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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Who's Gonna Win?

*With this two week layoff between the Conference Championship Games (aka Snoozefest 2K6), I am going to reserve my decision on who will win the Super Bowl until next week. But instead of leaving my loyal readers hanging for 14 days, much like the NFL does, I have decided to do a little breakdown as to why each team will win Super Bowl XL in Detroit. Read and decide for yourself.*

Why Seattle Will Win
- The Seattle Seahawks have a distinct advantage coming into Super Bowl XL and his name is Shaun Alexander. Alexander scored an NFL record 28 touchdowns this season and rushed for a league high 1,880 yards. Add on to that, Alexander is dependable, only fumbling 5 times this year and having only 4 of those fumbles result in a turnover. To make things even tougher for the Steelers, not only is Shaun a dangerous weapon, but Seattle boasts the best offensive line in the NFL led by the best lineman in the league, Walter Jones. If the line can set the tone and dominate the line of scrimmage, it could be a long day for Pittsburgh.

- With each passing season, and each passing week, Matt Hasselbeck is looking more like his mentor in Green Bay, and the man who brought Mike Holmgren his first Super Bowl title, Brett Favre. Matt had a 98.2 QB rating during a regular season in which he threw for almost 3,500 yards to go with 24 TDs and only 9 picks. He has only gotten better during this postseason with a rating of 109.6, 434 yards and 3 TD passes in only two games. The way Matt rolled through the Washington and Carolina defenses, theres no reason to think he can't do the same thing to the Steelers.

- The Seattle defense has been brilliant so far in the playoffs. They had the 5th best rush defense in the NFL this season, allowing a mere 93 yards per game, and only 3.6 yards per carry. Led by standout rookie LBs Lofa Tatupu and LeRoy Hill, the Seahawks front 7 does just as good a job rushing the passer as they do stopping the run. Also, should Big Ben make any errant throws, shifty and surehanded corners Marcus Trufant, Jimmy Williams, Kelly Herndon and Andre Dyson will make him pay.

- One other aspect that could contribute to the Seahawks winning is if the Steelers fall in love with Jerome Bettis as their #1 back. While fat and lovable, Bettis is the most overrated RB in the history of the NFL. While he sits 5th all-time in rushing yardage, his career yards per carry average is a mere 3.8. That is the lowest average of any back in the top 50 all time in rushing yardage except for Eddie George. Also, in the past 4 years, every other back on the Steelers combined (that includes journeymen like Amos Zeroue and FBs like Dan Kreider) has averaged 4.6 yards per carry while Jerome has averaged 3.6. And even if you subtract 200 carries for Bettis in that time span (for sake of goal line carries) his average only goes up to 4.1. So the fact is, Bettis is overrated, and if the Steelers fall in love with him because its his last game and in his home town, they could be in trouble.

Why Pittsburgh Will Win (even though I hope they don't)
- Ben Roethlisberger has been incredible in his breif two year career, and even better in the team's playoff run. After posting a QB rating of 98.6 during the regular season, Big Ben has brought it to the next level this postseason with a rating of 124.8. He has led his team to three straight road wins, beating the top 3 seeds in the AFC along the way. Also, who can forget the game saving tackle he made of Nick Harper after the Jerome Bettis fumble against the Colts. With 7 TDs and only one pick this postseason, Ben has proven that he has what it takes to lead his team to victory no matter what the situation. Any questions left after he was embarrassed in last year's AFC title game have been answered, and he is poised to take the next step to Super Bowl champ.

- The Blitzburgh defense is going to make it nearly impossible for the Seattle running attack to get going, and will make life a living hell for QB Matt Hasselbeck. In their first three playoff games, the Steelers have held the Bengals, Colts and Broncos in check, holding them to an average of 17 points per game. With playmakers like Troy Polamalu and Joey Porter, the Seattle offensive line will have its hands full picking up the variety of blitz packages Steeler D-coordinator Dick Lebeau likes to throw at teams. They have sacked opposing QBs an average of 4 times each game in this playoff run, and Hasselbeck was sacked only twice, both times last week against the Panthers. So not only has the Seattle offense been less impressive than those the Steelers have faced the past few weeks, but they haven't seen anything like the pressure Pittsburgh is going to bring in Detroit.

- When it comes down to it, Pittsburgh just has more offensive weapons than the Seattle defense can deal with. Whether its RBs Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker and Verron Haynes, WRs Hines Ward, Antwan Randle El and Cedric Wilson, or TE Heath Miller, the Steelers just bring too much to the table offensively. The Seahawk's haven't faced a team with nearly this capability in these playoffs. The Redskins are essentially inept offensively, and while the Panthers do have some weapons, they were down to their 3rd string RB, and have no real WRs to compliment the explosive Steve Smith. Everyone has been impressed with the emergence of Lofa Tatupu as a linebacker this year, but he alone will not be able to slow down Pittsburgh. After giving up only 10 points to Washington and 14 to Carolina, they will have to slow down a team that's averaged almost 29 points the last three weeks. To me that's just too much of a deficit to overcome.

**So now you've seen why each team should win. Check back next week for my Super Bowl pick, and maybe a few interesting teases you want to try for the big game.**

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Conference Championships

*Now that my beloved Patriots are out, my support will turn to the Carolina Panthers. Anyone else surprised that neither Tom Brady or Peyton Manning is going to be in the Super Bowl? I've gotta say that surprises me. But both of their teams made way too many turnovers and mistakes in general to deserve to be in Detroit in 2 weeks. As for the teams left, I think Carolina has proven that they are clearly the class of the NFC, and Seattle has played lackluster competetion all season long, and didn't look all that great beating the Redskins. And even though Pittsburgh was far more impressive in their last win than Denver, home field combined with only having played one game so far gives Denver the nod. Both the Broncos and Steelers have great defenses, power running attacks, and QBs that both coaches hope don't need to go out and win the game for them. It will be interesting though to see if, called upon more this week, Jake the Snake Plummer will be able to continue his consistent and mistake free play. No matter what the Super Bowl matchup, I'm sure the NFL isn't doing backflips. I mean when the biggest market in the game could possibly be Denver or Pittsburgh, thats not really the draw they were looking for when the playoffs started. But sometimes thats just how it breaks down. Only one game left to Super Bowl XL!*

Conference Championship Picks
Carolina Panthers (+4) over Seattle Seahawks
Denver Broncos (-3) over Pittsburgh Steelers

Playoffs: 6-2-0
Regular Season: 52-27-3
Monday Night: 10-7-0

Monday, January 09, 2006

Divisional Playoffs

*The Patriots were the only home team to come away with a victory in the first round, and hopefully the action will be just as good in the divisional round. Unfortunately, only the Tampa-Washington game was competitive and entertaining. This week brings better matchups, with fakers like the Jaguars and Bengals tossed to the side, and contenders like Denver, Seattle and Indy entering the mix. So we will move from 8 teams to 4, as the March on Motown continues for Super Bowl XL.*

Divisional Playoff Picks
New England Patriots (+3) over Denver Broncos
Seattle Seahawks (-8.5) over Washington Redskins
Carolina Panthers (+3) over Chicago Bears
Pittsburgh Steelers (+9.5) over Indianapolis Colts


Playoffs: 3-1-0
Regular Season: 52-27-3
Monday Night: 10-7-0


Preseason Super Bowl Prediction: New England Patriots 31 Carolina Panthers 27

Friday, January 06, 2006

Playoffs!

*Its time for the playoffs, everybody's favorite time of year. The pretenders are gone, and only the contenders are left. Who will make it to Detroit for Super Bowl XL? Only time will tell. But so far the favorites have to be Indy and Seattle out front, with Denver, New England and maybe even Chicago rounding out the trendy picks. My preseason prediction of New England over Carolina is still alive, but looking less likely with each passing week. My prediction now? Well its hard to say, due to my affection for the Pats. So for now, until one of my preseason picks is eliminated, I am sticking with the Pats and Panthers. Should be an exciting weekend, and who knows, maybe I will even get a few picks right!*

Wild Card Picks
Washington Redskins (+2.5) over Tampa Bay Bucs
New England Patriots (-7.5) over Jacksonville Jaguars
New York Giants (-2.5) over Carolina Panthers
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) over Cincinnati Bengals

Playoffs: 0-0-0
Regular Season: 52-27-3 (.634)
Monday Night: 10-7-0 (.588)

**After the NFL playoffs are over I will be devoting most of my blog to college hoops, gearing up for the NCAA tourney this March. Also, I decided in my wisdom that I should let conference play work itself out a little to see who the real players are before I return to my college hoops top 10.**