With the ‘pretenders’ sent home (ok, except Seattle), the 12 contenders are left to battle it out for the right to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Each team has a realistic shot at making it to the Big Game, and each one has a strength that could propel them through the gauntlet and down to Dallas. Ok, once again, except Seattle…
Let’s take a quick look at each team, starting with the #6 seed, and their likelihood to make it through this tournament.
In the AFC:
#6 – NY Jets – A solid team, but with a both a mediocre offense and defense. Sanchez hurt his arm in the win against the Steelers, and he hasn’t really been the same since. Still can’t believe they beat the Steelers. But I digress, nobody on their defense strikes fear in the hearts of any of the offensive coordinators left in the playoffs, and their defense apparently strikes no fear in any offense anymore. Their gifted secondary? Overrated, and with no pass rush would get picked apart by any of the QBs left.
Leisure Suit Lou’s prediction: No way in hell they make it back to the AFC Championship game. One and done.
#5 – Baltimore – You always have to worry about a team led by Ray Lewis and his defense. Ed Reed is banged up, their D is getting older (we’ve heard that before), and they’ve given up more points and yards than they are used to. Offensively, Ray Rice is a stud, and they will go as far as he’ll take them. I am still not sold on Flacco, doesn’t seem to be able to handle the big game pressures that it takes to win in the playoffs.
Leisure Suit Lou’s prediction: No Super Bowl for Ray Ray this year, but wouldn’t be shocked to see them ‘upset’ a few teams on the way to the AFC Championship game.
#4 Kansas City – KC? Really? I know they have great BBQ there, but do they still have a football team? Is Priest Holmes or Christian Okoye still their RBs? Seriously, they have to be the surprise of the league at this point. They have an unbelievable running game, and a QB that might not put up huge numbers, but manages the game and doesn’t turn the ball over. Sound familiar. We’ll see if Cassel can really step out of Brady’s shadow and lead this team to Dallas.
Leisure Suit Lou’s prediction: I like Cassel, but he’ll only go to Dallas if he gets a ticket to the Big Game like the rest of us. Too young, some turmoil (O-coordinator leaving), they’ll get bounced early.
#3 Indy – As long as they have #18, they’re a threat to make it to the Super Bowl. This was an offseason for them, and they still won their Division and are the #3 seed. Manning’s been throwing TDs to guys I’ve never even heard of. If they get ANY semblance of a running game to go along with Manning and Wayne and company, they’ll be a very dangerous team. Dominic Rhodes is back running strong, but I just don’t think he’s enough to push them over the top.
Leisure Suit Lou’s prediction: They’ll move through the Wild Card easily, setting up a great showdown in Pittsburgh in the Divisional round. It’s wise money to never beat against Manning in those types of games, but I think that’s where his long season ends.
#2 Pittsburgh – What’s there to say? 12-4, coming in on a roll, winners of 7 out of their last 8. Playing shut down defense, and now it looks like the offense is finally starting to click again. The D will be the ‘stars’ once again this postseason, but I have a feeling those NFL fans who don’t know Mike Wallace yet (what rock are they living under?) will really know him in a few weeks. We all know and love him, and I think it’s going to be time the rest of the world meets him. (Don’t be shocked if Emmanuel Sanders has a breakout game or two as well this postseason!)
Leisure Suit Lou’s prediction: Do I even have to say????
#1 New England – Welcome to the 2010/2011 Patriot Invitational Tournament! That’s what all the experts would lead you to believe this playoff season is. True to that point, the Pats are playing at a level I haven’t seen in awhile. Tom Brady (ughh) will more than likely win another MVP, and as much as it pains me to say it, he’s earned it. He never turns the ball over, they score at will, and with Brady as their leader I don’t think they’ll be overconfident at all. Are they the best team in the league? Right now, I would have to say they are definitely playing the best. That being said…
Leisure Suit Lou’s prediction: They won’t have an easy road to the Super Bowl this season, and I think they’ll be hosting the AFC Championship game in a few weeks. I can remember the Pats coming into Pittsburgh and winning a few Championship games.
What’s that saying about ‘Paybacks a ….?’
Ok, now the NFC:
Just kidding. Does anybody within the AFC really care who comes out of that conference? Doubt it. We’ll worry about whoever that is in a couple weeks.
As far as predicting the actual games for this playoff? There are two scenarios I would absolutely LOVE to see, and I think both are somewhat possible.
1. Steelers beat Indy, and Ravens beat Pats. Setting up another Steeler-Ravens AFC Championship game. That matchup would be epic, and one Goodell probably REALLY doesn’t want to see happen.
2. Steelers beat Indy, and New England beats Ravens. How incredible would it be to see the Black and Gold go INTO N.E. and beat the Pats on their homefield? Priceless. Everyone is saying the Pats are invincible, and going into their house, punching them in the nose, and taking the AFC Championship trophy on THEIR field would be poetic justice. All the Haters would have nothing to say either, with the Black and Gold taking out all of the so-called elite AFC teams on their way to Dallas.
Anyway, onto Leisure Suit Lou’s picks:
Indy over NY Jets. Take Manning over Sanchez anyday.
Ravens over KC. Ravens will stuff the run, do just enough to move on.
Pats over Ravens. Could go either way, since Baltimore matches up well. Brady will pick apart the secondary though, and move on to the Championship.
Steelers over Colts. A rematch of the ’05 Divisional game where the Steelers upset the heavily favored Colts. Pittsburgh D will shut down whoever tries to run, and with Troy healthy, he’ll frustrate Manning into a few bad turnovers.
Steelers over Pats. Am I picking with my heart? Yeah, I think so. I haven’t picked against the Steelers all year (and I was only wrong 4 times) and I can’t start now. I know the Pats are playing incredible, but it seems like the ‘best/hottest’ team never makes it all the way through. The Steelers have a score to settle with Brady and his boys, and I think they do it this year. I just got a feelin’…