My bad. If you bet the mortgage on my playoff picks, and were as disappointed in them as I was, then I sincerely apologize. I have always been good with the regular season, but the playoffs are a whole different animal. Just as some teams cannot win in the postseason, i cannot figure out the winning formula for a playoff team. Is is a strong ground game and a defense? Is it the ability to protect your terrific quarterback? Is it just great offensive balance and a clutch defense? Is it just a matter of experience? If I have learned anything from my utter whipping on the picks, then it is that I still do not know the answer.
Cardinals 14, Saints 45
Looks like their three consecutive performances under 17 points are a thing of the past after thrashing my sleeper team. The Saints were just by far an away the better team, but I feel the Cardinals made a tactical mistake. After Tim Hightower’s quick strike, Arizona came out on defense and sat back and made Brees beat them, which he did. When you seize momentum like that on the road, you absolutely cannot let the other QB, who happens to have been an MVP candidate, get into a rhythm. Not only did it even the score, but it swung momentum in the Saints favor because now Arizona had to prove they could put a drive together, which they couldn’t. I understand being cautious against a team like the Saints, but they needed to mix things up, be aggressive and risk maybe giving up the big play to not allow Brees to get into a rhythm. Would that have changed the result? Probably not, but it completely neutralized the brief advantage the Cardinals had.
This hurt too.
The Saints have to be considered favorites in that building after completely erasing the doubts after their three straight losses. Good luck Vikings. 9-0 at home doesn’t mean anything anymore. Adrian Peterson is a nice weapon, but if they fall behind then he id effectively out of the game.
Ravens 3, Colts 20
If I was to list things I could expect, a Colts defense that shut down a scary running game and frustrated Joe Flacco would not have been in the top 50. As a colts fan, I worried about Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Derrick Mason, and the offensive line that brutalized the Patriots for over 200 yards on the ground. It turns out all these worries were for naught as Gary Brackett, Antoine Bethea, and Dwight Freeney more than did their art in frustrating and flustering the Ravens attack. I said it early on that the Colts defense was for real, but I had my doubts. I don’t anymore. They are fast, aggressive, two things that the Ravens were once upon a time, and making plays all over the field. Kelvin Hayden is back, Jacob Lacey and Jerraud Powers are playing well beyond their years, and a Red Zone defense stiffer than Ray Jay on Viagra.
Even the offense was playing defense. I have been critical of Pierre Garcon for not inspiring confidence with his hands and dropping a few too many passes, but I cannot criticize anything about this play. Remember Troy Brown with the Patriots against the Chargers when he did virtually the same thing? As a Colts fan, I have always wondered what it would feel like to be a Patriots fan, getting every break, every call, and every clutch play. Now I know. Easily the play of the playoffs so far. Just in case you wanted to watch, here you are.
As an open Colts fan, I was unabashedly rooting for the Jets because I have never seen the Colts play worse year-in year-out against any team. There is just something about them that befuddles us. Philip Rivers out? No problem, Billy Volek beats us. LaDanian Tomlinson held in check or injured? No problem, Michael Turner and Darren Sproles burn us. Keep Antonio Gates in check? No problem, someone, anyone will beat us. They are the yin to our yang, except where the yin leaves the yang fuming and throwing things around rooms. However, all this is irrelevant because the Jets strolled into San Diego and put a beating on many people’s Super Bowl favorites. More on them in a bit, but things are looking up for the Colts. Granted one piece of history is against them: The last few Super Bowls have featured a team from Wild Card Week.
Cowboys 3, Vikings 34
I thought for the shortest of moments, “You know the Vikings are undefeated at home, and really really good in domes in general. Maybe they have a shot. Nahhhhhhhh,” Oops. The Cowboys looked like the slouches they usuallyare in December, Favre looked like it was ’96, the Vikings defense looked like the vaunted one we had gotten used to in the past few years, and even the offensive line looked more brick wall than sieve. Both the Saints and Vikings left doubters and their recent history in the wake of their destruction. The lesson to be learned here is that momentum’s expiration date is far sooner than we originally thought. I thought it was around 3 weeks, but those these teams made me think maybe it is shorter. Maybe, like baseball, momentum is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher, or in football terms, next week’s matchup. Regardless, The Vikes moved on, and everyone’s sexy pick, the Cowboys are headed home. Perhaps the biggest rule to picking the playoffs is that sexy doesn’t win. When you try to pick all the games at once, it is hard to tell who is the sexy team, but everyone’s sexy sleeper team is NEVER really a sleeper, sexy, or a winner. Lesson learned. On to the shocker, and sole upset, of the weekend.
Jets 17, Chargers 14
Whaaaaaaaaa? The Jets won? Well I guess that is what you can expect when I pick the Chargers. It wasn’t pretty, but after giving up 212 yards in the first half, the Jets bludgeoned and frustrated the Chargers in the second half and made the usually formidable Chargers offense look really bad. They turned them over twice at crucial times and turned the unflappable Chargers we had seen most of the year into the immature, penalty-magnet Chargers of the early 2000s. The Vincent Jackson Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty sticks out because he kicked the challenge flag off the field. Who does that and thinks that they will get away with it? It is both a scumbag thing to do, and didn’t work, partially negating what was otherwise an outstanding play. The bottom line is that the Chargers had their opportunities in the first half but only got 7 points from 212 yards. You cannot miss chances, and what’s more, you cannot miss field goals, especially chip shots. Let’s make that Rule #2. When you have opportunities you can have to cash them as completely as you can. The Chargers did not, the Jets did, so they get to return to Indianapolis where we can only assume the Colts will play their starters. Should be compelling stuff. The NFL always is.
A quick note: Very ballsy of Shonn Greene to go with LT’s TD celebration after scoring. Ouch, San Diego, ouch. Remember when the Pats made fun of Shawne Merriman’s dance in the Tryo Brown game? Here we go again.
On a more serious note, if you want to help out Haiti, the link is below.