|By Good-Evil Contributor||Friday, 9 Jan 2009|
Contributed by Jon Smokowicz.
I enjoyed reading the MLB playoff breakdowns. The NFL Wild Card round has come and gone with so little analysis the folks at good-evil.net must do their part and give these unsung heroes of the gridiron their due. Since Jeremy has been clamoring so zealously for it…SPORTS!
NFL DIVISIONAL SERIES
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans
Saturday @ 4:30
The Titans announced themselves as a force in the AFC at the onset of the season. They refused to relinquish the number 1 spot even while teams like Indy, San Diego, and, of course, Baltimore came on strong at the season’s end. They did this with a formula that has proven to pay big dividends during the playoffs in recent years; formidable two prong running attack in Chris Johnson and Lendale White, stingy defense and a reluctance to make big turnovers.
This final issue could be difficult to maintain against the Ravens D and that wily playmaker Ed Reed, who corrupted the highly touted turnover stat of the Miami Dolphins (a league low 13) in the wild card round. However, the Ravens offense is being directed by a rookie QB, who is being directed by a rookie coach. This has yet to prove detrimental, but honestly, the Dolphins were recovering from a 1-15 season last year and were just happy to make it to the playoffs. Flacco could be the first rookie QB to lead his team into the conference championship in the leagues history.
That does not seem likely. As stated, Tennessee’s defense is not comprised of slouches and will have defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth back after he was sidelined for a month with a knee injury.
Tennessee is well managed and should be able to hog time of possession.. Avoiding any costly TAINTs (Touchdown After INT) on offense they will prevail.
San Diego Chargers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Last week, San Diego relied heavily on 5’6” running back Darren Sproles, who had the 3rd highest total yards in a playoff game in league history, to narrowly defeat the Colts. I had thought that game to be a foregone conclusion. I was surprised, as was the usually stalwart league MVP Peyton Manning, to see the Chargers advance, but do not delude yourself into believing the Steelers will be surprised by San Diego. Pittsburgh’s D will likely plant Sproles on his back into the soggy terrain of Heinz Field, allowing them to key up on Rivers, who spent much of the Indy match-up sprinting to safety and throwing to the sidelines.
Roethlisberger shouldn’t be asked to over extend himself with the defense handling more than their share and Tomlin sticking with the Steelers typically run heavy style, which should make him dangerous when going to the air.
Conditions are going to be sloppy and the crowd roaring, so while Pittsburgh has done better on the road in recent playoff history I expect them to have their opportunity in Nashville.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers
Carolina was something of a surprise this year and never got their due from sports pundits. However, they are not being underrated in this match-up after going undefeated at home in the regular season and ‘Zona coming off its first playoff victory in decades. The regular season match-up between these two was settled at 27-23 with Carolina locking up the win at home. These teams square up well.
There are two quarterbacks who routinely get the job done but superstar status has always evaded, even after Warner took Super Bowl MVP. Delhomme is looking to prove himself a winner. Warner wants to reclaim former glory.. Both have fantastic playmaking receivers to rely on. Steve Smith consistently breaks big plays taking off after receptions in the fashion of some the better running backs in the league. While the Warner-Fitzgerald tandem became on of the most celebrated this year, Delhomme to Steve Smith has been a steady holding pattern for years. Warner has another phenomenal target in Anquan Bolden but his participation is questionable.
The Cards have lacked a run game, relying heavily on going to the air. Edgerrin James showed his first signs of life last week, which is minimally promising. On the flip side, Carolina packs the always dangerous running back duo of Nick Goings and DeAngelo Williams. They could very well add up to be the back breaker overwhelming Arizona.
Neither teams has inordinately powerful defenses. While the game may be a difficult bet I’d be willing to advise taking the over in what is sure to be a shoot out.
It seems the unlikely choice, but I’m going to doff my cap to Ken Wisenhunt and his crew for all that they’ve done this year and hope against odds they’ve got one more in them.
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants
That emphasis in my last analysis is because there is little objectivity in this pick. I’ve never been one to disguise disdain. Truthfully, Andy Reid manages to routinely screw up some of the simplest coaching decisions and Philly special teams have managed to cripple them in the past. These are clearly not sound qualities of playoff contenders. At the same time, the Eagles play some serious ball when required. Eli Manning is missing his best target (due to one of my favorite sports related stories of last year). The Giants have not fully adapted to that loss. This is going to prove crucial in this match-up (and makes me a bigger proponent of guns). Philly took the Giants to the woodshed the last time they faced off in N.Y. I’m suggesting that will happen again.
While the freakish two-legged centaur Brandon Jacobs appears to be returning, Westbrook demonstrated against Minnesota that he is still capable of breaking the big play. Buckhalter has also looked more than capable when Reid has showed some sense in his play calling. However, Reid rarely does this, so most of this game will be in the promising yet far-from-reliable hands of Donovan.
I hold out hope….
FLY….YOU MOTHERLESS SONS OF DOGS….FLY!