Sunday, January 15, 2006

So, how'd I do?

Let's take a look at how my divisional playoff predictions went:

First, my NFC Predictions.

Seahawks/Redskins:

For a couple of reasons, I like the Seahawks in this game. While I expect the Redskins offense to be a little better (they can’t be any worse!), the Seahawks offense is far superior to the Bucs offense. The Bucs have a better big-play receiver in Joey Galloway, but the Seahawks are superior in every other way. They have the better, more experienced QB. Shaun Alexander is the MVP of the NFL. They have a great offensive line. Their receivers aren’t great, but they’re good enough. I expect the Redskins OFFENSE to score more than they did last week, but not the defense.

Well, I did pretty well here. The Redskins offense was a little better, scoring 10 points instead of basically the 3 offensive points they got against Tampa last week. And as I thought, the Seattle offense was better than Tampa's, even with Shaun Alexander going down early. Darrell Jackson was a surprise.

Seahawks 24-13.

And it ended up as 20-10. Pretty close for me, although this game wasn't that hard to call.

Bears/Panthers:

But this Panthers team looks different. Delhomme is playing well, Foster and Goings are providing a nice 1-2 punch, and Steve Smith is playing like he’s the best receiver in the NFL. At this point, they don’t even NEED any other WR to contribute, which is good, because they aren’t. The defense was fabulous as well shutting down the Giants.

Well, I look like a prophet here. Steve Smith was awesome, and the Panthers didn't really need any other WR to play a big role. Smith = very, very good is the main lesson here.

But, it is hard to pick against the Bears in January in Chicago. The defense is spectacular. They have a great defensive line that creates pressure, fast, sure-tackling linebackers, and a big-play secondary. Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman are both very good. But I just don’t like the offense to score enough on Carolina. Rex Grossman is a huge upgrade over Kyle Orton at this point, but I still wouldn’t trust Grossman if the Bears needed a late drive to win. Thomas Jones is also good, but Tiki Barber is better and the Panthers allowed him only 41 yards (albeit on 13 carries.) As hard as it is to pick against Chicago in Chicago, I’ll do it here:

The defense is still spectacular, but they were very mortal today, which was a surprise. If you would have told me before the game that Chicago would score 21 points, I'd have been pretty confident they'd win.

Panthers 16-13.

Well, I picked the winner, but was off on the 29-21 score. The number of points really surprised me here, as it did a lot of people.

Now on to the AFC Predictions, although with my [lack of] success, I don't really want to go over these. ;)

Colts/Steelers:

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.

Looking good so far, as the Steelers definitely fared 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.

Whoops. I underestimated just how good and fast the Steelers D was, and how effectively they would be able to blitz and get to Peyton Manning. They got just enough offense, and just enough help from Mike Vanderjagt.

Colts 31-14.

Well, uh, I was right that the Steelers wouldn't get a FG, at least! Steelers pull it out 21-18.

Broncos/Patriots:

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.

Well, looks like I was wrong on both counts. Not only did New England's "Old Reliables" make uncharacteristic mistakes, but Jake Plummer played very well. He made one mistake, and that was on Asante Samuel's INT, although even that wasn't too bad because it was just a great play by Samuel. On a day when New England did a good job against Denver's running game, Plummer played very well. As did the defense.

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.

Brady did play well except for the INT he threw to Bailey, and the defense did play very well. Dillon, however, was a non-factor, and the Patriots had 5 turnovers.

Patriots 27-13.

Well, I did have the score right, but it was Denver on top 27-13. While Denver played very well, they should also give much thanks to the refs, who as I wrote earlier, basically spotted Denver 10-17 points, again, depending on your view of the Champ Bailey fumble.

At the end of the day, I got the NFC picks right, and the AFC picks wrong, which is the exact opposite of what happened last weekend. This sets up next weekend's games, which are:

Pittsburgh at Denver
Carolina at Seattle

Should be another great round of games!