Thursday, January 07, 2016

NFL Playoff Picks

As always, I’ll be writing NFL playoff predictions for as long as Green Bay is in the postseason.  This year’s entries may be brief.

* Washington over Green Bay
Well, let’s get right into it, the Packers stink.  I don’t know what the hell happened to this team after the 6-0 start, or if perhaps that 6-0 start was just a mirage and a nice bit of lucky scheduling.  Whatever the case, the Packers haven’t looked good in so long that it’s fair to say they’re no longer just “in a slump,” they’re a mediocre team.  I noted after last year’s NFC title game heartbreaker that one of the worst aspects of that loss was that Green Bay blew a healthy season; after injury-plagued years in 2012-13, the 2014 Packers enjoyed relatively few major injuries and failed to capitalize.  Of course, the injury bug bit hard again in 2015, chomping down especially hard on the offensive line and Jordy Nelson.  As much as I like Nelson, I wouldn’t have thought that his absence would completely torpedo the Packers’ offense.  The team desperately needed a receiver to step up with him gone and not only has nobody stepped up, but it seems like guys have actively regressed — Randall Cobb is having a rough year, James Jones is much more “guy cut by the Raiders” than “guy who thrived as a Packer,” and Davonte Adams is just an outright bust at this point.  Adams not only rarely gets open, but when he is open, he’s dropping ball.  Combine this with the shaky O-line and virtually non-existent running game, and it’s no wonder Aaron Rodgers is having an off year.  Accuse me of being a Rodgers apologist if you want, but the guy is being given nothing to work with here.  It’s not a surprise that he’s throwing more picks since he’s trying hard to force plays to happen on sheer will, yet it just isn’t happening.  There’s also no support from the coaching staff, as the always-incompetent Mike McCarthy somehow managed to find an even more incompetent play-caller in Tom Clements.  Big-time Peter Principle at work in Green Bay, with everyone on the coaching staff seemingly promoted one level above their ideal level.

Whew, enough Packers ranting.  Basically, they look like a team who know they’re shot and are just trying to get the season over with at this point.  It really annoys me to no end that they’re going to lose to Washington, one of the most deplorable franchises in pro sports.  That’s salt in the wound at this point.  I could’ve handled a playoff loss to Seattle or even Minnesota (the division rival I easily hate the least, probably due to their lovable futility) but Washington?  That’s a bridge too far.  My hope is that the Packers pull a Tampa Bay and make a surprising coaching firing but I suspect the injuries will buy McCarthy another year.  I really can’t stress enough how over that guy I am.

* Seattle over Minnesota
Part of me wonders if this seems a little *too* obvious a result given that Seattle is a) red-hot right now, b) destroyed the Vikings in Minnesota just a month ago, c) the friggin’ two-time defending NFC champion against a “happy to be here” surprise division winner.  Unless the Vikings somehow hire Jeff Fisher to coach them between now and Sunday, however, I really can’t see a way they can slow the Seahawks down.  Russell Wilson is playing absolutely out of his mind right now.  He’s playing so well that when they get down near the goal line near the end of Super Bowl 50 and Pete Carroll calls a run this time, people will be ripping him for NOT calling a pass.  (I’m assuming Lynch would fumble in this scenario, possibly because his hands weren’t quite sticky enough with Skittles residue.  And how about that, turns out ‘Skittles’ is in my spellchecker.)

* Houston over Kansas City
Man, if the Chiefs were coached by literally anyone besides Andy Reid, I’d have them as the AFC favourites.  Unfortunately, they’re led by a guy who’s on a six-game postseason losing streak and who hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008.  There is no reason on earth the happy-to-be-here, won-a-lame-division Texans should win this game since K.C. has them beat in every category aside from the admittedly important “can unleash J.J. Watt” department.  Yet, here I am going against the Chiefs solely based on Reid.  Maybe I’m off base and this is just a charmed year for Kansas City sports, but who knows.

* Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Speaking of coaches that just seem cursed in the playoffs….at least Reid has had some playoff success in his career.  Poor ol’ Marvin Lewis is looking for that inaugural playoff win and yet his team’s hopes were flushed down the toilet as soon as Andy Dalton got injured.  Well, ok, maybe that wasn’t quite such a killer given how Dalton is a playoff pariah himself, but perhaps the real game-ender was being matched up against the Steelers.  While Pittsburgh is certainly prone to a hiccup (their inexplicable loss to Baltimore two weeks ago), I actually think they might be the best team in the AFC.  When it comes to good playoff karma, who wouldn’t take Sixsburgh over the Bungles? 

The AFC is a very weird conference and it’ll all come down to matchups.  I totally think the Steelers can beat any team except Denver, and that’s who they’ll be facing next week with a win in Cincy.  I’d actually take Kansas City (despite the Reid factor) over Denver except that matchup won’t happen unless the Bengals beat Pittsburgh, thus setting up Bengals/Patriots and Chiefs/Broncos in the second round.  If the Steelers fall to Denver, that should theoretically clear the AFC for the Patriots, who I think beat everyone else unless their team continues to be decimated by injuries.  It’s all very confusing.  Check in next week unless Green Bay gets embarrassingly blown out and I swear off football altogether.

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