Friday, January 15, 2010

Divisional Weekend - Saturday Games

Okay Fackers. Last week I went 2-2, correctly predicting both AFC Wildcard Weekend matchups but brutally butchering the NFC tilt. 2-2 isn't so bad I guess. I mean Adam Schefter went 1-3. Mike Greenberg went 0-4 as did Bill Simmons. Eric Allen was the only "expert" on ESPN did better than me. Some of you told me that I should "stick to baseball." Well should Adam Schefter find another job? Should Greenie resign? (Trick question, Mike is absolutely awful and should resign for a lack of sports knowledge that is not remotely compensated for by humor).

Despite the Giants not being involved and the fact that 75% of the games were certifiable blowouts, I think that a good number of you Fackers were pleased with the results--namely the Jets winning and the Patriots gettin' knawked the fack out by the Ravens. Let's hope that the Cowboys lose this weekend.

Well, I'm back offering more NFL Playoffs content. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Or maybe I have fun writing these posts.

In my opinion, Divisional Weekend is the best weekend of the sporting year. Two entire days of football, wherein the Super Bowl pretenders are knocked out and the heavyweights - the #1 and #2 seeds - make their postseason debuts. We get to speculate about whether the top seeds should have rested their starters in the final weeks of the regular season and sought health at the expense of momentum. I certainly can't wait until 4:30 on Saturday.

The elements do not figure to be be a factor this week as 3 of the games will be in domed stadiums and the other will be in San Diego. Certainly not what I think of when I think of playoff football. Regardless, it would be difficult for the games not to be better than last weekend's slate. Unlike last weekend, we are going to split the posts up. Here are Saturday's games:

Arizona Cardinals (+7) at New Orleans Saints, Saturday 4:30 PM EST. The Cardinals are coming off a thrilling 51-45 overtime victory in which a defensive touchdown ironically ended the highest scoring NFL postseason game ever. Go figure. Some, including the aforementioned Mike Greenberg say that the Cardinals will be exhausted and mentally drained from the victory and the "long" flight from Arizona to Nawlins. I say bullshit. If the Saints lose, they'll say they were rusty coming off their first round bye. Rest, or lack thereof, is thoroughly overrated.

Meanwhile, the Saints, who were 13-0, before losing their final three contests, look to get back on the winning track so that they can win their first ever Super Bowl title. Incidentally, no team has ever lost its final 3 games and won the Super Bowl. If Brees, who was screwed in the MVP voting, plays like he did during the Saints' first 14 games, we could see a shootout of epic proportions at the Superdome akin to what we saw in Glendale last weekend. Brees finished the regular season with 4,388 yards (6th in the NFL) and led the Saints to a league-leading average of 31.9 points per game. (Interestingly, Cardinals QB Antrel Rolle was quoted as saying he'd rather face Saints QB Drew Brees any day of the week than face Packers QB Aaron Rodgers again.)

Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin, who missed the Wild Card matchup, did not practice Wednesday and is questionable.

How The Cardinals Can Win: Exploit the Saints' 26th-ranked pass defense. Also, they will need to replicate their running game that they had against the Packers (Nawlins was particularly vulnerable to the run in their final 3 games). Follow the Cowboys' gameplan and blitz the shit out of Brees and limit him to underneath passes. DO NOT GET BEAT BY THE BIG PLAY!

How The Saints Can Win: Big plays from Brees. Blitz the shit out of Warner and force picks.
My Prediction: I think this game will be a proverbial barnburner that comes down to the last possession. Offense rules. Kurt Warner, the surefire future Canton inductee, drives the Cardinals down the field for a Neil Rackers field goal with 20 seconds left.

Cardinals: 38
Saints: 35

Ravens (+7) at Colts, Saturday 8:15 PM EST: This is a game of contradictions. Current Baltimore team versus former Baltimore team. Top seed versus the lowest seed. The Ravens, in my opinion are undoubtedly the hottest team in the NFL. The Colts, au contraire, are the most rested team as a result of not having played their starters in 3.5 weeks.

The Colts are led by three-time MVP QB Peyton Manning (Peyton won the award this season to join Brett Favre as the only three-time winner of the sport's most prestigious award). Under center for the Ravens is Joe Flacco - he who owned a stat line of 4/10, 34 yards (tied with Miami's Bob Griese for the fewest in a playoff win in the Super Bowl era) over the fackin' Pats.

The Ravens had the 5th rated run defense; the Colts had the 24th rated run defense. The Ravens, led by the diminutive yet ravishing Ray Rice, finished 5th in the NFL in rushing; the Colts finished 32 of 32 in the same stat. As a matter of fact, the only similarity of the two teams is the relative inexperience of their head coaches - John Harbaugh is in his second year at the helm of the Ravens (and has two postseason appearences); Colts boss man Jim Caldwell, who has been critiqued by more Americans than President Obama over the last month, is a rookie.

So Who Will Win?

The Colts Can Win If: They are able to stop Ray Rice. As simple as that.

The Ravens Can Win If: Ray Rice runs wild. And Manning throws 3 INTs.
Prediction: Earlier in the week I was telling everyone who would listen that the Ravens would advance to the AFC Championship game. I was only one of the few who picked the Ravens over the Pats and I have a special affinity for Ray Rice because I picked him in the late rounds of my fantasy draft and he ended up one of the top Fantasy RBs. However, after looking at the matchups, I am not so sure anymore. Mainly, I am not too confident in Joe Flacco after the numbers he put up in Foxborough. Manning throws for 300 with 2 TDs with Addai running in another. Rice plays well with 140 combined yards and a TD, but not well enough to compensate for Flacco's turnovers.

Colts: 24
Ravens: 17
Come back on Sunday for the other two breakdowns. Enjoy the games!