Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I'm still sore after watching the beating the Chargers and Titans laid on each other yesterday. Playing physical football is about as meaningful an idea as any of our fabulous Tuesday buzzwords, except when it came to this game in San Diego yesterday. It's rare to see that many plays for negative yardage in a game between two good teams. There were many, many painful hits delivered in this game, including this one on LaDainian Tomlinson. There weren't nearly as many hits laid on David Garrard Saturday night. My reaction to the latter went something like this:

"This is it, if they don't make this, that's the game. Oh--he's not going to make it, oh no, there he goes! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH SHIT! HOLY SHIT! OH MY GOD! WOW! WOW!"

I went 3-1 last week, foiled once again by the Giants, and Andre's enslaved monkey went 1-3. I don't think Andre will be able to watch Saturday's games, which is naturally where I will begin my predictions for the divisional round.

Seattle visits Green Bay in the Holmgren Bowl, a game that Bedir thinks 11-6 Seattle can win on the road over 13-3 Green Bay by two touchdowns. I disagree. Seattle's pass rushers are going to be a problem for Green Bay, and even though their vaunted cold weather advantage hasn't been there of late, they have enough offensive weapons to win this game. It's worth keeping in mind that Seattle might have lost Saturday's game after fumbling a kickoff inside its own 20 while down in the fourth quarter. As well, if Seattle has a ferocious pass rush, Green Bay has an impregnable offensive line. It's a little known fact that the Packers passed as much as the Patriots and allowed two fewer sacks. At any rate, this is the least compelling game of the week.

The most compelling game of the week is between the Jaguars and the Patriots. The Jaguars are everybody's darling right now. Bill Simmons from ESPN wrote before Saturday's win: "Turn on any sports radio station or TV show and if you don't hear someone say, "I'll tell you something, I love this Jaguars team" within three minutes, you should just call the police to be safe." Strangely enough, Saturday's road playoff win over the best defense in the league caused many to question the Jaguars. Yes, they blew an 18-point lead late in the game, but when media favourites in New England or Green Bay do this sort of thing, they're lauded for having the ethereal ability to "make plays" and "just win".

Oh, as for the actual game, it gave me hope to see the Jaguars sack Ben Roethlisberger six times. That's not as good of a performance as it seems, because the Steelers are absolutely atrocious at protecting the quarterback (47 sacks allowed against 21 by the Patriots). Still, the Jaguars can promise the sort of pressure which gave Tom Brady, and therefore the Patriots, a lot of problems against the Eagles and Ravens. Both those teams almost beat the Patriots, and the Jaguars have as many wins as both those teams combined. Jacksonville can also match the Patriots offensively, averaging 32 points over their last eight games, which is what the Patriots average. The Jaguars, like the Patriots against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, can slow the game down with their running game and trip up the Patriots. But because my heart has been broken too many times by impostors (Colts, Steelers) and false hope (Eagles, Ravens) this season, I'm going to pick the Patriots.

As for the other games, Indianapolis will win easily over the Chargers in a rematch of the 1995 wild card game where Jim Harbaugh and a young Marshall Faulk led the Colts to a 35-20 win over Stan Humphries and Natrone Means. Indianapolis, let's not forget, is the defending Super Bowl champion playing at home with 13 wins this season. In a regular season meeting between these two teams, the Colts did everything they could possibly do to lose the game and did lose, but only by missing a 23-yard field goal. This game should be very different.

It's rare to see all the home teams advance, so I'm going to grab the last seat on the Eli Manning bandwagon and predict an upset on Sunday. The Cowboys have struggled in their last four games since beating Green Bay, and the Giants are as hot as hot can be. The good news is that Eli Manning doesn't have to beat the Cowboys, he has a very good defense which led the league in sacks, and something like eight different running backs, none of whose names I can ever remember (Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, Ottis Anderson). The Cowboys are no doubt the better team on paper, but not only the Giants are playing well, the Cowboys are sputtering as well.

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