Friday, January 6, 2012

NFL 2012 Playoff Preview: The Frequently Asked Questions

Will Aaron Rodgers and the Packers defend the championship belt?

The NFL playoffs are upon us and I’m still trying to get used to them starting without having to figure out when the Eagles will decide to kick me in the balls and go all R. Kelly on my dreams of seeing my favorite team win a Super Bowl. Though I must admit it is a relief to not worry about getting peed on.

But even though the Eagles aren’t in it (quick side note on the Eagles: they stunk this year and shouldn’t be in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean they should have fired Andy Reid. You can’t name five better coaches than Reid. So unless Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, Mike McCarthy or Sean Payton is walking through that door [BREAKING: Sources say they are NOT walking through that door] there’s no reason to let him go. Teams are voluntarily keeping guys like Norv Turner and kicking the tires on unmitigated disasters like Josh McDaniels. So to all the moronic Eagles fans who chanted “Fire Andy” at the Patriots game and to the ones who have and will light up the talk radio stations to make up things about the last 13 seasons, shut the hell up. I stillgot your back Andy) and even though there are some legitimately bad teams in the playoffs (Bengals, Texans, Broncos and the total fraud Falcons), watching meaningful football is so much better than having to endure Bill Carmody’s continued assault on the beautiful game of basketball as Northwestern’s coach.

There’s a lot to get to and there’s no better way to do it than with the Frequently Asked Questions.

Will you even watch the Texans-Bengals game?
Unless a rabid and sadistic Bengals/Texans fan completely snaps, decides to break into my apartment and torture me by using a combination of water boarding and T.J Yates/Jake Delhomme/Andy Dalton playing quarterback, absolutely not. I’d rather re-watch the Eagles-Redskins game from Week 17 (that’s a boldfaced lie). This game is only being played to determine whether the Patriots or Ravens get a second bye week and automatic berth into the AFC title game.

I think the Texans win this game on the strength of their defense, specifically their pass rush, but I have no idea. A.J. Green is only reason to watch this game, which is why I won’t.

Is this the end of the Tim Tebow era?
I’m not really sure how this era got started, considering how terrible he is at playing quarterback, nor do I believe that 11 games meets the universally accepted time requirement to be considered an “era” but yeah, it’s over.

After captivating a nation, creating some of the most heated, non-sports related sports debates of my lifetime and briefly forcing me to reevaluate my relationship with my local church following the Chicago game, Tim Tebow looks like Tim Tebow should: absolutely dreadful.

But after my terrible picks from last year’s FAQ, including my outright refusal to talkabout NFC West winner Seattle, who went on to pull one of the most stunning upsets in recent memory, anything is possible. It’s totally feasible that his lord and savior Jesus Christ Tebow could strike down James Harrison and Lamar Woodley with lightning bolts before he gets sacked and throw an end-over-end, game-winning touchdown pass to Eric Decker. But he won’t.

The only things up in the air about this game is A.) Do the Steelers win by 30+ points or just 14+ and B.) Will the Steelers be healthy enough to make a serious run. If we see a limping, immobile Ben Roethlisberger Sunday, they’ll probably lose in the second round. If Big Ben is able to show a little bit of his pre-injury self, college girls should run for cover (couldn’t resist) and the Steelers will probably make the Super Bowl. When healthy, Big Ben is that good.

How dangerous are the Saints?
I really can’t believe how much hype this team has gotten lately. Yes, Drew Brees and the offense are performing at a high-level right now. (But that doesn’t mean he’s the MVP, because he isn’t. He made the race with Aaron Rodgers much closer, meaning Rodgers is still the MVP by a mile. Rodgers didn’t no-show against in losses to the horrid Bucs and Rams. So there’s that.) Yes, since football was invented in New Orleans in 2006, the Saints probably have the best homefield in the league. Yes, the offensive line is currently playing very well.

But they are strictly a dome team. For whatever reason, grass and the great outdoors bother them. Watch their loss to the Bucs or almost loss to the mediocre Titans for proof.

Now after watching Matt Flynn, in a snowy Lambeau no less, carve up the Lions defense with unbelievable ease and pave the way for the Redskins to give him a Kevin Kolb (re: terrible) contract, Brees has to be beyond excited. Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston should catch jump balls galore.

The Saints problem is not this week, even though Matthew Stafford and Megatron should give them problems. It’s in the coming weeks. Are they ready to go to San Francisco and get in a street fight with the 49ers’ ferocious front seven? Are they ready to handle the weather in Green Bay? All the evidence thus far, points to probably not. This is still pretty much the same team that lost to a 7-9 Seahawks team in last year’s playoffs. Don’t forget that before you pick them to go to the Super Bowl because they beat up on a terrible Panthers defense (which wakes up and gives up 30 points before breakfast) in Week 17.

The Giants aren’t going to do it again, right? RIGHT?
There’s no team I hate more than the Giants. Conversely, there’s no team that scares me like the Giants. Somehow, even after looking completely terrible through most of the second half of the season, they have a beautiful setup.

First, because of Flynn’s historic game in Week 17, they get to face a completely fraudulent Falcons team at home. Their defense isn’t good, their offense is completely overrated (cough, Matt Ryan, cough) and they have problems along the offensive line. Yet, because they’ve beaten some bad teams late in the year and they went 13-3 last season (even though they were also frauds then and completely exposed by the Packers in the playoffs), people think they’re good. Well, they aren’t.

Once they beat the Falcons by two touchdowns Sunday, the Giants are the team best suited to beat the Packers in Lambeau. To beat Green Bay, you need two things: a great quarterback with good receivers who can put up points in a hurry and a front four to harass Rodgers just enough to keep him from dropping 40. The 49ers have the pass rush but no quarterback. The Saints have a quarterback but no pass rush. With Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, JPP, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, the Giants are the NFC team best suited to take down the Packers machine.

It’s kind of inexplicable with this team. Their fans turn on them, they choke in the second half of every season, Tom Coughlin’s seat is habitually hot, but this team pulls luck out of its rear end. Nothing they ever do surprises me. If (please notice the if) the Packers lose before the Super Bowl, it’ll be against the Giants.

Who’s going to win the AFC?
There are three teams with a shot: Patriots, Steelers and Ravens. When healthy, the Steelers are the clearly best in the conference (two losses to Baltimore notwithstanding). But they aren’t healthy and won’t get healthy anytime soon. Which makes this a tricky exercise.

The Patriots defensive problems couldn’t be more overstated because they finished 15th in points allowed. It’s not a redux of the 2000 Ravens, but it’s not the crime against humanity everyone makes it out to be. The bigger problem is that they spent most of the season beating up on bad teams. They lost to the Giants and the Steelers. Their best win is over the Eagles, Broncos, Cowboys or Raiders, none of which will make you forget the ’85 Bears or even the ’07 Browns. And they’ve spotted two bad teams 21 points in back-to-back weeks, a trend that reeks of title contender. But they have Tom Brady and despite his questionable choicesin advertisements, he’s the best quarterback in the group.

The Ravens don’t make any sense. One week, Joe Flacco can lead a game-winning drive in Pittsburgh over the Steelers, the next he’s gagging a game away against the Jags or spotting Kevin Kolb (who still hasn’t stepped up into the pocket since his NFL career started) 24 points. The defense appears to be doing the Benjamin Button routine, only in reverse (Ed Reed and Ray Lewis looked to have aged 20 years in the span of five weeks). One week, they give Ray Rice the ball 30 times, the next week he touches the ball negative-eight times (sounds impossible but bear with me).

I want to trust the Ravens because Flacco has joined the mustache brotherhood and Ed Reed deserves to win a Super Bowl. But teams that don’t show up for games in the regular season tend to not show up for games in the postseason.

The Steelers potential success is predicated on how much Big Ben can move around, as I stated about 1,000 words ago. One of their more positive developments has been that Troy Polamalu is looking more and like Troy Polamalu and not that guy who put on a wig and pretended to be him in last year’s playoffs.

If you put a gun to my head (and please, don’t put a gun to my head under any circumstances), I’d pick the Patriots but I’m not that confident. Though, when you remember that they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and that they haven’t won a Super Bowl since cheating their way to victory over the Eagles in 2005, you get a little more confident.

Wild Card Round
Texans 17- Bengals 9: Do not watch this game unless you derive sick humor from watching quarterbacks stink. Texans defense should carry this one.

Saints 38-Lions 28: The dome should be rocking, Drew Brees should be slinging it and Jim Schwartz will be yelling. While it’ll be entertaining, the best chance for the Lions to actually win this game is to have Ndamukong Suh stomp on Drew Brees’ shoulder, which is definitely possible.

Giants 35-Falcons 10: The Giants fans will be insufferable next week as they make 2007 comparisons, failing to realize that the Falcons aren’t that good and took advantage of a really shallow NFC to make the playoffs this season.

Steelers 28-Broncos 0: If Tim Tebow wins this game, I will be at church every Sunday for the rest of 2012.

Divisional Round

New Orleans 24-San Francisco 13: As much as I don’t like the Saints, I don’t like the 49ers more. While I absolutely love their defense (how could you not), their offense is pathetic. When they get to the red zone, they should just save time and kick the field goal on first down, instead of going through the motions of failing on first, second and third down and then kicking the field goal. No matter how good your defense is, you aren’t beating elite quarterbacks in today’s NFL with your kicker.

Patriots 28-Steelers 21: If Big Ben would be completely healthy for this game (he has a high-ankle sprain so he won’t be) I’d switch the score of this game and put the Steelers in the Super Bowl, no problem. But he isn’t, Tom Brady is healthy and that defense isn’t as bad as the rotating cast of moronic ESPN analysts would have you believe (and I’m looking at you Hugh Douglas, Cris Carter and Antonio Pierce).

Ravens 27-Texans 10: Getting to play T.J. Yates when you have Terrell Suggs, my co-founder of the prestigious Ball So Hard University, is pretty much like having a second bye week.

Packers 31-Giants 28: I came really close to picking the Giants before realizing I hate the Giants. Teams are so rarely dominant from start to finish in the NFL, which is pretty much the only reason I have for picking against the Packers. They have Aaron Rodgers and he’s by far the best player in the league.

Championship Week

Patriots 28-Ravens 17: Brady vs. Flacco is a mismatch, pure and simple.

Packers 35-Saints 24: I don’t think the Saints can be as explosive outside, in bad weather, on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The Packers have already proven they can.

Super Bowl
Packers 42-Patriots 38: Clearly I don’t think points will be at a premium when the two best quarterbacks in the world matchup. Repeating is really hard, especially in football. But the Packers came out on a mission to win it again, which is so much different than the vast majority of champions, who come out on a mission to drink champagne and eat fancy French food (I’m looking at you, Dallas Mavericks). While Brady and the rest of the Patriots offense will give everything it can, the game is being played indoors and the two games Rodgers played indoors last postseason were nothing short of remarkable. When you’ve played as well as Rodgers has this season, and no one has ever played better than he has, it would be inappropriate to pick against him. It’ll be Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood once again.

Christian West is the publisher of The People Say Booyah, and a Northwestern student. Email him at

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