Saturday, January 10, 2015

Your deluxe NFL preview

It would be inaccurate to call the Blob a prognostication-free zone, on account of I prognosticate a lot here, like when I prognosticate that soon, very soon, I will be prognosticating about something or other.

Today that something or other is the NFL divisional playoffs. And if it's inaccurate to call the Blob a prognostication-free zone, it's because it's generally a BAD prognostication-free zone.

That said ... let's start off by taking "Packers vs. Cowboys" for a hundred, Alex.

This throwback special  likely comes down not to apocalyptic weather this time (it's supposed to be 23 degrees at game time, so break out the Coppertone), but to whether or not Aaron Rodgers' calf has actually fallen off his body or not. The official line is that it's dinged pretty bad, which in fluent TeamSpeak, means he's probably going to be as immobile as Vince Lombardi's statue outside of Lambeau. Which means the Cowboys have a better-than-fighting chance.

If the Pokes open with a time-consuming drive featuring liberal doses of DeMarco Murray, it's going to go their way. They'll run on the Packers a lot better than they ran on the Lions, which means Tony Romo will have more time, and if you give Romo time he can slice you like a Thanksgiving turkey. And he's a perfect 8-0 on the road this year.

On the other hand ... the Packers are a perfect 8-0 at home. And a one-legged Aaron Rodgers is not, say, a one-legged Charlie Whitehurst. So make it Packers, 27-24.

That would send them into the NFC title game against the winner of Seattle-Carolina, which is to say, Seattle. The Panthers are still around only because, in the wild-card, they got a Cardinals team that had to travel all the way across the country and were playing either Stoney Case or Jim Hart at quarterback.  Now it's the Panthers who have to travel all the way across the country, where Richard Sherman and Co. will be there to greet them.

Bloodshed ensues. Seattle 34, Carolina 14.

Something else will ensue several hundred miles east in Denver, where the Colts return to the scene of a 31-24 loss on opening day.  The smart money's going with the Broncos all the way here, but, even though the Blob has regarded the Colts as semi-counterfeit all season, I think the Indiana Horsies have a shot. Peyton Manning has been profoundly human the last month -- six picks vs. three TDs in his last four games -- and if Andrew Luck can reproduce a few more magic acts like his touchdown to Donte Moncrief last week, stuff could happen.

But probably not. The Colts weren't all that impressive last week against a Bengals team held together by duct tape. And Peyton and the Broncos have had a week to prepare/rest. Broncos 31, Colts 20.

Last but not least, it's the most intriguing matchup of the weekend: Ravens at the Patriots. Immediate history says the Patriots, who've been the best team in the AFC for a few minutes now. Deeper history says they'll struggle at Foxborough against the Ravens, who kicked the Belichicks out of the playoffs there with little trouble two years ago, and would have done the same in 2011 had Lee Evans not dropped an easy six and Billy Cundiff not yanked a field goal wide.

 What they've got going for them this time around is what they had going for them then: A prickly defense and Joe Flacco, an unflappable playoff presence who's badly outplayed Tom Brady in the last two playoff meetings in Foxborough.

So ... Ravens 24, Patriots 20. Because the rules say you've gotta pick at least one upset.



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