Thursday, January 11, 2007

NFL Playoff Preview and Predictions (Round Two)

We've all heard about the Madden cover curse. Its list of victims has been well documented. But today I'm here to discuss something much less-publicized, yet perhaps more problematic, simply because it affects far more people. You see, the only person who suffers from the Madden Curse is the ill-fated player whose image appears on the case (well, and his teammates, coaches and fans, but just work with me here). But the problem I'm going to reveal negatively impacts every single person who plays the game. My friends call it the Madden Jinx (admittedly, not our most creative moniker, to be sure) . It won't cause you to inexplicably tear your ACL, but it will cause unjust misery and frustration.

Here's how I first learned about this malevolent phenomenon: I was sitting down to play a friendly game of Madden. The sun was shining, the ducks were quacking, life couldn't be better. I can't recall my team, but I do remember my opponent was Indianapolis. Tough match-up, considering the Colts' offensive arsenal and Peyton's enormous cone. But you know who I wasn't afraid of? Some dude named Aaron Moorehead. I brazenly told my friend as much. And that was when I unknowingly brought the Madden Jinx into play. No, it didn't manifest itself immediately. The Madden Jinx is far too tricksy for that. It waited until it could really inflict some serious damage; like on 3rd and 18 with the game hanging in the balance. Do I even need to tell you who caught the ball for 19 yards, picked up a first down and triggered a tantrum the likes of which I haven't thrown since I was two?

Even Gollum thinks Aaron Moorehead is too tricksy for his own good

I HATE Aaron Moorehead. Never met the guy, probably couldn't pick him out of a police lineup. But if I ever ran into him on the street (and actually recognized him), I'd immediately ask him, "What's the capital of Thailand?" and proceed to unleash 3 years of fury and frustration. Yes, I have deep-seeded issues. But that's not the point. The Madden Jinx is real. The list of players I've been burned by is endless; Reggie Williams, Wes Welker and Bethel Johnson come to mind. I'm sure you have your own list.

So why do I bring this up? For two reasons. One, I' might have casually mentioned how the Fez Theory was going to change the world in 2007 while playing a game of Madden just hours before the national championship game Monday night. We all know how that turned out. And two, despite all the star power on display this weekend, don't underestimate the unknown little guy. You never know when they might steal the show. Except for that good-for-nothing, Aaron Moorehead. That punk's going down.

Anyway, on with the picks:

RAVENS (-4) over Colts

If you've been reading this blog at all, you know how I feel about the Colts' chances in January. And no, it has nothing to do with Aaron Morehead. But it does have EVERYTHING to do with Mr. Peepee. We got a good glimpse of Playoff Peyton last week and I suspect we're going to get a close-up view this time around. By now, I'm sure you've heard about Manning's struggles with the 3-4 defense. And I'm sure you know that Indy's D can't exactly be counted on to bail him out if he delivers a sub-par performance. This one is just so obvious that it almost scares me. Then I remember that Peepee, Indy's run D and Tony Dungy (not exactly known for his playoff acumen either) are involved and I'm able to relax, kick-back and confidently sip my mojito. Just kidding. I only drink manly drinks. Like french vanilla hazelnut lattes.

Baltimore 23 - Indy 7

SAINTS (-5) over Eagles

Here's where my confidence starts to waver. So let's lay out the facts:

Fact: The Superdome will be the site of the NFL's best home crowd of the season this Saturday.
Fact: The Saints never amount to anything in the playoffs.
Fact: The Eagles specialize in getting their fans' hopes up, only to viciously crush them at the most inopportune time.
Fact: The Saints won the first meeting between these two clubs, 27-24 in week 6.
Fact: 75% of the teams which appear in the Superbowl finished the regular season either 5-1 or 6-0 (which favors Philly, obviously)

That's about it. That's all we really know for sure. We know Jeff Garcia is prominently involved, but we don't know for sure when his Kurt Warner-esque deal with the devil expires. We know both defenses can force turnovers, but are also susceptible to the big play.

Here's my thing: I definitely think the Saints are going to win. I believe the sure-to-be-insane home crowd is worth at least a touchdown. I believe Deuce and Reggie should be able to gash the Eagles front seven and that Drew Brees is good for a couple scores. If New Orleans gets up by two TDs, look out; the crowd and the Saints' defense will turn into a feeding frenzy. Screw it, I'm a believer (which is probably the worst thing I could do to New Orleans right now).

Saints 31 - Philadelphia 17

BEARS (-8 1/2) over Seahawks

You want to know why my picks are doomed this week? Because in the year of the underdog, I'm hammering the favorites. But I can't help it. Honestly, I don't see how Seattle keeps this game anywhere close to respectable. Yes, on paper they have the weapons necessary to not only compete, but to win. And yes, Sexy Rexy is always capable of posting another 0.0 QB rating. But here's the thing: I said it last week and I'll say it again. Seattle hasn't been in sync since day one. Why on earth would it all come together now? I just don't see it.

Believe it or not, I actually think Rex will play well and the Bears' defense and special teams will take care of the rest. For this week, at least.

Bears 24 - Seahawks 3

Better to take a dump during the press conference than during the game, Rex

Patriots (+4 1/2) over CHARGERS

Well, here it is. Quite possibly the game of the season. Way too many subplots to go into here and besides, you're probably already sick of hearing about them since the hype machine seems to have started a couple weeks early this year.

Like a blockbuster movie I'm anxiously anticipating, I don't want to ruin this one by overwhelming myself with spoilers and endless talk. I want to approach it on my own terms with an empty slate so I can enjoy it for what it is: a great match-up.

So I'll keep it simple. I love Tom Brady and LaDainian Tomlinson. I think Marty Schottenheimer is a choker and Bill Belichick is a genius. I believe Shawn Merriman is a force of nature and Mike Vrabel is a warrior.

The general public seems to side with the Pats. I don't blame them. But I'm picking the Chargers to win, just not to cover. Which is beyond stupid, because I'm not sure how anyone can trust Marty in a close game against Brady and Belichick. But hey, I'm dumb. And, yes, I made that last statement hoping beyond hope that the Madden Jinx works in reverse.

San Diego 24 - New England 21

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