Time Out for Sports Talk: Great Googly Moogly – Are Pats Ready for Playoffs?
Todd: I know this will probably come off as sour grapes on my part, although first I must break down our fourth wall a little and tell you readers that due to space, there are times I eliminate some of my portion of the column (I know, can you believe I write more than I already do?).
One paragraph I opted to eliminate last week involved my Wild Card predictions. Before making my picks (which would’ve been the same as Mike’s), I was going to state that I wouldn’t be surprised to see all four road teams win last weekend, especially since they were all favored. Problem was, I overthought the situation and figured there was no way the games would actually go according to form. Hence my 1-3 result, although had Blair Walsh made that 27-yard chip shot field goal and the Bengals hadn’t mentally self-destructed I could’ve been 3-1. Yeah I know, sour grapes…
But seriously, how does Marvin Lewis still have a coaching job? He’s now 0-7 as a playoff coach, and one constant with his teams seems to be how they cannot control their emotions. I suppose I should’ve known better picking the Bengals in a playoff game against their most hated rivals, but Vontaze Burfict is simply the latest example of a multi-millionaire Pro Bowler being overtaken by his own two-cent brain. Guess that explains how someone that talented went undrafted.
As for the Vikings, I am now convinced after watching that franchise for years that they are cursed in that pre-2004 Red Sox kind of way, having opportunities to win championships but managing to lose in the most painful way possible. How else to explain Walsh’s hook at that end of that game when he’d already made two field goals of over 40 yards in zero degree temps? How else to explain Gary Anderson missing his first kick of the 1998 season indoors and costing the-then top seeded Vikings a trip to the Super Bowl? How else to explain the Vikings being the Bills (0-4 in SBs) before the Bills were the Bills?
On to this week’s Divisional Round, with less of a possibility that the road teams will all emerge victorious. Despite the Patriots and Chiefs being the first game of the weekend, I think I’ll tackle that game last.
Starting with the NFC, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (11-6) finally rediscovered their offense after a nearly 3-month hiatus, and now return to the Glendale desert just two weeks after getting plastered 38-8 by the Arizona Cardinals (13-3) in what was by far the Pack’s worst game of the season. While I guarantee this matchup won’t be nearly as one-sided, there are still too many playmakers on the Cardinals, including Carson Palmer and his 35 TD passes. Cardinals 28, Packers 21.
In what may well be the best matchup of the weekend, the Seattle Seahawks (11-6) have a meeting in Charlotte with the Carolina Panthers (15-1), who were nearly perfect this season and are expecting RB Jonathan Stewart back from a foot injury, making QB Cam Newton even more dangerous. But after watching Russell Wilson win turn a botched snap into a 35-yard pass and Kam Chancellor turning an Adrian Peterson run into a strip fumble, I wonder if Seattle isn’t some team of destiny? Seahawks 34, Panthers 31.
Turning to the AFC, not only did the Bengals fail to advance, but thanks to Burfict’s cheap shot of Antonio Brown, the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6) will be without their top playmaker against the Denver Broncos (12-4). Ben Roethlisberger’s health is in question with a throwing shoulder that looks so bad even Peyton Manning wouldn’t want to swap arms this week. Who knows what either team is going to get out of their quarterback? But Denver’s defense should be good enough to pull this out. Broncos 20, Steelers 17.
Now to the Patriots. Am I the only one who feels like that 10-0 start was an eternity ago? As 2015 has felt much like two different seasons, I think I’m going to try to break down this playoff game into two categories.
What do I like? Having Brady on the field and Belichick on the sideline; the return of both Sebastian Vollmer and Julian Edelman; the Patriots don’t make many mistakes, finishing last in the league in giveaways (14); they are 17-4 at home all-time in the postseason; the Chiefs have a rather pedestrian offense and while QB Alex Smith won’t likely lose a game, he’s likely not capable of leading them from behind in the fourth quarter on the road; Jeremy Maclin is dealing with a high ankle sprain and will at best be a game-time decision; even though KC has won eleven straight, their defense didn’t face a QB of Brady’s caliber.
What I don’t like? The Kansas City Royals were still playing in the ALCS the last time the Chiefs lost a game; Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has had some history stopping Brady (last year’s game in KC, 2010 Divisional Playoff win by NYJ over NE); KC’s 47 sacks were fourth-best in the league, while Brady has been sacked 16 times in his last six games; the latest injury reports on Rob Gronkowski; the latest off-field reports on Chandler Jones; and how effective is Edelman going to be with a metal plate in his foot?
Ultimately, I’m taking the Patriots in a close one. But as the week has gone on I hardly feel great about it, although maybe that’s this flu bug going around…Patriots 24, Chiefs 20.
Mike: Well Todd, I was happy with the way the games went last weekend. I just had a feeling all the road teams were going to win, though I did get nervous with Minnesota and Cincinnati.
As for Marvin Lewis, I know his playoff record is horrible, but I don't pin this last loss on him totally. His players got out of control on the field, and that was the direct cause of their loss. But unfortunately, players like Burfict and Pac Man Jones will not lose their jobs for their stupidity, but Marvin Lewis might.
Now looking forward t this week, I am going to flip the picture from my picks from last week, as I like the home teams in the Divisional Round.
First, with the injuries the Steelers suffered against the Bengals, I think they've gone from a formidable No. 6 seed to a team that is just a second bye for Denver into the AFC title game.
Denver is shaky on offense, but their defense will more than make up for it against a diminished Steeler team. Denver wins 24-10.
Moving on, we have the other miracle winners from last week, the Seattle Seahawks. They were just good enough to get past Minnesota, but they have a tough task flying across the country to take on a Carolina squad that must feel like they have something to prove.
I don't buy the "team of destiny" thing, I think Carolina is too good to lose at home. Panthers win 31-17.
The other NFC match-up takes place in the desert, as Green Bay takes on the Cardinals. As good as Green Bay looked last week against Washington, they were playing against a Redskin team that really shouldn't be in the playoffs, much less hosting a playoff game. The Cardinals were one of the best teams in the league this year, and I think they get by the Packers in a close on. Arizona wins 21-20.
Now on to the Patriots. I do have some concerns that injuries (and Chandler Jones stupidity) will be a hurdle against the red-hot Chiefs. And if this game was in Kansas City, I'd be very nervous. But it's in Foxborough, and despite the fact that the Pats stumbled at the end of the year, I can't bet against them at home in the playoffs. Patriots win 28-24.
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