Thursday, December 20, 2012

The NFL Playoff Preview

Yes Phillip, that's the season-long
pose of everyone who drafted
you as their fantasy starter.
The Week 16 picks are below without comment because at this point, I'm just playing out the string of a forgettable regular season (kind of like the Chargers). When you pick the Super Bowl champs as a 2 point underdog in a critical game coming off a 52-27 win the week before and they miss the cover by 32 points, you know it's not your year. So I've decided bag the end of the regular season and look ahead to the playoffs (kind of like the Ravens) by analyzing the potential match-ups per the current version of the FGR's NFL Power Rankings.* It's the internet writer's version of firing your offensive coordinator with three games to play.

Let me start with a reminder on how the FGR Power Rankings work. The team at the top is the team that I would bet on to win the Super Bowl right now. The second team is the Super Bowl loser and the remaining ten are the playoff teams in the order that they will be eliminated (so the Patriots beat the Texans in the AFC Championship Game and the Packers beat the 49ers in the NFC and so on). To demonstrate how unpredictable this season has been (for me), I had the Giants at #1 last week and this week they are the first team out based on the fact that they can't even make the playoffs if the Redskins and the Bears each win their last two games which is what I am predicting (sorry Redskins and Bears fans).

With 88% of precincts reporting, here's how I'm calling it:

AFC WILD CARD ROUND

#4 - Ravens over #5 - Colts

I know. First the Ravens have to get this spot but to not get it, they would have to end on a five game losing streak which would make John Harbaugh's head explode and really, what are the odds? . . . (of a guy's head spontaneously exploding). Andrew Luck is going to be great but let's not get tooooo carried away about the league's 31st rated passer and co-leader in interceptions playing in his first postseason game at one of the harshest road venues in the league against a team that's won at least one playoff game each of the last four years (can you feel me talking myself into the Ravens pulling out of this nosedive?).

#3 - Patriots over #6 - Steelers

Just too many injuries for the Steelers to contend this year and this loss will cause the voices of moronic Steeler fans calling for Mike Tomlin's job to grow a bit louder. On behalf of the other three AFC North teams, please listen to them Mr. Rooney. I'm pretty sure Tomlin will land on his feet. In fact, he'd be out of work for less than five minutes and won't even have to leave the state for his new job.

AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND

#1 - Texans over #4 - Ravens

When you Google "Stoney Case,"
this picture appears. Just thought
that might interest you.
This won't be as bad as the 43-13 shellacking the Texans gave the Ravens back in October but it won't be close either which will lead to the most tumultuous off-season in Ravens' history (unless you count the time Ray Lewis was implicated in a homicide . . . or the time Jamal Lewis was sentenced to four months in federal prison for dealing drugs. Ah that was a simpler time when we knew with 100% confidence that our quarterback sucked).**

#3 - Patriots over #2 - Broncos

My only concern is that the media will fail to recognize the magnitude of the quarterback match-up and not give this game its due. With Manning missing an entire season and then changing teams and Brady cutting back on his pretty boy ads, they could easily get lost in the shuffle and that's before we factor in the overshadowing of a potential Flacco-Schaub duel. (But surely I jest. They'd broadcast this game in the sky like something out of the Hunger Games if they could figure-out how to do it).

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

#3 - Patriots over #1 - Texans

Someone didn't get the memo.
Here is the stat that scares the living crap out of Texans fans. They have played against four Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks this year (and I am generously including Matthew Stafford in that mix). In those four games, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Stafford averaged over 350 yards and 3.5 touchdowns. Apparently those are the only four who figured-out that, against the Texans, you will complete 90% of all passes that you don't bounce off of J.J.Watt's forearm.  

NFC WILD CARD ROUND

#3 - 49ers over #6 - Bears

With Jay Cutler playing against the league's best defense, this could be one of those ridiculously lopsided playoff games that we stopped seeing about ten years ago like when the Jaguars beat the Dolphins 62-7 back in 2000. (And yes, the Jags were once really, really good at football. This year they have not scored 62 points total in their last four games and it turns out that Chad Henne was not the answer . . . again).

#5 - Seahawks over #4 - Redskins

Just a classic match-up between two coaches who really don't like each other. (Actually, I don't know if there is any history between Pete Carroll and Mike Shanahan . . . I just assume that all coaches hate Pete Carroll).

NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND

#2 - Packers over #3 - 49ers

"It's in my left armpit."
With the Niners blowing the #2 seed by losing at Seattle this week, this game will be at Lambeau and the Packers have the bye week for their defense to get healthy and to continue their search for Mike McCarthey's ticklish spot.

#5 - Seahawks over #1 - Falcons

No one will have more pressure on him this postseason than Matt Ryan who currently has as many playoff wins as RG, III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson combined. That makes the "playing like they don't give a crap about anything" Seahawks a terrible match-up for the Falcons. This Seahawk team kind of reminds me of the 2000 Ravens who hit their stride in week 12 and just starting mauling people and didn't stop until Brian Billick of all people was holding the Lombardi Trophy. Wouldn't the modern equivalent of that line be, "until Pete Carroll of all people was holding the Lombardi Trophy?"***

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME 

#2 - Packers over #5 - Seahawks

This is where the 2000 Ravens/2012 Seahawks analogy ends because the Ravens lucked into running the quarterback gauntlet of Gus Ferrotte, Steve McNair, Rich Gannon**** and Kerry Collins. Not exactly a murderer's row. The Seahawks absolutely have the defense that could shutdown Aaron Rodgers like the Giants did last year but two trips all the way across the country will take their toll. Not to mention, we're due for a mega quarterback match-up in the Super Bowl like we haven't seen since Elway beat Favre almost fifteen years ago or Plunkett over Jaworski seventeen years before that.
And one more ring means
Giselle can finally quit her
job at the dealership.

SUPER BOWL

Patriots over Packers

Tom Brady ties Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most Super Bowl victories (4) and passes John Elway for most Super Bowl appearances (6) and, with his statistical advantage over all three (Elway is the only one remotely close), probably establishes himself as the greatest quarterback of all-time. And really, what more fitting way to put this season out of my misery?

Endnotes

* After fielding three failed fantasy football teams and posting a sub .500 record on my weekly picks, I am reaching for anything to get some momentum going before I have to make my predictions for the 2013 PGA Tour season which is really what a website called the freakin' Fantasy Golf Report is supposed to be about anyway.

** The Ravens' offensive coordinator during that bleak era was Matt Cavanaugh who then went on to be a marginal offensive coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh before coming back to the NFL as an offensive assistant with . . . wait for it . . . the New York Jets (because anytime you get a chance to hire the offensive coordinator of an NFL team that once went five straight games without scoring a touchdown and then failed to distinguish himself as a college coach, you have to take it).
"Hey I wasn't running up the score,
we were just having fun out there."

*** Tony Kornheiser used to call Billick "the preening schmo." Isn't Carroll the modern "preening schmo"?

**** And Gannon was knocked-out of the game when Tony Siragusa went full pile-driver on him (Goose Crushes Gannon) opening the door for Bobby Hoying to get meaningful playoff minutes against the 2000 Ravens' defense which was the biggest mismatch since the United States invaded Grenada.

The Week 16 Picks

If I was actually going to light a couple hundred dollar bills on fire this weekend, I'd be looking very hard at the Patriots, Panthers, Bears and, I am sad to say, the Giants.

Atlanta by 4 over Detroit: The Pick - Falcons

Green Bay by 13 over Tennessee: The Pick - Packers

Carolina by 8.5 over Oakland: The Pick - Panthers

Miami by 4.5 over Buffalo: The Pick - Bills

Pittsburgh by 4 over Cincinnati: The pick - Steelers

New England by 14.5 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Patriots

Indianapolis by 6.5 over Kansas City: The Pick - Colts

Dallas by 3 over New Orleans: The Pick - Saints

N.Y. Jets by 1 over San Diego: The Pick - Chargers

Washington by 4.5 over Philadelphia: The Pick - Eagles

Tampa Bay by 3 over St. Louis: The Pick - Bucs

N.Y. Giants by 1.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Giants

Houston by 7.5 over Minnesota: The Pick - Texans

Denver by 13.5 over Cleveland: The Pick - Browns

Chicago by 5.5 over Arizona: The Pick - Bears

San Francisco by 1 over Seattle: The Pick - Seahawks

Last Week's Record: 7-9 . . . Season Record: 105-113-6