Now, before I make my playoff proclamations, I'll say that I've been predicting a Patriots-Bears Super Bowl all year. So of course, now that the playoffs are upon us, I'm changing my tune. All Bears' and Pats' fans can safely rejoice now that I've removed the Friedman hex from their teams.
I'll start with the AFC, where I see three teams with a shot at the Super Bowl. San Diego, check. Baltimore, check. But NO WAY, NO HOW does Indy go to the Big Game this year. Teams with an historically bad run defense don't win 3 games in the playoffs to make it to the Super Bowl. Throw in a quarterback who has a knack for gagging in January and their fate is sealed. Indy should take care of business in round one (although it probably won't be easy). But they'll be able to make their tropical island vacation plans shortly thereafter.
So my third team? None other than the 3-time champion Patriots. Any team with Belichick, Tom Brady and a solid defense has a shot. And don't forget about that terrible twosome of Maroney and Dillon in the backfield. They should be able to somewhat make up for the fact that New England's WRs resemble a crew that seems more likely to start for the Amarillo Dusters. Now, I will say the Jets can give New England a hard time in round one. But no way "Noodles" Pennington will lead them to victory. The Jets are scrappy, but that doesn't mean they're good.
So why am I ditching the Pats as my super bowl pick? Well, I think they're geared more toward another title run in 2008 than 2007. They have two first round picks in the upcoming draft (was Deion Branch really worth it, Seattle?) and should be able to reload a bit on offense and defense. But for now, they're beat up (Losing Harrison hurts and Brady is aching too) and I just can't see them running the gauntlet in the tough AFC.
So that leaves the Chargers and Ravens. No doubt, San Diego is the best team in the NFL on paper. As stated in previous posts, their only weaknesses are secondary play (which is masked somewhat by a ferocious pass rush) and inexperience at QB. I think Rivers will be fine. But what really scares me is Marty Schottenheimer. The next time he wins a big January game will be his first. So like Mr. Peepee (Playoff Peyton), I won't believe he can get it done until I see it. I've just been burned too many times. So by process of elimination, that leaves the Ravens... a team I haven't believed in all season long. Welcome to the NFL, folks. The place where logic and reason come to die. I don't trust Baltimore at all, nor do I like them. So if I'm going to jinx a team, it might as well be them.
In the NFC, who knows? Or better yet, who cares? I thought Chicago would be able to hide Sexy Rexy at least until the Super Bowl by just riding its defense and special teams. I still don't understand why a team with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson insists on throwing 30 times a game. But regular season trends tend to rear their ugly head in the playoffs, so you have to think the QB position will haunt Chicago sooner rather than later... especially since their banged (no pun intended, Tank Johnson)-up D is a shadow of what it was in the first half of the season.
Dallas has plenty of talent, but also has too much TO, too much burnt toast (aka, Roy Williams) and too much man-boobage courtesy of the Big Tuna. Oh, and their kicker is Martin Gramatica. No thanks.
Giants. Umm, no.
Philly? Another team that loves nothing more than raising the expectations of its fans only to gleefully rip their hearts out.
Seattle? They just never were able to put it all together this season. I don't expect that to change in the playoffs.
So once again, process of elimination leaves us with... New Orleans! Seriously, I'm picking the Saints??? When was the last time they won a big game? Oh that's right. Never. Yet here I am, not only picking them to make it to Miami, but also to win the whole damn thing. Why? Because the NFL never makes sense. And also because the only thing that would kill me more than watching Reggie Bush win a Super Bowl in year one would be watching Vince Young raise the Lombardi trophy. And if the Titans hadn't choked against the Pats this past Sunday, we may very well have seen it. Because I'm now convinced the only reason the NFL exists is to tear out my heart, stomp on it and then let out a hearty guffaw. Yes, I'm melodramatic and delusional. And perhaps a wee bit self-absorbed as well.
Saints 17 - Ravens 13.
MVP: Drew Brees