Let me tell you a little something about myself that you hopefully already know from my previous articles: I’m a sports fanatic, but I’m mainly a baseball guy. I know my fair share about other sports and watch more than my share of them.
This is just a warning, because I’ve never tried to put my predictions into writing about any sport other than baseball. But, with the NFL playoffs being so intriguing this year, I decided to try my hand at predicting the winners, losers and award-winners.
So here it goes, JDWC’s first attempt at picking who will stay, who will go, and who will bathe in champagne in Miami. Read at your own risk.
Wild Card Round
Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks
Romomentum my ass. That’s all I have to say. More like Nomomentum. I know everyone is salivating over the Cowboys and their superior talent, mid-season play, and their tough-as-nails coach, but they have a lot more problems than solutions right now. Their secondary is suspect and they won’t bode well against Matt Hasselbeck and his receiving corps. Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens are two big names and big targets for Tony Romo, but is there anyone in the league these days that doesn’t hold their breath every time the ball is tossed to them (I’m still a little biased against Owens as a 49er fan, but in all fair, un-biased equality, he really does drop a lot of passes and is too soft across the middle. Always was and always will be.)?
On the other side of the ball, sure the Seahawks struggled most of the season and didn’t reach double digits in wins, but they are still a very dangerous football team. The division games they play are much tougher than people think, as they have to deal with young, talented squads against Arizona and San Francisco and a strong, veteran-led team against St. Louis twice each. Also, Shaun Alexander wasn’t healthy and available all year, further contributing to their woes. But, Alexander is now healthy and performed well in the last couple games.
I think this game will be high-scoring and entertaining, but Seattle’s more playoff-experienced quarterback, coupled with playing on their own turf, will get the job done for the Seahawks.
Prediction: Seattle 44 Dallas 34; and Bill Parcells and T.O. get into a fist fight in the locker room after the game.
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants limped into the playoffs somehow, but the effort will surely go for naught. First of all, Eli Manning is not ready to be a prime-time quarterback yet. He still has a lot of work to do and will crumble under the pressure of the playoffs. Second, the Eagles are on absolute fire. Not only will Philadelphia pose a huge problem for New York, but any NFC foe should be wary of this team’s talons.
When Donovan McNabb went down with a season-ending injury, the Eagles were almost counted out, but behind the fiery play of the re-born Jeff Garcia, they were able to keep winning and actually capture the division crown. I think the Eagles will be successful this postseason for two reasons: They are a more united team with T.O. gone, and they are on a roll.
For all you fans expecting a hard-fought, down to the wire playoff game, forget about it. The Eagles will keep on rollin’ into the second round.
Prediction: Philadelphia 30 New York 13; and Tiki Barber ends his career sadly, but receives a standing ovation in Philade…Oh, who am I kidding? Any fans but Eagles fans.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts
I hope the Chiefs sent holiday cards to every player on the Steelers and the 49ers because without them, Kansas City would not be in the playoffs right now. Pittsburgh and San Francisco upset the Bengals and the Broncos in overtime respectively, to help send the Chiefs to Indianapolis for a very exciting first-round match up.
Call me crazy, but I’m going to go ahead and say the Chiefs are a lock to win this game. Larry Johnson is one of the best running backs in the NFL and should have no problem running right through the Colts’ defense, which has more holes in it than swiss cheese. I know the Indianapolis offense is potent and they are playing at home, but I just don’t see them going anywhere with that run defense.
Happy New Year’s to the Kansas City Chiefs, who will play the Colts surprisingly tough and seal the deal on a late touchdown run from Johnson. So continues Peyton Manning’s quest to reach (let alone win) the Super Bowl.
Prediction: Kansas City 37 Indianapolis 28; and Peyton Manning loses 3 endorsement deals after once again failing to reach the promised land, therefore reducing his endorsement earnings to $4.3 billion a year.
New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
This should be the best first-round game in the playoffs. Tom Brady is automatic in the playoffs and the Patriots will be playing in Foxboro. On the other hand, the Jets are the Detroit Tigers of the NFL and are in the middle of a monumental turnaround. The resurgence of Chad Pennington and the genius of Eric Mangini will surely cause problems for the New England defense.
Brady’s poise and the team’s playoff-weathered veterans will be solid all-around against the Jets. Though the Patriots probably won’t be as flashy as the Jets reaching the end zone, they will still find a way to stay ahead most of the game. Look for some late-game drama in New England this Sunday to send the game into overtime.
I think after Pennington leads the Jets down the field on a long drive to tie it at the end of regulation, New England will hit a field goal in overtime and send the Jets home.
Prediction: New England 27 New York Jets 24, OT; and the game becomes an `NFL Instant Classic’ on ESPNClassic.
Divisional Playoffs (Because I did not have the information to know exactly who would play who after the first round, I took my best guess at the match ups for the rest of the playoffs.)
Seattle Seahawks vs. New Orleans Saints
The Seahawks are good, but the Saints are better. The Seahawks are on a spirited mission, but the Saints are on a more spirited one. Matt Hasselbeck is good, but Drew Brees is better. Shaun Alexander is good, but Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush are better. Mike Holmgren is a good coach, but Sean Payton is coaching better. Get my point?
When the Saints are playing in the Superdome, nobody can stop them right now. With the support of their fans that are desperate for their Cinderella team to bring happiness to a Katrina-ravaged city, the Saints will make this a far-less interesting game than some may expect. I predict at least 2 touchdowns apiece for Rookie of the Year candidates Bush and Marques Colston.
See the Seahawks are good, but the Saints are just better. Nothin’ you can do about that.
Prediction: New Orleans 35 Seattle 20; and Hasselbeck boldy declares, “We want the ball and we’re going to win,” at the coin toss, and promptly throws an interception two plays later.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears
This is a tough game to pick because it’s hard to go against the Bears stingy defense, but easy to go against the inconsistent Rex Grossman. It’s hard to go against the Eagles at all the way they’re playing right now, but it’s easy to go against any team that is unfortunate enough to play in an important game at Soldier Field.
I know that Grossman has every critic in the country on his back, but he may still be able to shoulder the pressure and lead the Bears to an NFC Championship game. Unfortunately, I’m jumping on his back too and he will be crushed by the extra pressure, effectively losing the game for Chicago. No worries though, because with a little re-tooling in the off-season, the Bears will be right back in this position next year, but even better.
Unfortunately for the Bears, this season is not the one. The Eagles have nothing to lose, because they played an amazing season even if they don’t win. That alone will drive the Eagles to victory.
Prediction: Philadelphia 20 Chicago 17; and T.O. decides he doesn’t really think Garcia is homosexual, and begs to be traded back to the Eagles.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens
This would be a really, really great game with the Larry Johnson vs. Ray Lewis match up, if not for one tiny detail. There are ten other beasts chomping at the bit to stop Johnson and the Chiefs. I remember watching the Ravens Super Bowl run in the 2000-2001 season, and seeing how good that defense was. Well, as Beyonce would say, baby it’s deja-vu.
Kansas City will grind out as much as it can from Johnson, but all other facets of their offense won’t be nearly enough. Baltimore will win a low-scoring contest easily and advance to the AFC Championship game.
I expect at least 1 defensive touchdown from the Ravens, and a lot of Chiefs being carried off the field on stretchers.
Prediction: Baltimore 19 Kansas City 6; and the Chiefs DO in fact send holiday cards to the 49ers and Steelers! But, they say ‘Thanks for nothing.’
New England Patriots vs. San Diego Chargers
The Patriots have everything going for them entering this game. Momentum from a thrilling overtime win against the Jets, a descendant of Einstein coaching their team, an unflappable quarterback, and playoff history. I would give the advantage on both sides of the ball to the Patriots, but there are three problems:
1. LaDainian Tomlinson
2. Shawne Merriman
3. LaDainian Tomlinson
And here’s a puzzling little math lesson for the Patriots (one that NFL defenses have yet to solve):
L.T. + ball = T.D. and if L.T. + ball = T.D. and L.T. + a lot = ball, then L.T. + S.D. = S.B.
Enough said. Three T.D.’s for L.T. and the Chargers move onto the AFC Championship game.
Prediction: San Diego 41 New England 23; and the Patriots start to brush up on their math a little bit.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints
Believe it or not, emotions play a bigger role than you’d think in situations like this, and I’d say the Saints have much more emotion than the Eagles. The Saints have much more emotion than anyone right now. One may argue that the Saints will put too much pressure on their rookies to perform and they will crumble, but I beg to differ. Reggie Bush is used to being in the spotlight, and Marques Colston is way too collected for a rookie.
Though Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to an improbable playoff run, their season will end on the field in New Orleans. This should be a game worth watching because besides the back and forth battle that will take place, the fans going crazy in the Superdome will be a lasting image in the minds of any who see it.
Drew Brees will strike it rich in the second half of this game, helping the Saints pull out a ten-point victory.
Prediction: New Orleans 36 Philadelphia 26; and T.O. changes his mind again, saying that Garcia is in fact homosexual, and he thinks New Orleans is a pretty inviting place…
Baltimore Ravens vs. San Diego Chargers
Some will call this game `the real Super Bowl’ because they believe whoever wins is a shoo-in to defeat the NFC in the Super Bowl. This game will truly be a battle of the best two all-around teams in the NFL, but once again, it will be decided by one factor. This `factor’ is 26 years old, stands at 5-10, and weighs in at about 220 pounds. Oh yeah, he’s also the best running back in the NFL.
I know Baltimore has the best defense in the league and that I basically kissed their feet earlier in this article, but spare me. I had to choose between the best and the best, and let me tell you, it’s a hard decision. The Chargers get my vote simply because not only is their offense great, but they’re solid defensively, whereas Baltimore is unbelievable on defense, and just above average on offense.
I guess defense doesn’t ALWAYS win championships. L.T. paves the way to Coach Marty Schottenheimer’s first Super Bowl appearance.
Prediction: San Diego 30 Baltimore 21; and Baltimore goes out and drafts a stud wide receiver in the draft.
San Diego Chargers vs. New Orleans Saints
So this is what it all boils down to. Let’s review how these two teams arrived in Miami to play for the Lombardi Trophy. Well, the Chargers were charged by a record-setting running back and a sturdy defense. The Saints accepted a role of enlightening an entire city and energizing a nation. The New York Giants traded Philip Rivers to the Chargers for Eli Manning back in the day. Oops. The Houston Texans selected Mario Williams over Reggie Bush in the 2006 NFL Draft and let him slip to the Saints at #2. Double oops.
I hate to seem like how the players play will have no effect on the outcome of the game, but I think a lot of who wins the Super Bowl will depend on the support the team has. And although the Chargers are loaded with talent, line up the two best players on either side of the ball in the NFL, and will be heavily-favored, I have…to take…the (gasp!)…New Orleans Saints.
I think we will be seeing much more Black and Gold in the stands in Miami than Blue and Gold, and everyone outside of Charger nation will be pulling for the underdog, Cinderella, story of the year Saints to win it all. Drew Brees will outplay Rivers and throw three touchdown passes on his way to winning the MVP award. Charger fans don’t fret though; your boys will be back in this same game, playing for all the marbles in just one short year.
Prediction: New Orleans 34 San Diego 30; and a destroyed city is re-united.
Postseason Award Predictions
Coach of the Year: Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. Was there really any doubt?
MVP: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers. His nickname rhymes with MVP.
Offensive Player of the Year: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints. Grabs a stranglehold on this award with his performance in the Super Bowl.
Defensive Player of the Year: Shawne Merriman, San Diego Chargers. Jason Taylor shouldn’t have talked smack. Or maybe he should have just been on a better team.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints. It’s all good when two teammates are battling for this award fresh off a win in the Super Bowl.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans. Wow, the Texans got something out of that early draft pick! Oh, it’s NOT Mario Williams?
Comeback Player of the Year: Chad Pennington, New York Jets. Toughest category of them all. Brees deserved some consideration, but ultimately it came down to Pennington and Steve McNair. Coin flip!