Welcome my fantasy brethren to another edition of The Playoff Prognosticator. May it point you East, AFC East that is. My favorite time of the year is upon us. Football playoff season and there was nothing like a lopsided national championship game to wet our appetites. Congratulations to the Pete Carroll led USC Trojans for repeating as national champions. It makes you wonder if Auburn should have played Oklahoma first, then the winner would play USC? But I digress. I was wondering today if back to back national titles would have the NFL looking at Pete Carroll again. It would be a mistake, as Carroll makes a top notch college coach but a so-so pro coach. Yet plenty of professional teams make lots of mistakes. Look at the Vikings, Bears, Browns, Jaguars, Cardinals et al. Mike Tice is another example of a coach that would have great success as a college head coach but is limited as an NFL coach.
With this edition of The Progno, this ends our 2004 Progno season. It has been a pleasure writing for you and I appreciate you taking the time to read. As many of you are drafting your fantasy playoff teams or are entering playoff contests like the Playoff Swim with the Sharks contest we run here, I wanted to get this up to steer you into the winners circle.
Be sure to check back here at FantasySharks central this spring to get yourself a shark team. Our shark leagues have been a wild success and we look forward to hosting and expanding them next year.
(#5) Saint Louis Rams at (#4) Seattle Seahawks – Saturday, January 8, 4:30pm on ABC
The Rams are going to run Stephen Jackson a lot in this and he is in for a decent day. The Rams of course will have their fun in the air but the Seahawks will be keying on their passing game after the display Tory Holt put on last week. It is clear that Marc Bulger has started to use Holt as his crutch and the Seahawks are going to want to knock that crutch out from underneath him.
The Seahawks have trouble of their own with player problems. Koren Robinson looks more a liability than anything else and Shaun Alexander is all tied up in a knot. Missing the rushing title by 1 yard has left a barb in his side though he will be motivated to play.
Mike Holmgren has had a game plan for this game in the safe for three years now, I don’t expect him to blow a home game.
Prediction: Seahawks 23 – Rams 13
(#5) New York Jets at (#4) San Diego Chargers – Saturday, January 8, 8:00pm on ABC
This will be the sloppiest game of the weekend turnover wise which will translate to points for both teams. Rushing champion Curtis Martin (not too many thought we’d be saying that at the end of the season) stands to gain the most individually as he will be active in the rushing and passing game. The problem for the Jets is Chad Pennington. Yes he is an exceptional QB but next year. This year his throws aren’t crisp nor are they all that good. He has never been what he was after his injury and there is no reason to think that will magically come back. To win in the playoffs the Jets will need Pennington and they won’t get him.
The Chargers are going to rely on a cast of characters and LaDainian Tomlinson will make the machine go. Look for the fantasy points to be spread around but that spreading around. That dispersion will cause confusion for the Jets and with it their chances to continue in the playoffs.
Prediction: Chargers 30 – Jets 20
(#6) Denver Broncos at (#3) Indianapolis Colts – Sunday, January 9, 1:00pm on CBS
The Broncos, fresh off a Colts spanking 33-14 get to play – the Colts! Colts nation (or whatever they call themselves) of course point to the fact that Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James weren’t playing. It is of course, a valid argument. Without them the team is certainly a lot less potent. What no one is buying however is the statement the Broncos were making that they “think” they sent a message. It is kind of funny, not even they are sure. The thing is, they are right too. It did in fact bring the game back into a “winable” game for the Broncos just due to momentum. Momentum is an extremely powerful ally in the NFL.
The Broncos are going to put up a fight in this one. They will be able to run the ball with authority with Tatum Bell or apparently, anyone they want. They’ll drive and score and play a great game of football.
The thing is, it is still the Colts and till I see someone stop their offense, only then will I believe they can be beat. The Broncos will be a formidable foe here. They will slow the Colts down and the Bronco offense far out classes the Colts D. Still though..
Prediction: Colts 30 – Broncos 23
(#6) Minnesota Vikings at (#3) Green Bay Packers – Sunday, January 9, 4:30pm on FOX
Anyone who has watched these teams play this season, and I watched both games, knows exactly how this is going to go down. The team with the ball last will win. It really is as simple as that. The Vikings will be firing on all cylinders and Daunte Culpepper will have a big day along with Randy Moss. Michael Bennett makes a great start as the Vikings offense will literally be moving the ball at will.
The Packers and Brett Favre have been here and the Packers will lean on Favre to make it happen. Donald Driver and Javon Walker if he plays, make solid starts and will produce plenty for you. Favre hasn’t disappointed yet this season as the Vikings have a bunch. Packers in a tight one which makes both Favre and Culpepper difficult selections if you’re in a league or contest that locks in the lineup at the start of the playoffs.
Prediction: Packers 27 – Vikings 24
(#4) San Diego Chargers at (#1) Pittsburgh Steelers – Saturday, January 15, 4:30pm on CBS
The Chargers raise some eyebrows with their efficient dismantling of the Jets in Week 1 and the media hops on it. The media giants will make a bigger deal out of it to boost up the game. There promises to be a number of great games in these playoffs and this will be one of them. Both teams are running hot headed in and both will play a solid game of football. On the Chargers side the offense purrs through LaDainian Tomlinson but the buzz will be the play of their defense. After a good game against the Jets some folks will start to realize they only lost 4 games and they were in the AFC. Just like the Colts.
The Steelers will have a good game. The running game will be fine and the passing game will be fine. They will feed off each other causing the Steelers to move the ball well. No big numbers for any of the Steelers.
Here is where the irony jumps in. The Chargers were our Cinderella team out of the gate and we’re proud of them. They will be the underdog here and they still do not get the respect they deserve.
Prediction: Chargers 27 – Steelers 23
(#3) Green Bay Packers at (#2) Atlanta Falcons – Saturday, January 15, 8:00pm on FOX
It was a nice run at it Brett but eventually, the lack of a running game catches up to you. The Falcons do it all on the ground, Madden 2005 style.
Prediction: Falcons 27 – Packers 19
(#4) Seattle Seahawks at (#1) Philadelphia Eagles – Sunday, January 16, 1:00pm on FOX
The Seahawks offense play a fairly decent game against the Eagles and are able to move the chains and put points on the board. No stand out on offense but a lot of team players, playing hard, thinking they just might be able to make some noise after defeating the Rams. They too will buy into the notion that the Eagles are dead meat without Terrell Owens.
Here’s the real deal though. Eagles fans who’s confidence is starting to teeter, cut it out already. While the Seahawks will play a decent game the Eagles will look and play better in most facets of their game. You are going to kick yourself for thinking they could be weak. Most of your Eagles make a good play here.
Prediction: Eagles 24 – Seahawks 20
(#3) Indianapolis Colts at (#2) New England Patriots – Sunday, January 16, 4:30pm on CBS
If you like offense, this will be the game for you. In fact, if you are an offense junkie this game, right here, will be the highest scoring of the entire playoffs so strap in and hold on. The Colts will be firing darts from Peyton Manning to whoever he wants to throw them to but the Patriots will be able to contain Edgerrin James and they will take that advantage.
The Patriots will be running Corey Dillon all day long with unlimited success as Dillon puts the Patriots on his back and shows them how much he wants to win a championship. Sure the Patriots have been there before but Corey Dillon has only watched it on TV. For over 5 years now I have made the boast that if Corey Dillon ever played for a contender, he would be the MVP. I guess I have to stick to it.
Prediction: Patriots 37 – Colts 30
(#2) Atlanta Falcons at (#1) Philadelphia Eagles – Sunday, January 23, 3:00pm on FOX
Of all the games I’ve looked at for the 2004 playoffs, none were more difficult than this. The two tightest games of the playoffs will be the Packers and Vikings way back in the Wildcard round and this Conference Championship game. A coin toss is warranted and for the record it came up heads which is the side I designated for the Falcons. The coin says Falcons but I’m going to drift the Eagles way even though the tail on this coin happened to be – an Eagle <Insert scary Jaws type music here>.
The Falcons are once again going to try to take it to the Eagles on the ground and once again they will be able to. What knocks this home for the Eagles will be there ability to completely shut down Vick and the Falcons passing game. Making them one dimensional will help the Eagles contain and they will be able to reduce the big play from the Falcons.
Prediction: Eagles 23 – Falcons 21
(#4) San Diego Chargers at (#2) New England Patriots – Sunday, January 23, 6:30pm on CBS
And this is what makes the pendulum fall the Patriots way. They are expecting for the road to the Super Bowl to lead through Pittsburgh but surprise, the road suddenly gets rerouted to their back yard. Huge advantage Patriots. LaDainian Tomlinson is no slouch but the Patriots run stop crew are second to none and they will be up for the challenge. The Chargers will have more success up top especially to Keenan McCardell.
The Patriots will mix it up more this game and will air it out to keep the Chargers on their heels. After watching the Corey Dillon demolition game the Chargers will be over committing to Dillon and Bill Belicheck is too sly for that. Look for a decent amount of Tom Brady to his array of receivers. This game puts the icing on the cake as the Patriots slide in to Super Bowl XXXIX with a full head of steam in their running and passing game.
Prediction: Patriots 34 – Chargers 27
Super Bowl XXXIX
(NFC Champ) Philadelphia Eagles vs (AFC Champ) New England Patriots – Sunday, February 6 on FOX
Off to Jacksonville we go as we welcome everyone to Alltel stadium. I’m predicting there will be no costume malfunctions this year. The Eagles get here with determination but each game has been a struggle. They have won them, and in the process demonstrated that they are the better team, but none of their wins have been convincing. It will leave a large area of doubt for Eagles backers whether they have one more left in them against this decades dynasty team, the New England Patriots. The 70’s had the Steelers, the 80’s the 49’ers, the 90’s the Cowboys but the 2000’s belong to the Patriots.
Prediction: Patriots 27 – Eagles 21