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:
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!