Playoffs? You wanna talk about playoffs??


So, after two long months of absolutely no writing, and with the inspiration of Jim Mora, today seems like the best time to re-introduce myself. I spent the last couple of months working constantly, sleeping five hours a night and watching hockey as a substitute for all my crappy sports franchises. Here’s a recap of what’s happened to my favorite teams over the last couple of months: the Chicago White Sox, instead of making a major free agent signing or improving any facet of the team signed two aging veterans to be bench players (Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel). I went into the Winter Meetings dreaming of Roy Halladay and expecting to get Chone Figgins, so to come out of December with nothing but two players with 3 fake hips between them? Yeah, you could say I was a little disappointed. Not to worry, I foolishly thought, I have the Chicago Bulls to look forward to. The best young point guard in the game, a good fan base and improving role players. After last season’s encouraging second half and postseason, I was expecting nothing less than 45 wins and the fifth seed this season…. A blown 35 point lead and two months of crappy coaching later, I’m expecting nothing beyond a spot in the lottery. Damn.

Now right now you’re probably asking yourself “why the hell is he telling me this crap? I don’t care!” I say these things to express how desperately I needed the NFL playoffs to be entertaining. With my teams floundering and no Bears in the playoffs, I needed exciting games with evenly matched teams and dramatic finishes, and with the exception of the Cardinals-Packers shootout, these playoffs have sucked. Period. No drama, no good games, no Colts losses. Nothing.

With all that said, I haven’t given up hope yet. The Vikings and Saints are both incredibly good teams who should match up well and provide an entertaining game,  the Colts want to prove that it wasn’t idiotic to take their starters out (it was) and the Jets want to prove that they belong in the AFC Championship game (they do). So in theory, yeah, it should be a pretty good weekend, but if this winter has taught me anything, it’s this: sports suck when it’s not baseball season, and even if he should finish third, Peyton Manning will still win the MVP award.

The Real MVP: Drew Brees

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts (3 P.M. Sunday) :
The Colts are heavily favored in this matchup, and for good reason. They were far and away the second best team (sorry Colts fans, the Saints were a better team) in the league for the first thirteen weeks of the season, and have somehow managed to maintain offensive stability despite having the weakest running game of any contenders.(32nd in the league for the regular season)  Seriously, you’re expecting me to believe that Donald Brown and Joseph Addai are going to establish a running game? Not gonna happen in this lifetime. And that poses a problem for the boys in blue. If you look at the recent Super Bowl champs (Steelers, Giants, Colts) you’ll see that all three had an outstanding running game during their run to and through the playoffs. Hell, Dominic Rhodes was the real MVP of Super Bowl XLI. If it wasn’t for him establishing the running game against an excellent Bears defense, the Colts never would have overcome Peyton Mannings sub-par game. I know, it’s shocking, but the Colts won the Super Bowl because of the running game and their defense, look it up. With that said, I am amazed that the Colts can be this successful with no

Have there ever been two more different men?

running game, and a head coach who, by all accounts, could be a zombie. The thing that keeps them going is having a solid, tenacious, defense and one of the top 10 quarterbacks and leaders of all time playing for them. I’ll be honest, I hate Peyton Manning. He annoys me. Him and his little bitch of a brother. But I have to admit one thing: the man can play some football. Sure, he shouldn’t have been MVP this year, and he’s always had great receivers and an outstanding line, but even this year, with his line aging and his receivers going down faster than Secretariat on the home stretch, he put together an All-Pro caliber season. Simply Amazing.

With all that said, I like the Jets. They do the two things that the majority of successful teams have to do to win ballgames. They run the ball and play defense better than anyone in the league. They do a better job than anyone in the league of winning games that they have no business winning. It actually reminds me of a Bobby Knight Hoosiers team in a down season. They consistently have subpar talent, but they’re wonderfully coached and they stick with their game plan no matter who they’re matched up against. If you can play hard, and play defense
in any sport, you’re always going to have a chance to win. It also can’t hurt to have a brash and arrogant guy as your head coach. The entire world spends their time talking about Rex Ryan and the outrageous thing he said this week, and it frees the players up to concentrate on their jobs and win football games.  Also, if you had to choose between hanging out with Mark Sanchez and hanging out with Peyton Manning, which one would you pick? Yeah, I thought so. It’s completely irrelevant information, but I have a personal rule that requires me to take every cheap shot at Peyton Manning that I can. Sorry.

So this week, the combination of a running game, defense, and intangibles pushes the Jets past the Colts in a tight game.
My Pick: Jets 24- Colts 22.

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints (6:30, Sunday): I absolutely love this matchup, but at the same time I’m terrified that it’s going to turn into a blowout one way or the other. Both teams are coming into this weekend off of terrific performances against quality teams, which lends itself to a competitive afternoon. I know the Saints are good because they have the real MVP in Drew Brees and the best offensive coach in football, but what made them a great team this year was the defense’s jump from terrible to respectable. That’s all it took. The Saints did in football what the Phoenix Suns could never do in the NBA: they adapted their game just enough to be effective, and it’s done wonders for their team. While the Saints do give up a lot of yardage, they were second in the entire league in takeaways with thirty nine and led the league with 8 defensive touchdowns. Wow. That means the Saints averaged 2 extra possessions a game on turnovers alone this year, and their defense was spotting them almost 4 points a game. This is a dangerous defense, just ask Kurt Warner.

Add into the mix the best offense in the game, and you’ve got a dangerous team. They can throw four talented receivers at the defense, as well as more complex formations than any team in the league. In all my years of watching sports, I’ve only seen receivers this in sync with their quarterback two times; Peyton Manning in 2004, and Rex Grossman in 2007

Yeah, I'm not bitter or anything.

with opposing defenses. When this offense is clicking it’s something to see. Brees consistently puts the ball in the perfect spot for his receivers to make plays, and he makes less stupid throws than anyone in the game. The only thing that ever holds them back is an inconsistent running game, and  if Reggie Bush can play half as well as he did against the Cardinals, then they become nearly unstoppable on offense.

However, the Vikings aren’t exactly cupcakes themselves. They trot out the second highest scoring offense in the league, along with one of the top five running backs in the league, and when you throw in a “rejuvenated” Brett Favre, they have  the second best offense in the league. When they dedicate themselves to the run game, it can get downright ugly for opposing defenses. Peterson runs harder than anyone in the league (which may also cause his large number of fumbles), and they finish drives as well as anyone around. I keep waiting for Favre to revert back to his style of the last few years, but part of me is afraid that it’s not going to happen. If his receivers continue to play out of their minds, then there’s no team out there with the defense to stop them.

However, the key to winning this game for the Vikes is their defense.  Which defense will show up? The one that dominated opposing teams for the majority of the season, or the one that gave up 36 points to the Chicago Bears!??  They’ve had some injury problems in the secondary, and teams have started to find ways to exploit that, which puts a lot of pressure on the front 7, and as good as they are, no team can consistently stop an opposing offense without a quality secondary. So let’s take a look at this one: banged up secondary with a lack of talent versus the most explosive passing game in the league…. that could get ugly.

In the end, this game is going to come down to which team’s offensive and defensive lines can control the flow of the action. If the Saints can hold off Jared Allen and the Williams boys, they can go up and down the

I wonder if maybe he faked it a little bit.....

field on the Vikings, but if the Vikings can consistently get pressure, it will force Sean Payton to adapt his gameplan, which has gotten them into trouble this year. I look for both teams to come out throwing in a tight game. A tight game, that is, until Brett Favre throws a critical pick-six in the fourth quarter costing his team a trip to the Super Bowl. RIP Brett….
Saints 38, Vikings 27

So this weekend, when the Jets shock the world and the Saints put away the Vikings, sit back, relax, and enjoy the final evidence that no, you should never rest your starters.


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