Monday, December 29, 2008

NFL Playoff Prediction Madness

Ooooh, fun fun. Time for NFL Playoff predictions. This is the time of year when there are usually two or three L&N posts about playoff predictions, and while I haven’t always added my thoughts… I thought I’d give it a shot.

I think the scariest teams in the playoffs are the Colts, Giants, Ravens & Titans.

The Colts are scary because they have won 9 in a row, they came from behind in more than half their big wins this year—sometimes overcoming unthinkable point differentials—and, lastly, Peyton Manning plays for the Colts. Oh, they also finally have the entire O-line healthy, for the first time all season.

The Giants are scary because they are a complete team, offense and defense, and they are the defending champs. While they have lost a couple games, they have not looked outright awful even one time this year.

The Ravens are scary because they have just as buzz-worthy a defense as Tennessee and Pittsburgh, but they also protect their QB and have a solid run game.

The Titans are scary because they have been, I believe, the most consistently good team in the AFC all year.

Here’s how I see the games going in the AFC, in my infinite wisdom and storied prediction abilities:

Colts v. Chargers
Winner: Colts. The Chargers, for all their “immense talent” everyone keeps talking about, still don’t really stop too many people on defense. And I think I give the edge to the Colts in any game they play against an average defense. With no Merriman to pressure Peyton, I think he’s proven this year that he’ll find the open receivers and lead the Colts to plenty of scores. But as with most Colts games this year, I expect this one to be very close, and likely decided in the final minutes. I don’t like the “wounded dog” aspect of the Chargers team, and they always play the Colts tough. I will be biting fingernails, I’m sure.

Ravens v. Dolphins
Winner: Baltimore. Miami is an awesome story. But find me one NFL fan who doesn’t think they overachieved a bit. Baltimore’s D will shut them down for the most part, and I’m not convinced Pennington is the gunslinger he’ll need to be to win that game. Might even be a blowout.

So that will leave the Colts to head to Pittsburgh, and the Ravens to Tennessee.

Colts v. Steelers
Winner: Colts. If I’m a Steelers fan, I’m nervous about Big Ben. Even if he is healthy, I don’t trust him to not turn the ball over. And the Colts have already gone there and won once this year—though the weather was pretty good.

Titans v. Ravens
Winner: Ravens. This might be the best game of the playoffs. There will be bones broken, teeth chipped, and egos bruised. I worry for the Titans that the time off will hurt their momentum a bit—it will have been several weeks since their last meaningful game and three weeks without playing for Haynesworth and KVB. Baltimore, however, will likely be in a bit of a groove (they’ve won 5 of 6 at this point) and definitely hungry for a little retribution. Bottom line, I think Baltimore’s offense can do more against a great defense than Tennessee’s can. Definitely a must-see game.

The final will be the Colts v. Baltimore, in a surprise home playoff game for Indy.

Winner: Colts. Duh. I am a homer, sure… and I root for the Colts. Maybe it’s impossible to make predictions while separating myself from that fandom. Or maybe I just think the Colts are on quite a roll lately… and seeing how their run in late 2006 and then the Giants run last year worked out… I have reasons to believe. Mostly it comes down to this: no team the Colts face will have Peyton Manning on their team… and the Colts will… and that makes Indy a good bet against any opponent.

Now for the NFC.

Falcons v. Cardinals
Winner: Falcons. I don’t even think Arizona could beat Detroit right now. And it’s that intangible “just happy to be here” thing for Arizona that would make me nervous if I was a Cardinals fan. But neither team is going to the Super Bowl, so it’s almost a moot point.

Eagles v. Vikings
Winner: Minnesota. I actually like the Vikings here. Not sure why. They have a bit of that magic lately, winning games they should have lost. And they have a decent D. Should be no argument that Peterson is the bomb. I like McNabb and Westbrook lately… but this is the same team that looked awful for several games in the middle of the season for no real reason… and a team that needed several others to falter yesterday to even be in the conversation. The home field advantage might be just enough to help Minnesota squeak by.

So then we’ll see the Falcons v. Giants—unless my math is wrong or I have the seeds off a bit.
Winner: Giants. I’ll go ahead and tell you they’re my Super Bowl pick. No team can stand in their way as long as they are running the ball this well. The Falcons’ lack of experience will hurt them here, and I think New York will force turnovers and frustrate the heck out of Matt Ryan.

That leaves the Vikings v. Panthers.
Winner: Panthers. But barely. Did you know that Carolina’s win yesterday is the first time all year that the road team has won an NFC South division match up? They have been great at home. I just don’t think Minnesota can keep up. I do think Peterson will have a banner day, but the Vikings’ efforts will fall just short.

Panthers v. Giants
Winner: Giants. I think this will be the best-of-the-best NFC championship matchup we all deserve, and will probably be just as close a game as their last contest. I keep thinking of that big Tampa game, and how easily Tampa kept going down for scores near the game’s end, even though the Panthers were far enough ahead to win. Not sure how the Panthers D got the reputation they had for most of the season, because they haven’t looked that great at all over the last four games.

Super Bowl: Giants v. Colts.
That’s right. I’m predicting a Manning v. Manning match up for the big game. The marketing people are going to be whipped up into a promotions frenzy, so get ready to have them shove brotherly rivalry down your throat. I will probably want to kill or maim both Mannings by the time the game actually gets played.

Winner: Giants. What? How does the Colts fan pick them to go all the way but lose to the Giants? I’ll tell you… the Giants have no less than three running backs who can rush for over 100 yards in any given game… and the Colts simply cannot stop the run. This will probably be a very close game, as I think Peyton will find a way to keep Indy in it. But in the end, I think the three-pronged rushing attack of New York will be too much for any team to handle, especially the Colts. The Giants have played like the best team in football all year long. I will be rooting for Indy to win, though, obviously. Just wouldn’t put any money on it.

So there you go. I invite your opinions in the comments below, particularly if you think I’m giving the Colts waaaaay too much credit as a fan. I also hope you guys will share your own predictions so we can all play along. Sorry if this is too long… slow first day back at work.


At 12/29/2008 05:07:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Wow...Giants vs. Colts? NBC would suck something disgusting if that could be guaranteed...Manning vs. Manning and an NYC team equals all-time ratings and cash.

You would have the past two Super Bowl MVPs playing against each other, and of course the sage broadcaster saying, "You know what their mom is rooting for...for them not to get hurt."

I tell you...if the Titans can't make the Super Bowl...that's the game I wanna watch.

I don't think you have Colts homerism. It just goes to show that the Colts are a great team you can believe in. I have never been this way about any of my teams entering a playoff.


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