Pickin’ Aint Easy: Forecasting the NFL Playoffs
Whoever said “Pimpin’ aint easy” obviously never spent any time trying to predict the outcome of pro football games. Seriously, a week spent clockin’ hos and hatin’ snitches seems downright relaxing compared to the agony involved with my pigskin picks. There’s just no way to predict what’s going to happen in the bizarro-world that’s known as the NFL.
Perhaps that explains my rather mediocre prognostication record this year. After a roller coaster 17 weeks, I finished with a mark of 126-119-11. Not bad, but not great either. Much more impressive were the results from my musical preseason preview. In that column, I correctly categorized 20 of the league’s 32 teams. Of course, I also labeled St. Louis my super sleeper which pretty much negated any credibility I might have gained from the rest of my predictions.
But now it’s playoff time. Everything is about to change. Sure, there’ll still be an upset or two, but for the most part, you can expect the cream to rise to the top. And rarely has the cream ever been so easily identifiable. Towering above all others are New England and the defending champs from Indianapolis. No one dares dispute their clear superiority. A notch below them, you have Dallas, Green Bay and maybe even Jacksonville. Everyone else? Nothing but fodder for the pimps and hos, homie.
So wipe the slate clean and pull up a chair for the postseason. With only 11 games left before the annual six month hiatus, you won’t want to miss a single snap. Unless you’re a Giants’ fan, that is. I have a feeling they’ll have had their fill of Eli Manning by halftime.
On to the playoff picks (home team in caps):
Washington (+3 ½) over SEATTLE
There’s a lot not to like about Washington in this game. For starters, Seattle’s Qwest Field is murder on opposing offenses. Then there’s journeyman QB Todd Collins, who’s making his first career start.
But the Redskins have plenty of positives, too: A healthy and thriving Clinton Portis. The Sean Taylor dedication tour. And then there’s this: Saturday’s forecast calls for a miserable mix of wind and rain, which should place a premium on being able to run the ball. Well guess what? Washington loves to pound opponents into submission. Meanwhile, Seattle abandoned the run the second they realized Shawn Alexander was on the Britney Spears diet. The choice is clear.
Redskins 16 – Seahawks 13
PITTSBURGH (+2 ½) over Jacksonville
Ah, the obvious game. Absolutely everyone has already handed this contest to the Jags. And for good reason; Jacksonville not only beat Pittsburgh at Heinz Field three weeks ago, the Jaguars are also the better, healthier team.
But the Steelers have pride. And right now, they’re sitting at home listening to everyone dismiss them, and pimp Jacksonville as the club cable of going into New England and knocking off the undefeated Pats. Don’t be surprised if the silently seething Steelers pull off an upset of their own.
Beware the obvious game, people.
Steelers 24 – Jaguars 23
TAMPA BAY (-3) over New York Giants
This is too perfect. Eli Manning, on the road, against the NFL’s best pass defense? Giddy up! And if that’s not enough for you, check out this stat: Teams are 4-10 this season the week after playing New England. So anyone out there thinking the Giants got a boost by playing the Pats tough, think again. It didn’t help Indy, Baltimore or Philadelphia. And it’s not going to help New York, either.
Buccaneers 24 – Giants 13
SAN DIEGO (-10) over Tennessee
I know, I know. I spent most of December saying San Diego was going nowhere come playoff time. But I had no idea they’d be lucky enough to play Tennessee in round one. Let’s face it, we all know it doesn’t matter whether Vince plays or not. The Titans' inept offense isn’t going to muster anything against San Diego either way. No matter who lines up behind center, the Chargers D (the league leaders in turnover differential) is going to be as geared up and giddy as Roger Clemens at a ‘roid party. Oh, I’m sorry. I meant a B-12 party.
Chargers 27 – Titans 10
Last Week against the spread: 8-7-1 (126-119-11 in ’07) Last week straight up: 11-5 (152-104 in ’07)
As for the rest of the playoff picture, here’s a quick look at how I expect it to play out:
AFC Divisional Round
Patriots over Steelers Colts over Chargers NFC Divisional Round
Cowboys over Redskins Packers over Buccaneers
Super Bowl XLII
Patriots over Packers
I have to admit, I’m unbelievably tempted to pick the Colts to repeat as champs. Their defense is in Super Bowl form, and Peyton Manning just seems so much more at ease since getting the championship monkey off his back. Still, I’ve been picking the Pats to win it all since January of ’07, so there’s no way I’m turning back now. And as an added bonus, a Patriots title would give me the sports forecasting triple crown. That’s right, I tabbed the Red Sox and Spurs to win championships before their seasons began, too.
Hmmm. Maybe pickin’ is easy after all.
-- Jason Friedman
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