1.02.2008

Rocky's Football Corner, 1.2.2008

by Rick Rockwell

It's the playoffs, baaaaaaaaaaaa-beeeeeeee.

That means nothing here about cable TV disputes, conniving politicians, rotten team owners, bad coaches or criminal players, at least for this week. No, only X's and O's this time.

Let’s start with the bold prediction: Super Bowl XLII will be a rematch of Super Bowl XXXI, except the New England Patriots will win, not the Green Bay Packers.

Not so bold, predicting the Patriots complete the perfect season? Well, the odds really are against them, and the playoff field in the American Football Conference (AFC) is very deep.

The bold part is predicting the Packers will run all the way to Glendale (the game is being played in that suburb of Phoenix this year). In the National Football Conference (NFC), all the buzz is with three other teams: Washington, the Cowboys, and the Buccaneers. Not many are giving Brett Favre and his group of young upstarts a chance after they lost the race for home field advantage to Dallas.

So what is the logic behind such a prediction? Here’s the breakdown:

NFC

Washington at Seahawks: The league is embracing Washington in the wake of Sean Taylor’s murder and the team’s improbable four-game win streak to finish the regular season. This team is filled with intangibles. What is obvious is that quarterback Todd Collins understands how to run the offense crafted by assistant coach Al Saunders. This unlikely run would not have happened with regular quarterback Jason Campbell at the helm. Campbell’s injury reveals how he was rushed into the starting job and how complex this offense can be. But the Seahawks have their own offensive guru, Mike Holmgren who has been to the big dance a few times, albeit not as many times as Washington’s Coach Joe Gibbs. This game looks like it heads to overtime, with Seattle winning, barely.

Giants at Buccaneers: The only playoff teams the Bucs beat this year were the Titans and Washington. By that standard, the Giants aren’t any better: the only playoff team they beat was Washington, and they split that divisional series. But the Giants gave the Patriots their greatest struggle of the season. That momentum should carry over into a road upset (and the Giants are a road team) of the Bucs.

In the next round that means:

Seahawks at Packers: There’s plenty of history between these teams, with Holmgren’s legacy still apparent in Green Bay. But Lambeau Field in January is too much of an advantage, and the Seahawks are horrendous on the road. Chalk this up for the Pack.

Giants at Cowboys: Can Dallas really beat the Giants three times in one season? Both Dallas wins looked identical, with the Cowboys clearly playing on a level higher than the Giants. However, the Cowboys looked tired at the end of the season, and the Giants seemed to have the adrenaline. Another upset.

And so:

Giants at Packers: The Giants’ great road run finally hits the empty mark on the gas gauge on the frozen tundra. Brett Favre gets one more shot at the title.

AFC

Jaguars at Steelers: On my rating board, the Jaguars are the best team in the league behind the Patriots. They rolled over the Steelers like a Panzer in the Ardennes a few weeks ago and this rematch should be about the same.

Titans at Chargers: Quarterback Kerry Collins might actually be a better starter for the Titans in the playoffs rather than Vince Young. Collins was hot against the Colts in relief last week when Young went down with an injury and the Titans would not be in the playoffs without the play from this back-up quarterback. Plus Collins has been to a Super Bowl and understands the playoffs. However, the Chargers just have too many offensive weapons and should win. The Titans’ under-rated defense will keep this close until the end though.

And in the next round:

Jaguars at Patriots: If the Patriots are going to lose, it will happen here. Will they have any rust after two weeks off? The Jaguars have a clock eating rushing attack and a monster defense. But can they cover everyone? This may be one of those games where a receiver like Donte Stallworth steps up because Randy Moss and Wes Welker are drawing double coverage. Quarterback Tom Brady and his receiving corps are too powerful and the Pats win.

Chargers at Colts: The defending World Champion Colts are formidable at home. However, the Chargers have knocked them off at home before in high-pressure games. Not this time though. The Chargers are still a notch behind last year’s squad.

Which sets up:

Colts at Patriots: These games are always classics. The Colts had the Pats on the ropes for awhile this season too, but somehow Coach Bill Belichick made his usual second half adjustments and the Patriots magically pulled away. Look for the same.

Alright, the crystal ball is closed until next week.

Wild Card Office Pool Predictions

Game of the Week: Washington at Seahawks (Seahawks)
Upset Special: Giants at Buccaneers (Giants)
Titans at Chargers (Chargers)
Jaguars at Steelers (Jaguars)

Last Week: .875
This Season: .680


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