03 January, 2009



And best of all, HAPPY PLAYOFFS!!!

I’m a day later than I wanted to be due to an angry confluence of a New Year’s hangover, company, a stout chest cold, and a long-dreaded move of my office.

But I’m back and ready to handicap the league’s first round games, and one could make a case for any of these teams meeting up with the Panthers during this Super Bowl Sweepstakes.

Once the debris of the regular season began to settle, I found it odd that ALL home teams were underdogs this weekend! Hmm. Not sure I agree. I now give my clairvoyance gland a kick and boot up and handicap this weekend’s games.

This afternoon finds the red-hot Duckies invading the home turf of the Cardy-noles. While Atlanta has built an impressive 11-5 record, they’ve done it with a strong running game led by you-know-who, and an electrifying passing attack led by you-know-who. I’m sick of just hearing about them. But what the Duckie’s DON’T have is a playoff defense, and THIS Cardy-nole team, with the seasoned veteran Warner at the controls, have the potential to fling the biscuit all over the Duckie’s 24th ranked defense. While the Cardy-noles don’t have a particularly good D, they DO rank in the middle of the NFL’s run defense standings. They may be able to blunt Turner’s rush enough to force passing situations. Plus, on offense, Warner has LOADS of playoff experience. The Duckies, in particular Mike Smith and Matty-Ryan? None. All this adds up to a highly entertaining shootout, that I think favours Arid-zona. The line opened at 2 ½, but has since dropped to a single point for the (&$)#&_@#_ Duckies. The Force stirs in me- A lead pipe lock-

Cardy-Noles straight up, and they will wait to find out their playoff flight path with the results of the Viking-Iggle tilt tomorrow.

Tonight’s contest sets up a potentially exciting reunion between traditional conference rivals, who have met FOUR TIMES, including playoffs, the past two seasons, even though they are from different divisions. Given up for dead four weeks ago, The Bolts found their missing gear in a thrilling comeback victory over the wretched Chefs, and then won their next three. But the victory against the Broncoids last week came at a price- Key RB Tomlinson dinged his groin, and TE Gates messed up his ankle. Without these stalwarts on the Charger “O” at 100%, Rivers is going to have to find other targets for his bullets. One thing that may be a wild card for the Chargers will be diminutive RB Darren Sproles ( 5’6”) who might present a matchup problem. He’s been coming on quite strong as both a back and returner of late and may present a matchup problem for a defense that’s expecting LT. On the defense, the Colts have Freeney AND Sanders there, the Bolts DO NOT have Shawn Merriman. Both teams haven’t run particularly well, nor have they stopped it particularly well, but both teams absolutely FLING it! This, much like the Duckies-Cards game earlier, should be a massively entertaining shootout. It’s hard for me to pick against a healthy Peyton Manning and his relatively healthy teammates in the playoffs, no less. The Colts are favored by one in this game, and I’d be inclined to take it, and Manning finds out if a trip to SqueelTown or the Grand Ole Opry is their fate after tomorrow afternoon.

This game is the first of two on the day that features three of the league’s hardest hitting defenses. It also features a miraculous comeback story, not only for the formely 1-15 Dolphins, but the formerly 6-10 Ravens. If not for the performance of Matt Ryan in Atlanta, Joey Flacco would be the recipient of the Rookie of the year award, and Coach Harbaugh, as far as I know, is still in the running for coach or the year, as is Miami coach Sporano. Both teams have performed well in all phases of the game this season, but the Ravens EXCELL defensively, and they make a difference in this game. They played earlier this year in Week 7 and Balty-Moore CRUSHED them and squeezed the Miami offense to one of their lowest offensive outputs all season. The overrated “Wildcat” formation won’t be a factor in the Dolphin gameplan, because the Ravens won’t be buying it. Flacco won’t have to do much, because Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and co. will do the heavy lifting here. Despite the success for Miami this season, they will have to build a defense AND offense that is more playoff caliber next season. The line is the heftiest of the weekend, at 3 ½. I firmly believe The Ravens duplicate their Week 7 success and go to Nashville, while punching the Colts’ SqueelTown ticket for them.

The final Round One game features two of the top defenses in the NFL. Both have been particularly good at the run, but Philthy has been better at the blitz. When the old fossil Augustus was under center that may have been a liability, but the frequently mobile Tavaris Jackson’s legs might be able to escape it. The Iggles either can’t or WON’T run the ball under Andy Reid’s offense, but the run is the backbone of the Vikings’. If Jackson can utilize the presence of the run for more play-action, they might be able to beat that Iggle blitz, while focusing on Donavan McSnabb with their own decent pass rush, led by Jared Allen and Pat Williams, who ESCAPED the diuretic scandal (so far) this season. The keys for both teams will be patience on offense, and maniacal disruption on defense. Unlike the previous three games, this becomes a low-scoring defensive struggle, which to me favours the Vikings. Both teams have playmakers offensively, but in the playoffs, the ground attack tends to get you farther. Also, in a defensive game, the Vikings have the aptly-named Ryan LONGwell, who is a much better kicker than the Boids’ shaky Akers. The Vikes have a better run game, a vociferous home field advantage, and a date next Saturday night against the Panthers despite being a -3 point underdog at home.

So, according to my prognostication, which was running at 55 percent this year, next week’s matchups should be:


There we go, Fanz! Enjoy the playoff weekend, and prepare to convene in the lot for perhaps the WILDEST tailgate of the existence of PantherFanz!

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