Well folks, I’ve been missing doing NFL picks threads for a while. Been too busy to even read the good 'ole SDMB lately, but I’m nursing a hangover at work today and I figured, what the hell. Hope there’s still a few diehards left who’ll participate here. On with it…
Its going to be a big day in the state of Pennsylvania on Sunday. This looks like it could be a afternoon of football watching for the ages. The Sports Guy is calling them the greatest title games ever. Without too much analysis, I’m inclined to agree. Might be a interesting top 10 list to debate. Anyways, if you haven’t heard yet, the forecast for both cities is 3-6 inches of snow, temps just below freezing. That should definately have an impact, though I can’t say that it favors any one team too much. The breakdown:
NFC Championship - Sunday, 3:00 PM ET on FOX
Atlanta at Philidelphia (Eagles by 5)
It seems that the Boston self-loathing mojo has been passed on to Philly nowadays. I don’t think this factor has been considered by most. Everyone is talking about how big a choke job it would be if the Iggles lost and the fans and TV personalities are hyping it up alot, but it doesn’t seem to me that people are considering all the pressure that will put on the Iggles players. It almost completely negates the home field advantage in my books. If things even go slightly awry, expect the boo-birds to come out and sap the resiliency of this squad. Its a big factor, especially for a young hungry defense like the Falcons have.
Another key factor is McNabb’s size. He’s not the wrecking ball that Culpepper is, nor does he have the cat-like quickness of Vick. However, the Atlanta D is fast but small. This isn’t a major negative most of the time, however when it comes to taking down a strong guy like McNabb it can be the difference between converting 3rd downs or not. McNabb hasn’t been the opportunistic runner he was in years past, and when you have a target like TO (who can get open when he hangs in the pocket for an extra step) that might be a plus, but now that the WRs can’t be relied upon to get open after 3 seconds those chances to run an move the chains will be more valuable than looking downfield.
Also, everyone is falling all over themselves to say how great and game changing Westbrook is. He’s certainly a excellent back, but he’s not vintage Marshall Faulk. He won’t win a game single handedly against a good D like the Falcons have. And if the Falcons were able to blanket the Rams backs and receivers, they’ll have no trouble containing the TO-less Eagles.
I’m a little concerned about Vick’s response to the snow. He won’t be able to make those ridiculous cuts that he does, but neither will the defenders. Raw speed running downhill is a huge advantage in the snow because the defenders can’t make the cut to get persuit. If Vick breaks decisively, he’ll be productive, if he dances it could be trouble. The cold probably won’t be a problem, we all remember that day in Green Bay, but I can’t say I remember Vick playing when footing was a issue.
What’s the key matchup? Eagles O vs the Atlanta D? Probably an equal number of question marks on both sides. Eagles D vs Falcons O? Pretty well matched, especially when you consider the likelyhood of snow. Actually, the biggest matchup is the Falcons Special Teams vs the Eagles Special Teams. I’ll take the Falcons here every time.
The pick? Atlanta. Take the points folks, the Falcons will run the ball relentlessly. People talk about rushing winning championships. It’s not that simple, lots of teams are dedicated to the run. The key is rushing for a high average per attempt. Thats the winning factor. When you can average more that 5 yards a carry, it’s every bit as productive as a stong passing game. And less risky. the Eagles D matches up pretty well. Lots of speed to neutralize Vick, but their strength is the secondary and pass D. Thats unfortunate when the Falcons hardly put any emphasis on throwing. Vick need to unleash that cannon for an arm one a quater deep downfield to keep the D honest. complete or incomplete, it doesn’t matter. But if they show that threat, expect them to score plenty.
Final Score: Falcons 27 - Eagles 23
AFC Championship - Sunday, 6:30 PM ET on CBS
New England at Pittsburgh (Pats by 3)
I’ll join the crowd in saying, “huh?!?!” Yeah, I know the Pats are the defending champs and they dismantled the Colts last week. But calling the 16-1 Steelers a 3 point dog at home (which is effectively saying the Pats are a touchdown better on a neutral field, 9 points in Foxboro) is just silly. I’m not going to confidently say the Steelers will win, but sight unseen I’m putting money on the home team, and #1 seed remember, getting points everytime. Oh yeah, one last thing, the Steelers crushed the Pats in this very stadium earlier this year.
Its important to not put too much stock in last weeks whipping of the Colts here. Yes this is a very good D and Belichick is one hell of a coach, but this matchup couldn’t be more opposite. Last weeks results aren’t any indicator for this week, plus the fact that the Pats will have to scheme completely different could cost them valuable preparation.
The weather here probably in the Steelers favor. If visibility is hindered at all or if things get slippery the Pats dink-and-dunk could be just bunk. The Steelers downhill running shouldn’t be hindered at all. But then again, neither will Dillon’s.
Pittsburgh probably has a pretty big homefield advantage here. Really good, loud fans and confidence. Plus the inexplicably difficult kicking at the Ketchup should work to the well practiced Steelers advantage.
I like the fact that the Steelers have Tommy Maddox there as a back up. If you’re putting money on a team, you like to know that an injury isn’t necessarily the kiss of death.
I don’t put any stock in Cowhers AFC Championship record. Those losses weren’t ever choke jobs of the Schottenheimer type, and Kordell Stewart was prominently involved. Cowher isn’t going to be called a genius any time soon, but he doesn’t beat himself either.
All this said, the Patriots are the defending champs. They will play good D. They will find a way to move the ball. They will probably capitalize on a turnover or two. But in the end, I think Pittsburgh holds them to field goals. The Steelers D will step up and make life tough for Dillon. Big Ben is clearly the X-factor, but I’m hoping he’ll do just enough to let the defense win it for him. Don’t bet heavily on a rookie QB against Belichick but…
Final Score: Steelers 21 - Patriots 20.