19 January 2006

Championship Week

I'll give you the shorthand guide to my picks up front. Expect a lot of references to this movie in the time between Superbowl XL and the end of Sunday's games. And because I live to embarrass the LATimes, I'm including their NFL Preview prognostications from the beginning of the season for each team in the championship.

Odds courtesy FOXSports.com using their Expert Odds line from Thursday Afternoon

Pittsburgh 41 +140
Denver -3.5 -160

Denver will win. Jake Plummer is for real and Pittsburgh's defense will not be able to bottle up Jake the way they did Peyton Manning and the back-up for Cincy (if I bothered to name him how many would even remember who he is?). Those blitzes will bite them in the ass, and Denver has the running game plus Jake has the mobility to force Pittsburgh to abandon the blitz or get picked apart. I'm guessing they'll get picked apart. As far as Pittsburgh's offense versus Denver's defense, those refugees from Cleveland have proven to be able to put enough pressure on QBs with just the front four to cause all sorts of trouble and they have an excellent secondary which will probably knock down many and catch one or two of Roethlisberger's passes. As far as picks, Denver give -3.5, and over, teams get desperate so late game scores will pad the total even if both defenses play well for three quarters.

RESULTS: Other than the over part (which I got right) Invert everything I said. Jake the Snake will be back to his old self. Pittsburgh defense will control their side of the ball and Denver's defense will get picked apart. Good luck in the Superbowl Steelers. Who'd a thunk a 6 seed would beat the 3, 1 and 2 seeds all on the road. Not me, that's for damn sure.

from the LA Times 2005 NFL Preview
PROGNOSIS: Denver has made a host of changes to its roster, which doesn't mean the club has upgraded its talent level. In fact, the Broncos look a tad weaker in the backfield, on the defensive line, and in the secondary, which doesn't bode well in a division that looks vastly improved across the board. Why the organization brass thinks it can squeeze production out of disappointments like Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, Ron Dayne, and Maurice Clarett is apparent only to them. The Broncos have enough talent to ensure that they won't be a train wreck, but expecting this club to reach the playoffs after its rolleroaster of offseason personnel activity seems a stretch. In fact, Denver's first losing record since 1999 could well be imminent.

PROGNOSIS: Some are predicting doom for the Steelers this season, with factors such as a possible sophomore jinx for Roethlisberger, an uncertain situation at running back, an overall lack of depth, and the apparent improvement of division teams Baltimore and Cincinnati playing a part in that projection. And while Pittsburgh probably can't hope to win 15 games for the second season in a row, there is no logical reason to suspect the franchise won't again pile up victories in the double digits. Cowher and company are still rock-solid on both lines, have sufficient playmakers at receiver, linebacker, and in the secondary, and will feature a quality special teams unit. Roethlisberger didn't go 13-0 on a whim, and he'll get better, not take a step back. Provided Bettis and Staley can give the running game a spark, and there aren't a rash of major injuries on the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers will remain the best team in the AFC North.

Carolina 44 +150
Seattle -3.5 -170

The other Jake, Jake Delhomme is the only remaining QB to have already started in the Superbowl. That experience will matter. Matt Hasselbeck has played well, but given Steve Smith's performance from last week, and even with DeShaun Foster's abscense, it's hard to imagine Carolina getting beat. Seattle isn't tested in big games yet, Carolina is, I think that's the difference in this game. Plus Carolina's defense (despite giving up too many points to Chicago last week) are capable of controlling their opposition, and the hostile crowd, just as they did in Chicago. So moneyline on Carolina +150, and under for this game, I think Seattle is going to get smashed hard early and not recover.

RESULTS: In bizarro world I nailed this game. When I said everyone would be mentioning the film The Two Jakes, I must have meant that the two Jakes would suck as hard as that film did. Just take everything I said about Carolina and apply it to Seattle and I was absolutely correct. And a lot of garbage time scoring raised the total above the over, so I was way wrong on both counts. The gamblers credo, the next game I'll be right, the next game I'll be right, the next game I'll be right . . . . .

from the LA Times 2005 NFL Preview
PROGNOSIS: The Seahawks were perceived as underachievers last year, and while that is probably a fair analysis, the team's development was hampered by a rash of injuries on the defensive side of the ball. With more talent and depth among the defensive front seven, Seattle should be a great deal more productive on defense in 2005. Offensively, the song remains the same. If the receivers can catch the football and show up in big-game situations, and if Hasselbeck can avoid some of the mental mistakes that have long frustrated Hawks supporters, Seattle will take the weak NFC West by a few furlongs and have a chance to win the second postseason game in franchise history. If the inconsistency continues, Holmgren's team will again do a season-long tap dance with the .500 line (which could again be enough to win the division), and be labeled as underachievers once more.

PROGNOSIS: The Panthers have quality talent and impressive depth throughout the two-deep, which spells trouble for the rest of the NFC South. If healthy, Carolina should be very good, and there is reasonable suspicion that the Panthers can be dominating. Yes, the team will have to find a reliable running back, and yes, the left side of the offensive line and safety positions are something of a concern, but Fox and his staff have shown a penchant for pushing the right buttons and finding a formula that will work. Expect it to come down to Carolina and Atlanta in the NFC South, and for the loser of that battle to earn a wild card berth and be especially dangerous come playoff time.


Pooh said...

Picked apart by Jake Plummer...Sorry, I didn't get past that part. Sure, if they get first and goal from the one a few times then he might "pick them apart" (no lingering bitterness here...)

Kierkegaard Lives said...

Shame, shame. You should have learned from last week.

Go Steelers.