North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

NFL Playoffs: Week Two

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Washington Redskins @ Seattle Seahawks (Vegas line – Seahawks by 9.5)
My pick: Seattle

This is the easiest pick of the week, maybe even of the playoffs. Seattle, even with (or perhaps because of) their relatively easy schedule has been playing powerhouse football all season – racking up with what looks like a dominating 13-3 record. But, as we say before, they have lost (or come close to) a number of key games – an OT win over New York (due to Jay “I’ve lost that loving” Feely missing three Field Goals at the end of regulation and in Overtime), coming within a touchdown of losing against St. Louis and Tennessee (weeks 15 and 11) and their loss to Washington in week 4…
But they aren’t facing the same Washington team that they lost to that early, and they aren’t the same team they were then, either. Washington, in their hot streak, has taken a large toll. Mark Brunell has been playing hurt and his effectiveness has suffered as a result (Since his injury, his pass completion has dropped to something like 40%) and Clinton Portis, playing against a fabulous run defence, has been playing a physical game more and more all year – it’s a recipe for disaster.
Seattle, on the other hand, has been increasing their performance since that loss. They rattled off win after win, even beating the Colts in week 16. Shaun Alexander has had a MVP season, leading the league in rushing yards (almost 1900 yards) and touchdowns (27 – 7 more then anyone else) – plus, you have the infamous ‘Kingdome Sound’ – one of the many intangible factors that the Seahawks have going for them.
While the Redskins have a fighting chance, I can’t see them being able to pull it off in the long haul against a team that has almost all the factors in their favor.

Carolina Panthers @ Chicago Bears (Vegas line – Chicago by 2.5)
My pick: Chicago

In what is almost the least relevant (and the least talked about) game of the week, the Bears should be victorious. Carolina is a team that has one major player (Steve Smith) and once you take him out of the game, you shut down the Panthers. Steve Smith has 12 receiving touchdowns – exactly half of the ones that Jake Delhomme has passed for. Once you can shut him out the game, which should be no trouble for the Bears defence, the Panthers have to rely on their running backs DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis – not a path that the Panthers would like to take.
The real question here is if Chicago’s offence can support their defence: Rex Grossman, who is starting only his second game of the year, will have to have a great game, his best of the year, if he hopes to pull out a win. He’ll need a great game from both rookie running back Thomas Jones and from playmaker Wide Reciever Muhsin Muhmmad to pull off a win against a defence that is strong on both the rush and the pass (they rank in the top ten for both categories).
This will be a close game, but the Bears should be able to hold back the Panthers enough to ensure a victory.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Indianapolis Colts (Vegas line – Colts 9.5)
My Pick: Steelers

The Colts, even with 14 weeks of perfection, still came into the playoffs on a cold streak, losing 2 out of their last 3 games – although partly as a result of them sitting starting players and their defence will have a hard time against what is arguably the foremost rushing game in the NFL today (three great rushers in Jerome Bettis, Duce Staley and Willy Parker) and an above-average passing game (With such a great passing game, it’s easy to forget how good Antwaan Randle El and Hines Ward are). And even though the Colts have a good defence (ranked #15 and #16 in passing and rushing yards allowed, respectively) I feel that the Steelers offence will be able to score a decent amount of points.
So this game really comes down to Payton Manning and Co.; the Colts offence vs. the Steelers Defence. Can the Colts – arguably the most dominant offence in the NFL – score enough on a great Pittsburgh defence? The Steelers are ranked 16th overall against the pass (although one spot below the Colts) but are 3rd overall in points allowed. Against a team that is heavy on the pass, though, they might not be able to hold them back enough – in other words, Payton Manning should have a great day.
But will it be enough? In my opinion, this game is a tossup that could go either way – I take the Steelers based on both my personal preference and on their rushing game. If they can produce like they have all season, it should be enough to compensate for a great passing day for Payton Manning… Either way, this is a game that is sure to be a classic, the kind played at midnight on ESPN Classic.

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos (Vegas Line: Denver by 3)
My Pick: New England

Denver, playing at home in Mile High Stadium, has somehow been overlooked all year long, posting a phenomenal record this year with only one loss by more then a touchdown – in week one. And with a great winning streak that they’ve been on (including big wins against San Diego, Dallas and a crushing win against Oakland late in the season) they’ll be a hard team to beat. Jake Plummer has proven himself to be more then a capable quarterback and the rushing tandem of Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson has the potential to drain the Patriots defence. And their defence, which allows a meager 16 points a game, has the potential to ruin the Patriots.
But the Pats always do their best when the odds are against them – from the 2001 Superbowl to their season this year, Tom Brady has shown himself to not only be the best Quarterback in the league, but one of the best QBs in history. Playing against a defence that despite it’s great production (see above), ranks in the bottom of the league against the rush (29th overall in yards allowed and per game) but ranks among the top against passing should pose both a treat and a threat to him – the Pats aren’t exactly a team that depends on their rushing, so the Pats should have a field day against a stuggling secondary.
Will the Broncos score enough to compensate? No – they might be able to come close, but the Patriots will be more then able to score enough to ensure a birth to the Championship game.

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Written by M.

January 13, 2006 at 5:17 am

Posted in football, NFL, playoffs

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