Friday, January 05, 2007

NFC Playoff Predictions

Let me first start off by saying that I am more confident in my AFC playoff outlook. I think it will be a true clash of the titans. The NFC is more of a crap shoot because each of these teams has an Achilles heel.

Round 1
Dallas @ Seattle ... Dallas
Giants @ Philly ... Philly

Dallas @ Seattle
I think Dallas is the only underdog that wins outright this weekend. I wouldn't normally look to fade Seattle at home, but this isn't last years Seattle team. The Hawks even lost their last 2 home games. The problems of this team stretch further than Shaun Alexander and a " Madden curse". The Hawks finished the Season in a weak division only one game above 500. They did have some injuries, and there secondary is currently injured matched up against the talented Dallas receiving core.

One of my favorite tools for research is If you haven't checked them out yet, your are missing out on some thoughtful insight. Their DVOA rankings have Seattle ranked as the worst team in the entire playoffs. They are below average in both offense and defense this year with their offense being 11% less efficient than a ghost average offense, and their defense being 5% less efficient than a ghost average defense.

Seattle is in the playoffs because of a weak division, but Dallas is battle tested. I think the NFC East is the best division in football, and I predicted 3 playoff teams correctly ( Dallas, Eagles, and Giants). Before the year started I also had Dallas and Philly in the NFC title game.

Tony Romo finally got hit by some of those bullets he had been dodging. For some reason Romo and the Cowboys have actually played better on the road. The Dallas road success might have something to do with more focus and less boobs in his face.

Seattle had their fun last year, but now the NFL will milk Romo, Parcells and Owens. I wouldn't be surprised to see some bad calls to the Cowboys way.

Giants @ Philly
I think the Giants are very capable of winning this game. In the first meeting Eli had an amazing comeback and a 370 yard performance. In the last meeting, the Giants turned the ball over 4 times, and were still in this game until late. They had 2 fumbles, and two of Eli's passes deflected for interceptions. I think Eli has received a lot of unfair criticism as he was blamed for the loss. If the Giants limit those costly turnovers they have a VERY good chance of winning this game.

I think New offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride calling more run plays to protect Eli and feed the retiring Tiki could help shield the team from costly turnovers. If Eli is less asked to " win the game", and more asked to " manage the game" the Giants should win.

I know it is cliche, but a solid run game and limiting turnovers would really favor NY. I think Tiki would run hard in his last game as a professional with those extra carries, and Eli already showed us that he could rally the troops in the 2 minute drill in a close game in Philly.

As much as I would love for the Giants to beat the Eagles, I think the Eagles win ( Couglin will be fired within 24 hours) but the Giants to cover. If Dallas doesn't win outright though, I think the Giants win. One underdog has to win, but I think Dallas bounces back after that crappy play vs Detroit.

So to once again recap my position, if Dallas wins, I think Philly wins. If Seattle wins, the Giants win. The NFL is just weird like that.

Round 2.
Dallas @ Chicago ... Bears
Philly @ New Orleans ... Eagles
( It was really hard to pick round 1, never mind round 2)

Dallas @ Chicago
The battle of the erratic quarterbacks. It is not who will win this game, but also who will NOT lose this game. The Romo dream ends in Chicago at the hands of good defense. Grossman isn't pretty, but the Bears win.

I think the Bears D has a huge loss with Tank and Tommy out. I think Tommy Harris is probably the most underrated defender in the league, and he is probably the most valuable player on that Bears D. He is probably the best pass rushing DT, and a fierce run stopper who puts teams into 3rd and longs. The Bears are hurt without him.

Philly @ New Orleans
The most interesting part of this match up to me, is that the Saints were only 4-4 at home. Most teams are better at home as opposed to the road. Philly with their tough home crowd was 5-3 at home AND on the road.

I think the NFL will like this match up to see if Jeff Garcia can go into New Orleans and win where Donovan lost weeks ago.

One of the underrated things I noticed about the Saints, is that their defense gets by a lot on gambling and strategy as opposed to talent. One of the key plays that supports that theory was an interception Mark Simenou had against the Bengals in week 11. The Saints showed Cover 2 leaving the deep middle and edges exposed. Carson Palmer looked to throw to the receiver in that void, but Mark Simenou ran to the void right after the snap. It was almost as though Sean Peyton knew that Carson would identify the cover 2 and attack that very spot.

Outcome wise the Saints remind me of the old Rams teams. I think that Saints offense on that artificial turf is BETTER than you think, while that defense is WORSE than you think.

I think the Saints dream season ends with a one and done, and the more balanced and playoff experienced Eagles win.

NFC Championship
Eagles @ Bears ... Bears

Before the season started I had the Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC Title game coming from the battle tested NFC East ( without 1st round byes). It so hard to predict the Bears to win with those injuries on defense and that inconsistent play at quarterback.

How ironic would it be for the Eagles to get to yet ANOTHER NFC championship? If Donovan Mcnabb were playing, I think it would be a great story in that he would come home to Chicago. I still think the Eagles choking and losing yet another NFC championship is what will be remembered.

I think the #4 seed Pats, or the # 2 seed Ravens win the AFC. The wild NFC might just have " who we thought they were" #1 Bears to win the conference.

New England and Chicago to dance in Miami
- please note that I have pending NFL futures on the Cowboys, Eagles, and Pats that I will look to play in the playoffs.

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