Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why do they call it the divisional round?

Two of the divisional champions, the Dolphins and Vikings, are gone. This round is never about winning a divisional title, and teams almost never play other teams from their own division. This coming weekend, only the Eagles and Giants will be playing a team from their own division. So why is this the "divisional round" of the playoffs? For lack of a better name? I guess.

Oh, sidebar - how come Tony Sparano didn't win Coach of the Year? Sure, Atlanta had an amazing turnaround, but that was in large part thanks to Matt Ryan's incredible rookie season and the resurgence of their running game and a new attitude on defense. All of which deserve a lot of credit - but Miami had the biggest turnaround in NFL history, and it appeared to be done with smoke and mirrors! Chad Pennington doesn't deserve that much credit for the big season - he didn't win a single game, he just didn't lose them. And with Miami, you notice the coaching. The Wildcat, the different formations, the differenet looks on defense that created all those turnovers. Sparano deserved it more. Anyway, here's what I think this week:

Carolina - Arizona: The Panthers are way too strong for an average Cardinals squad. Sure, Arizona ended the incredible turnaround season for the Falcons, but Atlanta had gone way farther than even they believed was possible. Now they are facing a Carolina team that plans to go all the way. And I think they will go all the way. Kurt Warner can't pass on the Panthers like he could on the Falcons. The Arizona running game, non-existent all year, looked decent against Atlanta, but it will disappear again in Carolina. All this, and the Panthers were perfect at home this season. Panthers will cover the 10-point spread.

Arizona, 33-13. Did anyone see this coming? Anyone? I certainly didn't. Apparently, Kurt Warner CAN pass on the Panthers like he did against the Falcons. And then some. Larry Fitzgerald may well be the best receiver in football (although I give high marks to Steve Smith as well - you see the way he forced his way into the end zone once the game was already out of hand? The guy never quits.) This Arizona team is amazing. I can't imagine a single person, seeing them lose five of their last six, would have imagined them going to the NFC Championship Game.

Tennessee - Baltimore: The Titans are favoured by 3 points. But I don't know. After watching that Ravens defense force five turnovers against one of the best ball-control offenses in NFL history, I think they are the best defense in football right now. And they will get their turnovers, and their three-and-outs, against another pretty good ball control offense in Tennessee. The difference in the Miami game was not only the turnovers, but the ability for the Ravens to score on defense. You can't count on that against the Titans, and the Titans have a pretty wicked defense of their own. I think in the end this will come down to QBs. I'm no enormous fan of Kerry Collins. In fact, I think he's awful. But he is less likely to make the big mistake at the big time than rookie Joe Flacco. Well, then again, that's what I thought about Pennington. Titans to win, Ravens to cover in a real nail-biter.

Ravens, 13-10. Well, Baltimore covered. And it was actually, despite the last-minute field goal to win it, not as close as I thought it would be. What truly amazed me was the Titans ability to move the football. If it hadn't been for that monster, turnover creating Ravens D, the Titans could have run away with this game. Or, at the very least, had three more field goals. Way to go, Ravens. Even when their D is giving up a ton of yards, they still get the turnovers! And because of that, Baltimore is going to the AFC championship game. Oh, and Joe Flacco is no longer a rookie. He is now very impressive.

New York Giants - Philadelphia: Last year, the Giants managed to win the Super Bowl by being pretty much under the radar all season long and then the entire playoffs. No such luck this year, when they are of course the team to beat. I don't know how big a loss it was when the Eagles fell to the Redskins a couple of weeks ago. It was bad, sure, with Philly fighting for their playoff lives, but they redeemed themselves by hammering the Cowboys in a game that may not be that significant either. The game I think is significant for the Eagles regular season was their victory, in New York, over the Giants, in week 14. The Eagles had played New York really, really tough in a home loss in Week 10, and they evened the score. I think they have the Giants number, I really do. With Westbrook and McNabb playing at the level they are, I think the Eagles will upset the Giants. New York is currently favoured by four.

Eagles, 23-11. The Eagles defense is awfully good. And even when Michael Westbrook, perhaps the greatest offensive weapon in football, was held in check, Philadelphia still looked awfully good. There will be a new Super Bowl champion this year, and it could well be Philadelphia. Who would have thought they'd be going up against Arizona, though?

Pittsburgh - San Diego: The Steelers are favoured by six here. Their best offensive player, Ben Roethlisberger, is still a bit of a question mark after his concussion in the final game of the regular season. Then again, the Chargers best offensive player, Ladanian Tomlinson, is pretty much out. He didn't play after the five-minute mark of their wild-card win over the Colts. Which allowed Darren Sproles to have an absolutely monster game. I will admit, I was a bit stunned that the Chargers beat the Colts and MVP Peyton Manning. I thought that Indianapolis was the best team in the AFC going into the playoffs. They were not. After the Colts, however, I would not be surprised if the Chargers manage to win against any other team. And that includes the Steelers. The Pittsburgh defense will not allow Sproles to run wild like the Colts did, and their special teams will be better as well. I think the Steelers will squeak by the Chargers, barely, as San Diego covers the spread.

Pittsburgh, 35-24. The Pittsburgh special teams are, indeed, better than those of the Colts. And so is the rest of their team. The Steelers defense is great, their offense is doing a good enough job to keep going, and Willie Parker really put the team on his shoulders at moments during the fourth quarter. With all other home teams losing this weekend, Pittsburgh has to be considered the Super Bowl favourite.

I went 2-2 straight up this week, which makes me 4-4 on the playoffs. I also went 2-2 against the spread, making me 3-5 ATS on the playoffs. I haven't been doing so good!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Eric.

    This divisional playoff weekend here are my picks:

    ten over bal in a close game
    car over arz in a blowout
    phi over nyg in an upset... Andy Reid will keep his job
    pit over sd... no lt? then no victory for the chargers

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