Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NFL playoff predictions, part 2

So the first round of predictions didn't go as planned. I thought that two of the games were toss-ups and two of them I was sure about. I was wrong about both toss-ups in the Colts-Jets and the Eagles-Packers, and I was certainly wrong, as was everyone else it seems, about the Seahawks-Saints game.

The salient points of the weekend for me were, in no particular order: the Colts continuing ineptitude in the playoffs, the Seahawks' surprising adeptitude in the playoffs, the Ravens' defense, and the Jets as a whole.

Rex Ryan has gone out, after declaring his goal to be the Super Bowl well in advance, and said that this week's Jets-Patriots game will be a personal game. I'm not sure that professional athletes with as much playoff experience and as much seriousness as the Patriots need what's termed "locker room material". But self-manufactured media controversies no doubt detract focus.

Sports of any kind are not won with the passion of Rocky theme songs and ACDC. Passion is just one ingredient along with preparation, focus and many other skills and personality traits. No team gets so fired up, either the Patriots from any perceived aggression from their opponent in a game that consists of nothing but physical aggression nor the Jets from having their coach behind them, that they take a game.

When it appears that players rallied behind or around a player or coach to win an important game, it was a game between two evenly-matched teams where one team was lucky from a momentary lapse or momentary excellence.

Rex Ryan is an idiot for doing this and the only thing that could make it easy to watch the Patriots mop the snowy grass with the Jets would be that he lost, not that it's likely to cower or temper his remarks in the future.

There are also the Colts. Peyton Manning joined the Colts in 1998. He first made the playoffs in 1999. The only year since 1999 that wasn't a playoff year was 2001. This means nine straight playoff appearances, 11 out of the last 12 years and 11 out of 13 years in Manning's career. Seven of those eleven playoff appearances have been one-and-out.

In 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, and now 2010, the Colts have lost their first playoff game. That's astonishingly bad. I think the Colts, to put it simply, can't take the heat. Peyton Manning thrives on timing and practice with his receivers, but comes across as awkward and unsure when in the playoffs, while excelling at predictable situations in the regular season.

From what little athletic experience I have, watching Manning come up flat in the playoffs is like running a race. Training runs are out your front door in either a routine or a time of your choosing. I get up at 6, drink coffee while watching Frasier reruns on YouTube until 6:30 and then go for a run. Races are unpredictable. They're either out of town or involve getting up early or sleeping until later, at weird hours, with weird people that you don't normally see or talk to on Monday mornings at 6:30. They're nothing like training, in short.

Of course, after a few years, it should become apparent that a 38:52 10k would be a 38:52 with or without all that. The key things are probably not running 25 kilometres the day before, drinking coffee in the morning and the temperature being under 30 degrees. Making small talk with an acquaintance on the subway ride over or trying to find toast instead of soybean stew aren't going to make much of a difference.

Manning, it seems and I emphasize the 'seem' because I don't know why he or his team don't do well, doesn't do well in non-standard situations. Often the match-ups aren't great with respect to the teams the Colts end up playing, but it's still inexplicable why the Colts look so formidable in the regular season and consistently ordinary in the playoffs.

This year there were injuries and so on, but why can't the Colts ever overperform? They can either do as well as expected or worse, but if the Seahawks can take a 7-9 start and then win in an upset, why can't the Colts do better than expected?

At any rate, this week's predictions are all home teams: Bears over Seahawks, Falcons over Packers, Steelers over Ravens and Patriots over Jets. I only feel confident about the Patriots beating the Jets, but even that seems unpreidctable just because I feel confident.

The Bears are a classic paper tiger, but then, the Seahawks are worse than that. The Packers are good, but the Falcons are great. The Steelers-Ravens game is really a toss-up that I wish the Ravens would win because they're a much more troublesome match-up for the Patriots, who I hate. The Patriots should make quick work of Mark Sanchez, who looked good in the final minute against the Colts, but wasn't as efficient last weekend as he needs to be this weekend.

No comments: