Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Divisional Playoff Preview

"This really blew my mind, the fact that me, an overfed, long-haired leaping gnome should be the star of a Hollywood movie. Hmmm..."

Alright, I'm getting an early start on the previews this week because I have a ton of notes to get down. If I post these without picks, have no fear, they will be up by Saturday's first kickoff. First, I'm going to share my game notes on each of the first meetings between each team, then give you something extra at the end. We'll start with Saturday's games:


Baltimore vs. Tennessee (4:30, CBS):

Game Notes From TEN @ BAL (10/5/08)
  • Hanoli Ngata is extremely good at getting his hands up at the line of scrimmage, which is very underrated. It's almost like how Dwight Howard changes shots when he is in the middle. Ngata has the ability to change the angles of how Kerry Collins throws.
  • LeRon McClain is incredibly effective in short yardage situations. When you throw Lorenzo Neal up front, Baltimore was making every third and short. Tennessee simply had no answer for McClain all day.
  • Tennessee was very aggressive early on in terms of trying to anticipate Baltimore's snap count, and was called for two quick offsides on the first series.
  • Baltimore seems to try and move Mark Clayton behind the running back frequently, and while they did it a bunch, they rarely actually handed it off to Clayton. Seems like they're doing a lot in terms of trying to deceive Tennessee's front, and they weren't falling for it.
  • Tennessee will allow those five yard passes, but they do not allow YAC (yards after catch/contact). They are very good at open-field tackling.
  • Baltimore is vulnerable to kick returns when the runner attempts to go to the outside. A couple of times, Baltimore's specialists were way too slow getting to the sidelines, leaving the kicker having to make a play.
  • The first ten minutes were absolutely out of control. It seemed to have lasted for an hour and a half. So many penalties, and while most were on the Titans, Baltimore had their fair share as well.
  • Chris Johnson was ineffective early on at trying to bounce the ball outside. While he had limited success in doing so in the second half, the Ravens were flying to the outside run. On that note, it would be wise if Tennessee did not attempt any trickeration (end-arounds, flea flickers, etc.).
  • Kerry Collins had two INTs in his first two possessions. Furthermore, he had four picks in Super Bowl XXXV when he was with the Giants and faced Baltimore. This tells me that Collins, at least historically, can not figure out Baltimore's wild blitzing style.
  • Baltimore can be beat down the field, and in what I refer to as a center "orb," meaning that anything between the tackles after about 7-8 yards is extremely vulerable. You would think this would not be the case because of Ray Lewis, but it seems like he cheats up close in an attempt to stop the run, and you can throw over him.
  • Joe Flacco was completely ineffective on 3rd and 6+. This was true against the Dolphins as well. It will become evident early on how this game will go for the Ravens' offense. If they are unable to get at least five yards on the first two downs, they will be in a lot of trouble.
  • Baltimore's defense seems to bend at times, but they do not give up the big plays. Tennessee was able to get the ball into Baltimore territory, but for the most part ended up in fourth down situations.
  • Cortland Finnegan nearly got ejected from this game. He had two personal foul penalties on one drive, and was in a shoving match with Keith Bulluck, his teammate. I don't think he will equal this kind of frustration at home, but still, it has happened, and it could happen if Baltimore starts moving the ball.
  • Continuing on a point I already made before, McClain and Neal are absolutely smoking the Tennessee front on short yardage and goal line situations. Albert Haynesworth may not play in this game, and if that happens, look out.
  • Tennessee was giving up big cushions on the outside on third and 4-5, and repeatedly got burned by Flacco throwing quick slants to Derrick Mason. They are almost daring him to throw in that situation, and while, obviously, it would be better for the Titans for Flacco to put the ball in the air, they can't make it this easy.
  • Samari Rolle was hurt before the game, and Fabian Washington was hurt with three minutes left in the fourth.
  • After Collins completed a pass, it looked like Baltimore would spread the D out in order to eliminate Tennessee from capitalizing on an even bigger play, which leads to holes up the middle and short passes on the sidelines.
  • Tennessee was using picks very effectively downfield to get Brandon Jones and their other receivers, TEs open. This technique seemed to stimy the Ravens' D in that they were unable to switch off or make the proper adjustments.
  • Willis McGahee was not nearly as effective as we're used to seeing him, particularly at the end of the game. It seems like slamming Tennessee up the middle, even with Haynesworth around, is probably the best bet in terms of getting the running game going.
  • The play that turned the game entirely happened with six minutes left in the fourth. With Baltimore winning 10-6, Tennessee was setting up in their own territory on a third and long. A flag came in early, which we found out to be a false start on Tennessee. As the play happens, Terrell Suggs grazes Collins' helmet as he tries to swat the ball from his hand, so he gets called for a blow to the head. My question is this: On a false start penalty, shouldn't the play be dead? And if so, wouldn't the roughing the passer penalty never have happened? So, through some weird circumstances, the Titans got set up at midfield with a first and ten and were in business, instead of punting the ball, with Baltimore likely clocking the game away.
  • Baltimore's D, after that, was incredibly weak against passes down the middle. In fact, it wasn't even just this instance when that happened. I'm telling you, if the Titans are going to get by the Ravens' D, they are going to have to do it over the middle in the zone between Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
  • Tennessee tried to test cornerback Frank Walker all day long, with basically no success. This is Baltimore's fourth corner, and they got nothing on him. While Baltimore's secondary is not the best, they are a lot better than I gave them credit for.
  • If Baltimore is down late in the game, I don't have a whole lot of confidence in Flacco coming through on the road. He was incredibly shaky down the stretch when the Titans had a three point lead, but then again, it was his fifth career start, so you had to know something like that was coming. Put it this way...I'm 50/50 on whether to truly believe he can pull off a fourth quarter comeback in the two minute drill.
Final Thoughts:
I loved Baltimore after last week...I loved them. I said that they were built so that they could make a deep run into the playoffs. Here's my problem with all of this: Everyone all of a sudden is feeling like that too. If there is anything I have learned, it's that when people start agreeing with me, that's when things go horribly wrong. Baltimore, despite absolutely demolishing Miami in every facet of the game, still allowed them to be in that game. Kerry Collins has been simply dreadful against the Ravens in his career. Tennessee got one incredibly lucky personal foul penalty, and that was it. They couldn't run the ball either, so outside of one drive, they really did nothing. Something to note: Chris Johnson's splits in tight games and in blowouts are curiously different.


Final margin: 0-7 pts.84 299 3.6 18 1

Final margin: 8-14 pts.53 202 3.8 16 3

Final margin: 15+ pts.114 727 6.4 66 5

Interesting. In the first meeting, Baltimore was without Samari Rolle, and Fabian Washington got hurt just in time for Tennessee to drive on them. Baltimore needs to use LeRon McClain to quiet that crowd, which is going to be insane. Speaking of insane, Joe Flacco is way better on the road according to his splits...I know right. Say what you will about Flacco's performance in the first game, but I'm not taking too much stock into a guy who was in his fifth start in the league. All he has to remember is to do what he did last week: When in trouble, throw it away. His completion percentage was awful (9/23), but his # of picks was not (0). The only drawback is that basically, I'm taking a rookie QB on the road in the playoffs...again. But, I liken Tennessee's defense to Miami's in that it's not so much that they have a good pass rush, but the D is able to force turnovers off of errant passes. Flacco went through last week's game unscaved. It's a bandwagon pick, but I started the bandwagon.

Baltimore (+3)

Arizona vs. Carolina (8:15, FOX):

Game Notes from ARI @ CAR (10/28/08)
  • Jake Delhomme is 4-0 vs. Arizona
  • Carolina brought seven guys on the first Arizona thrid down, and Warner was able to complete a pass for the first down...this would be a continuing theme.
  • Carolina's aggressiveness is also allowing Arizona to have early success on end arounds and play action.
  • Arizona was effective in the red zone, but a miscommunication with Fitzgerald in the end zone, and two runs that went nowhere, led to a field goal.
  • At the start of the game, Arizona looks like they are much more concerned with the run and willing to let Delhomme try and beat them through the air.
  • Arizona made two third-down stops in a row; credit has to go with how tight Rolle, Hood, and Cromartie are playing their guys.
  • Neither team had any success in attempting screen passes.
  • While allowing the middle of the field to be open, Carolina's D is quick enough to fill the holes.
  • Carolina had two yards rushing in the first...two!
  • Carolina blitzes Na'il Diggs and Jon Benson with regularity.
  • Carolina sneaks their LBs up to the line on third down, and more often than not, they drop them back into coverage.
  • Arizona seemed to know exactly when they should bring pressure and when they should hold off. Karlos Dansby forces a fumble at Carolina's five yard line.
  • Carolina ran the "wildcat" offense very effectively in the four or five times they used it. Interestingly, DeAngelo Williams ran the offense in college at Memphis.
  • Arizona covered the blitz long enough for Warner to get rid of the ball, but he holds on way too long, and took a bunch of hits because of it.
  • Mushin Muhammad dropped a TD that would have made the score 10-7, but Kasay kicks a field goal to make it 10-3.
  • Arizona, for whatever reason, thought it would be a good idea to go for a fake field goal when Carolina tried to ice Neil Rackers. If they go for it (around a 38-39 yarder), and make it, 'Zona goes up 13-3.
  • Arizona made some major mental mistakes in the secondary on the two minute drive.
  • Carolina is giving up the short pass on third down.
  • Arizona continued to make really poor decisions inside the ten yard line, which happens a lot with a team that is pass-heavy.
  • Arizona seemed to be preoccupied with Carolina WRs which led to TEs being open down field.
  • Carolina is starting to figure out that running on third down, no matter what distance, is really effective. The Cards can't bring down Williams at all.
  • Edgerrin James fumbles to kill any momentum Arizona had. Carolina had major penetration up the middle on the play, and continued to do so afterwards.
  • When Arizona does not have over-the-top help for Roderick Hood on Steve Smith, Delhomme will audible out of whatever play they're in, and send Smith down the field, and he absolutely manhandled Hood all game.
  • Arizona tries a RB option pass. This is the reason that they lost this game. For some reason, the Cards felt like they had to do trick plays in order to get ahead, but if they had stuck to the game plan, they could definitely be winning this game.
  • Carolina could not cover Fitzgerald all game. Every pattern, every route, Lucas, one could do anything.
  • Warner finally started getting with the program later on in the game. He made quicker throws, was able to sense pressure's like night and day from the first half.
  • Arizona, at the time, was leading the NFL in 3rd quarter points.
  • The real downfall of Arizona was how horrendous they were tackling in this game. Steve Smith should have been, at the very least, pushed out of bounds, but manages to stay in bounds, and scores a TD.
  • Arizona botches the extra point after their score, making it a 24-23 game. Arizona played very well, but could not execute when it counted. Lack of tackling, and four points they basically gave away.
  • Arizona was driving on Carolina again, but Warner forces a pass to Arrington, he tips it, and Beason comes down with the pick. Warner looks like he is trying to do too much and is paying for it.
  • Despite passing a ton, Arizona's O-Line only was called for one holding penalty. That's a remarkable sack considering how much pressure Carolina get sending up the middle. If they are down in this game, they have a chance to come back, but their execution needs to be a lot better if they expect to hang in with Carolina in Charlotte.
Final Thoughts:
Because of some terrible coaching, the Cardinals lost the first meeting in Charlotte. Carolina ices the kicker, and they go for a fake field goal? Really? Here's what clinched the straight up pick for me: Arizona dumped Gatorade on Whisenhunt like they were going to the Super Bowl. You beat Atlanta at home! And they should have probably lost that game too! Arizona was all about winning that one home game, making a little team history, and that's it. Now, what concerns me is that there's a lot of points on the board, and the status of Anquan Boldin has still been undetermined, so who knows what you're getting there. Carolina cannot, I repeat, cannot cover Larry Fitzgerald. They had no answer for him. For me, it comes down to Arizona's lack of execution, and also, they do not have that home crowd behind him, which concerns me because they couldn't tackle at all in that first game. I've gone back and forth on this. Again, this is one of those times I just have to put my foot down. 'Zona's defense looked good last week...I think that might be it. They may have had one good game in them, and that might be about it. There is also a tremendous possibility that the Cards will run Edge, not be successful, and then become completely one-dimensional for the rest of the game. Again...the Gatorade dump...the Gatorade dump was worth about ten points, not going to lie.

Carolina (-9.5)


Philadelphia vs. New York Giants (1:00, FOX):

Game Notes from NYG @ PHI (10/9/08):
  • This game featured both Plaxico Burress and Brandon Jacobs playing. Although Burress won't be playing on know...because he shot himself and what not...Jacobs will, and without Jacobs, which is what happened in their meeting in Jersey, the Giants are a shell of a team.
  • Giants start spreading Philly's defense out early with five wide receivers, hitting the underneath receiver who was wide open.
  • Philly gets an early pick. Manning intended a pass for the underneath TE, but the pass was way too short, the DT tipped it, and then came down with it inside the 10.
  • The Eagles come out in the wildcat formation, which was very effective. DeSean Jackson lined up under center, and followed a cavalcade of blockers down the right side for a TD.
  • Jacobs is off to a quick start running over the right guard (Chris Snee). The guard play was fantastic all day, and along with Madison Hedgecock, the fullback, Jacobs simply wore out Philly early on.
  • The Eagles keep allowing Kevin Boss to get open underneath. The five to seven yard pass was available for Manning early on.
  • The Giants line up in an empty backfield. Jim Johnson (D-Coordinator), seeing this, decides to blitz Manning up the middle. Manning cannot react in time and is forced to throw a pass off his back foot, which luckily was not a turnover.
  • The Giants get into the red zone, and on a 3rd and 10, Manning lines up in the shotgun. He drops back, and has plenty of time to throw. He finds Burress in the end zone for a score.
  • The Eagles then proceed to fumble the next kickoff right back to New York at the 14-yard line.
  • Philly starts putting seven in the box in anticipation of a Jacobs' run.
  • Manning, as it seems to have happened all game, cannot sell play action worth a darn. The Eagles' D was in good position to stop the third down pass, and forced a field goal.
  • The Eagles go three and out on the next series. On 3rd down, Philly tries a bunch formation to the right, then tried to go to the left with L.J. Smith.
  • The Giants like to roll Snee around the left side. He is so good at blocking in space. Ward showed some patience on the run, but ultimately, he lacked vision for hitting the holes, which would come back to bite him throughout the game.
  • Giants get 196 yards in the first quarter. Philly had 90 seconds time of possession.
  • Manning once again could not hide play action, but was somehow able to force a ball into Boss who made a great catch for a TD.
  • Early on, when they were only down 10, McNabb start forcing balls when the running game of Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter seemed to be working.
  • The Giants like the overload one side of the line, then send a safety on the other side on a blitz.
  • Philly continues to lose focus of the Giants' running backs coming from the backfield and catching screen passes.
  • The Giants' D is vulnerable when the Eagles' backs make it to the outside of the line.
  • The Giants try a double OLB blitz on first and goal, but McNabb is able to find Hank Baskett one-on-one in the end zone for a score.
  • McNabb was not sacked in the first half.
  • When New York spreads the receivers out, Manning's first look is always the WR vs. LB matchup.
  • Steve Smith is Manning's favorite target on 3rd down.
  • Philly picked up their first penalty with 6:30 left in the third quarter.
  • Manning is able to adjust to the blitz, but he is not good at executing pass plays, either throwing before his receivers turn around, or fire it over their heads.
  • Questionable overturn of an illegal forward pass on Manning. Instead of a fourth down and a field goal attempt, Jacobs runs for a score two plays later.
  • Tom Coughlin is the most successful coach at challenging plays since the inception of instant replay.
  • McNabb rushes for 16 and a first down. While he's not running as much as he used to, he can still beat you with his legs.
  • Philly gets a fair catch interference penalty on a punt. Their mental mistakes could potentially hinder them on Sunday.
  • The Giants likes to run Jacobs and Ward in the first half, then bring Ahmad Bradshaw in once the line has been worn down.
  • Philly makes another mental mistake: 15-yard facemask penalty on 3rd down to keep the drive going.
  • Jacobs can literally break the spirit of a defensive line. The Eagles look helpless to stop him at this point.
  • Derrick Ward, for the third time in the game, runs into his own blocker and gets swallowed up behind the line.
  • Because DeSean Jackson is so quick, he is an effective decoy on fake end-arounds.
  • Philly is starting to blitz constantly trying to guess if the Giants are running. If they are winning on Sunday, this could be the point where they get the "hammer" score and put the game away.
  • Andy Reid challenged two plays in a row, both out of utter desperation, and cost his team both their challenges and two of their timeouts. Both the challenges were obviously not going to get overturned.
  • Philly does a terrible job when they are trying to run draw plays...way too much hesitation.
  • Because the Giants are going to have to account for Westbrook out of the backfield, the Eagles would be wise to run some plays that feature crossing patterns to the opposite side of the field.
  • McNabb looks completely winded down the stretch, and can't even run a play with 20 seconds to go before the two minute warning down two scores.
  • The last series of plays were poor decisions by the Eagles. On two consecutive plays of third and one and fourth and one, Philly decided that they were going to try and pound it with Westbrook. Westbrook is simply not the kind of back you want to do this. Play action would have been much more effective...even a QB draw play would have worked in that situation.
Final Thoughts:
The two reasons I picked this game to watch over the second contest in the Meadowlands: 1.) I didn't see the first one, and 2.) When you are talking about the Giants, it starts and stops with Brandon Jacobs. Watching a game that he was no part of is absolutely pointless. We haven't seen this kind of strength and speed since Earl Campbell (well, I didn't see him persay...YouTube is way helpful though). Jacobs literally broke Philly's spirits when he ran on them. Again, not taking anything away from Philly's defense, but there has been nothing to tell me that they are going to even slow Jacobs down this week. McNabb is a fantastic QB (as first reiterated at nausea here), and Westbrook usually gets his against the G-Men (something like 150 total yards/game against them), but you don't have the distractions with Plaxico know...shot himself (if you think for even two seconds that's going to get old, you're dreaming...I love how a guy shoots himself, and his reward was a suspension for the rest of the year, and the mayor of New York coming out and attempting to make an example of him...way to go Plax...). If all that wasn't enough, here's what clinched it for me. My Mom throws down the newest copy of SI on the kitchen table, and look what's doing here! A picture of DeSean Jackson with the heading "Philadelphia is Dangerous, Bring On The Giants." Oh man. Can I go ahead and assume that the Eagles were not behind that headline. If we've learned anything, it's that when you're on the cover of SI, and they proclaim you're going to do something big, it's just not going to happen (I think this is definitely more of a team thing than individual...Phelps, Tiger, LeBron, they made it happen, but all those covers about "Perfection" last year (which I kept because...well it's the Pats), the fact that they have not gotten any prediction right, ummm...ever, not the best place for Philly to be right now, put it that way). My Dad says I'm crazy for taking the Giants based on a magazine cover and superstition. Well, it's not because of that...I mean that put it over the top for me, but it's Brandon Jacobs. He was the reason the Giants simply covered every single game before he got hurt. Philly beating the Giants twice in Jersey in the same year...hmmm...questionable.

New York (-4)

San Diego vs. Pittsburgh (4:45, CBS):

Game Notes from SD @ PIT (11/18/08)
  • Gametime conditions are similar to what they are expected to be for Sunday.
  • Townsend and McFadden, two of the three best Steeler corners, were out for this game.
  • Nice crossing pattern by Chris Chambers to get a first down. On the route, Malcolm Floyd effectively runs interference for him and takes both his man and Chambers' man with him downfield.
  • Troy Polamalu makes an unworldly pick. This is one of those things that could happen on Sunday, but I think Pittsburgh may rely too heavily on him making a big play on Sunday...that's something to look for on Sunday. Can Pittsburgh win this game without all the bounces going their way, because it seems unlikely that will happen.
  • Pittsburgh shows nice blitz pickup early on. Ben is able to roll out of play action and find Hines Ward down the sidelines for a first down.
  • The Charger corners are extremely fast and athletic. They are going to be able to keep up with the Steelers' receivers, who do not possess the breakaway speed that you need to beat San Diego deep.
  • Tomlin tries to kick a 51-yard field goal at Heinz Field. This may be acceptable if it was your first time coaching there and had no idea about the history of how bad the kicking is there. Tomlin should have known better. Those are the kind of mistakes you simply can't make in the playoffs.
  • The Chargers are targeting the middle of the field, using their TEs to get nice gains (at least seven each time).
  • San Diego gets a bogus pass interference call on Pittsburgh and responds by scoring on a Tomlinson TD the next play.
  • The road team has scored first in seven of the last nine meetings between these two.
  • Roethlisberger is picking up the blitz well. What's interesting is that when the Steelers are showing an empty backfield, the Chargers are faking the blitz and dropping seven into coverage.
  • Willie Parker is running effectively up the middle, offset between the center and the right guard.
  • In order to beat the corners, Ben is having great success in throwing short passes and bubble screens. The Chargers are tackling for the most part, but there are still yards after contact to be gained by the Steeler receivers.
  • San Diego makes a big goal line stance. Ben tipped off the run, and Mewelde Moore was stopped before he could even come close to the line of scrimmage. This will become an ongoing theme: Pittsburgh's inability to execute on short yardage using the run. They have experimented with the I-formation, which I think they will need to carry out to win this game. Asking Parker to take on this SD front by himself is crazy.
  • James Harrison comes around the Charger left tackle, forces a Rivers fumble in the end zone which leads to a safety. It will be interesting to see how the Chargers expect to pick up Harrison and Woodley coming from the outside with just Sproles in the backfield.
  • Pittsburgh was called for five penalties already. We're at the 11:30 mark of the 2nd quarter.
  • The Chargers record their third sack of the game. They are confusing the Steelers up front by running different stunts attacking the interior of the line. They are getting great penetration. Of course you have to attribute a lot of that to Jamal Williams, one of the better nose tackles in the league.
  • Tomlinson has been held in check all game. There was one drive where he had consecutive runs of eight and seven, but that has been it so far.
  • At the time of this game, Pittsburgh was being outscored in the last two minutes of a half 51-3 at home.
  • The punting games are remarkably different. Pittsburgh is not even starting the same punter this week as they did in this game which was played just two months ago. Scifres is a mortal lock to be a factor in this game for San Diego.
  • Real nice drive going for the Chargers under two minutes. Floyd makes a nice sliding catch for a first, then they come back with LT on a well-spaced screen pass for another first.
  • Rivers tries to go down the field, but the pass slips on him, and Harrison comes up with the pick. For his career, Rivers has just two INTs inside the red zone.
  • Ben is really accurate when he's trying to thread the needle, and San Diego just seems inches away from making a big play or, at the very least, making a deflection.
  • Great play by Holmes to fight to get out of bounds to stop the clock and set up a last-second field goal before the half
Final Thoughts:

This pick was completely predicated on the Ravens/Titans pick. Here's the thinking: If I were to have picked Tennessee, it is almost a certainty that I'm picking San Diego in this game. I'm not going to lie, I can totally see a Tennessee/San Diego AFC Championship game. It's just so hard for me to believe that Norv Turner is going to get this team to back-to-back AFC Championship games. I mean that's something you do have to consider. I know that Norv(!) coached a really good game last week, and San Diego just dominated Indy all game long to the point where I forgot who was coaching, and then they show the Norv Turner face, and all was right with the world. This game boils down to Philip Rivers for the Chargers, as, unfortunately, I think Darren Sproles will be held in check because the Steelers have been able to gameplan for him for a whole week without having to worry about LT. Rivers has a few things going against him. I mean, he was the highest rated passer in the league, so these numbers won't be horrible or anything, but first, his TD/INT on the road was 16/8 compared to 18/3 at home, and what's even worse is his numbers with under 2:00 left in a half: 48.9% completions, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 71.9 QB rating. The word out of Pittsburgh is that Roethlisberger is back to full strength, which I put basically no stock into because if you have a "mild" concussion, you don't get carted off the field in a stretcher and rushed to a hospital. Here's the thing, if we're going to talk about Rivers' numbers, we have to talk about Ben's. 63.3% completion, 6 TDs, 9 INTs, 77.7 QB rating at home. Yikes. See, here's where I'm conflicted. The whole game of Pittsburgh is to run the ball and have Roethlisberger be the "no mistake" guy. That's why they won 14 and 15 games his first two years. It will come down to Willie Parker's effectiveness. He had 115 yards against San Diego in similar conditions (cold, wet) at Heinz Field. I like the fact that the Steelers are going with the I-Formation to lighten the brunt of force he will face (hopefully). Also, take a look at the yards given up by San Diego in the first game (423 total, Ben went over 300 passing, and Parker had over 100 rushing), then look at what the Chargers did on offense (225 total yards, 2 INTs by Rivers). If this game becomes a battle of field position (which it most likely will), a huge advantage goes to San Diego and their special teams. Scifres is the best punter in the game, and Sproles is better than anything Pittsburgh has to offer returning kicks. However, if I pick San Diego here, it means that the AFC Championship game will be in San Diego! Can you imagine an 8-8 team hosting a game to go to the Super Bowl? Still, I look at all those yards by Pittsburgh, and yet, they only scored 11 points (17 if you want to get technical). This is why the Ravens/Titans game scares me now. Picking Tennessee actually narrows down the variabilities on who to choose in this game. If Tennessee wins, it's obvious that Pittsburgh is going to go above and beyond to get another crack at the Titans in Nashville after the "towel incident" from the first game. If you pick Baltimore, then it becomes wide open because both teams will be fighting for the right to host the AFC Championship game. So, with that being said, I like Pittsburgh, but I can't see them winning by that much.

San Diego (+6)

So that's it. Again, pretty much zero confidence in all of this. Here's a good trick if you ever try and make picks for a living. Say who you're picking, but point out a bunch of stuff that the other team does well. Then, if the pick doesn't come through, you can go back and be like "yeah, I knew they might do that well," or "they should have seen that coming." Very easy formula. You can go 0-4, but be like "well, I did point that out," and all is well with the world. Of course I want to go 4-0, but at this point, and in this season...who knows? Anyway, enjoy the best weekend of football of the season. Take care. Peace.


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