Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Sheepdog picks the NFL Playoffs

As promised last week, today I'm picking the NFL Playoffs from start to finish. It seems like only yesterday that we were talking about the lockout and wondering whether there would be a 2011 season. Now, the regular season is over and it's time to crown another Super Bowl Champion.

The 2011 NFL season was interesting, to say the least, and held several surprises for us. The so-called "Dream Team" Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to be the class of the league. They fell flat on their beaks. The Buffalo Bills' fast start was a surprise as was the Detroit Lions success, and who would have thought the Indianapolis Colts would have a 0-13 start ?

Now that the regular season is over, the main question is, "Will the Packers repeat ?" If they do, they
Logo of the National Football League Playoffs,...
Image via Wikipedia
will be the first team in seven years to do so (New England won Super Bowl XXXVIII and XXXIX). Another question might be, "Which of the NFL divisions is the worst ?" There's two contenders for that title -  the AFC West and the NFC East. I'll give my opinion on that later in this article. Now, it's time to pick 'em, from the first Wild-Card Game to Super Bowl XLVI. Hang on.

NFC Playoffs

NFC Wild-Card Games
  • #6 seed Detroit Lions @ #3 seed New Orleans Saints - Detroit has had a surprisingly great year. However, these young lion cubs must travel to face Drew Brees and the Saints #1 ranked offense, which is undefeated at home this year. New Orleans wins this game easily. Sorry "cubbies" but your season ends Saturday.
  • #5 seed Atlanta Falcons @ #4 seed N.Y. Giants - Of all the playoff games this year, this is the toughest one to pick. I could almost flip a coin and say "pick 'em," because I'm not real sure about this one. The Giants reached the playoffs by winning the sorry NFC East, which I would rank as "The NFL's Worst Division" but for one thing -  "The Dream Team" Eagles won their last four games convincingly beating their opponents by at least two touchdowns each time. So, there's hope for this division yet. However, in regards to the Giants, they were swept this year by the division's worst team - the 5-11 Washington "Deadskins." Oops, did I really say that ? Sorry ... I meant Redskins. Both of those losses were by two touchdowns !! Due to those two debacles, I can't pick the Giants. The "Dirty Birds" will be out in force in the Big Apple, and the Giants are one and done. Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin will likely be looking for a new job come Monday, because the Giants have gone to the Birds. I'll take the Falcons.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
  • Atlanta Falcons @ #1 seed Green Bay Packers - Two words - Lambeau Field. No visiting team wants to play in Lambeau Field against the Packers during the playoffs, particularly not dome teams. This pick's easy. The Falcons will get plucked by the CheeseHeads. I'll take Green Bay.
  • New Orleans Saints @ #2 seed San Francisco 49ers - San Francisco surprisingly won the NFC West. However, 2 of their 3 losses were at home to St. Louis and Dallas - teams they should have beaten easily. Furthermore, the Saints ain't St. Louis or Dallas. Heck, they've won three more games this year than Dallas and St. Louis combined !! The 49ers are young and haven't been to the Super Bowl since winning the franchise's 5th Super Bowl title almost 17 years ago. The Steelers won't have to worry about the 49ers tying their record of six this year, because the 49ers are also one and done. I'm sticking with Drew Brees and the Saints.
NFC Championship - New Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers

These two teams met to open the NFL season back in September with Green Bay winning a high-scoring contest by a touchdown. Both Green Bay and New Orleans were ranked in the top 5 in total offense in 2011. However, both were sorry on defense with New Orleans ranking 24th and Green Bay 32nd (dead last.) With high-powered offenses going against poor defenses, this game could be another high-scoring affair. The only thing that might change that could be the weather at Lambeau Field. However, like I said earlier, visiting teams don't want to play at Lambeau during the playoffs, particularly a dome team. The weather at Lambeau will be much cooler than it was in September favoring the Packers. The weather may be different, but the game's outcome will be the same. I've went with the Saints until now, and they've made a good run, but now I'm sticking with the Packers. Green Bay will repeat as NFC Champion. The only question left is, who will stand between them and a second straight Lombardi Trophy when they get to Indy ? I'll tell ya ... next.

AFC Playoffs

AFC Wild-Card Games
  • #6 seed Cincinnati Bengals @ #3 seed Houston Texans - On December 11, Houston beat Cincinnati in Cincinnati 20-19, and it was the last game Houston won this year. They've lost three in a row. Houston has lost multiple starting quarterbacks to injury this year and is a young football team. They will not snap out of their slump in losing their fourth game in a row and the Bengals avenge that 12/11 loss. Go ahead and stick a fork in the Texans - they're good and done like good Texas barbeque.
  • #5 seed Pittsburgh Steelers @ #4 seed Denver Broncos - Tebow, Tebow, Tebow -welcome to the NFL playoffs - you better get prayed up, dude. Tim Tebow gets his first NFL Playoff start against the #1 defense in the NFL - not a spot a young quarterback wants to be in. Steelers' Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau is a defensive mastermind who is sure to throw multiple defensive schemes at Tebow to confuse him. the Broncos backed into the playoffs and won the AFC West only because the Raiders lost their last game, too. The Broncos finished the year on a three-game losing streak and would be home watching the playoffs on TV if they were in any other division in the NFL. Instead, they are in as the Champ of "The Worst Division in the NFL" simply because the Raiders, Chargers, and Chiefs suck worse than they do. Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, and gang will give Tebow a rather rude welcome to the playoffs and show him exactly how defense is played in the NFL. The Steelers defense will even score in this game giving the Steelers the win by at least a couple of touchdowns. The game has the potential to be the worst of Tebow's young career.
AFC Divisional Playoffs
  • Pittsburgh Steelers @ #2 seed Baltimore Ravens - As a Steelers fan, this is not a game I want to see since Baltimore swept the Steelers during the regular season. Plus, the Ravens are undefeated at home. Both teams have played inconsistent football this year, and in my opinion, the Steelers only played well in four games - wins over Seattle, Tennessee, New England, and Cincinnati. All of those were at Heinz Field. I felt like the Steelers had to have a bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs in order to make a run at the Super Bowl this year. They need the rest and the time to heal some nagging injuries. They missed an opportunity to secure homefield with their sorry performance against the 49ers a few weeks ago. It's hard for one team to beat another three times in one season even though the Steelers did it to Baltimore on their way to the Super Bowl XLIII title. I also know that my fellow Steelers fans aren't gonna like me for this, but I'm gonna have to take Baltimore in this one. I'll be pulling for the Steelers, though, and if there's one game I pick wrong, I hope it's this one. The problem is that the Steelers just haven't been playing good, consistent football. I may be a Steelers fan, but I'm a realist, too. Maybe next year. The Ravens are going to the AFC Championship.
  • Cincinnati Bengals @ #1 seed New England Patriots - Just like teams don't like playing the Packers at Lambeau during the playoffs, neither do they like playing the Patriots in Foxboro, either. There's no reason to spend much time analyzing this one. I'll take New England. It could be a blow-out.
AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots

If there was someway both of these teams could lose in this game, I'd be all for it. I hate both of them. The Ravens define the word "Thug," and the Patriots, especially Tom Brady, define "arrogance." That being said, winning Championships is about one thing - defense. The Ravens ranked #3 in total defense during the regular season while the Patriots were 31st. The only team ranked worse defensively than the Patriots - the Green Bay Packers.

In the last few years, other teams have showed that the way to beat the Patriots is to constantly harass Brady - hit him, knock him down, sack him, and just thoroughly beat him up. If you do, he gets upset and reacts like a spoiled brat that doesn't get his way. The "thuggish" Ravens should have no problem doing that. Since weather could also be a factor in this game, I'll take Baltimore. I also think there's the potential for Brady to get knocked out of the game. If that happens, the game gets ugly and the "Black Birds" go on a rout.

Super Bowl XLVI - 
Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers

Image via Wikipedia
Green Bay comes into the Super Bowl with the NFL's worst defense and 3rd ranked offense hoping to repeat as Super Bowl Champ. A victory would give them their 5th Lombardi Trophy tying them with Dallas and San Francisco behind only Pittsburgh with six. The Baltimore Ravens, on the other hand, had the 3rd ranked defense and 15th ranked offense and won their only Super Bowl title in 2001 (Super Bowl XXXV).

A few weeks ago, I predicted on Facebook that, "... Green Bay will reach the Super Bowl but NOT repeat. Super Bowl Champ will be the AFC North division champ." In addition, since "defense wins championships," I'm sticking with that prediction. Green Bay has not seen a defense as tenacious as the Ravens' this year, and Ray Lewis is hungry for another ring since he's getting close to the end of his career. If there's anybody who is a master at getting his comrades on defense fired up, it's Lewis.

So, I'm picking the Baltimore Ravens to win Super Bowl XLVI. For a Steelers fan, that's an extremely hard thing to do because we don't like the Ravens at all. However, we share something in common - a love for good defense and winning championships.

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The Second Chance Sheepdog said...

Well, I sure blew it with my picks this weekend. The only game I got right was the Saints win over the Lions. Guess that's why I'm not a professional gambler.

The Second Chance Sheepdog said...

WOW !! This years playoffs are crazy. At this point, the only thing I've really picked correctly is the AFC Championship matchup.

The Second Chance Sheepdog said...

I really blew it with my NFL Playoff picks. I was only 3 for 11. Sad, just sad.