AFC - Pittsburgh at Denver
(-3) 3:00 p.m. CBS
Oh my gosh what a riveting matchup!!!!! Much, much better
than the Brady vs Manning would have been. No sarcasm I swear. I
for one will be playing golf on Sunday. I will be very happy not
to watch either of these games because neither intrigues me. However
I will be happy to give you my thoughts on who should take home
the gold and make the greatest Bowl of all.
The Steelers were almost robbed. Even though I would have liked
to see Manning and Dungy make it to the big one, however I didn’t
like the call. It was clearly an interception and a fumble and the
ref blew it, almost costing the Steelers the game. If Vanderchoke
had made that field goal I think the Steelers end up losing that
game, leaving us with much more to talk about this week. But the
best team on Sunday won. Nine times out of ten the Colts would win
it. Maybe Dungy will think next time about resting his starters.
They didn’t get going until close to the end of third quarter;
rusty to say the least.
I still have a problem with the Steelers and the way they run the
ball. Case in point: Big Ben caught the Colts off guard by throwing
for 76 yards of the first 84-yard drive. After that he only threw
for 110 yards for the rest of the game and only completed about
7 more passes. The point is, Ben can catch some people off guard
by switching it to his arm but the Steelers were built on defense.
The key is to run the ball and keep the other offense off the field
then leave it to the defense to salt it away. They have not been
running the ball effectively lately and I have a solution. The Bus
only has one or two games left. He is a motivated sort. Give him
the bulk of the carries and roll the dice. It is not time to get
cute. Without a running game they will have no chance unless Denver
gives them the game, which brings me to my next team.
Better be lucky than good sometimes. No, I am just kidding. Any
team that gets this far certainly deserves it. However, I do offer
this little nugget. The Broncos did not force Tom Brady to miss
two wide-open receivers for TDs. The Broncos did not force Troy
Brown to muff a punt. The Broncos did not block the field goal;
Vinatieri missed it. The point being, the Pats did as much to beat
themselves as the Broncos did to beat them. This was not Brady’s
finest hour. Give Denver credit, they won the game and that is the
most important thing.
I still say the key to this game will be who runs the ball the best.
Both team have great defenses that will dominate however someone
must be able to run effectively to win it. Passing is not going
to get it done, however if it comes down to the air, the Broncos
have the edge in QB and WR. But they lose the edge, as their defense
is more suspect to the pass than the Steelers are. Giving up 341
yards to Brady can’t sit well coming into this one.
Bottom line is that I think the Broncos will win because they are
at home and Mike S. will game plan better than Cowher. Cowher works
strictly from emotion and that only goes so far. They will find
a way to run the ball with a little flare. Look for Bell to get
some more carries and Rod Smith will have a big day. If there are
no mistakes or the teams are even on turnovers then you have to
give it the Broncos. The only way the Steelers win is if Plummer
reverts back to circa 2000 form. By the way I am not as convinced
as some of the “experts” that the winner from this game
will beat any team in the NFC. Whichever, Seattle (my choice) or
Carolina gets there, both have better offenses than either team
in the AFC. Both teams in the NFC have good defenses as well. So
don’t think for a minute that an AFC victory is a given.
Final Score: Broncos 24, Steelers
NFC - Carolina (+4) at Seattle
6:30 p.m. FOX
I have been taking some heat from readers for being 0-2 last
week, for going with the defending Super Bowl champs over the Broncos,
and for ignoring Carolina’s date with destiny.
This Sunday, when the 13-5 Panthers take on the 14-3 Seahawks, I’ll
probably already have several e-mails from enlightened readers questioning
my every statement. But alas, as it is unwise to cast stones from
glass houses, it is also unwise to make NFL weekly prognostication
and submit them to a wide audience.
Something’s not right with me, and isn’t right with
the bunch of us, since most online NFL soothsayers have piled up
horrendous records this season. On the season, Cliff and I were
63% straight up and 56% against the spread. Next year, we’ll
be shooting for better, and it is widely considered that anything
above 60% against the spread is professional handicapper quality.
So watch out, Hank Goldberg, and with that said, let’s move
on to the game.
Carolina head coach John Fox must have learned a lot under Jim Fassel
about getting the most out of his players. As with a couple of those
Giants teams, the Panthers are playing great football with limited
resources and tightening up the defense in the playoffs. Fox is
5-1 in his playoff career and has prepared his teams for each game
as if it was the Super Bowl.
So far this postseason, Steve Smith has set himself apart as the
star of the Panther show, a title his teammates are just fine with
him assuming. Last week, Smith lit up the Bears with 12 receptions
(one shy of tying an NFL playoff record) for 218 yards (fourth all-time)
and two touchdowns. The Panthers registered a 29-21 victory, setting
the tone early with Smith hauling in a 58-yard TD catch on the second
play from scrimmage. With Bears DB Charles Tillman properly dispatched,
Smith now turns his attention to burning Seattle CB Marcus Trufant,
a talented third year man out of Washington State that fought some
back problems before the win over the Redskins.
With RB DeShaun Foster out with a broken ankle, the Carolina offense
should be decidedly one-dimensional, but with any luck, even that
won’t stop Smith. He’ll probably rack up at least seven
or eight catches for 150 yards and at least one score.
The Seahawks offensive answer to Smith is Darrell Jackson, who emerged
versus Washington as the Seahawks’ savior. While QB Matt Hasselbeck
passed for a touchdown and ran for another score, Jackson set a
club postseason record with 143 receiving yards in the 20-10 victory
over the Redskins, notching their first playoff win since December
1984. Jackson had nine catches, including a 29-yard touchdown, and
the Seahawks were able to win despite playing most of the way without
Shaun Alexander, the NFL’s MVP, who went down in the first
quarter with a concussion. How Alexander will react this week is
anybody’s guess, but reports are that the sturdy back has
been feeling much better this week. He passed all the requisite
tests and is on pace to be ready by Sunday. I know Mike Holmgren
will keep a close eye on Alexander, but the man really needs his
star in the lineup, on the field and carrying the bulk of the load
against the Panthers this weekend. The Seahawks rely heavily on
Alexander to set up their passing game, and Hasselbeck would likely
look lost without him. Since he looks like he’ll be okay,
I can see deep threat Joe Jurevicius getting open downfield and
the Seahawks keeping up with whatever points the Panthers can muster
with Smith under scrutiny and Foster out of the lineup.
Final Score: Seahawks 27, Panthers