Wild Card Extravaganza
The playoffs kick off with Kansas City at Indianapolis. There is a theory going around that this is the worst possible match-up for the Colts because they can't contain Larry Johnson. The Colts can't contain anyone's running game, and they'll dominate an otherwise deeply flawed Chiefs team. The Colts offense is the second best in recent history, behind only their 2004 vintage. The Chiefs D is below average. The Colts are by far the best passing team in football, led by should-have-been-MVP Peyton Manning. Manning completed 65% of his passes for 4305 yards, 31 touchdowns and only 10 turnovers. And their running game, sixth most efficient in the league, isn't shabby. Joseph Addai collected more than 1000 yards and seven touchdowns on only 226 carries. Sure, the defense is weak, but I say the Colts score early and often, take the Chiefs out of their game, and win going away.
Saturday night sees the Cowboys visit Seattle. How do I put this nicely? Seattle sucks. Everyone keeps saying the Seahawks are dangerous because they were good last year. What does that have to do with anything? They're not good this year. They have only the 27th most efficient offense, and 20th most efficient defense in football. The Cowboys win this one easy, although both teams will put plenty of points on the board because neither team's corners can cover a rocking chair.
Sunday begins with the Jets at the Patriots. The Jets are a nice story. But the defense is overrated because their opponents were a collection of terrible offensive teams. Plus, the Jets play slow on offense, limiting their opponents possessions, and since the Jets are vulnerable to the run, other teams ate clock on offense too. Thus, Jets games have fewer possessions than most, and the defense artificially ranks sixth in fewest points allowed. This strategy does work to give a lesser team a chance to stay close against a superior foe. And the Jets did beat the Pats once this year. But the Pats are flat out better. In fact, they're the most consistent team in football right now across all three phases of the game. Tom Brady may not see the ball a ton in this one, but he'll be effective enough when he does have it to lead his team to an easy victory.
Sunday's late game features the team most likely to forget about the game and beat the crap out of each other. Ladies and gentlemen, your New York Giants. They travel to Philly to face a team that was expected to crumble after Donovan McNabb went down, adding injury to the insult of some terrible early season luck. Some of that bad luck came against the Giants, who beat the Eagles in one of the more preposterous games of the season. It won't happen again. The Eagles now rank first in offensive efficiency and seventh if defensive efficiency in the second half of close games. They'll play well when the game is on the line. But this game may be over fairly early, too. The Giants have been the very definition of an average football team, and the Eagles are much better than that, especially on offense. Look for a huge game for Brian Westbrook, and an easy Philly win.
By the way, I've been on the Bears' bandwagon all year. I'm not quite jumping off yet. But this week, for the first time, when I take a careful look, I see a better team in the NFC. So, as we enter the play-offs, I'll unveil my new Super Bowl prediction, and it kills me to say it, but the Bears are no longer part of the equation: Baltimore Ravens over the Philadelphia Eagles 24 to 17.