Friday, January 06, 2006

NFL Playoff Picks: Wild-Card Round

The NFL playoffs begin this weekend. On the one hand this is good, because it means that Kimmis will soon go insane watching the Steelers lose and the Patriots win. On the other hand it sucks, because it means that the football season will soon be over and I will be forced to watch hockey and basketball until spring training begins. Such is life, I guess.

In addition to the normal SportsMatters NFL crew, we have added a guest writer this week. Nathan Muhly comes to us from Calgary, and we welcome the addition. We won't let him write about the Lames, but he can chip in with NFL posts anytime.

By the way, don't believe what Kevin says about his love of the Steelers. Nate, Abboud and I can all tesify to the fact that Kevin was a Rams fan until like two years ago, and jumped ship once the Rams started to suck. His brother is the Steelers fan. Kevin is just a dirty, bandwagon-jumping whore.

One more thing: all of my picks this week begin with quotes from Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) in Entourage. Sure, it is a total Simmons rip-off, but a) fuck Bill Simmons, that glass bitch, that glass bastard, and b) it beats dropping the word "turduckens" into a sentence (wait for it). I don't even know what that fucking means, kurducken. What the hell?

On to the picks!


Washington Redskins (10-6)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
2:30 p.m. MST on ABC

Alex Abboud
While some fans are looking forward to this game as the rematch of a high-scoring, exciting regular season matchup won by the Bucs earlier this season, southpaws like myself are curious to see the first matchup of two left-handed QBs in the playoffs in quite some time. And others still are watching in anticipation to see what character Clinton Portis will debut next. So clearly, this game has a little something for everyone in the family. Tampa's biggest weakness has been their O-line, and Redskins Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams will surely find a way to exploit it. Plus I've seen Chris Simms put up a brick in too many big games to feel confident picking the Bucs-–especially since they don't have Major Applewhite waiting on the bench to take over. I think Portis runs wild, and Brunell makes all the necessary plays--this one isn't even close.
Pick: 30-13 Redskins

Kevin Kimmis
Washington is on a roll. At home, they blew out the Cowboys (after barely beating them in Dallas) and the Giants (after getting blown out in New York) to make the playoffs after a 5-6 start. They seem to have their offence back to where it was early in the year -- lots of running (primarily with Clinton Portis) combined with a few deep throws to Santana Moss, thereby limiting mistakes at the quarterback position. Their defence is superb, and having locked up Gregg Williams means it should remain so for the foreseeable future, even if LaVar Arrington leaves next year.

The 'Skins solid run defence poses problems for the Bucs, who rely heavily on the run. Cadillac Williams is the Rookie of the Year running behind a less-than-stellar offensive line because the better he plays, the more the passing game opens up for Joey Galloway. Their defence is also impressive, even if stalwarts like Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks are getting older, and they match up well against the run-oriented Redskins. In the end, I think this matchup comes down to quarterbacks, and Chris Sims is no Mark Brunell … which isn’t saying much.

(As an aside, when I first wrote this, I had the Bears playing the ‘Skins. I was at work too late, so I must have been channelling George Wendt from the old Saturday Night Live skit, “Da Bears”. Either that or I was in a mind-meld with Greg from Sports Blah.)
Pick: Redskins

Nathan Muhly
This is easily my boldest pick. On paper the Bucs appear poised to take this one, with their shiny new Cadillac and number one ranked defense (enter defense wins championships cliché). Yes, it would be easy to pick the Buccaneers, but there are just too many things I like about this Redskins team: Clinton Portis’ zany, yet admirable costumes, Mark Brunell’s come-back season (if only because he was the one bright spark on my otherwise dismal fantasy team), and Joe Gibbs’ old man smell (oh wait, did I say that out loud?). Not to mention the fact that when it came down to crunch time last week the Skins pulled out a nice win, even when Brunell was hobbled and looked absolutely awful throwing the ball. He played so badly in fact that by winning, the Skins actually put a lot more confidence in me with regards to the rest of their team’s abilities.

I really want Washington to win this one. Would I rather watch a man who looks like a freakin’ Chucky doll, or Clinton Portis’ next great foray into character acting? The answer, I think, is clear.
Pick: Redskins

Andy Grabia
That's why no more guys! You fire a guy you create a rival. You fire a woman you create a housewife.

Fear Clinton Portis. Fear him, Mike Shanahan. In the same way that you manhandle the Raiders every time you play them, Clinton Portis plans on manhandling you. Ooh baby, you're so nasty!

Yes, the Skins are playing the Bucs, so I guess I should talk about that game. But what is there to say? The Redskins have won 5 games in a row, and are 10-2 against NFC opponents. Of course, one of those losses was to the Bucs. Pfft. What-EVER. Despite barely beating the Eagles last week, I am predicting that the Redskins romp all over the Bucs, like Rhonell Hearn in a crowd of battery-tossing hooligans. As for Chris Simms, I agree with Steve Young, hard-nosed multi-millionaire lawyer/quarterback: you don't have the balls to win a playoff game. Not like Steve Young, street-thug-pimp-daddy scion of the American Moses, Brigham "50 Ho's" Young. Playa, take a seat wit' your daddy and his Cosby sweaters, sho nuff. This shit is locked down.
Pick: Redskins


Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4)
New England Patriots (10-6)
6:00 p.m. MST on ABC

Alex Abboud
Tom Brady, a career 9-0 in the playoffs, is coming off an MVP-caliber season, and finally has a healthy offense around him. On defense, the Pats have improved leaps and bounds in the second half, and their front seven should be very active in disrupting the Jags passing game. Jacksonville, even with Byron Leftwich back, doesn't have the firepower to keep up with the Pats, nor is their defense good enough to slam the door shut. Give them a year or two and they might be there, but not on the first weekend of 2006, and certainly not when they have to travel to Gillette Stadium.
Pick: 24-17 Patriots

Kevin Kimmis
Jacksonville comes into this game hurting. Byron Leftwich is to start after missing the last few games with a leg injury. How seriously the injury and time off will affect him isn't clear -- he's about as mobile as I am after an all-night bender -- but he will undoubtedly be rusty. David Garrard is a decent backup, but given how the offence has struggled during his starts, it doesn't bode well for the Jags if he has to come into the game. Fred Taylor is ... well, Fred Taylor; if he's healthy, it will be the first time in weeks. On defense, Mike Peterson is hurt but will also play. See where this is going?

I hate the Patriots. It takes all my self-control to watch a New England game without wanting to scream like Steve Carell getting his chest waxed in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. They played their scrubs last week and almost beat a good Miami team. My only consolation is that this could be their only post-season win, and that they will get Keith Jackson to call this game with John Madden. While the former mumbles through promos for ABC and sputters out player names like he's having a stroke, the latter can talk about the five turduckens he ate over the holidays while spewing out lines from Madden 2006 ("He was waiting for the play to develop and WHAM! -- He got developed").
Pick: Patriots

Nathan Muhly
You can’t stop Tom Brady, you can only hope to contain him. That is the tagline I’m giving this game. Why, you are so obviously asking? Because The Man Named Brady is the king of the playoffs. Three playoff runs, three Superbowls, not one loss. If his run ends this post-season it won’t be in this game. Despite playing some good ball as of late, the Jags have been missing their starting QB Byron Leftwich since November 27 (Leftwich is set to return Saturday night as their starter). This leaves a big question mark for the Jags and it leaves them hanging without David Garrard, who has won four of the past five games as their starting pivot. No doubt Leftwich is the better of the two, but he’ll be on a weak leg and out of practice coming into the game. In other words Leftwich will be a weakness and any weakness will likely be exposed pretty quickly by Pats coach Bill Belichick. I will even be so bold as to put my lofty reputation as a prognosticator on the line by predicting that Leftwich will be pulled sometime in the second half after being exploited by the injury ridden Pats secondary. Garrard will make a valiant attempt at a comeback, but in the end the Pats’ playoff toughness will shine through, extending Mr. Brady’s unbeaten streak yet again.
Pick: Patriots

Andy Grabia
Okay, people, most of you are sitting there and you're looking at this good-looking old man and you're wondering, "Who the fuck is he?" And you know what? That's exactly what you should be doing. You all know who's been running this company for the past eight years. And you all know that when I go, in no time you will be repping nobodys like Bill from "The Apprentice.

Despite the fact that I like the Patriots about as much as I like getting tasered in the scrotum, I just don't see them losing this game. It has been repeated ad nauseum, but Brady hasn't lost in the playoffs. Ever. Why would you bet against him, Belichick, and the rest of the Superbowl Champions now? Sure the Pats have had a rough year, but they still went 10-6, and are healthier than they have been all year. I think bringing Leftwich back is a mistake. The only way Jacksonville pulls this one off is if their defence causes a multitude of turnovers.
Pick: Patriots


Carolina Panthers (11-5)
New York Giants (11-5)
11:00 a.m. MST on FOX

Alex Abboud
The Panthers are coming in on a high after their Week 17 performance, while the Giants seemed to default their way into the 3rd seed as much as they got their on their own effort. Typical of young teams, the Giants gave away a handful of games that they should have won. This will be Eli's first playoff start, but it will help being in the Meadowlands, and having Tiki Barber carrying the ball 25-30 times. Carolina will need to get pressure on Eli and get production out of another skilled player on offense besides Steve Smith to have a chance. They also have experience from the Super Bowl run two years ago, which for me negates having to play on the road. Normally I'd go with Carolina, but Eli's shown a knack for leading his team back in the dying moments of the game. As long as he can finish the job and not leave it in the hands of Jay Feely, I think he does it again.
Pick: 27-26 Giants

Kevin Kimmis
Welcome to Upset Sunday as I'm calling it. Carolina is a mystery wrapped in an enigma hidden in a steaming pile of poop. How a team with this much talent and experience loses early in the season to New Orleans and Miami is beyond me. Lately they've lost to some better teams, but the loss to a Cowboys team that didn't make the playoffs stands out as a game the Panthers should have won. In short, the win over Atlanta last week when the Falcons had nothing to play for doesn't mean Carolina won't come out and lay a stinker this week.

Thankfully they play the Giants, who are likely to have a linebacking core that doesn't include a single player from their opening day roster (unless Antonio Pierce heals quickly from a high ankle sprain) and a rookie starting at cornerback. I like Strahan and Use-me-mor-a on the line, Sexico Burress is a nice addition alongside the well-dressed Amani Toomer, and Tiki Barber is having an MVP year. That said, Manning the Third only completes about 55% of his passes ... and that's at home. On Sunday, I'm betting he resembles the statue of his father outside the Superdome more than a brilliant rookie quarterback, which means Julius Peppers will eat him alive. Close, but no cigar.
Pick: Panthers

Nathan Muhly
A combination of a weak, mistake prone New York secondary and no Antonio Pierce (2nd in tackles on the G-Men’s D) should open up the field for the Panther Delhomme-Smith combination. The duo, who have connected over a hundred times for over 1500 yards this season, has been dynamite. Carolina fielded the third ranked defense and the core of their team has Superbowl experience.

Despite the fact that I like this Giants team, my feeling is that they have yet to reach their full potential and will likely come back next year with a great team. Their one hope is if Strahan and Umenyiora can create enough pressure off the corners to shut Delhomme down. On the other hand, New York’s weakness at linebacker could open up running room for DeShaun Foster who ran for 165 against Atlanta last week. In the end I expect Carolina to pull out a road victory in what could be the most exciting match up of the weekend.
Pick: Panthers

Andy Grabia
We are gonna get drunk with Russell Crowe and we're gonna head-butt some goddamn kangaroos.

I am kinda torn on this one. The Giants are 7-1 at home this year. But the Panthers are 6-2 on the road. Tiki Barber has been unstoppable all season long. But so has Steve Smith. Tom Coughlin likes to fine players for being five minutes early for a meeting. But the Panthers cheerleaders like to have lesbian coitus and fistfights in bar bathrooms. How can I choose?

The Panthers have really underachieved all season, despite having an 11-5 record. They have been as inconsistent as, well, the New York Football Giants, another team with an 11-5 record. I am going to go with the Panthers for the following reasons: a) Jeremy Shockey is gay, b) Tom Coughlin makes Bobby Knight look like Cito Gaston (figure that one out), c) Julius Peppers and d) the last name of the Giants quarterback is Manning,
Pick: Panthers


Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)
2:30 p.m. MST on CBS

Alex Abboud
These AFC North rivals split the season series, with each team winning on the other's turf, so the trend favors the boys from the Steel City. The Roethlisberger to Ward connection has been running on all cylinders, while the running combination of Willie Parker's speed and Jerome Bettis' power has kept the Steelers competitive. The Bengals can control the clock with "A Message To You" Rudy Johnson, and have a potent passing game led by Carson Palmer, and his main targets – Santa Chad Johnson and TJ Houshmanzadah Both teams will have the talent on both sides of the ball to match the other, so I see this one coming down to coaching. If Marvin Lewis can rally his troops and get them focused after two straight duds to end the regular season, the Bengals will win. If he can't, then it will be Cowher's game to lose. I think Cincinnati takes it 29-23 in Overtime, off of a defensive touchdown.
Pick: 29-23 Bengals

Kevin Kimmis
This game is almost too close to call. The teams split the regular season series, with each team winning on the road. Cincinnati comes in having lost its last two games. Although it rested its starters for most of the game last week, they were playing when they lost at home to the Buffalo Bills two weeks ago. Signs of a lack of intensity from a young team? Does that mean making the playoffs was enough for them? Don't count on it; the Bengals have too much talent, especially on offense (Palmer, the Johnsons, Houshmanzadeh), to be counted out.

A bit of honesty: I'm as big a Steelers fan as Greg is a Bears fan. That said, I honestly think they can win this game. They come in having won their last four games since back-to-back-to back losses to the Ravens, Colts and Bengals. Their defense has improved -- it bends but doesn't often break, and produces turnovers in the red zone -- but they need to improve their pass coverage and buckle down on third-and-long. As for their offense, the team will go as far as Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis will take them. Ben Roethlisberger still has a sore thumb, and looked absolutely dreadful in last week's win over Detroit.
Pick: Steelers

Nathan Muhly
Let me be the first to say that I hate the Steelers. Bill Cowher’s stupid chin makes me angry. On the other hand, the Bengals have been the feel good team of the year. Cinci, led by the awesome Carson Palmer, have reversed their bad fortune of the past couple of decades and will appear in their first playoff game in 15 years. The Bengals are the just victors of this game, however the fact that they are having to play in a wild card game is the reason I cannot pick them to win. The Bengals and the Steelers have been divergent in their play in the last half of the season. Cinci surged in the beginning, only to show weakness in the last half, losing an opportunity for the bye, and Pittsburgh appears to be playing the best they have all year. The Steelers, driven by their resurgent running game and confidence, should roll over the sieve-like Bengal’s D, who have allowed 37 points in each of their past two games (one of those to Buffalo in week 16, yech!).

Experience and momentum are on Pittsburgh’s side. They should end up with the win as long as Big Ben can complete his usual dozen passes.
Pick: Steelers

Andy Grabia
I'm talking franchise, baby. We'll get you the lunchbox. And an action figure with a monster cock.

Welcome to the dawning of the Bengals era. Forget Peyton, Marvin and Edge. Think Carson, Chad and Rudi. This team can score at will, they cause lots of turnovers, and they don't have to play the Steelers at Heinz Field. The Steelers have won four in a row, but three of those wins came against opponents in the NFC Norris (including the VASTLY overrated Chicago Bears). The other win? Against the Browns. Oooh, I'm terrified. I predict Chad Johnson scores 27 touchdowns, and gnaws off all of Troy Polamalu's hair with his Wu-Tang fangs. The only way the Bengals lose this game is if Palmer's groin injury is worse than it appears and the Bengals get stuck with John Kitna.

And what is with Kimmis hitting on Greg over the internet? Get a room, you two. A chat-room where you can send each other fake pictures of yourselves and talk about how much you love blue-collar, hard-working steel men, er, towns.
Pick: Bengals

NFL helmets are from The Helmet Project.

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At 3:46 PM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...

Andy, Here is the answer to your question.

Turducken: John Madden's miracle weight-loss recipe: a duck stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey which he first developed during his days in Raider Nation.

At 9:15 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Boy was the 'Skins-Bucs game was an ugly one. I guess Mark Brunell decided that individual success was overrated and that his team would be best served by him turning into the left-handed Kyle Orton. I couldn't believe this was the same guy we'd seen all year, he was just atrocious. You'd think that he should be worried about his job for next week's game, but when your backup is Patrick Ramsey, who's less popular in Washington than Harriet Myers, you probably won't have any sleepless nights. The bright side for the Skins is that their defense looked solid - Coach Janky Spanky himself couldn't have called a better game.

Patriots looked darn good, though it worries me that Tedy Bruschi's still hurt. That's all I have to say right now.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

I hate the Pats, but I would be crapping my pants if I were the Colts or the Broncos. New England won the way they always win: no turnovers and a couple huge plays.

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Uggh. I didn't mean to predict that Palmer would get hurt. I hate the Steelers. They are apparently following the New England Patriots method of being total assholes on the field. Pretty soon they will start knocking the ball out of every Cinci's player's hands between downs.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Alex said...

Yup, the Steelers look to have adopted the Broad Street Bullies approach to football. I hope they lose. Badly.

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Abboud and I are in agreement that the Commish has told the refs to cheat for the Steelers. Paul wants the Steelers to win so that the Colts and Pats can play in the AFC divisional final. From henceforth this game will be known as the Cincinnati screw-job.

At 4:34 PM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...

Another example of one of the worst rules in football, "Must make a football move to be considered a catch." What the hell is a football moe? Apparently you have to juke and spin after you catch the ball before its a reception.

Stupid, stupid NFL.

See you in training camp Carson, hello John Kitna.

At 5:55 PM, Blogger Kevin Kimmis said...

Yes, Pittsburgh was chippy. In fact, Kitna's TD pass was an indirect result of Polamalu being an idiot. But at least Kimo's hit on Carson wasn't intentional.

Pittsburgh now gets to get maimed by the Colts. Plus I won almost $300 on Sports Select. A win-win weekend for me. I'm taking the day off tomorrow.

At 6:32 PM, Blogger Nathan Muhly said...


I hate you, your Steelers and your turducken eating face. All in all this weekend's have left me comatose and counting down the minutes until next season starts.

At 10:46 PM, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

Kimo is a cheating bastard. That hit was on purpose. He just pretended to be upset about it. Total screwjob.

Go Colts!!!


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