Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Conference Championship Picks

A busy week, so I'll make these short and sweet. Last year was the eighth consecutive year in which the conference championship games split, with one home team winning and one visitor winning. Both road teams won in 1998, and both home teams won in 1997. Not sure what that all means, but my picks have the trend continuing.

New Orleans at Chicago -- The Bears' defense isn't the same without Tommie Harris, and Seattle exploited that by using Shaun Alexander to pound the ball straight up the middle. New Orleans has a similar weapon in Deuce McAllister. He wore the Eagles down with his power running and that helped make the sweeps of Reggie Bush and the passing of Drew Brees that much more effective. I think Chicago will be ready for that. The Bears corners can handle the Saints' stretch passing game, and that will allow the linebackers to key on the run. Chicago is one of the few teams that has the speed up front to keep Bush out of the secondary. On offense, Rex Grossman can't let the game get too big for him. He needs to use the dependable Thomas Jones and the resurgent Cedric Benson out of the backfield and take advantage of an older New Orleans secondary. There's certainly a chance that Grossman will completely melt down, but I'm betting that the cold weather disrupts the Saints' offense more than the big stage disrupts Rex. Bears 26, Saints 17

New England at Indianapolis -- Both teams won in unorthodox fashion on the road last week. Indy won for the second consecutive week with a strong defensive performance, to offset another shaky outing from Peyton Manning. Tom Brady was inconsistent and looked rattled at times, but when the Patriots needed a big throw, he provided it. I'm sure the Colts wish they could be facing a team other than their playoff nemesis, but given the choice of playing at home for the chance to go to the Super Bowl or taking to the road, I would imagine they'll take their chances in a loud RCA Dome. They have a few things going for them: their previous losses to the Patriots in the playoffs have been on the road, Indianapolis isn't facing the same high expectations as in past years, and the Colts have Adam Vinatieri on their side this time. Unfortunately, Vinatieri has only been the second-most-valuable Patriot in playoffs past. Brady still plays for New England, and he presents challenges Indy hasn't had to face yet with Trent Green and Steve McNair lined up under the opposing center. The Pats abandoned the run early against San Diego, but against a cover-two defense, you have to stick with a running game, and New England will. That will keep the Colts honest enough for Brady to have a big day. After last week, I can't pick against him. Patriots 34, Colts 31


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Divisional Playoff picks

After being a dropped Tony Romo hold away from a perfect 4-0 week in the Wild Card round, I'm back for more punishment this week

Indianpolis at Baltimore -- One thing is for sure: The Ravens will have much more variety in their offense than Kansas City displayed last week, when the Chiefs made the Colts defense look like the 1985 Bears. Kansas City was so predictable in running on first and second down that Indianapolis could sell out and stop the run. Brian Billick is a far more creative offensive mind than Herman Edwards, and he'll do things to mix it up on Indy's defense. Peyton Manning struggled last week against the Chiefs, and he faces a far better defense this week. Think about this: Ray Lewis may now be the third-best linebacker on his own team, behind All-Pro Adalius Thomas and the emerging Bart Scott. Manning rarely has two bad games in a row, but a Baltimore defensive touchdown makes the difference here. Ravens 27, Colts 20

Philadelphia at New Orleans -- Who could have imagined when the season started the Saints hosting a second-round playoff game? Who could have imagined seven weeks ago the Eagles playing a second-round playoff game? These are two great stories and two teams that most football fans can't help rooting for. I can't get past the thought of New Orleans coming out tight. The Saints haven't played a meaningful game in three weeks, and this is one place where the boisterous home crowd might actually work against its team and make them a bit too eager. At the beginning of the week, I thought cornerback Lito Sheppard's injury might be the death knell for the Eagles, but if Philadelphia can run the ball like it did late in the year, they'll keep the Saints offense off the field enough to mitigate Sheppard's absence. Eagles 26, Saints 23

Seattle at Chicago -- What a passion play the Bears season has become. Will Rex Grossman get it done? Can the Chicago defense overcome the losses of Tommie Harris and Mike Brown? In all honesty, those things shouldn't matter in this game. The Bears are much better than the Seahawks, who pulled a rabbit's foot out of their pockets last week. Grossman, with a good group of offensive weapons, can pick apart a depleted Seattle secondary, and the Bears have enough talent on defense to exploit a Seahawks offensive line that has also been injury-prone this year. The weather will be cold, the Bears running game will be solid, and the fans can sleep well -- for one week, at least. Bears 27, Seahawks 10

New England at San Diego -- This could very well be the best matchup of the entire playoffs. Everyone wants to focus on the coaches here, with Bill Belichick's record of postseason success and Marty Schottenheimer's history of postseason heartbreak. But let's face it: calling this a matchup of coaches doesn't do justice to the teams they bring in. What we have here is a game between the Patriots, led by the NFL's best quarterback, and the Chargers, led by the league's best running back. Tom Brady has lifted an average offense into one of the league's best, and LaDainian Tomlinson took a team with a first-year quarterback and produced a 14-2 season. Both had a lot of help from their defense along the way. Belichick has made a lot of young quarterbacks look silly in the postseason, and it's likely he'll show Philip Rivers a few things the Chargers signal-caller has never seen. But the only chance of having success that way is by New England stopping Tomlinson. Here they're missing a key component in Rodney Harrison. The safety's injury takes a big bite out of the Patriots' run defense and makes tight end Antonio Gates that much more dangerous. Marty-Ball, which is designed to limit quarterback mistakes by using runs and short passes, might be just the right formula this time. Chargers 28, Patriots 24

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wild Card picks

It's hard to believe we've reached the end of another NFL season, and a wild one it was. This looks like one of the weakest playoff fields in years, particularly in the NFC. But someone has to win, so let's start the picks.

Kansas City at Indianapolis -- The NFL's worst rush defense faces a superior runner in Larry Johnson, a nightmare matchup for a team that's trying to shed its label as a playoff underachiever. Despite the hand-wringing that must be going on in Indy, sometimes it takes low expectations to get a team to relax and play its game (see: Pittsburgh, 2006). The Colts are at home, and there's clearly nothing wrong with their offense, which is potent with both the run and pass. Trent Green hasn't been the same quarterback since coming back from his nasty concussion. Colts 34, Chiefs 17

Dallas at Seattle -- Bill Parcells looks and sounds like a man who's just waiting for the season to end, but he might have to wait another week. Despite how wretched the Cowboys have looked in the past four weeks, particularly on defense, they face a Seattle team with a depleted secondary. And Tony Romo isn't the kind of quarterback who you can expect to beat with just a pass rush. He's mobile and creative, and he has great targets in Terry Glenn, Jason Witten, and that other guy who tries so hard to stay out of the spotlight, I'm going to respect his wishes by keeping his name off my blog (but if you scroll down to the next post you might get a hint). While Seattle has a reputation of being tough at home, they lost at home in this round to St. Louis two years ago, and they were just 5-3 at Qwest Field this year. Dallas was in synch as recently as four weeks ago, while Seattle hasn't really put it all together yet this year. Cowboys 27, Seahawks 24

New York at New England -- The dream coaching matchup of the playoffs, with the mentor and playoff master Bill Belichick facing protege and this year's regular season wunderkind Eric Mangini. Wesleyan University might never get this kind of mainstream press again. God bless Mangini for getting 10 wins out of a Jets team that people wrote off even before the year began. (Memo to those tabbing Sean Payton as Coach of the Year: Mangini didn't import the likes of Drew Brees and Reggie Bush to upgrade his team, and that's no disrespect meant to Payton) You have to like experience here. The Jets will fight and keep it close, but as long as Tom Brady's wearing a helmet and Belichick a hoodie, their team gets the edge. Patriots 13, Jets 10

New York at Philadelphia -- Like the Cowboys, the Giants have the opportunity to forget the past month and focus anew on the playoffs by going on the road. But this matchup isn't nearly as favorable to them as what the Cowboys face. There's always the chance that Jeff Garcia's miracle ride will come to an abrupt end, but he's not being asked to do all that much to help the Eagles win. The offensive line has become one of the two or three best in football. Brian Westbrook is, if not a classic runner, a fearsome threat out of the backfield. And the defense has come on strong and has the potential to make a game-changing play at any time. Meanwhile, the Giants aren't even in this discussion unless Tiki Barber has a monster game against Washington. But this pick isn't about what the Giants aren't; it's about what the Eagles are. Right now, they're playing like the NFC's most complete team. Eagles 24, Giants 10

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