Saturday, January 22, 2011

NFL playoff predictions, part 3

The second round of the playoffs is always the best. It's better than the wild card round because the teams are better, and better than the Super Bowl and the conference championships because there are four games on two days. Using the newly-minted cognitive skills I discovered during the World Cup in June, I was able to look at the quarterback and the coverage downfield on the same play. Previously I'd had my issues with trying to identify, locate and track multiple moving objects, part of the reason I can't watch hockey, and which explains my fondness for baseball.

At any rate, the season really ended for me last weekend. I got to see four great defenses play each other and I got to see the Patriots lose in the playoffs, with the bonus of five Tom Brady sacks. Anything after this is a bonus, sort of the way the Red Sox realized, after beating the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, that there was actually a World Series left to play. I was also, of course, stunningly wrong about how badly the Jets were going to lose, but I don't mind.

Both games this week are hard to pick. The Packers are the obvious trendy pick on one end, and it's hard to dispute that they looked better than the Bears in putting up 48 points on the top seed in the conference. On the other hand, they have a potential to play a lot worse. The Bears also have a potential to play worse, and wouldn't hold up to the Packers in a shootout. They have the ability to make this a tougher contest, but if it comes down to it, the edge has to go to the Packers because of Aaron Rodgers.

I'm biased toward the AFC, and the Jets-Steelers game will be great. I like watching teams with good defenses that play in cold weather, and these teams fit the bill nicely. The Steelers would be the obvious pick, but didn't the Jets just beat the best team in the league? Meanwhile, the Steelers appeared for a time to have met their match in the Ravens.

Ben Roethlisberger is better against the blitz than Tom Brady, on the other hand, which should count for something. The Jets, despite the abuse I've hurled this way, seem to have been talking big because of how seriously and how well they prepare. Watching last week's game against New England showed that the Jets took the time to devise a game plan on defense that used man coverage on the outside and a flood of zone coverage over the middle, without many blitzes.

The Jets risk a letdown this week, but a team that's been talking about the Super Bowl since August hopefully won't settle for a trip past the second round. More likely is the Jets getting beat by the Steelers for any number of reasons. After having beat the Colts and Patriots in the playoffs, it's hard to say that they're going to lose to a superior team, but the past is no guarantee of the future. As much as I can see the Jets winning this, I think Pittsburgh is more likely to win.

I'm 3-5 so far in the playoffs so far, so these picks are less reliable than random chance.

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