Saturday, January 13, 2007

Brains Over Brawn

The NFL Divisional Round is home-strong. The home teams wins an outstanding percentage of the time, going 51-13 when they have a bye. But those stats are about to get worse.

I think that both the Colts and Seahawks are going to upset their opponents this weekend - not just cover their spreads, actually win outright. I don't understand how people expect a QB who threw two interceptions for touchdowns against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL while completing just two passes to his own team to win a playoff game. The Cowboys couldn't beat the Seahawks with Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens; the Bears will with Rex Grossman throwing to a crop headed by Brian Berrian? And to those who say "It will be cold!" - um, what is it in Seattle, exactly? Hot? Seattle handles wetness better than any other team, too.

The Ravens defense is good, but Peyton is better. He won't throw for 4 touchdowns, but he can drive the ball down the field. Now that the defense has stepped up, he can actually win these playoff games - he's not "bad" in the playoffs, he's made to be mortal by the better playoff defenses. The reason they used to lose was not his fault, though - it was a lack of D. The teams that knocked them out in past years did so with offense (think Brady) as much as defense. The Ravens' offense doesn't measure up to those teams, and that's part of why it's 12-3 late in the third quarter.

New Orleans - Philadelphia may be the most exciting game in a long time... and the NFL doesn't lack for excitement. I think the Saints will win and cover in somewhat of a shootout (Yeah, bold prediction, right?), though it won't be crazy high-scoring; playoff games simply don't allow for games like the Chargers and Bengals had earlier this year.

I think Marty Schottenheimer will coach the Chargers to victory over Bill Belichik's Patriots. This may be because I grew up loving Marty and hating Belichik, but I still think it's true. The best outcome would be if LaDanian Tomlinson scores the go-ahead touchdown from the 4 with about 1:30 left in the game, hanging on while the Patriots try to strip the ball out, and then Brady can't pick apart the Chargers' defense trying to drive down the field to tie it up. And if you don't understand that, you didn't watch the AFC Championships in the 1980's. :)

Belichik is a great defensive-minded coach... but it's easier to come up with schemes to stop the pass than the run. When you have an offensive line that is as good as the Chargers, a running back as good as LT, and the quarterback is good enough to keep your rush defense honest (particularly when there's such a great TE for play-action passes as Antonio Gates is for San Diego), you're just too hard to beat. Schottenheimer gets criticized for his playoff record - yet any observer would notice that he was as in those games as a coach could be, but lost on crazy endings: The Drive, The Fumble... this is an incredible coach who lost to other great coaches on occasion. He also beat them, too - and he will again this week.