2006-01-14

NFL Playoffs - Weekend Two


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In the wake of a great college Bowl season the NFL opened its playoffs with a snoozer of a Wild Card round. The only game that wasn't lopsided, Washington at Tampa Bay, while interesting, was a battle of two teams that have no long-term playoff hopes. And one question , I was really looking forward to seeing answered was whether the rising Steelers could beat the falling Bengals. Carson Palmer's early exit rendered the question unfair and was probably the weekend's only significant moment.

Weeks earlier, the young talented Bengals seemed destined to become one of the league's top powers. Now after a weak finish, Palmer's injury, which could be anything from minor to career-ending depending on which doctor you listen to, and Chad Johnson's demonstrated desire to become the next T.O. in every sense, there are a lot of questions in Cincinnati.

This week holds more promise. Only the Redskins' visit to Seattle seems destined to become a route. Despite that, with ages of tradition behind them and Joe Gibbs at the helm, the Skins are one of my sentimental favorites so I'll watch with interest.

New England will be facing their toughest test since they regained their championship form when they visit the Broncos this evening. Denver could easily bring the Patriots two-year run to an end. Here's hoping as much so we can stop watching ESPN drool over Tom Brady. Funny thing, preseason and now recently when the Patriots have been doing well Tom Brady is God. But when New England wasn't doing so well you didn't hear much about Brady. Now a lot has changed on that team over the season but Brady has been a constant. So I guess God just took a break there for awhile.

Are Da Bears back? The Carolina Panthers will find out tomorrow. Word on the street is that Rex Grossman isn't ready (and will probably never be ready) to lead a championship caliber team. Folks, this is Chicago's recipe for NFL success: power defense anchored by all-world linebacker play and brutal postseason weather (Chicago in January is where dome teams go to die) and both of these things in such proportions that a lame quarterback like Grossman, Kyle Orton, or Jim McMahon can't screw it up.

Pittsburgh at Indianapolis is a mystery. It could be a great battle or it could be a done deal after the first quarter. As I've previously mentioned, it has been almost a month now since the Colts have trotted out their "A" game. Indy was lucky to draw the Steelers as they are the only team left in the AFC against whom Peyton Manning & Co. can play their way back into peak form without it costing them the game. The Colts have too much offense for Pittsburgh's "D" and the Steelers' offense can't hope to keep up in a shootout. Bill Cowher needs a perfect game plan and his team must execute flawlessly to have any chance.

My picks: Seattle over Washington without breaking a sweat, Denver over New England solid but not a blowout, Carolina over Chicago in an exciting close game, and Indianapolis over Pittsburgh also solid but not a blowout.

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