The Bengals have fired their coach. Bill Parcells is promising to coach another team. And people have already begun complaining about George Steinbrenner. Yes, friends, the end of the football season is upon us. And, for those of you who like to bet money on these sorts of things, I will provide my 2002-2003 NFL Playoff Predictions.
Wait one minute, you're saying to yourself. Didn't Wade take Darrell Jackson in the fifth round of his fantasy football draft this year? Didn't he end up starting Jon Kitna as his QB? Isn't it true that he didn't actually watch a full football game the entire season? You're probably saying this to yourself.
Well, you may have a point. That's why I've enlisted my trusty friend Alex to help us out. He's much more footballologically inclined than yours truly.
Wade's been inventing six-syllable words for years, though, so we compliment each other nicely.
Let's get started.
Colts at Jets I'd like to pick the Colts, because they've got a great offensive troika in Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, and Marvin Harrison. However, Dungy hasn't been able to do much with the Colts defense, despite that being his specialty. I'm guessing he misses not seeing Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp out on the field. The Jets, on the other hand, are playing inspired football-- despite the ugliest helmets in the game. Chad Pennington is making people forget that Grandpa Vinny Testaverde was at the helm of this team for the last few seasons. The X-factor is the Meadowlands-- it'll be hard for the Colts to win on the road. Winner: Jets
I think the Colts are overrated, but not by much. Edge hasn't quite been himself this year, but James Mungro (who I hear they're calling "The Microwave" - a little Vinnie Johnson homage there) has picked up the slack in the running game nicely. The problem the Colts are going to have is that there's no one to take the double coverage off Harrison. Combine that with the Jets looking like an extremely dangerous team (three legit playmakers at WR - Chrebet, Coles, and Moss; and Curtis Martin bruising guys at RB) and it looks like Fireman Ed's gonna have a good first weekend. I concur: Jets
Falcons at Packers I'd pick this for an upset, but I'll leave that for Alex. (He's a bit skewed towards Atlanta, just keep that in mind before laying any serious money down.) Michael Vick is great, and the NFL is marketing him as the future of the game. I hope that it goes better for him than it did for Vince Carter when the NBA was touting him a couple of years ago. It truly does not matter how good Atlanta is, though-- they're playing at Lambeau in January. No need for further analysis than that. Winner: Packers
The future of the NFL?
This brings back memories... nineteen ninety-something... an upstart Falcons team with a young QB with a rifle-arm (Jeff George, in his pre-June Jones meltdown days), running the last vestiges of the run-and-shoot offense. They go to Lambeau for the wild-card game... first possession, George makes a nifty scramble and fires a bolt to Eric Metcalf who goes all the way for a touchdown, and shuts up the Green Bay crowd. For about a minute and a half. The rest of the way is utter destruction for the birds.
Sadly, I predict similar things for this year.
I'd love to predict a Falcons victory. Seriously, I would. I even own a Vick jersey. These two teams played each other in the first game of the season, and it went to OT. Atlanta and Green Bay match up really well against each other, and I think this game will be a close one. However... Atlanta just can't get the ball in the end zone on offense. They miss FB Bob Christian (out with a concussion) and RB TJ Duckett (out with... something or other), and just generally don't have any playmakers out of the WR core. Give Vick a few more weapons and we'll redo this next year, but for now... Packers. I guess. But it'll be close...
(Ironically, Eric Metcalf was just signed by the Pack to return kicks. Oh, and if there's a blizzard at Lambeau this weekend, all bets are off.)
Browns at Steelers Why aren't the Steelers better? They have a great coach, a strong offense (even with ex-XFLer Tommy Maddox at QB), decent defense. Are they just choke artists? I think they'll do better in the playoffs this year with Kordell Stewart holding the clipboard instead of (dropping) the football. Antwaan Randle-El is an exciting player to watch-- he teams up with Hines Ward and Plexiglass to make a formidable receiving combo. The Browns are, well, the Browns. Too many ex-Vikings for this team to do anything worthwhile. Winner: Steelers
This one's too easy. The Browns are starting Kelly Holcomb at QB. You don't win a playoff game in Pittsburgh with Kelly Holcomb leading the way. I'm not sure you win it with Tim Couch, either, but that's now irrelevant. Both teams will try their best to grind out victory on the ground, but the Steelers have more weapons at WR for when they need it. Winner: Steelers
Think he put this on his resume?
Giants at 49ers I just don't see why the 49ers are favored here, unless it's because they're at home. Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens are great, but it just doesn't seem to go any deeper than that. After witnessing (well, reading about) the Giants game last week, they seem to be a team on a mission. They might be tough to beat, looking stronger than they did when they dismantled the Vikings in the 2000 postseason. Now if Tiki could only hold onto that ball... Winner: Giants
Can I just not watch this game? Or even think about it. Although TO vs. the Giants CBs will be a good battle, these are just two teams I really don't care for. I'll go with the Giants and hope for some crowd shots of Angie Harmon.
Steelers at Titans How in the world is Tennessee 11-5 this year? I guess it was only three years ago that they were one yard away from winning the Superbowl. Could this team be any more unspectacular? Eddie George and Steve McNair are solid but not flashy. Jevon Kearse seems to be regaining his rookie form. Hmm. I'm starting to talk myself into liking these guys. The Steelers have more talent but also seem to screw things up pretty readily. I'll go with the theory that slow and steady wins the race, although I'm not sure why. Winner: Titans
How are we still on the same page here? I don't think the Steelers can hang with the Titans. George and Robert Holcomb pound the Steelers, and McNair makes enough plays to win. Where Tennessee is underrated is in their defense. LBs Keith Bulluck and Peter Sirmen are fast. Damn fast. Derrick Brooks fast. That's a compliment. Winner: Titans
Jets at Raiders I think it's fitting that one of the Oakland colors is gray. Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and Rich Gannon were good when I was twelve. It's fun to watch Gannon succeed, and this Jerry Porter kid makes me want to forget about James Jett. (Don't ask.) The Jets are up-and-comers, but take a backseat to the Raiders. Oh, and Chucky-- your coaching wasn't really that spectacular. Winner: Raiders
Finally, we're gonna disagree. The Raiders are a nice team and all, but it just not gonna happen this year. El Niżo is gonna turn Not-Bankrupt-Yet Colisseum into a mire, and Curtis Martin is gonna be king for a day. Pennington does his Trent Dilfer impression and does just enough not to lose. Jets in an upset.
Giants at Eagles Wow, a football game I can get excited about. These two teams are what's great about the NFC-- gritty, grind-it-out football. Can Kerry Collins and the Giants beat the Eagles in their home field? I don't think so, even though McNabb is questionable and they have no outstanding receivers to speak of. The Eagles just seem to have that certain something this year, continuing to crank out wins with something named Feeley at QB. The Giants just can't make it happen (again) at the Vet-- Andy Reid is too good for that. Winner: Eagles
Anyone seen Craig Stadler lately?
I wasn't excited about this game last week, and I'm not overly looking forward to next weekend either. To me, Donovan McNabb is the X-Factor. If he's rusty, this could be a nail-biter. Tiki Barber ran for two bills against the Eagles D last week (with the unfortunate case of fumbleitis), so I think the Iggles might have to win a shootout if Collins is on a good streak. If McNabb is fully healthy, go with the birds. If not... hell, go with the birds anyway. Winner: Eagles
Packers at Bucs If this game was in Green Bay, there would really be no question. Tampa fares much better in warmer climates. However, the Brad half of the Johnson & Johnson combo is hurting and his replacement (Rob), well, isn't a very good football player. I just don't see Tampa being able to hold off the Packers, even at home. The Bucs have talented players like Keyshawn Johnson and Michael Pittman, but no one seems to have the competitive fire necessary in the postseason. Winner: Packers
The Bucs win this game whether or not it's against Green Bay or Atlanta. It's a much closer game if Rob Johnson or Shaun King have to play, but they still win. The Pack simply cannot beat this defense, and Atlanta would have to get every conceivable break and two tuck-rule-esque calls and maybe a Tampa blizzard. (Like how I'm already hedging on that GB pick?) Winner: Bucs
Titans at Raiders You think the Raiders and their fans are going to be motivated for this game? They've been thinking "tuck rule" for eleven months now, and this time they get to play in the friendly confines of the Network Associates Coliseum (barf). I predict Gannon and company take the Titans by storm, burying the Titans. Winner: Raiders
Ahem... Jets at Titans Another AFC Championship game in the music city. A chance for Eddie George to not just hand the ball to Ray Lewis this time. I think this game (if it happens) might well be the best one of the playoffs. Two similar teams with two coaches who just find ways to win. It won't take a Wycheck miracle, but it will be close. Winner: Titans
Packers at Eagles The last game at the Vet... McNabb will likely be back at the helm... doesn't matter. As much as it pains me to say it, the Cheese are a team you don't want to face in the playoffs. F-A-V-R-E, what does it spell? fhav-ree. You think Jon Favreau wants his name pronounced far-vo? I'm rambling. Winner: Packers
Ahem part two, the Phlegmatic Sequel... Bucs at Iggles Are you kidding? Chunky Soup Boy will be healthy for sure by this game, and the Vet gets to ride off into the implosion with an NFC Championship victory. The Bucs have already won one cold-weather game this year, and that's one over their quota. Winner: Eagles
Super Bowl XXXVII
Raiders vs. Packers A game for the ages. Gannon vs. Favre, two guys that should have been washed up years ago. The head coaches are fairly anonymous, Mike Sherman nearly getting brained by tempting an angry Sapp. Unfortunately for the paint-thinner drinkers of Wisconsin, the inexperience of their offense takes a backseat to the wise Raiders. But just barely-- 27 - 24, Raiders.
Well it took us a while, but we finally made it to a point where we don't agree at all. Titans vs. Eagles I like this game a lot, but I think the Titans edge out the Eagles by just enough. Similar QBs, similar offense, similar defense. MVP McNair pulls it out in the end this time. Titans, 31-28
My goal is to get, oh, three games right. Maybe I'll even watch one or two of 'em.
Don't strain yourself there, sparky. Heh heh.