Monday, January 03, 2005

Mondays (Play)Off! Preview

O, the beauty of the NFL! After what turned out to be a relatively unmemorable regular season—plagued by injuries to key players, marred by embarrassingly bad coaching, chock full of me-first subplots—the league gives itself an opportunity for redemption. Now, we return to football in its purest form. No longer will we be bombarded by touchdown pass-counts, coaches holding inanimate turf solely responsible for poor play, or contract talk. We’re back to the basics—win or go home. Nothing else matters.

Except, of course, our predictions!

Welcome to the first annual Mondays Off! playoff prediction edition. Let’s get a few of the logistics out of the way first:

-These predictions are for recreational purposes only, and for that reason, we here at Mondays Off! ignore the artificial Vegas spreads. Only wins and losses matter.
-While we’ll be predicting the entire playoff scenario, we reserve the right to update these picks later, as most of them surely will be wrong.
-These picks will be based on the assumption that the NFC playoff games will actually be played, despite the fact that we all wish they would just quietly go away.

So without further ado, away we go…

Wild Card Round- NFC (seeds in parentheses)

St. Louis Rams (5) at Seattle Seahawks (4)

It’s truly a shame that, according to NFL playoff rules, one of these two teams must be declared a winner and thereby advance to the next round. Trust us, we checked. The other unfortunate reality is that all of us football fans must endure the inevitable "our first goal was just to get in, and now we did that, so anything can happen!" crap for the next week from two heartless teams. The burning questions for this game:

-Will the Seahawks receivers (including, heaven help us, Jerry Rice) actually catch the airborne football, or would they rather continue to play patty-cake with it? How Matt Hasselbeck hasn’t ripped out his own trachea by now is beyond me. He would’ve thrown for 9000 yards this year if his receivers had played offense instead of defense. I guess they were jealous of Troy Brown.

-How long can the Rams continue to overcome the turnovers and horrifying special teams? Is this an evil little game Mike Martz plays with his team to get them psyched up? Hey Mike, beating yourselves doesn’t count for as much as beating the opponents. It’s just part of the game. Sorry.

-Did Armen Keteyian really interview his doppelganger Mike Martz this week, or was that just a special effect using mirrors, like on Star Trek? Has anyone ever seen these two in the same room?

Anyway, the Rams have now won two games in a row, which is about the consistency limit for this team. They can overcome turnovers in the dome, but not in the chilly, rainy conditions in Seattle. This game will come down to which quarterback throws the ball to his own guys, and Mondays Off! won’t be picking Marc Bulger in that situation.

Mondays Off! Official Prediction: Seahawks 31, Rams 24

Sidebar to Shaun Alexander: Shut up about your rushing title. You weren’t "stabbed in the back." Your team won the division, and you were given 19 opportunities to gain 83 yards. You came up a yard short. That’s the game you play. Ask Kevin Dyson about coming up a yard short when it really matters.

Minnesota Vikings (6) at Green Bay Packers (3)

Mike Tice and the Vikings didn’t just back into the playoffs this year—they were dragged, kicking and screaming, losing 7 of their final 10 games. And now they have to head to Lambeau, which doesn’t bode well for an offense built for the AC. Mike Sherman is apparently worlds better at calling plays than his offensive coordinator, and the switch has paid off more than almost any other coaching decision this year.* The Packers are banged up at wideout, but it won’t matter in the cold, as Ahman Green and the offensive line will steamroll the weak-willed Vikings. No squeaker this time.

*What, exactly, does the offensive coordinator do, if he doesn’t call the plays? Is he now solely in charge of printing those cool overhead pics of the defense and handing them to the quarterback when he trots off the field? I’m pretty good with computers—I’d do that for half of what the current Packers coordinator gets paid. Hear that, Green Bay? I’m available to start at training camp!

Mondays Off! Official Prediction: Packers 27, Vikings 17

Wild Card Round- AFC

New York Jets (5) at San Diego Chargers (4)

The Rams exposed a serious problem with the Jets yesterday: they really, really, really can’t throw the ball down the field. Even Justin McCareins, who was a terrific deep threat for Steve McNair and the Titans, now plays with Chad Pennington as though he’s tethered to the line of scrimmage with about 7 yards of slack. Santana Moss seems destined to spend his career scampering 42 yards laterally for 8 yard outs. Some people blame the play-calling, while others attack Pennington’s arm strength. As with all things in sports, I’m sure it’s some combination of the two. But it comes down to this: If someone (that’s you, Marty Schottenheimer) figures out how to stop Curtis Martin, the Jets are finished. It’s that simple. And either way, the dink-and-dunk Jets offense won’t be able to throw up 28 points, which is what they’ll need to do to keep up with Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers.

Mondays Off! Official Pick: Chargers 31, Jets 17

Denver Broncos (6) at Indianapolis Colts (3)

Two things to note here:

Thing 1) Yesterday afternoon, Jim Sorgi, Dominic Rhodes, James Van der Beek and some girls put up two touchdowns against the Broncos defense, IN DENVER.
Thing 2) Jake Plummer will be the Broncos’ starting quarterback in a playoff game, ON THE ROAD.

CUT THAT MEAT! CUT THAT MEAT!

Mondays Off! Official Pick: Colts 38, Broncos 20

In summary: okay, we picked all the higher seeds. It couldn’t be helped in this round. Look at the matchups. The other thing we noticed here at Mondays Off! was the high scoring, when the playoffs usually are defensive battles. Not this year—or at least not in the first round. Anyway, moving right along…

Divisional Round- NFC

Seattle Seahawks (4) at Philadelphia Eagles (1)

Make no mistake, losing Terrell Owens was absolutely the worst possible thing that could’ve happened to the Eagles. He was the second best player in the NFL this year, and would’ve been the best, were it not for Peyton Manning’s historic achievements. Too many people, though, have forgotten that it was essentially this team, sans TO, that made it to the NFC championship game three consecutive years. Last year, they might have gotten past the Panthers if they hadn’t lost Brian Westbrook to injury. This year Donovan McNabb has someone else (Westrbrook) to rely on, even if it’s not TO. Owens might’ve been the best player on the team, and McNabb might be the leader, but Westbrook is the most valuable. And he’ll be facing a Seahawks team that barely eked out the worst division in football by barely beating a Falcons team with Matt Schaub at QB. Yikes.

Mondays Off! Official Pick: Eagles 27, Seahawks 17

Green Bay Packers (3) at Atlanta Falcons (2)

Not too long ago, Michael Vick strode into a snowy Lambeau Field and single-handedly dismantled Brett Favre and his Lambeau mystique. This time, even though he’s playing at home, he won’t be so fortunate. Let the record show that this is easily the toughest game in our Mondays Off! scenario to call, but I just don’t trust the Falcons. They rely on Michael Vick and his Vick effect too much, they rely on a playmaking, but touch-and-go defense too much, and they rely on Warrick Dunn too much. Despite Brett Favre’s troublesome history in domes, I trust him and his offensive line more than the Falcons. This will, though, be the first low-scoring game of the playoffs.

Mondays Off! Official Pick: Packers 17, Falcons 13

Divisional Round- AFC

San Diego Chargers (4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1)

The statement that the Pittsburgh Steelers made yesterday should not be overlooked and cannot be overstated. Their B-team (no Roethlisberger, no Bettis) went out and manhandled a Buffalo team that had, for the last month, played better than anyone else in the league. To be honest, Mondays Off! had Buffalo primed and ready to be our trendy Super Bowl pick, if only they could’ve sneaked into the playoffs. But those Bills ran into a brick wall with this Steeler group, and I’m not sure there’s anyone out there who is ready to face them. The Chargers have a very nice core of guys to build around (finally), but they’re staring at a buzz saw in Pittsburgh.

Mondays Off! Official Pick: Steelers 27, Chargers 16

Indianapolis Colts (3) at New England Patriots (2)

Bill Belichick has been a magician again this year, out-scheming injury after injury to keep his team on track. But it’s time. These Colts, who have suffered so many heartbreaks at the hands of Adam Vinatieri, Willie McGinest, Tom Brady and Ty Law that Peyton Manning’s collection of voodoo dolls outgrew his closet months ago, are ready. The thought of lining up opposite Troy Brown in a playoff game must have Brandon Stokley licking his crustached lips. Peyton’s been playing this entire season with a chip on his shoulder—the one thing that’s been missing from his game all these years—and he and his flawed defense are ready to take it to the Patriots, even in the cold. I may regret betting against Tom Brady, but I just can’t see them winning this one.

Mondays Off! Official Pick: Colts 34, Patriots 24

Conference Championship Round- NFC

Green Bay Packers (3) at Philadelphia Eagles (1)

All year, there’s been a nagging feeling in my gut about the Eagles—they just don’t stop the run. They have a very good secondary and a terrific pass-rusher in Jevon Kearse, but we at Mondays Off! have been waiting for someone to stuff the ball down their throat, and we think Green Bay will finally step up and do it. The weather won’t be a factor. The Philly faithful could be, but Brett Favre shouldn’t have any trouble with that, especially if the Packer offensive line can dominate the Philly blitzkrieg. In this game, the Eagles will truly miss Terrell Owens for the first time, as their weak receivers won’t be able to take advantage of an average Green Bay secondary. There aren’t many quarterbacks whom we’d pick on the road in Philly, but Brett Favre is one of them. After four straight NFC Championship game losses, you have to wonder how the Philly front office will react.

Mondays Off! Official Pick: Packers 20, Eagles 10

Indianapolis Colts (3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1)

At some point, you have to worry about a quarterback who has won nearly 30 straight games. It’s just not natural. Ask Mike Vanderjagt about making all those consecutive field goals last year, then tanking one that mattered in Week 1 against the Pats. But Ben Roethlisberger seems to be one of those guys who is just immune to outside pressure. Maybe it comes with having your own hamburger. Once you’ve eaten a burger covered in fried egg, you realize what’s really important, and that it could all be over in the blink of an eye. Either way, this kid is just special, and he won’t be asked to win this game, just as he hasn’t been asked to win any others. The Steelers proved yesterday that they can win without him (and just about everyone else—who DID play in that game? Terry Bradshaw? Lynn Swann? Bubby Brister? I really have no idea.) and the Colts just don’t have enough defense. Sadly, no one in the Colts seems to realize this, as they keep giving huge contracts to replaceable offensive players like Brandon Stokley.

Mondays Off! Official Pick: Steelers 34, Colts 27

The Super Bowl

Pittsburgh Steelers (1) vs. Green Bay Packers (3)

It’s too bad we’re all going to have to wait until February to see the AFC officially beat down the NFC when it really matters. Though we’ve had a pretty good run of exciting Super Bowls recently, this won’t be one of them. Pittsburgh has been the class of the NFL all year, and with Terrell Owens’s ankle went any hope of an interesting Super Bowl game. Brett Favre will be the sentimental favorite, of course, but the Packers won’t even know what hit them.

Mondays Off! Official Pick: Steelers 31, Packers 13

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Factor needs to get his own blog and stop trying to steal other people's --

Week 17 blows.

I take that back. I won my fantasy football championship this year in my third consecutive championship game appearance. I was one Keith Bulluck fumble recovery TD away from becoming my FFL's version of Marv Levy's Buffalo Bills. People would say, "That Factor, he was a hell of an FFL owner, but he never could win the big one." That would be sad. My one mistake this time would have been giving Manning the token start this week because, get this, I thought the championship game would have been marred by sitting the man that got me there. Nevermind that my FFL team is not really a team. Forget that I'm in this for a plaque that has yet to exist (after 4 years) not the Lombardi trophy. And don't bother with the fact that I couldn't possibly injure a $98 million dollar future Hall of Fame QB's pride if I talked his wife into sleeping with the team. I'm a sick, twisted man.

But other than that Week 17 blows.

Sorry for that little bit of self-indulgence. It hurts to realize how ridiculous you are.

The good news is that the playoffs are here!

Have we ever seen worse performances by win-and-in teams than this year. Buffalo, Minnesota, the Jersey Jets and almost Seattle all totally tanked their games. Two of those losing teams slid in by virtue of one of the other teams tanking worse. That's embarassing.

Haberman - no amount of passing reference will EVER make up for blowing the one big opportunity to start the "cut that meat" chant within earshot of Mr. Manning himself. That is something that we'll both have to live with. FOREVER.

Now, on to the Colts. No one can fathom the horrible self-loathing that I'll go through if the Colts bow out against the Patriots AGAIN. No one. It will be the lowest point in my sports life. I'll spend the rest of the week sitting quietly in a dark room, silent other than the occaisional, "Peyton, why do you hate me when all I show you is love?" and the quiet crackle of the burning of my brand new #88 jersey. At that point I, myself, would feel like a complete and total personal failure. If that happens, folks, put me on suicide watch.

However, I like the prospect of little-white-guy-from-Louisiana going up against I-just-learned-to-play-CB-and-I'm-not-nearly-as-good-as-my-3-INT's-and-Paul-Maguire-say-I-am-just-ask-that-WR-from-Miami-whatever-the-hell-his-name-was. I feel good about this time. We saw the under-spoken Marvin "Gardens" Harrison nearly strain his face muscle getting fired up in the season opener, and we're going to see a bunch of hellions this time. The D-line is playing as well as any in the league as evidenced by their 45 sacks and a couple of solid performances overall against the rush in the past few games. I feel good about this game. Of course, there's still that loseable game against Denver standing in the way. But Denver's D isn't really big on tackling Colts' receivers (I believe it interferes with their tea parties), so you'll have to pardon me for looking ahead.

Did anyone know that Kordell Stewart now plays for the Baltimore Ravens?

I'm strangely intrigued by this whole NFC thing. It's like the XFL. You were curious, so you tuned in for a couple games. Eventually you realized the football sucked worse than the former WWF, so you stopped watching. But seeing as how the NFC playoffs only last three weeks, by the time I realize that they suck, they'll be over. It's like the Washington Generals having to go through a playoff to get spanked by the Globetrotters (who, I might add are about to begin a tour). Not the current crappy Globetrotters, I mean the old school Globetrotters. I'll definately be tuning in, though.

Did you know that 58% of St. Louis football fans think that the Rams are going to the SuperBowl? How can you be so overwhelmingly excited about a team that went 8-8 and barely squeaked into the playoffs thanks only to yet another late season collapse by the Vikings?

On second thought, screw the NFC playoffs.

GO COLTS!!

(By the way, the Factor is far too lazy and not nearly clever enough to carry his own blog and will continue to troll Max and Haberman's.)

2:34 PM  

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