Sunday, January 20, 2008

NFL Blogging: Third Round Playoff Picks

After my disastrous 1-3 outing last week you'd think I'd be ready to change any and everythign to get my mojo working again. But you'd be wrong. And, again, I'm going to try and put my picks up right before the games start.

This week, it's the conference championships with the right to go to the Super Bowl on the line. The first, New England/San Diego is obviously the big one. The winner is the odds-on favorite to win the championship. And it's yet another battle against a tough opponent to see if the Patriots can continue to be perfect. While the second, the Giants at Green Bay is less eyecatching and will prove, no doubt, to be a miserable game for all the cold, I'm still going to be tuning in.

Enough prologue, let's get to the picks.

  • NEW ENGLAND over San Diego

It all comes down to whether you have the stones to pick against New England. I, obouvsly, do not. But it's a close run thing. Even when you toss out the two touchdown spread, as I have. Any time you have a 17-0 team involved, there's just no telling what you're going to get. And I maintain that the Patriots have to lose. That there's just no way that they can pull off a perfect season. And that the bst, the most fitting, the most likely time for their run to collapse is in the playoffs. If they get through this game it's on to the Super Bowl. And they'll get a week off. Time for the bruises and aches they've built up to heal and for their coaching staff to prepare for a game against an inferior opponent from the NFC. If they're goiNG to lose, it's going to happen this week.

But it's the Chargers. I know I wrote them off last week and got burned by it. I know that Norv Turner has morphed into the second coming of Vince Lombardi. And the team managed to weather the loss of both their starting quarterback - Phillip "I think I'll taunt the crowd now" Rivers - and running back to shock the Colts. The Patriots are on a whole 'nother level and have beaten them, soundly both times they've played this season.

But those two games happened early in the season, before the Bolts put it together. The Chargers have played like a different team since then. And that makes this game the third time they've matched up this season. That rubber match can bounce funny, usually in the underdog's favor.

But I don't think that's going to happen here since the Pats hate the Chargers as much as anyone. San Diego, remember, hasn't liked them even before losing to them in the playoffs last year, that first round exit that cost them their coach. And when the early season schenanigans broke, there were a lot of Chargers mouthing off. The Pats remember. And they live to make people pay for those sorts of comments. Just like they did in those first two meetings.

But, in the past few weeks, the Patriots haven't had the same go for the throat mentality they had at the start of the season. As their streak's worn on, they've gone from crushing their opponents to merely surviving them. The pressure, the tension, has been mounting with each win and it's never been higher than it's going to be today. They've never had more distractions.

But they've been dealing with not making that mistake that's going to cost them all season long. They've fought game after tough game. Come back from behind. Survived every scare. Why would they stop doing so now?

There's the weather, which is going to be New England winter cold. That puts a damper on the Pats big weapon: their quick strike passing game. And that slogs the game down, giving the Chargers more of an opportunity for the upset.

But the Chargers are going to be affected by that weather, too. They're a warm weather team making their second crosscounty trip in as many weeks.

It's just, I go back and forth on this. My instincts tell me that this game is going to be weird and there's a huge upset in the wind. But my head tells me not to go against the Patriots, against Bellichek and Brady, and their magical season. So I'm not.

There's just no way.

  • GREEN BAY over New York

This is the JV game but it's still a difficult one to pick. The choices are the Giants who will have to win their third playoff game on the road when they haven't looked overwhelming in either of their previous ones and the Green Bay Packers, the youngest team in the league, who've been holding it together with duct tape and spit the entire season.

It's not so much difficult to see how either team loses as it is to see either team beating the other.

Still, someone has to win and I'm going to go with the home team. Sure, the weather's going to be awful, one of the coldest games ever, especially as the day wears on (Why they didn't move today's games up a bit, I'll never know. They could easily be at 1 and 4PM EST instead of the 3 and 6:30 we're getting. I guess the west coast market's that important. But it means we're getting a night game. In Green Bay. In January.) and that might seem to give the Packers an edge, especially after the romp in the snow they had last week. But the conditions are going to be so bad that, I think, both teams are going to be adversely affected. And it won't really matter.

No, I'm going with the quarterback matchup. I'll take Farve over a Manning any day, especially when it's the younger one. I've long been a Farve doubter but he's done everything he needs to convince me. Meanwhile, Eli manage to outplay the aging Jeff Garcia (Who's a former Lions quarterback and that should tell you all you need to know right there.) and the falling star of Tony Romo. I, needless to say, remain unconvinced that he's got the right stuff.

The winner is no doubt going to be the sacrificial lamb offered up upon the altar of parity in the Super Bowl. But it should still be an exciting game.

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