January 8, 2011 1 Comment
Finally, it is here. After 17 weeks of waiting, we can all rejoice this coming weekend with the start of the NFL Playoffs (just hours away). You can stop pretending to care about bowl games, and can finally watch some meaningful football. (Quick side note: this may be one of the worst bowl seasons EVER! One sign you know it might be an awful bowl season is when you realized you haven’t watched a full bowl game and have no plans to do so. Ok, I may watch the Auburn-Oregon game but I’m not going to go out of my way.)
The NFL postseason is designed better than any major sport. Win or go home! There isn’t a best of seven series to quadruple the league’s profit or a 2-month postseason, but with one bad day, you are sent packing. It is no coincidence the two most-viewed championships are the Super Bowl and March Madness. Why? One game! It’s that simple. If your team is in an elimination game, then I’m sure you’re tuning in (same goes for players taking a game off too). Maybe one day when I am commissioner of all sports, I just may reduce the postseason to something other than “The Second Season.”
This NFL season has been filled with surprise playoff teams, historic collapses, terrible injuries, off-field drama, and Brett Favre. Or in other words, this has been a typical season for the NFL. Just to name a season headlines off the top of my head: 1. Romo goes down, so do Cowboys 2. Brett Favre still plays in the NFL (at least for now) 3. Michael Vick hasn’t lost a step 4. Tom Brady is still Tom Brady 5. Peyton Manning continues to win with scrubs and finally, 6. Stick’s Picks was correct on the collapse of the Chargers and Vikings and the emergence of the Kansas City Chiefs (article). The Eagles and Cowboys both fooled me once again. Tony Romo going down all but demolished the Cowboys playoffs hopes, and had I known Vick would be starting instead of Kolb last September, maybe things would have turned out differently. As for the Bengals and 49ers, well, they just suck!
So without further adieu, here are my picks for this upcoming playoff weekend. Rather than crank out a 4000+ word article, I will be working on a weekly playoff picks article ending with the Super Bowl. I’ve done the research, analyzed matchups, calculated stats, and threw in a few gut instincts to finalize Stick’s Picks: NFL Wildcard edition. Enjoy!
Wild Card Matchups
New Orleans at Seattle- One more thing I forgot to mention: the Seahawks are a 7-9 home playoff team! I’m sure Pete Carroll is just as surprised as I am that this awful Seahawks roster is playoff-bound. But hey, that’s the NFC West. Nothing better than the statistically worst NFL playoff team of all time to match up against the defending Super Bowl Champions. With all this said, my gut is telling me this will be a closer game than anticipated. First, playing at Qwest field in Seattle is a HUGE advantage. How about this: the Seahawks were 5-3 at home this season, only losses were to the Giants, Chiefs, and Falcons (all above .500 teams). Secondly, this game is a rematch of week 11 with New Orleans winning 34-19 at the Superdome. However, this time the Saints take it on the road without their best running back (Chris Ivory) and are facing a team with nothing to lose. Did I mention that game was also Seattle QB Matt Hassellbeck’s best game of the season (notching 366 pass yards, 2 TDs with a 104.9 rating)? So who knows? Maybe, Seattle could win this game but if I had to pick, I’d stick with the reigning champions.
Stick’s Pick: Saints 27, Seahawks 21.
NY Jets at Indianapolis- Moving onto the Saturday primetime matchup. The Super Bowl runner-up (Colts) match up with the Jets (a strong preseason Super Bowl favorite and quite possibly one of the best “Hard Knocks” teams ever). Let’s looks at the 2010 Jets for a second, shall we. First thing that sticks out is how they are better on the road than at home. Why? This fits the widely known formula for road success (and playoff success): with good defense and a solid running game, you can win anywhere! The Jets still have two of the best cornerbacks in the league, a solid linebacking corps, up-and-comer Shonn Greene and a rejuvenated LT, and all coached by the evil mastermind Rex Ryan. The Jets proved last season they aren’t afraid of the bright lights of the playoffs, losing in the AFC title game to the Colts. BUT, that loss was to the 2009 Colts. Subtract Dallas Clark and Austin Collie (two of Manning’s favorite targets) and add a banged up running game, and you have the 2010 Colts. The Colts’ major weakness (stopping the run) happens to be one the Jets best strengths (running game). Its tough to pick against Manning at night, but with the lack of talent on the roster this year, I have to go with the Jets. Unlike Rex Ryan’s quote to Peyton about this game, “Its personal”, trust me Peyton, with me, it’s not personal.
Stick’s Picks: NY Jets 20, Indianapolis 17.
Baltimore at Kansas City- First things first. No surprise here that Kansas City is in the playoffs with division rival San Diego on the outside. It only makes sense that San Diego losing its best running back, receiver, and cornerback would hurt their playoff chances. As for Kansas City, this team is one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to beating sub .500 teams. Nine of their ten wins have come to teams that are either .500 or worse, with their lone win coming against San Diego in the season opener. Plus, Kansas City’s stink bomb to conclude the regular season doesn’t bode well heading into the playoffs. This Baltimore team (like the Jets) fit the mold of a successful playoff team. The Baltimore Ravens will go as far as Joe Flacco’s right arm is willing to take them. Sadly, I’m going to have to exit the Kansas City bandwagon and hop on a train to Baltimore this week.
Stick’s Pick: Baltimore 24, Kansas City 14.
Green Bay at Philadelphia- This first-round matchup is a travesty to the NFL scheduling-makers. These are the two best teams in the NFC hands down, and they happen to be playing each other the first weekend of the playoffs. I truly believe the winner of this game will be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl (you can write that down). As I said in my preseason preview (here), I love the Packers this year with their dynamic offense and a much-improved defense. Even with two concussions this season, Aaron Rodgers is still better than most QB’s in this league, and with weapons like Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and James Jones, what’s not to love about this offense? It pains me to go against Mike Vick and his remarkable comeback (article), but my gut keeps telling me that this Packers team may be for real. The Packers have lost all six of their games this season by a COMBINED 20 points (an average of 3.3). Nothing short of incredible! If you asked me about this game a couple weeks ago, I might have leaned towards Philly (given Vick’s surge), but losing to a depleted Minnesota and Dallas at home to close the season tells me that the Eagles are better off leaving home. Anyway, I will continue to ride the Packers’ bandwagon as long as I can (possibly the Super Bowl?).
Stick’s Pick: Packers 38, Eagles 24.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there you have it, my picks for this weekend’s playoff games. Yes, I have all the road teams winning. So much for home field advantage. Stay tuned next week for my picks in the divisional playoff round (after I nail all these picks first, of course).