I don't know if they can keep it going in the playoffs. At the same time, the Cardinals have basically backed into the playoffs, and have not played well the past five weeks. So I'm going with the Falcons to edge Arizona by about three, which covers the 2-point spread.

Cardinals, 30-24. At the last second, I thought about changing this pick. It started to eat away at me some. Rookie quarterback vs. veteran quarterback, terrible pass defense vs. fantastic pass offense and great WRs, first home playoff game in 61 years. But I didn't, because I really thought Arizona's half-assed finish to the season was cause to write them off. Apparently not. When Matt Ryan heated up, and Atlanta came back to take the lead after the first half, I wrote off the Cardinals again. But then he started the second half the way he did the first - terribly - and the wheels fell off. The Falcons made it close toward the end, but giving up that monster third-and-long at the two-minute warning was inexcusable, and allowed the Cards to take a knee and run out the clock. I don't think this team is terribly dangerous, and I don't think they can beat the Giants or the Panthers (especially the Panthers). But this was a remarkable achievement nonetheless. Way to go Arizona!

Baltimore - Miami: And, we have another road favourite. And again, I will go with the road team. The Ravens not only know how to win in these situations more than do the Dolphins, the magic of the incredible Miami season will come to an end here. But 3 1/2 points is too much, because the Dolphins have proved this year that you simply can't count them out. They will keep this one very, very close and I wouldn't be surprised if they won. At this point, the Ravens are expected to win, while the Fish have nothing to lose. We're talking a team that was 1-15 last season. Baltimore to win, Miami to cover.

Ravens, 27-9. Well, I was wrong about the spread, for the third game in a row. The Ravens are better than I thought. Also, who would have thought that Chad Pennington, the ultimate game manager, would have thrown four such bad interceptions? A team that turned the ball over thirteen times the entire regular season coughs it up this much, they will lose. Kudos to the Dolphins, however, for an incredible season. Imagine the Lions going 10-6 next year and winning their division! Well...it is a pretty weak division...and I include the Vikings in that. As I type this, the Vikings are down by 2 at half time. I think now that they will lose by fifteen. I shouldn't make predictions any more though, even half-way through the game. As I have proved all season long, I'm not good at it.

Philadelphia - Minnesota: Once again, as in all other wild card games, the road team is favoured. And once again, I have to go with the road team. But in this one, I think the final result will be a blowout. Philly will cover the 3 points by a ton. That final regular-season game against the Cowboys showed me a lot, and the Eagles weren't letting up at all on a team that is better than the Vikings. Minnesota got lucky by being in a weak division this year - remember, they got to play the Lions twice. While the Eagles played the Giants, the Cowboys and the Redskins twice each. And even with that discrepancy, the Eagles finished with a better record. They are firing on all cylinders, and will decimate the Vikings in this one.

Eagles, 26-14. Philadelphia is good. Scary good. They weren't playing terribly well in the first half, yet managed to have a 2-point lead at half time. Then they turned it on, defensively, in the second half. That defense, when it plays at the top of its game, might be the very best in the NFL. If only they could do that for 60 minutes. And of course, you can't keep Michael Westbrook down for the entire game. He might have been held to 30 total yards for three quarters, then bam! 71 yards to paydirt. And the fact is, he is only their second most potent offensive weapon. Donovan McNabb is magnificent. And I think they have a really, really good shot at dethroning the Giants next week.

And an early Super Bowl prediction: A Manning-vs.-Manning final. With Manning the winner.

And that...was decidedly wrong. Forget that Manning prediction business...let's go with Kerry Collins - Jake Delhomme. Ah, forget it. I'll take 'em as they come. I was only 2-2 straight up and 1-3 ATS this week, so I really ought to stop making predictions.

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