Stream of consciousness thoughts on this weekend's action:
Indy-Baltimore: What can I say? I can't believe I fell for the Ravens' act. All year long, I've bashed them as pretenders. I've railed against Steve McNair and that offense, saying their come-from-behind wins usually masked 3 and a half quarters of piss-poor effort. But that's just the venom of a spurned prognosticator. Here are the facts: Baltimore won this year thanks to a first-class defense, an opportunistic offense and a little luck (Just as they did in 2001). Let's face it, for the most part, their D came though on Saturday. They kept the Colts out of the endzone and picked Peyton twice. But they didn't get the offense and they REALLY didn't receive any luck. By my count, the Ravens cost themselves three more forced turnovers. We all know about Ray Lewis deflecting two sure interceptions, but how about Joseph Addai's fumble that saw two Ravens fight over the ball, only to boot it away from each other and into the hands of an Indy player. Even with a no-show from the offense, Baltimore could have won that game.
As for the Colts, I'm in shock. Two mediocre efforts from Mr. Peepee and yet Indianapolis is still alive and looking like the favorite to win it all. I'm speechless. Yes, the Indy defense is showing signs of life, but let's remember they've only managed to slow down two rather pedestrian offenses. However, I will give full marks to the Colts' offensive line. I thought they did a remarkable job of giving Peyton time and creating running room (especially down the stretch). I really expected Manning to take a beating in this game, but he managed to come away from it fairly unscathed... which makes his sub-par performance even more perplexing (until I remember his January alter-ego, of course).
To me, there was one MAJOR development to come out of this game: That is, Sean Payton's metamorphosis into Mike Martz. Look, I'm all for aggressive play-calling. I love it. But did anyone else get Martz flashbacks when Payton seemingly forgot Deuce McCallister was murdering the Eagles' defense? And how about that fumbled option-pitch to Reggie Bush? I think the Saints have all the ingredients necessary to win it all. I mean, sure they have weaknesses defensively, but what team doesn't right now? But I'm positively petrified that we could see the birth of another Mr. Peepee in the coming weeks.
Here's what would really concern me if I were a Bears' fan right now: That defense is NOTHING like it was the first half of the season. I gave them the benefit of the doubt during the final month because I felt like this team was on cruise control. But Seattle, whose running game had been below average all season, found some gaping holes in the second half. What will Deuce do with those this week?
As for Sexy, I figured he'd play well and he did. But at some point, be it this week or in the Super Bowl, he's going to drop a deuce on the field. And if the Bears' D doesn't come around, I'm afraid there's just no way Chicago can hoist the Lombardi trophy. In fact, in this wide-open final four, I'd say Chicago is the ONLY team out of the group I can't see winning it all... which is probably the best news the Windy City has heard in ages.
Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever trust a Marty Schottenheimer-coached team in the playoffs. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING favored San Diego in that game. Now, I'm not saying Marty gagged it singlehandedly. But how many times has he had the superior team AND homefield in the post-season and come away empty-handed?
New England had no business winning this game. Tom Brady was HORRIBLE except for the drives he orchestrated at the end of the first and second halves. And I guess that's what makes him great. Just a stunning turn of events... until I remember Marty was prominently involved and it somehow all makes sense.
Week 2 picks:
Straight up: 2-2
Against the spread: 1-3
Straight up: 5-3
Against the spread: 4-4