Tuesday, January 10, 2006

AFC Divisional Playoffs

And on to the AFC Playoffs, which offers some intriguing games. Once again, the 1 seed plays the 6 seed, but in the other matchup the 2 seed plays the 4 seed, and a dangerous 4 seed it is. As with the NFC, let’s start with the 1/6 game.

Colts/Steelers: The best team in the NFL playing at home in a dome against the #6 seed? This one shouldn’t even be close, right? Well, hold it a minute.

In their first meeting, the Colts had their way with the men from the Steel City, winning 26-7. This time, I expect the Steelers to run the ball more often and more effectively, which, combined, with the Colts’ expected ruggedness from not playing a meaningful game in 4 weeks, the Steelers should fare a little better.

Better as in have a chance to win? Not quite. The Colts still have too many offensive weapons… it’s basically a pick-your-poison type situation. Defensively, the Colts are very fast, which is only helped by the turf in the RCA Dome. I think the Steelers will fare a little better than the last time, but the Colts have the ability to make this a track meet, and the Steelers can’t keep up with that.

Colts 31-14.

Patriots/Broncos:
The Broncos best team since John Elway retired, and they get a 2 seed, a home playoff game… and they have to play the 2-time defending champions who have won 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls.

I like Denver’s running game, their offensive line, their defense, etc. But there are two things working against them in this game: 1) they are playing New England and 2) Jake Plummer is still their Quarterback. As you can tell, I’m not overly high on Plummer. He’s not terrible, he can occasionally make some plays, and he usually won’t make mistakes. But if he is called upon to lead a critical drive, I don’t think he can do it. Earlier in the year, Denver had the ball in a tie game with about 2 minutes. Perfect time for the “Comeback Kid”, as he used to be called, right? Wrong, because Shanahan ran the clock out. Not even his coach has faith in him.

Meanwhile, New England is playing their best ball of the year. Brady was the MVP, in my opinion, and he’s playing great. Corey Dillon is back and healthy. The defense has been absolutely dominating the past few weeks, especially in last week’s shellacking of Jacksonville where Willie McGinest got 4.5 sacks. And they still have the two X-Factors of the playoffs: Adam Viniatieri and Bill Belicheck. Tom Brady continues his streak of undefeated playoff games, and the fans get to see the matchup that everyone wants to see in the AFC Title Game. And he better, because I have $5 on it.

Patriots 27-13.