Friday, January 13, 2006

NFL Playoff Picks: Division Semi-Finals

I'm gonna go see Dr. Finklestein and I'm gonna tell him we have a whole new bag of issues. We can forget about mom for a while.

My issue? These sychophants are trying to creep up on my mojo, dropping in their own quotes and making up clever songs. They just couldn't handle the fact that everyone was excited about reading my gut-busting, innovative picks from last week. They couldn't just stick to calling a solid game. No, they had to step up on my sneakers. Hey dog, hey. Fine. Nate, we still cool. These other two? I am sending them a giant "Hit 'Em Up" shoutout. My fo' fo' make sure all yo kids don't grow. You better back the f**k up before you get smacked the f**k up. This is how we do it on the Southside, near the Starbucks and the Wendy's.

But seriously, welcome back all. A good weekend of football last week, and most of the crew did well with their picks. I think it is going to get a little complicated this week, though. Some solid games, and some teams who have to prove their mettle. Here are our records so far.

Alex: 2-2
Kevin: 4-0
Nathan: 4-0
Andy: 3-1

Once again, I begin my picks with a quote. This week, it is Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) from "Wedding Crashers." Enjoy!



Saturday



Washington Redskins (11-6)
vs.
Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
2:30 p.m. MST, Fox



Alex Abboud
Washington's offense stunk last week, yet they managed to squeeze out a 17-10 win in Tampa thanks to some timely defensive plays. They're also banged up, which doesn't bode well for this week's cross-country trip to Seattle.

Seattle has a balanced attack, and is pretty much at full strength. Shaun Alexander had a dominant year, and Matt Hasselbeck finally stepped up his game. He's not an elite Quarterback, but he'll make some plays and will keep you in the game.

The Redskins were hot down the stretch, but will need a much better performance than they put forward last week if they have any hope of moving on. Can Brunell regain his touch? If not, Portis won't be much of a factor as the 'Hawks can just crowd the box to shut him down. I don't think Brunell makes it to the 4th Quarter, which should tell you how well I see him doing. The 'Skins have performed admirably this year, but they're the least talented team left in the playoffs, and it will show in this round. The 'Hawks will look impressive on their way to their first playoff win in over 20 years.
Pick: Seahawks 34-10. The rout will be on faster than you can say "Jim Zorn".

Kevin Kimmis
I am loathe to pick the Seahawks to ever win a playoff game. Maybe it was the mind-numbing amount of Jim Zorn and Brian Bosworth highlights I had to sit through growing up out west, even if the latter consisted of Bo Jackson running over him like Halle Berry driving through a crosswalk. Or maybe it's Mike Holmgren: After making big money off a friend by taking the Broncos straight up against the Pack in the Super Bowl a few years back, followed shortly thereafter by Holmgren moving to Seattle and either never making or never winning in the playoffs, maybe in the back of my mind, and in Holmgren's, we both know the magic was gone.

Then I remember that Washington is coming off a game where they racked up 120 yards of total offence. That one of their starting DE broke his arm. That Mark Brunell is about as mobile as I am. That Clinton Portis hardly touched the ball because of a nagging shoulder injury, and then failed to dress up because some deranged woman wrote him a letter saying he's too sexy to hide behind novelty sunglasses and a pair of wings. And then I remember: Shaun Alexander, MVP. Quite frankly, Portis' costumes and a solid defence were the only thing the Redskins had going for them; now they only have one of those.
Pick: Seahawks

Nathan Muhly
Washington managed to eek out a road win against the Bucs last week with a less than impressive offensive showing. And by “less than impressive”, I mean down right putrid. It was so bad in fact, that I wouldn’t doubt it made Mr. Tagliabue reconsider the idea of a wildcard round altogether. One might claim that the Skins’ turnover machine defense is enough to vanquish the mighty Seahawks of Seattle, but I would have to slap such a person in the mouth for being a lackwit. Sure, the Skins D has performed exceptionally well over the past couple of weeks, but that was against the Eagles and the Bucs with the number 19th and 23rd ranked offenses respectively. The Seahawks offense, however, managed to attain a number 2 ranking this year. So, the Skins defense may have the ability to cause problems, but it will not be enough to overcome their weakness on the offensive side of the ball. The Hawks’ 50 sacks this season led the league and will no doubt pressure the hell out of Brunnell, whom I believe is still nursing a bad knee. Portis may put up some good numbers, but a decent running game doesn’t do much when you’re down by a couple of scores in the 4th quarter, which barring a Bengals vs. Steelers like turn of events will be the case for the Redskins. The minute Seattle puts more than ten points on the board, this baby’s over and Shaun “Damn It Feels Good To Be League MVP For My Contract Year” Alexander will run all over that poor Washington defense until the clock ticks zero.
Pick: Seahawks

Andy Grabia
It's very difficult trying to read the situation. And all the while you're just really wondering are we gonna get hopped up enough to make some bad decisions? Perhaps play a little game called "just the tip". Just for a second, just to see how it feels. Or, ouch, ouch you're on my hair.

Seriously, how do I call this? The Redskins had about as many total yards last week as Kevin gets against me in a game of Madden. The Seahawks can't win in the playoffs. How can I decide? I know! Let's flip a coin. Matt, you call it:

"We want the ball, and we're gonna score!"

Pick: Redskins



Saturday



New England Patriots (11-6)
vs.
Denver Broncos (13-3)
6:00 p.m. MST, CBS



Alex Abboud
Denver won in the regular season matchup, but that was against a banged up, Tedy Bruschi-less Pats squad. Also, Jake Plummer's play was nearly flawless–-you know how likely he is to repeat a performance like that. Now, the defending champs are rolling on offense, and their defense has started to gel for the first time all year. They looked really good in their Wild Card win over the Jags.

As for the Broncos, they've been paced by a surprisingly competent defense, an always-strong running game, and an uncharacteristically steady Jake Plummer. Still, even with the Mile High advantage, I can't pick Jake Plummer to win a big game, especially against Tom Brady. I just know that old Jake is waiting to rise and make a couple of game-killing errors.
Pick: Pats 26-21

Kevin Kimmis
How can I pick against a team who haven't lost a playoff game in four years? How can I pick a team who has Jake the Snake as their starting quarterback?

Easy. First, I hate the Patriots. Second, Denver has their own version of Thunder and Lightning in Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell, not to mention one of the best (if perhaps one of the dirtiest) offensive lines in football. Third, they also have a good defence who have had a couple weeks to heal up, and the Patriots are a little banged up at running back -- nothing new for them, but it won't help them wear down the Denver defence. Fourth, I really hate the Patriots, which means I’m discounting their much-improved play, not to mention the return of players like Seymour and Bruschi (who didn’t play when they met in the regular season).

Denver is the only team that has a hope of preventing the return of New England to the Super Bowl; somehow, deep in my heart, I know Indy will find a way to lose if they face the Pats in the AFC Championship game. So for one week, I'm a Broncos fan for reasons other than gambling. Here’s hoping that never happens again.
Pick: Broncos

Nathan Muhly
Good things can be said about both of these teams. The Broncos have played well all season and have earned the bonus of not having to be blown by the Colts in a Wildcard game. Plummer has been resurgent and has been blessed with the best platoon of backs to come along in a while. On paper the two teams don’t match up well. The Pats (with the exception of Tom Brady) have played poorly for the majority of the season, with their historically stalwart defense ranking 26th in total yards against. Unfortunately for the Broncos, the Pats have hit their stride entering the playoffs, looking like a team hell-bent on winning their record third straight Superbowl. When comparing these two teams in the latter half of the season there isn’t much to go by, so to pick the winner of this game it would probably be more useful to compare coaching, and that my friends, is where the Broncos begin to look like the decided underdogs. That is not to say that Shanahan isn’t a good coach, he did after all, win the whole show in back to back years (1997 and 1998), and has coached his team to playoff births and a winning record for the past three seasons. By today’s standards such consistency could be considered an achievement;unfortunately Shanahan doesn’t have Elway behind center and his career has been in decline since 1998. As previously mentioned, Shanahan managed to get blown out in the past two years by the Colts, who went on to be beaten by none other than the Patriots of New England. The Patriots of New England, coached by Bill Belichick, winner of a record setting ten straight playoff games and three of the past four Superbowls. Nuff said. Inevitably, all things, including the run, must come to an end, but these Broncos don’t have the feeling of a team that can bring down the Champs.
Pick: Patriots

Andy Grabia
Soft mattress? Yeah, it could have been the soft mattress. Or the midnight rape. Or the nude gay art show that took place in my room last night. One of those three probably contributed to the lack of sleep.

Did anyone else notice that both Abboud and Nate made sexual references about the Broncos in their picks? First Abboud talked about Jake Plummer and his proclivity for sexual relations on an airplane ("the Mile High Advantage"), then Nate dropped a story angle I hadn't thought of ("not having to be blown by the Colts in a Wildcard game"). I guess big sweaty men in tight pants really gets these two going. That, or the thought of Jake Plummer and Marvin Harrison sharing a Brokeback Rocky Mountain moment with a tender after-game, thin-mustache smooch.

The Broncos have to be angry. They just have to be. They went 13-3 on the season, earned a bye and home-field, and are stuck playing Tom Brady and the defending champion New England Patriots in their fist playoff game. That's like getting invited to the Playboy Mansion and being forced to hang out with Sandrah Bernhard. You're likely to score, but the end result is assuredly agony and a disease.

Adam Vinatieri kicks four field goals, including the winner in a Hoth-like snowstorm. And I thought the Broncos smelled bad on the outside.
Pick: Patriots



Sunday



Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5)
vs.
Indianapolis Colts (14-2)
11:00 a.m. MST, CBS


Alex Abboud
Indy dominated the regular season meeting, and while Steeler supporters will point out that that was Big Ben's first game back from injury, I don't think it would have made a difference.

The Steelers took advantage of the injury to Carson Palmer to steal a game on the road last week, while the Colts are rested, and will be well prepared by Coach Dungy. I look for a healthy dose of Edgerrin James to start, followed by some deep balls to Marvin to stretch the defense and open up a lead. Pitt will try to keep pace, but the Colts D is fast enough to keep up with Willie Parker, and won't get worn down by The Bus. Roethlisberger will make a few mistakes, allowing Indy to break this thing open. It won't be pretty from there on in.
Pick: Prediction: Colts 35-3

Kevin Kimmis
This team is an unbelievable football team. They're as good as it gets in the NFL.It's going to take our A-plus game to go out and beat their B-minus game.
– Ben Roethlisberger

Some people have said this is defeatism (and yes, Nate, this means you). I think it’s a realistic assessment of this game. Yes, the Colts have played badly down the stretch. Yes, the Steelers seem more focused and much improved of both sides of the football. But if Indy brings its A-game, then Pittsburgh will have an awful time trying to stop them. (As for Joey Porter’s comments, I’d think more of them if he’d played a brilliant game in the Steelers’ regular-season loss at Indy. As I recall, he didn’t.)

I think the only way for the Steelers to win the game is to run Jerome Bettis more so than Willie Parker. Parker is a speed guy; Bettis is a bruiser. Against a speed defence, I think Bettis is the better bet to gain yards against a somewhat undersized Colts defence (no offence meant to Corey Simon). I also think the Steelers need to play-action pass more out of run formations, like their double-TE set, which could catch the Colts off-guard and open up the run game.

Either that, or Peyton Manning gets his knee blown out. Either way, it’s cool.
Pick: Colts

Nathan Muhly
One of my biggest pet peeves this season was when every moron with an NFL analyst job started talking trash about how the Colts weren’t the team to beat this year after they lost their first game in week 15 to the Chargers. It was as if the fact that they couldn’t go undefeated meant they were somehow pretenders. I shouldn’t have been surprised at the stupidity of this notion after years of listening to the likes of Howie Long spout complete garbage, but I was.

Indy is still my pick to take home the title this year, and for good reason. The numbers, on offense and defense, speak for themselves, but this team has shown some grit in close games. That is what impresses me the most. The Colts have gained the reputation for being soft outside of the RCA Dome, and while this may have been true in past seasons I think they are ready to move past that and start smacking people in the mouth (and even if they aren’t, they have home field advantage for the playoffs, so what’s the big deal?). As for the Steelers, apparently starting linebacker Joey Porter feels that his defense can’t keep up because the Colts offense will make him think too much and Big Ben feels that the Colts B- game is enough to overcome his Steelers’ A+ game. And despite the final score in their Wildcard game against the ‘Natti, they still let John Kitna drop seventeen on them in the first half. B- indeed.
Pick: Colts

Andy Grabia
I was first team All-State. I can put the ball anywhere I want to. I'll make it rain out here.

Again with Abboud and his sexual overtones. If, "I look for a healthy dose of Edgerrin James to start, followed by some deep balls to Marvin to stretch the defense and open up a lead" isn't the filthiest football metaphor you have ever heard, well, then, call me. We should talk.

So Commisioner Vince McMahon got the matchup he wanted. After Triple-H took out the knee of up and coming star John Cena last weekend, in what is now being infamously called the Cincinnati screw-job, the "Legend Killer" Randy Orton gets to face off this week in a cage match with the Excellence of Execution, Bret Hart. Hart will most certainly win the match, deploying every weapon in his vast arsenal, which will lead to the penultimate match next week between Hart and The Nature Boy, Ric Flair. To be the man, you gotta beat the man! Get ready for a ride on Space Mountain. Whooooo! Whooooo! Whooooo!

I could draw pictures to explain that, but why bother? Instead, I will give Abboud a little taste of Vinatieri medicine. Hopefully it will help him calm down.

Pick: Colts



Sunday



Carolina Panthers (12-5)
vs.
Chicago Bears (11-5)
2:30 p.m. MST, Fox



Alex Abboud
In honor of the 1985 Bears, I will preview this game in song form-–more specifically a rewriting of Super Bowl Shuffle.

We are the Bears shufflin' crew
Shufflin' on down, doin' it for you
We're so bad we know we're good.
Blowin' your mind like we knew we would.
You know we're just struttin' for fun
Struttin' our stuff for everyone.
We're not here to start no trouble.
We're just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle.

I'm the middle LB, Urlacher's the name
Stopping you cold, that's my game
I lead the defense, best in the nation
Make you feel the pain, feel the sensation
Your head we mess with, your feathers we ruffle
And all day long we do the Super Bowl Shuffle

Daylight come and he'll want to Del Homme
We're Ogunleye and Brown, your QB we own
We bring the pressure, and bring the heat
Beating up your O-line is such a treat
Spin to left, swim move to the right
Doin' the Super Bowl Shuffle is such a delight

I'm the punky QB known as Grossman
I'm fragile as glass, yes I am
I came off the bench to bring the offense to life
But me and Kyle Orton ain't got no strife
I'm gonna go long and beat you deep
And do the Super Bowl Shuffle until you weep

The name's Charlie T, I'm the coverage guy
Watch Jake get suckered, by our Cover 2 Spy
We like to pick you off take it back and score
It's so damn hype we gonna do it some more
We don't talk trash, watch your mouth Steve Smith
The Super Bowl Shuffle is what we're down with

They call me TJ, and I run the ball
I'm much better than my brother, I'll show you once and for all
Our Quarterbacks suck so I better step up
Then all the haters in Carolina will finally shut up
We beat you once, this Sunday will be the same
And the Super Bowl Shuffle will be the name of the game

I'm the clutch wideout they call Muhsin
I'm the best receiver Carolina's ever seen
They waived me last winter so now I'm a Bear
And I'm out on the prowl so you better beware
You made a mistake when you cut me without remembrance
So the Super Bowl Shuffle – that will be my vengeance.

I'm Cowboy Kyle, the backup QB
Gimme shots of Jack Daniels, far as the eye can see
I know I can't throw, but I know how to party
And we'll be doin' it all week at Super Bowl 40
I won't cause trouble, won't start no scuffle
I'm just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle


Actual Prediction: Defense wins championships, or in this case, gets you to the Conference Championship game. Carolina's hot, so I find it tough to pick against them. On the other hand, Chicago has home field, though the weather shouldn't be too bad (slightly above zero, no rain in the forecast). On the other hand, Carolina devoured one young QB on the road last week, so I can't see why they can't do it again. But then after two strong performances in two weeks on the road, I feel like they're due for a letdown.
Pick: Bears 20-17 in Overtime.

Kevin Kimmis
I could just recite, verbatim, Greg’s columns extolling the virtues of Da Bears over on Sports Blah, the last of which was titled “Urlacher = Battletank of Destruction”. Suffice it to say that the Bears have a great defence and a decent offence. But then I remember that Rex Grossman has eight career starts, and that the last two inexperienced quarterbacks who started a playoff game (Simms and Manning III) got beaten up. And then I remember that the team that handed Eli his autographed loaf of bread and shoved it down his throat plays the Bears this week.

Carolina is due for a stinker of a game, as I alluded to last week. But seeing them play against the Giants, especially their handling of Tiki Barber, makes me wonder if they’re saving that for the Super Bowl. When they played in the regular season, Carolina let Chicago score 10 of its 13 points on two early turnovers; if the game plan against the Bears is as conservative as the Giants game, that won’t happen again. The “X” factor for Carolina is DeShaun Foster and his injured toe; like Grossman, how he plays determines the outcome of this game.

This game is a toss-up. Usually, I go with the home team in these circumstances, but there is almost always at least one upset in this round, and I think this is it.
Pick: Panthers

Nathan Muhly
I often wondered how in God’s good name the Bears ever managed to win any football games this season. With Kyle Orton at the helm it’s a wonder they didn’t run the table with losses and go 0-16. To be fair he did “manage games well,” as was claimed by every analyst who ever had to utter his name. With Rex Grossman stepping up to the plate this weekend, the Bears offense could take on a whole new look, potentially a much better look. At least the so-called experts agree Grossman has the potential to be a top tier quarterback; unfortunately his total career pass attempts have yet to surpass 200. That does not bode well when one considers the strength of the Carolina defense, who held Giants back Tiki Barber to only 41 yards on Sunday. Granted, it is unlikely that the Chicago defense will let Steve Smith run all over them as the Giants did, but I think its safe to assume that the Panthers have the weapons on offense to keep from being forced into a one dimensional game. The Bears, on the other hand will have to rely on Grossman, who is unproven and may well crack under the pressure. If last week was any indication the Bears’ running game will be in tough against the Panthers defense, and can only win if Grossman can carry the offense on his back or if the defense can create points. I would count on the latter as being the safe bet, but its never a sure thing, no matter how good a defense may be. The Bears came out with a nice looking record this season, but four of their wins were against Detroit and Green Bay. I have a hard time believing that they would have earned the bye in any other division this season, and I have hard time finding reasons as to why they should win this weekend.
Pick: Panthers

Andy Grabia
You drop it! You stop projecting on me! Why don't you go enjoy yourself while I go ice my balls and spit up blood.

No sooner does Abboud cool down than Kevin heats up. Just like last week, Kevin has to start flirting with Greg. You can recite his posts verbatim? Dude that is creepy. Like, "Single White Female" creepy. Greg, don't ever let Kevin get a picture of you. And God forbid if he ever asks you to move in with him. He'll end up cutting his hair like you and trying to sleep with your girlfriend. Wait a minute. That's what he does with me.

There is no way Delhomme gets sacked 8 times again. And I know my boy Julius Peppers is coming to play. So screw that Dolph Lundgren wannabe, Brian Urlacher. DeShaun runs for 2-Fitty and makes Brian look like Todd Rundgren, Steve-O breaks tackles for 6 touchdowns and makes Nathan Vasher look like Liv Tyler, and the Panthers send the Bears on a Permanent Vacation.
Pick: Panthers







NFL helmets are from The Helmet Project.

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8 Comments:

At 8:18 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I wouldn't call the Broncos "decided underdogs" based on coaching. Shanahan has been to six Superbowls as head coach or assistant. Sure, give Belichick the advantage if you want, but I wouldn't claim that the gap in coaching is enough to make a decided difference. Shanahan does have a 3-1 record against New England since mighty Bill got there.

 
At 9:12 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Vince Vaughn deserves an Oscar nomination for that performance. That was just fantastic.

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Agreed. Instead, Heath Ledger will get it for looking "pained" in Brokeback Mountain. Frankly, Vaughn should just play Tre from Swingers in every movie. It's a comedy guarantee.

 
At 12:08 PM, Blogger Alex said...

If there's going to be a wrestling motif for Sunday's Colts-Steelers game, the least they can do is hire Captain Lou Albano to be Troy Polamalau's manager.

Also, they're expecting good weather in Denver, so unless the Broncos are borrowing the snow-making machines from a ski resort in Vail, there won't be a snowstorm, hoth-like or not.

I'm sure Andy will analyze the sexual innuendo in comments above, but as for his implications about Jake Plummer? All I have to say is, have you see his girlfriend? Wow.

 
At 2:54 PM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...

Belichick is 10-0 in post-season play since 2001, Shanahan is 0-2. I'm not commenting on his career as a whole, rather comparing their success over the past few years. It also irked me that he ran Mike Anderson way more than he should have this year, not giving Bell more touches lost them at least one game to my recollection.

 
At 3:00 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Nate, you are just mad because you had Tatum Bell on your fantasy team. Admit it.

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...

I can't deny that fact.

 
At 4:48 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

And if Abboud spent as much time editing his work as he does looking up forecasts, he wouldn't end up making unintentional sex jokes.

Then again, that is assuming they were unintentional.

 

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