OH Thursday with Shorty
With the NFL pre season games and team joint practices well under way we visit the West today and then sum up Shorty’s season prognostication.
Final standings from 2013
Denver 13-3 5-1
Kansas City 11-5 2-4
San Diego 9-7 4-2
Oakland 4-12 1-5
Denver is loaded up for another run at the ring. This may be Peyton’s last best chance to get ring #2 and the Bronco’s are ready to ride him again. Manning set a few passing records last season with the most prolific offense in NFL history. His post season troubles looked like they were behind him until the SB and Seattle’s D shut them down.
Peyton should throw for another 45TD’s and 5000 yards and the Bronco’s should cruise to the AFC West title. The only thing that could derail them is an injury to Peyton.
Kansas City started fast and maintained momentum until the cold weather set in. The playoff loss to the Colts 44-43 showed that this team was just a pretender. They have a journeyman QB in Smith and the best RB, Charles, in the game. Keeping the run going late in each game as well as the season is a must, they need to finish. Shorty sees the Chiefs taking a step back this season and missing the playoffs.
San Diego made a late run to the last wildcard spot in ’14 and wants to build on that. Rivers wants that ring and knows the clock is ticking.
RB Danny Woodhead, TE’s Antonio Gates and Ladaris Green and WR’s Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal should provide a respectable offense. The addition of 1st round pick speedster CB Jason Verrett should help the secondary. The schedule finds the Chargers starting off with tough games vs Arizona and Seattle before getting a seemingly easy load of Buffalo, NY Jets, Jaguars and Raiders over the next 4 weeks. Another wildcard in not out of the question and an injury to Manning would put them in position to win the division
Oakland is Oakland…simple to say and easy to believe. Matt Shaub isn’t the answer, there really is no answer for this team which will again be the 4th best in the division. How many wins? Shorty is inclined to ask, will they win any? This team is definitely in the running for 1st overall pick in 2015 and they will most likely take the fastest guy at the combines
San Diego 9-7
Kansas City 6-10
Final standing 2013
Seattle 13-3 4-2
San Francisco 12-4 5-1
Arizona 10-6 2-4
St Louis 7-9 1-5
Seattle will find defending their title an insurmountable problem. Teams in the NFL just don’t repeat. (NE in SB 38 & 39 was the most recent)
The Seahawks play in a tough division and are hated by all. They have the best loudmouth CB in the game in Richard Sherman. They led the NFL in overall penalties in 2014. The categories they were best at was unnecessary roughness on receivers and late hits. The NFL has instructed the zebras to re emphasize these infractions in particular…that doesn’t bode well for the Champs. They are a talented and deep team and should make the playoffs.
San Francisco is in a quandary. They have a brilliant young QB and a terrific run game. The TE is one of the games best. Some high quality WR’s.They can light up the scoreboard on anyone. The 49ers have a tough road ahead with a nightmare schedule. After opening the season on the road in Dallas they face: Chicago, @ Arizona, Philadelphia, Kansas City, @ St Louis, @ Denver, bye, St Louis, @ New Orleans, @ Giants, Washington, Seattle, @ Oakland, @ Seattle, San Diego and Arizona.
Arizona missed the playoffs at 10-6 the last team to manage that was the Bradyless, Matt Cassell led ’08 (11-5) NE Patriots. Arizona, led by the rejuvenated Carson Palmer could put a damper on Seattle’s and San Frans playoff hopes. The talented corps of receivers: Larry Fitzgerald, Ted Ginn and Michael Floyd are as good as any. RB Andre Ellington averaged 5.5 ypg This team went 6-2 over the second half last season with two 3 point losses to the Eagles and San Francisco as the only losses. Watch out for the Cardinals to surprise the powers that be. Arizona can play defense too, they are on the verge of being an NFL power.
StLouis would love to transfer to the NFC East for a season or two; they would be the best team. But fate has it that they play here in the West and have six games that will be tough to compete in let alone win.
Unfortunatly for the Rams the NFC West is home and it's a rough road to becoming respectable here...once again religated to a spoiler...too bad.
Shorty will piss you off with these predictions:
San Fran 10-6
East New England 12-4
North Pittsburgh 10-6
South Indianapolis 11-5
West Denver 13-3
Wildcard #1 Cincinnati 9-7
Wildcard #2 San Diego 9-7
Denver and New England get the byes
Indianapolis beats San Diego
Pittsburgh beats Cincinnati
New England beats Indianapolis
Pittsburgh beats Denver
East Philadelphia 11-5
North Green Bay 11-5
South New Orleans 11-5
West Arizona 11-5
Wildcard #1 Seattle 10-6
Wildcard #2 San Francisco 10-6
Arizona and Green Bay get the byes
New Orleans beats San Francisco
Philadelphia beats Seattle
New Orleans beats Arizona
Green Bay beats Philadelphia
Shorty brings us to his FINAL FOUR
Pittsburgh at New England
New Orleans at Green Bay
No big surprise here, these teams represent 7 of the last 13 SB winners.
The starting QB’s for those 7 winners are all still here for this one.
Who will win it all...
you just have to watch.
Shorty is heading back to the Tavern to take his rightful place at the end of the bar next to the pickle jar ready for some Fred Lites and some football
OK Chilluns gather round for a story. We go way back to 1959 when the NFL consisted of 12 teams in 11 cities and was just starting to emerge as a force on the sporting landscape. The Colts (who were playing happily in Baltimore) would defeat the New York Giants for the second time in as many seasons to win the NFL title. The Cardinals franchise played in Chicago, and was the poor south side cousins in Comiskey Park to the more affluent and popular Bears who played in Wrigley Field. But they were owned by Violet Bidwell-Wolfner widow of Charles Bidwell one of the more senior owners in the NFL. She was besieged by suitors for her ball club who was losing money. The Bidwell family decided to spurn all the suitors and not sell, and instead moved to St. Louis where for 27 years they would be the football counterpart to a more famous (and more successful) baseball team of the same name.
One of those spurned suitors was Lamar Hunt, heir to an oil tycoon fortune. Hunt was frustrated in his bid to buy the Cardinals and annoyed that the NFL showed no signs of expanding beyond its 12 team, 12 city base. Hunt contacted another Texas oil tycoon, Bud Adams as well as 6 other owners including Barron Hilton (yeah the hotel owner and Paris’ grandfather) Bob Howsam in Denver, Billy Sullivan in Boston and Detroit insurance magnate Ralph Wilson (who was considering Miami, then chose to go to Buffalo because it had a stadium to join his “foolish club” which would become the American Football League.
Now at first the NFL was helpful, then commissioner Bert Bell gave Hunt a copy of the NFL’s constitution and by-laws to give a framework of a setup. Bell seemed to be at the very least indifferent to the idea of a new league but wasn’t openly hostile at first. Unfortunately Bell passed away during the 1959 season at a game and the NFL took its time about naming a new commissioner. The 12 owners of the NFL in contrast were openly hostile to the thought of a competing league and tried to take steps to kill the league before it got off the ground, creating expansion teams in Dallas and Minneapolis the former was where Hunt was creating a team and the latter awarded to owners who were going to create an AFL in the Twin Cities. They also approved the Cards move to St. Louis to keep them out of that city as well. The AFL had to scramble to find a new owner and market and settled on Oakland whose initial owner the enigmatic Chet Soda who had to be talked out of naming the team the Señors, he settled on Raiders instead (the iconoclastic Al Davis would join the team as a coach a couple years later). In any case the AFL launched with 8 teams and though at times unsteady developed as a pro league with teams in new cities with Boston, Buffalo, Denver and Houston and teams in established NFL cities of New York, Los Angeles. Dallas was a newly created NFL City and Oakland was just across the bay from the 49ers who had been in the NFL a decade. Though wobbly, with the Chargers having to move downstate to San Diego after one season and the Texans having to relocate Kansas City and rebrand as the Chiefs the league began to establish itself as solid pro league despite the shaky status of the Raiders, the ineptness of the Titans ownership (who would later become the Jets) and the hideousness of the Broncos brown and yellow vertically striped socks. After gaining a TV contract with NBC in 1965 that added a nice cash infusion to the teams, the AFL stepped up its pursuit of the best college players, the problem started when Giants kicker Charlie Gogolak played out his option with the New York Giants and signed with the Buffalo Bills becoming the first NFL player to “jump leagues” This enraged the NFL who then went about trying to destroy the AFL with a bidding war. But the AFL hung in and the number of players were drafted by teams in both leagues increased dramatically, when Raiders GM Al Davis became commissioner of the AFL in 1966 and openly tried to recruit established NFL stars to jump to the AFL this started a series of negotiations that would end the bidding war and merge the two leagues. Not only did this bring about a merger, both leagues were creating teams that would bring pro football to what was once considered far flung outposts like Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans and Cincinnati. In June 1966 a merger between the AFL and NFL was announced for 1970 and creation of a World Championship game between the two leagues in January, 1967. Initially called the AFL-NFL Championship game, the first matchup between the Packers and Chiefs was a 35-10 rout and to some confirmation that the AFL was still out of their league but what many overlook was that the game was only 14-10 at the half and a Packers interception in the 3rd quarter that set up a score making it 21-10 was the key point in the game. The game was nicknamed the Super Bowl but NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle hated the name. He wanted to initially call the game the Pro Bowl but that was already in use as the NFL’s All-Star game, with no workable alternatives eventually the name became official with the 3rd game. That game was the historic Jets upset of the seemingly invincible Colts gave the AFL more credibility and with the Chiefs thumping the Vikings in the 4th Super Bowl, the last game for an AFL team as its own league, the game was seen more and more as the crown jewel of the pro game. The NFL went on as a 26 team, 2 conference entity with the Super Bowl as its championship game. The game has grown in stature being the most watched sporting event every year with the top four most watched broadcasts in US history are Super Bowl game with the broadcast rights and commercial spots being highly coveted as it rotates among the networks. How much food is consumed? Only Thanksgiving ranks higher in consumption. Fast forward back to present day where the Super Bowl is the crown jewel of football and the dream of every football player. The winning team will get a $92K payday but it’s the foot high 7 pound Tiffany Silver Trophy that is the desire. The best quote is from Johnny Davis who was a reserve running back for the Niners in their first Super Bowl win. "The money is nice, but I'll spend that it’s the ring that lasts forever" So now you have a bit of insight on how we have come to know as the defacto sporting holiday as Super Bowl Sunday.
SUPER BOWL 48 (XLVIII)
Seattle Seahawks (15-3, #1 NFC Seed) vs Denver Broncos (15-3, #1 AFC Seed)
For the NFL Championship and the Vince Lombardi Trophy
MetLife Stadium East Rutherford, NJ 6:30 (FOX)
Favorite Broncos by 2½
Fast Facts on the Game:
First Super Bowl played in cold weather/outdoor venue
First Super Bowl being played on Groundhog Day
There has yet to be a shutout or overtime in the Super Bowl
Last Meeting Broncos won 34-10 in 2010
Playoff History: Seahawks defeated Broncos 31-7 in 1983 AFC Wild Card game
NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks
Regular Season: 13-3 NFC West Champions
Earned First Round Bye as NFC #1 Seed
Defeated NFC #2 Wild Card New Orleans 23-15 in NFC Divisional Round
Defeated NFC #1 Wild Card San Francisco 23-17 in NFC Championship
Team Leaders Russell Wilson 3357 Yards 26 TDs Marshawn Lynch 1257 Yards 12 TDs Golden Tate 64 Rec 898 Yds 5 TDs NFL #1 Defense by yards and points allowed and have held last 7 opponents to under 20 points
0-1 in the Super Bowl (40)
SEA Fast Fact: First team since 1990 Bills to make a Super Bowl appearance with no players on its roster with Super Bowl game experience.
AFC Champion Denver Broncos
Regular Season 13-3 AFC West Champions
Earned 1st Round Bye as AFC #1 Seed
Defeated AFC #2 Wild Card San Diego 24-17 in AFC Divisional Round
Defeated AFC East Champion New England 26-16 in AFC Championship Game
Team Leaders Peyton Manning 5477 Yds 55 TDS (NFL records) Knowshon Moreno 1038 Yds 10 TDS Demaryius Thomas 92 Rec 1430 YDS 14 TDS (offense NFL record 606 points)
2-4 in the Super Bowl Wins (32, 33) Losses (12, 21, 22, 24)
DEN Fast Fact The Broncos are part of an AFC monopoly over the last 18 Super Bowls, the Steelers, Patriots, Colts and Ravens have all been to multiple Super Bowls 16 of 18 in that span and all the wins have been by these five franchises (Raiders and Titans the only interlopers who both lost) Have scored 20 points or more in all 18 games this season.
When the Seahawks have the ball
The Seahawks are a run to set up the pass type of team. Marshawn Lynch is bruising yet deceptively quick running back that is capable of breaking a long run as well as running through and over tacklers, sometimes on the same play. Russell Wilson has grown into the big time and has the mobility enough to make defenses respect his scrambling. The Broncos defense is much maligned but the emergence of Terrence “Pot Roast” Knighten has become an intriguing angle. The Seahawks don’t have a real go to receiver as Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice have been waylaid with injuries most of the season but if either is healthy, they can stretch a Broncos defense that without Von Miller is fairly thin on the pass rush and whose secondary can be thrown on.
When The Broncos have the ball
Start with Peyton Manning, the Canton bound QB is a virtual coach on the field. Showing no ill effects from 2011 neck surgery Manning riddled defenses at will leading the NFL’s most prolific offense. That’s not hyperbole, Manning started with a 7 TD performance on opening night against the defending Super Bowl champ Ravens and never let off the gas as the Broncos scored 606 points to set an NFL record. Knowshon Moreno has quietly developed into a dependable running back with a nice receiving touch to complement his skill set. Manning has an embarrassment of riches at wideout with the wily vet Wes Welker leading a squad of receivers that each have 1000 yards, 10 TDs resumes. They face a Seahawk defense ferociously nicknamed the Legion of Boom, led by the ever loquacious Richard Sherman who is fast becoming the standard bearer of shutdown corners in the NFL. Add in the very underrated, lesser heralded Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks secondary is as tough as the Broncos secondary is suspect. The problem is he can’t cover all the Broncos receivers and the onus will be on the Seahawks defensive line to get a push up front and hit Manning early and often
Pete Carroll is a player’s coach, his unbridled enthusiasm is no act he’s a coach that brings an energy that his player feed off of and mirror. He runs a tight ship but is loose enough where the players play hard for him. John Fox is taking his second different team to the Big Game and is savvy enough to know he’s got a virtual coach on the field in Peyton Manning and runs the team with just enough smarts to not push too hard. This will be an interesting chess match to be sure
This is probably one of the more evenly matched Super Bowls in a long time. High powered offense versus ruggedly stout defense, yet it will be how the opposites fare that will define the game. The Seahawks want to take a page out of the Giants 1990 playbook and limit the possessions the Broncos have. If the Seahawks can set a grinding tempo with Lynch and force Manning to be perfect on every drive they could carry the day. But I see Knighted as a possible x factor to clog the middle and negate the Seahawks decided edge in the run game. While not totally solving the Seahawks defense totally, he is so good on sight reading and adjusting on the fly. If the Broncos start fast and cash in scoring opps first watch out. I think the Seahawks grind out a score, the Broncos parry with a couple quick scores of their own and the Seahawks become too reliant on the pass when they get behind. Three years ago baby brother Eli won a Super Bowl in his backyard in Indy, I think Peyton turns the trick in Eli’s crib and adds a rare jewel to his sparkling resume, first QB to win a Super Bowl with two different teams
Pick Broncos 34 Seahawks 24
And then there were four. The NFL does what it can to gussy up what are essentially the league semifinals and call them Championship games but you better best believe that the players who come out with the win won't be as happy with this trophy being their only postseason hardware. But to get to Jersey you have to win on Championship weekend. The odds are provided by ESPN Scorecenter for comparison and entertainment purposes only. If you have to ask why by this juncture, you really don't need to be bothered with the odds.
NFL SCHEDULE CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND
Sunday, January 19
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#2 New England Patriots (13-4, AFC East Champions) @#1 Denver Broncos (14-3, AFC West Champions)
Sports Authority Field @ Mile High, Denver 3:00 (CBS)
Favorite Broncos by 6
How they got here: Both Teams earned 1st round byes. Broncos defeated #6 seed Chargers 24-17, Patriots defeated #4 Seed Colts 43-22 in Divisional Round
Previous Playoff Meetings: This is the 4th meeting between the teams in the postseason with the Patriots beating the Broncos 45-10 in the 2010 Divisional round
Fast Facts: Home team has won each playoff meeting NE: Tom Brady starting his first road playoff game since 2006 AFC Championship game which was a loss to the Colts led by Peyton Manning DEN: Peyton Manning is 6-11 against Bill Belichick 2nd worst win percentage against one coach
With all the talk about the future hall of famers set to square off in another high stakes duel, the key to this game may very well be which team can establish its run game. New England pounded the Colts into submission with a devastating ground game that scored 6 times. Led by reclaimation project LaGarrette Blount the Pats suddenly have their best running attack since Corey Dillion at the tail end of his carrer. The Broncos have the increasingly dependable Knowshon Moreno in their backfield to give defenses pause. Both teams on defense have their flaws, the Pats give up tons of yards but few points while the Broncos defense just knows they don't have to be perfect but have the luxury of the Manning scoring machine to counter their lapses. The Pats have the big game experience but have a lackadaisical manner that often times look like that their waiting for a big game to pique their interest. Without the benefit of the forgiving Foxboro crowd im interested in seeing how the Pats play in a playoff atmosphere. I think the rugged running of Blount keeps the game score lower than the Broncos would like but the Rocky Mountain magic comes through and the Broncos make their first Super Bowl since the halcyon days of Elway and further cements Peyton Manning's legacy by being the 2nd Super Bowl winning QB to take another team to the Super Bowl (Kurt Warner, 1999 Rams 2008 Cardinals)
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#5 San Francisco 49ers (13-4, #1 NFC Wild Card) @ #1 Seattle Seahawks (14-3, NFC West Champions)
CenturyLink Field, Seattle 6:30 (FOX)
Favorite Seahawks by 3
How they Got Here: 49ers defeated #4 seed Packers 23-20 in wild card round, defeated #2 seed Panthers 23-10 in the divisional round. Seahawks had a first round bye then defeated #6 seed Saints 23-15 in the divisional round.
First Playoff meeting
Fast Facts: This is the first all West Coast NFC championship since 1990 SF: 15th NFC Title game (most all-time) appearance (6-8) and 3rd straight, first team to make 3 straight NFC title game appearances since 2002-5 Philadelphia Eagles. SEA: 2nd NFC title game appearance, only team to have played in both AFC (1983 loss to LA Raiders) and NFC title games. One of three teams that have yet to lose in the NFC title game (NY Giants, Arizona)
The NFC title game is a bona fide grudge match. For two teams that have only been divisional rivals for 11 years, the animosity and disdain between the teams is palpable. Plain and simple these two teams don't like each other from the coaches (whose history of contempt goes back to when Niners coach Jim Harbaugh was at Stanford and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was coaching USC) to the players to the fans who have taken out billboard ads in the opposing city (49ers fans purchase billboard time in Seattle touting their Super Bowl Rings, Seahawk fans bought engraved fan bricks at the under construction Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara) Both teams are strikingly similar in offensive style being led by mobile QB's in Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson respectively. Both teams have hard hitting, ball-hawking roughneck defenses that create havoc and turnovers led by dynamic playmakers like Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis of the Niners and Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas of the Seahawks. Both have solid gamebreaking running backs in Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks and and Frank Gore of the Niners. Statistically both teams are mirrors are of one another as well. So what is the difference? Though honks like Colin Cowherd maintain that the Niners are a couple points here and there from having a 14 game win streak , I still don't think that they have solved the riddle of Century Link Field and their notorious 12th man. They have had nightmarishly bad games in Seattle their last two times there and despite their bluff and bluster will have to take the crowd out of the game fast. If they start with a turnover or a three and out or the Seahawks march down the field on their first drive the Niners could be playing being a ten ton eight ball. I see a tight nasty slugfest, and with the weather not being a much a factor I can see all facets of the offensive game being in play. I give the slightest of edges to the Seahawks who I think at home are just a little more formidable.
Last Week: 4-0
The picks split but at this time of the year, Im just happy when Im getting them right. Odds are provided by ESPN Scorecenter for entertainment and comparison purposes only. If you don’t know by now you really need to stop betting.
NFL SCHEDULE – DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF WEEKEND
Saturday, January 11 –
NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
#6 Saints (12-5 #2 NFC Wildcard) @ #1 Seahawks (13-3, NFC West Champion)
CenturyLink Field, Seattle 4:30 (FOX)
Favorite Seahawks by 7½
Previous Playoff Meeting Seahawks defeated Saints 41-36 in 2010 NFC Wild Card Round
Fast Facts: SEA: Leads NFL in total defense NO: The Saints had their lowest scoring (7) and yardage output (185) in the Sean Payton era in their previous visit to Seattle in December.
The sheen of invulernabilty began to thin for the Saints when they went to Century Link on 12/2 and caught a frightening beatdown on national TV. The defeaning crowd mixed with the big play ball hawking Seahawks defense made for a potent mix and the Saints were never in the game taking a 34-7 loss that could have been much much worse. The Saints have shook some of their road demons with a gritty 2 point in the wild card round that in truth was a lot less of an upset than many would think. The Seahawks are much more than wily whirling dervish that is Russell Wilson and the bruising running of MarShawn Lynch. The offense can score points and control the clock while the defense seems to get tougher with every possession. I think the Saints are a great team, at home and an average team on the road. This is a venue that the Saints wanted to avoid simply because they look so much like road teams in the Superdome, confused ordinary and ripe for mistakes. This wont be a blowout like their last meeting but I think the Seahawks will keep enough control to get a win.
AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
#4 Colts (12-5 AFC South Champion) @ #2 Patriots (12-4, AFC East Champion)
Gillette Stadium; Foxboro, MA 8:15(CBS)
Favorite Patriots by 7
Previous Playoff Meetings Patriots lead 2-1, last meeting Colts won 38-34 in 2006 AFC Championship game
Fast Facts: The Home team has won every meeting. NE: QB Tom Brady coming off lowest season passer rating (87.3) since 2003 IND: DE Robert Mathis led the NFL with 19½ sacks
The Colts are a team that by its strictest definition shouldn’t be here. They slogged through a paper thin division and struggled with legit playoff teams. They then proceeded to fall behind by 28 points to the Chiefs. Yet the slugged a number of other teams (handing Denver their first loss, throttling the Seahawks and Niners and beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead) and rallied from that 28 point deficit to hand the dispatch the Chiefs by 1 on Wild Card Saturday they face a playoff tested squad in the Pats who may be the weakest they’ve been in the Brady/Belechick era yet is still oh so dangerous. With no legit dangerous receiver the Pats have made Julian Edelman a star and have its best running game since Corey Dillon. Still even with 12 wins and home field many think the Pats as a suspect team ripe for an upset. I think the Luck and the young Colts will give it a go but spent all their playoff mojo last week in that furious rally. Brady and the veteran Pats have that been there done that on a playoff Saturday night game look about them. Why? Cause they’ve been there done that and will do it again.
Sunday, January 12 –
NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
#5 49ers (13-4 #1 NFC Wildcard) @ #2 Panthers (12-4, NFC South Champion)
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte 1:00 (FOX)
Favorite 49ers by 1
First Playoff meeting in 19 meetings since 1995, Panthers lead series 11-7
Fast Facts CAR: Is 2-1 lifetime at home in the playoffs. SF: QB Colin Kapernick has rushed for 362 yards in four postseason games, his total has him 5th all time behind playoff vets like Steve Young (594 in 20 games), John Elway (461 in 22), Roger Staubach (432 in 19) and Donovan McNabb (422 in 16)
When these two teams met up in November, many people (your humble scribe included) didn’t take the Panthers seriously. Here, we all said, was when the young Panthers would get a lesson in hard knocks. The defending conference champs would lay the wood to Cam and the set the universe back right. The Panthers instead won a gutty, grimy, gritty 10-9 decision as part of a 8 game win streak and current 11-1 run that pushed the Panthers from afterthought to legit NFC contender. The problem now is that the Panthers are right back to where they were on November 10th, no one takes them serious. Especially as the Niners come in as a strong 12 win wild card who won a icy grudge match with the Packers in Lambeau last week. Cam Newton has done a lot of growing up this year and the Panthers are banking on his smarts and savvy despite this being his first playoff game. The problem here is that they are facing a ruggedly veteran playoff tested defense led by defensive and the curve has gone seriously up. Yes the Panthers will be formidable at home and yes the Niners are coming cross country but they are one of the few teams that I think are good enough to overcome it and win.
AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF
#6 San Diego Chargers (10-7 #2 AFC Wildcard) @ #1 Denver Broncos (13-3 AFC West Champion)
Sports Authority Field @ Mile High, Denver 4:45 (CBS)
Favorite Broncos by 9
First playoff meeting in 109 games since 1960 Denver leads series 58-49-1
Fast Facts SD: All ten of their wins (10-2) have come when they have more than 102 yards rushing. DEN: Broncos 37.9 points per game average was the highest of any team in the Super Bowl era, their 606 total points besting the old mark by 17.
The Chargers come in hot having had to storm down the last quarter of the season, get a few breaks and survive a grueling OT thriller just to snag a playoff berth. The way they dismissed the perpetually playoff jinxed Bengals almost seem boring and rudimentary. That curve gets a lot steeper as they head into the mountains to face Peyton and the Broncos. The Chargers make no bones that they want to play keep away from the Broncos Mile High powered offense with its multifaceted weaponry. Meanwhile the Broncos get another facet to that weaponry as Wes Welker will get playing time after a lengthy absence from concussion recovery. Now this isn’t to say that the Chargers have no offensive weaponry, with the all but crowned rookie of the year Keenan Allen showing good form opposite future Hall of Famer TE Antonio Gates. Also supplementing a solid running punch is Ryan Mathews and the ubiquitous Danny Woodhead all triggered by the resurgent Philip Rivers, though Mathews is battling another set of injuries. Though the Chargers have been showing moxie in spades as of late, I think that they have been playing with house money. While that is good to be able to play relaxed and loose, you can only get by with that so far. This is the one team that held the Broncos well under their scoring average twice andtheir two lowest scoring totals. Can they do it a third time? Peyton Manning isn’t totally playoff money in the bank as last years playoff flop to the Ravens has shown, but I think he has enough this time around to get the win. It wont be a shootout but not a playoff flame out.
Last Week: 2-2
Now that is what you call finishing strong… 14-2 to finish the year and 16-1 on my locks. But now to quote Chuck D in his rap in the obscure Janet Jackson song New Agenda. “Time to step it up, step it up, cause its playoff time!” The fakers, jakers and perpetrators have been shown the door. That means no terrible towels or snooty air of the so-called Americas team, but also no New York teams or Monsters from the Midway. Sadly a 10 win Cardinals team also can’t get into this party from a deep NFC West but a 9-7 Chargers and an 8-7-1 Packers team both are playoff bound. The Broncos, Patriots, Panthers and Seahawks are decamped in their respective barcoloungers, mancaves and hideouts sitting this weekend out having earned the coveted first round byes for top two records in their respective conferences and will host this weekends winners in the divisional round. All eight of this weekends combatants have faced each other in the postseason at least once before, with the Chargers-Bengals meeting being most ancient from the so-called 1982 freezer bowl that decided the AFC Title. Odds are provided by ESPN Scorecenter and are for comparison and entertainment purposes only.
Saturday January 4
AFC WILD CARD
#5 Chiefs (11-5, #1 AFC Wild Card) @ #4 Colts (11-5, AFC South Champion)
Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis 4:35 (NBC)
Previous Playoff Meetings Colts have won all 3 meetings last 23-8 in 2006
Fast Facts: KC: Has not won a playoff game in 20 seasons, the 2nd longest current playoff win drought (0-7) . 3 of these losses have been to the Colts. IND: Have lost their last 3 playoff games
These teams met just three weeks ago and the Colts dominated in Arrowhead. After a 9-0 start the Chiefs have went just 2-5 with the wins coming over sad sacks Washington and Oakland, Indy’s first home playoff game in the post Peyton era. Im not sold on the Chiefs even after resting their starters being ready to face the Colts who I think are better on both sides of the ball. The home field will be a decided advantage to the Colts and I think they roll to the win.
NFC WILD CARD
#6 Saints (11-5 #2 NFC Wild Card) @ #3 Eagles (10-6, NFC East Champion)
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia 8:10 (NBC)
Favorite Eagles by 2½
Previous Playoff Meetings Saints have won both meetings both were in New Orleans
Fast Facts NO: Have never won a playoff game outside the Superdome (0-6) PHI: Leads the NFC with 247 plays of 10 yards or more.
A month ago, the Saints were one of the most feared teams in the NFL, they were in firm control of not only their division but the team no one wanted to face especially knowing that they would be at home. But after 3 straight road losses that cost them the division, they have to go on the road to face a very underrated Eagles team that had to survive a showdown with the Pokes to win the NFC East. The Saints have that offense which under Drew Brees is getting more and more skittish on the road which is puzzling. Nick Foles is the pilot of an Eagles offense that is coming into its own nicely and has a number of weapons of its own including the versatile and quite dangerous scatback Shady McCoy. I think on paper that the Saints are the better team, but I cant shake the feeling that their road woes will continue to dog them. A cold rowdy road venue will help matters little and I think the Eagles will grind out a tight win.
Sunday January 5
AFC WILD CARD
#6 Chargers (9-7, #2 AFC Wild Card @ #3 Bengals (11-5, AFC North Champion)
Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati 1:05 (CBS)
Favorite Bengals by 6½
Previous Playoff Meeting Bengals defeated Chargers 27-7 in 1981 AFC Championship Game
Fast Facts: SD: Lost last 3 playoff games, but last playoff win was on the road (at IND in 2007) CIN: Last playoff win was 23 seasons ago and the Bengals played 2 teams that are not in existence anyore (Defeated Houston Oilers, lost to LA Raiders) Bengals are 0-5 since last playoff win.
The Chargers were dawdling along at 5-7 before fashioning a late run to snag the final AFC playoff spot, their last loss was to these very Bengals who with a stout defense will be a formidable test. The Bengals offense will go as much maligned QB Andy Dalton takes them. The Good Andy is throwing like a beast and usually at home directs a high powered, high scoring offense, the Bad Andy on the other hand cant get out of his own way and the Bengals offense looks worse than it did in the pre Marvin Lewis dark ages. The weather will definitely be a factor here, it will be cold and the Chargers face the double whammy of not only being warm weather team heading into a Midwest deep freeze but also heading east to play an early kickoff. The Bengals should be able to finally banish their playoff demons once and for all, though a date with a Patriots team hungry for revenge might be next on the docket.
NFC WILD CARD
#5 49ers (12-4 #1 NFC Wild Card) @ #4 Packers (8-7-1, NFC North Champion)
Lambeau Field, Green Bay 4:40
Favorite 49ers by 2½
Previous Playoff Meetings: Seventh meeting, 49ers defeated Packers 45-31 in 2012 Divisional Round
Fast Facts SF: Ranks 3rd in scoring defense at 17.0 ppg GB: After winning their first 13 home playoff games the Packers are 3-4 in their last 7.
Last year, the Packers were the road team that was expected to win and got handed a 45-31 thrashing that wasn’t even that close. This time the Packers in spite of their so-so record get a home game on the frozen tundra against a “wild card team” in the 49ers that has already defeated them and has more wins. Aaron Rodgers makes this team dangerous on the offensive side. But the Packers defense is a couple paces from horrid, add to the fact that Clay Matthews will not be available and that makes things even more difficult. I think that though the weather may play a factor, the Niners can grind out on offense and keep Rodgers off the field.
Week 17: 14-2 (Lock Correct, Upset Incorrect)
Final 2013 Stats: 163-90-1