“Wild” Wildcard Weekend!

This year’s wildcard weekend has come to a close and the games certainly lived up to the playoff hype.   Later this week, I will post my adjusted predictions based on this week’s matchups, but below is a brief summary of what went wrong, and what went as planned. 

Saints vs. Seahawks – well, I said it was improbable, but I did mention the two things Seattle had going for them: homefield and the possibility the Saints didn’t show up.  Seattle has played some good games at home this season and Saturday was no exception.  Whenever the Saints tried to take the crowd out of the game, Seattle found a way to keep the momentum going.  The Saints looked anemic on defense and I wonder if they even took this game serious?  I believe they did, because that is what you do as professionals.  Seattle just went in on their high from cliching a playoff berth and used the homefield hype to oust the defending Super Bowl Champs.  My Pick – Saints (-1). 

Jets vs. Colts – The Jets D finally came back to life and held the Colts offense to 16 pts.  While the Colts did not look as good on offense as you would have expected, I credit the Jets D for making them look that way.  I have always loved the Jets in matchups where their defense plays to its full potential.  The reason I didn’t like them in this game originally was because the defense showed signs of weakness over the season.  Beating Indy at home is a huge moral boost for the Jets and hopefully they can ride it into Foxboro.  My Pick – Colts (-1)

Ravens vs. Chiefs – this was a game I had little doubt the Ravens would take away.  The only thing I felt could stop them were big plays by Charles or Bowe and Charles could only get them once for 6.  I expect a much tougher matchup against the Steelers this Saturday.  My Pick – Ravens (+1)

Packers vs. Eagles – take away the big plays from the Eagles offense and you can beat them.  That is exactly what the Packers did, providing plenty of pressure on Mike Vick.  Of course, it didn’t help that Akers missed 2 field goals, but its all part of the game.  I figured this to be close, but the Packers defense is one of the best out there right now and I had the confidence they could stop the Eagles in their path.  It also didn’t hurt that Packer’s James Starks, a little known RB prospect, found his Mojo in a big time game.  My Pick – Packers (+1)

My Playoff Pick Results Overall – 2-2

Playoff time Part II – AFC Predictions

Yesterday I went over what I envisioned would take place in the NFC.  I didn’t necessarily look at matchups, but went over each team and their prospect for success.   Today I will concentrate on the AFC teams.  Note the teams are not in any certain order, they are just in the order that each came to mind. 

So without wasting any more time, let’s get to it!

AFC

Patriots – without any doubt, everyone has the Pats pegged as the favorites to win the AFC and likely the Super Bowl.  I will not argue that Tom Brady and his offensive support crew are on fire right now and look unstoppable.  The problem I see is their defense is not that great, especially against the pass.  Again, unstoppable forces will lose against immovable objects, so the question here is are any of the AFC playoff team defenses, immovable.   On a good day, I would count on the Steelers and Ravens to put a stop to Brady and crew.  Yes, the Pats beat both the Steelers and Ravens during the regular season, but the playoffs are different.  The Pats were able to beat the Steelers using one TE in that game, which I am sure the Steelers will come prepared this time to stop.  I am sure Brady will have another trick up his sleeve, but if it doesn’t work, it could be a long day.  The Ravens can also go up there and beat New England.  In fact, they almost did during the regular season and I think the Ravens defense could be even better in the playoffs.  The one issue for them is keeping an aging Ravens D unit off the field for so many minutes.  In the regular season game, it seemed during the second half, like many other times in the past, the Ravens offense went into conservative mode.  This gave the Pats offense more time with the ball and put the Ravens D on the field for more plays.  Not a winning combination.  If the Patriots don’t have to face the Steelers or the Ravens, I think they go to the Super Bowl.  I would love to say the Jets could beat this team, as well, but the regular season loss to the Pats at home, along with letting Jay Cutler torch them in Week 16,  is just too much for me to give the Jets D any real credit at this point.   

Jets – The Jets defense was one of the most dominate forces to be reckoned with when the season opened.  It was so good on paper, I was scared to watch them on TV out of fear of getting sacked myself.  When Flacco was hit on both sides on his first offensive play against them during that first MNF game, I thought we were going to see a lot more of Mark Bulger this season.  Luckily Flacco was okay, but as for the Jets defense, not so much.  Over the last couple of games against good teams, the Jets defense has just not looked good.  With the exception of Revis, the corners just don’t look too good.  The run defense is still supposely among the best, but then again Matt Forte ran for 113 yards against them in Week 16, and most of these teams in the Playoffs have good run defenses.  As much as I would like to stick with my original prediction, I don’t see the Jets getting far this year.  The one bright note is the inspiration a young boy with cancer, who just passed away, gave to Mark Sanchez.  The details of the story are here – http://sports.espn.go.com/new-york/nfl/news/story?id=5991920 – and the one reason I mention it is because you should never underestimate the power of inspiration.  Sanchez from the time this story developed, got better on the field and I do believe some of it is because of this little boy (may he rest in peace).  I don’t see the Jets getting out of the first round, but for Aiden (the boy in the story), I hope I am wrong and the Jets win it all.

Ravens – this team is an enigma.  You watch them play and you come away from the games looking at their secondary thinking they are not so good.  When you look on paper though, they aren’t really that bad.  I think people have just become so accustomed to the Ravens having one of the most fierce defenses in the league that now anything less, looks subpar.  One thing is certain, the offense is one of the best this team has put on the field in recent years (maybe ever).  The first round matchup against the Chiefs, while I believe it will be tougher than most imagine, should be doable for the Ravens.  I expect Bowe and Jamaal Charles to give the Ravens some issues, but the Ravens offense should keep up.  Again, the only big issue here is whether the Ravens go into conservative mode, if they take an early lead and try to run the clock down in the second half.   KC has some players that can come up big, so the big plays in the end are not out of the question.  I do believe the Ravens will get past the first round, but will find themselves more challenged in round 2.  As I mentioned in the Pats analysis, I think the Ravens can beat the Patriots.  They did it last year and almost beat them this year during the regular season.  I see them going to the AFC Conference Finals, but the problem is I still don’t see a Ravens team that can beat Pittsburgh or Indy on the road. 

Chiefs – the Chiefs are not as bad as people think, but they need the big plays from their big players, namely Bowe and Jamaal Charles to win.  Regular season games, against regular teams, KC can prosper.  Playoff games against the best of the best, KC will likely faulter.  The only advantage they have is they are playing at home and I have seen some good teams get shutdown at Arrowhead.  I just don’t think the Ravens in the first round are one of those teams. 

Colts – the Colts did not look like the Colts of yesterday for a brief stint during the middle of the season.  People went as far to write them off, but then they got hot again, winning their last 4 games.  So what exactly happen to the Colts?  Well, they had major injury concerns – every week Austin Collie came back, but somehow managed to get another concussion in his return.  The entire Colts backfield at one point or another got hurt.  Most of the WRs sustained an injury and their TE Dallas Clark was lost for the season.  As the season came to an end though the Colts found ways to compensate for the injuries and got most of their players back healthy.  Going into the playoffs, the Colts are the hot AFC team to beat and their first round opponent, the Jets, might find this out the hard way.  I don’t see the Jets beating Manning at Indy in the first round.  I think Manning will be too much for Sanchez and company to overcome.  While the Colts are not known for the best defense in the league, they have two of the best pass rushers, who seem to light it up even more at home.  I expect Freeney and Mathis to keep Sanchez in check all afternoon.  The one light of hope for the Jets is that Indy is not so good against the run and the Jets have the weapons on the ground to be successful.  If the Jets can successfully run the ball and keep it out of Mannings hands, they stand a chance.  Based on past experience though, the Colts find ways at home to improve that defense enough to stop the opponent on the ground and make it a nightmare for the QB all game.  I expect Indy to pull through the first round, but I am not sure they will have as much success on the road against a Pittsburgh defense that will stop the running game and put too much pressure on Manning. 

Steelers – the Steelers were one of the teams I thought would be a dud this year.  Not because they were bad on paper, but because of all the issues around Ben Roethlisberger.  I figured the Ravens would run away with the AFC North and by the time Big Ben was off his suspension, the Steelers would barely be in the playoff race.  Shame on me.  The Steelers held their ground and even took the AFC North division despite the drama and suspension.  You can say what you want about this team, but they have a decent offense and an above average defense.  Play dirty, yes, they play dirty, but some of the other teams have far from sainthood players (not that I am saying it is right).  The bottom line is I can see the Steelers beating any of the other opponents on a given day.  I think they will draw the Colts in the second round and the Steelers will just be too physical for the Colts.  I see another rematch of the Ravens and Steelers in the AFC Conference Final and as much as I hate to say it, I think the Steelers take this one at home with Big Ben at the helm.  Yes, the Ravens beat the Steelers at home during the regular season, but it was closer than you think and the Steelers had a second string QB in there. 

In summary, below is how I see the playoffs panning out (winners in bold):

 Round 1 – Wild Card Weekend

Saints @ Seahawks

Jets @ Colts

Ravens @ Chiefs

Packers @ Eagles

 

Round 2 – Division Championship

Saints @ Bears

Packers @ Falcons

Ravens @ Patriots

Colts @ Steelers

 

Conference Championship

NFC

Packers @ Bears

AFC

Ravens @ Steelers

 

Super Bowl

Steelers @ Packers

 

That’s right, the Packers will be only the 6th Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl and only the 4th to do it all on the road.  I think the Packers and Steelers matchup pretty nicely against each other, but I give the offensive edge to the Packers, even without a solid running game. 

Call me crazy, but that is how I see it and I could be totally off the mark,  but at least we know the playoffs will be exciting! 

Good Luck to all the teams involved!

Playoff Time!

That magical time of the year is here again and even though my NY Giants are not in (there is always my surrogate team, the Ravens), I look forward to this year’s NFL playoffs.  I am not a professional sports analyst, nor do I pretend to know everything about every team.  I do consider myself very knowledgeable about the game, in general and all the players, which is probably the result of my 10 year run of doing Fantasy Football leagues.  Since I have had great success with Fantasy Football, especiall this year, winning all three of my leagues, I figured I would give the playoffs a shot and see how I fare. 

Let’s begin with my preseason predictions.  I was convinced that the Jets and Ravens would face each other in the AFC Conference Finals, with the Jets just marginally beating the Ravens for the AFC title.  On the NFC side, I saw the Saints returning to play the Cowboys and defending their NFC title successfully.  The Jets would go on to win the Super Bowl, lead by the best defense in the league. 

A lot has changed since the preseason and now we actually have 16 games worth of statistics, injury reports etc to base our analysis on the upcoming playoffs.  Before I go on to discuss who I think has the edge in this year’s playoffs, I want to examine what wins playoffs.  Let’s consider this question – What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?  Given there really isn’t such a thing for either case (at least that I am aware of), we can only guess.  My guess would be the unstoppable force would be redirected since the object is immovable – another words, the immovable object would win.  I was once told that the winning formula for a Super Bowl title was a good defense.  I tried to argue against it, but each time I did, I lost.  I am a firm believer that there is a lot of truth behind such a formula.  Think about it; Name a team that won the Super Bowl, but didn’t have a good defense?  Even in 20o7, when Indy beat Chicago, the Indy defense was one of the hottest units in the playoffs (although they weren’t so hot during the regular season).  Even better, think of some teams that had outstanding offenses, but feel short because they faced a better defense – ie.  the 18-1 Patriots.  Bottomline, a good defense will always trump a good offense, all else considered equal. 

When I made my predictions for the AFC title game, I went off the assumption that the Jets and Ravens would have two of the best defenses in the league.  I considered the Steelers, but given their offensive question marks, I gave the Ravens a one up on them.  Now when I look at the Ravens and Jets, I question their ability to stay with some of the other teams in their brackets, based on what I saw earlier this year.  That’s not to say we won’t get the level of play I expected from these teams in the playoffs, but  I am not as confident as I would have been, if you asked me back in August. 

So let’s break it down by teams:

NFC

Falcons – I know they are the number 1 seed, but I am still not impressed with this team.  Call it a gut feeling, they just don’t take me as a Super Bowl contender.  Michael Turner has had some great games, but then again, he was stuffed by the Saints in a crucial game, played at home.  If my Giants were in the playoffs, and you told me they had to play the Falcons – whether it be home or away, I wouldn’t be too concerned.  I say they get knocked out in their first round of play. 

Bears – another team that I look at and say, I’m just not sure your Super Bowl material.  The difference with the Bears, is their defense is a bit more impressive than the Falcons and they have a much better home field advantage, playing in the frigid cold.  The problem with the Bears is you never know what Jay Cutler you are going to get on any given day.  During the course of a 16 game season, you can probably afford to have Jay Hyde on the field a few games.  During the NFL Playoffs, if Mr. Hyde shows himself for one game, it’s probably curtains.  The good news is the Bears have a bye week, so Dr. Jay Cutler has a better chance of showing up for 2 games and maybe even the Super Bowl.  The bad news is I don’t think he will.  I see the Bears possibly making it past their first round, depending on who they play, and then falling apart in the Conference Finals. 

Eagles – here is my upset special of the week and it is not only because I dislike the Eagles so much.  Two years ago, my beloved Giants were the number one seed.  They had everything going for them (except for the fact, Plax Burress shot himself).  They had beaten the Panthers for possession of the number one seed and all cylinders were fired up.  The Eagles that year looked out right terrible.  I even went to the game where they were embarassed by the Ravens and McNabb was benched.  It was only towards the end of the season that the Eagles found their Mojo.  They became the hottest team in the league and a wildcard team you didn’t want to face.  They breezed through Minnesota and then went on to beat the Giants – I was at that game.  This year, the Eagles remind me of that beaten Giants team and unfortunately for the Eagles, the Giants this year didn’t make the playoffs, so the Eagles are going to face the Packers – who I believe are that hot Eagle team of yesteryear.   Vick showed some weakeness against a depleted Minnesota Viking team, and maybe the Week 17 rest helps, but in this case, I think the Packers will come in Packing a Punch and will send the Eagles flying home early. 

Packers – based on the above, you obviously know where I stand somewhat on the Packers already.  I think they will make it past the first round and I actually like their chances through the next two rounds and into the Super Bowl.  The Packers, have a decent offense, led by Aaron Rodgers, although they have a lot of question marks with their running game.  The fortunate thing for them, is most of the defenses in the NFC can defend very well against the run, but are not as good against the aerial attack.  As a result, I think Rodgers will find enough success in the air, to put points on the board.   The thing I like the most about the Packers is their defense.  I believe overall, the Packers have the best defense in the NFC and possibly the NFL.  They have had success defending both the pass and run, unlike many other playoff teams that have been more one dimensional. 

Saints – The Saints are very similiar in nature to the Packers on offense.  They have an arsenal of weapons in the passing game, but are hurting with their running game now that both Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory have landed on the IR.  The Saints have a good defense, especially against the pass, but they are not as good as the Packers.  Although the Saints run defense is not up to par with say the Packers, they did hold Michael Turner down in Week 16, so they have had flashes of life.  Of course, then look at what the Ravens did to them in Week 15.  This is a team that could do well, if the road to the show involves lots of domes.  I think they have no problems with Seattle, who is pretty much in the playoffs because of a technicality (they had the most wins amongst a bunch of teams that call themselves a division).  Given I have the Packers beating the Eagles though in the first round, the Packers would draw the Falcons, and NO would have to go to Chicago, against the Bears.  If that does happen, I do believe Chicago gets the best of Drew Brees and gang.  If NO does end up going to Atlanta though, I could see them making it at far as Dallas.

Seattle – well, you never know, but I don’t think Seattle has much going for them other than they are going to be home for the first round.  The only issue I see here, is that New Orleans treats this as a bye week and doesn’t show up, sending Seattle to the next round.  Crazier things have happened…

Look for my AFC Analysis tomorrow!

Here We Go…

I finally did it. I sat down in front of my computer and began blogging. Over the course of this past year, I have taken the initiative to study and understand blogging and the practical use around social networking tools. I have been using Facebook for about 2 years, but blogging and the other networking tools were an enigma to me. While this might come as a surprise to many, as I have always been very close to technology, especially the use of mobile and internet tools, I think the problem around blogging and certain social networking tools for me was the simplicity. I didn’t understand how something so simple in concept, could be so beneficial or become so popular.

It took me back to my 7th grade science fair where I did a project on electromagnetism. It was far from perfect, and a very complicated project, but I thought we had done a pretty good job. I mean, we basically created a telephone out of razorblades, some wires, a receiver, lead and a tissue box. The person who had presented before us did their project on human teeth and basically showed us how to properly brush and care for them. No doubt, their presentation was solid, but given the simplicity, I thought ours was better. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the science fair and the tooth fairy did. The lesson learned – sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to succeed.

When I heard blogging was simply a way to write your thoughts and ideas into a sought of “digital diary”, I wondered how useful that could be, especially given how long it took to become mainstream since the arrival of the Internet. Who would care what I had to say? I thought the same thing about other social networking tools, like Twitter and Foursquares. What was the point of Twitter, if it was the same concept as Facebook status updates; except, without any other features. Location based applications, like Foursquares made even less sense to me. Who cares where I am, and why do I even want anyone to know?

The truth is I love technology. I love new innovative products and processes. I especially have a passion for mobile technology and integrating all these tools together. So my passion and drive took me on a fact finding hunt. I signed up for numerous blogging services and did some experiments with writing. I signed up for various social networking tools and played around with them. Over the course of using these applications, I discovered something – they added great value. Not only from a personal pespective (some of these apps are just fun in general), but they could provide so much opportunity to businesses, especially smaller ones. I was enlightened!

Blogging is a great way to get your ideas out there and it’s amazing at how many people are willing to read them. Social networking tools are an incredible opportunity to network, market, and learn about new products, great deals, and talk to your favorite celebrities (or at least have a fighting chance!). Businesses can use these products to track customers and advertise to their faithful, all for the low cost of free, in many cases.

So here I am…my first day of live blogging. I am ready to take on the world and see if I can put together a product and market myself. My goal is to get a good group of followers that are willing to read what I have to write and find it somewhat beneficial. My biggest challenge with creating my first blog was determining a subject. For many who know me, I have many niches, as I consider myself a jack of many trades. I pride myself on my technology and general business knowledge (especially within the financial sector), but I am also very opinionated around many other topics like customer service, company and product reviews, politics and life in general. So rather than starting with a specific topic, I decided to just market myself as ChatStu, a guy who just chats with you (corney – perhaps, but you’ll remember it now and I’m sure the creators of Google didn’t receive a standing ovation when they announced their name idea!). I figured I would start at a high level and see how things turned out. Based on enjoyment, topic availability, and feedback I could then start becoming more focused on specific topics. So sit back, enjoy and let the blogging begin…Here we go!

P.S. You can also find me on Twitter @chatstu